One more reference to Indian Culture! I don't know where this is going to end up but this whole "invoke Indian Culture to make my regressive point" thing is, frankly speaking, getting a tad out of hand. I think referring to Indian Culture has become akin to using a joker while playing a game of rummy. It can be whatever you it to be. There are so many people in different contexts referring to this "mythical thing" that I am resigned to this becoming a valid argument (by the looks of it, it already is!!). I am dreading it but I think we aren't far from the day when we get to hear things like this -
Why do you publicly urinate? Because it is Indian Culture!
Why do you flout traffic rules? Because it is Indian Culture!
Why don't you wash your hands after using the toilet? Because it is against Indian Culture!
Why do you beat your spouse? Because it is Indian Culture!
Why are you a lecher? Because it is Indian Culture!
Why do you have double standards? Because it is Indian Culture!
Why don't you fight corruption? Because it is against Indian Culture!
This rant of course is courtesy the news that Yesudas - that doyen of Indian classical, devotional and popular music - said the following about women:
"What should be covered must be covered. Women should not trouble others by wearing jeans. When women wear jeans, people are tempted to pay attention to what is beyond it, thus forcing them to do undesirable things. They should not try to become like men but must behave modestly. The attire is unbecoming of Indian culture and what lends beauty to a woman is her demureness."
I got to this news a couple of days after the fact but that didn't stop me from having a "what the... what!!!" reaction. Better still, I came across this news as I was waiting for the better half to dress up in, guess what, her new pair of jeans! So as soon as she was done and came out to ask me how she looked in them, I replied in the only way I knew I should. With a lecherous look I said that she was forcing me to do undesirable things :D which was the cue for her to frown and punch me in the arm (I ran away yelling domestic abuse but that romance between me and my better half is not what I want to call attention to right now).
Coming back to Yesudas, where do I start? Let me start with Indian Culture. What the heck is it? Someone please define the damn thing once and for all so that "morons like me who are still living under the influence of every thing bad that the British had introduced into this great country of ours" do not raise any question against it every again. Seeing how a pair of jeans do indeed cover "what should be covered", someone please also explain how this troubles others? Now coming to the aspect of temptation, I marvel at the intellect (or lack thereof) which absolves the person getting tempted of all responsibility for giving in to temptation. I don't see the difference between this and saying that payasam and laddus are to blame for the epidemic of diabetes in India. In this line of thinking, the act of people getting tempted seems to be accepted and acceptable instead of it being questioned. However, the icing on this cake, the pièce de résistance (to use some french), is the assertion that a person's attire can "force" another to do undesirable things. SMH!!!
In spite of much head shaking that ensued and the crick in the neck that it gave me, right now I do want to call attention to two other things. The first is the fact that this person has an absolute conviction about this opinion in his head that he is ready to express it in a public forum, on a stage and that too in a setting that wasn't related to women's clothing. However, given the fact that every other person with access to a mike and a podium is taking recourse to the same line of thought regarding women, this is not very interesting in and of itself. The second one is the more interesting, and worrisome, thing about this whole discourse as I have seen it unfold on the interwebs. The various media reports are predictably full of the "backlash" that these comments have invited featuring all the usual suspects - women's groups, feminists, political parties et al - but the actual eye-opening reactions are to be found in the comment sections of these news articles and online message boards. Here the mood is more equally divided down the middle rather than being lopsided against him. Further broadly categorizing them, the crowd in support of Yesudas seem to take one of two positions. One is that he is right and this group basically agrees with the content of his opinion. The other position is that, irrespective of the content, he has the freedom of speech and he can express his opinions (aka spew nonsense).
I don't have anything to say about the "Freedom of Speech" crowd because it is a justifiable argument and to an extent, it is good that people recognize that he has the right to say what he wants to irrespective of how others might feel about it. As long as he doesn't cry and complain about the backlash that will follow, I don't have a problem with him opening his mouth and letting the world know exactly what he is like.
I do have a problem with the other set though. The set that agrees with the content of his opinion. Think about this - these are the folks who have access to the Internet, have a basic handle over the English language to be able to comment on on-line articles and know how to use message boards. Based on these facts alone, I would hazard a guess and say that these folks are educated, are computer literate, are comfortably placed both economically and socially and have a fair bit of exposure to the world around them. And these are the folks who find nothing wrong with Yesudas' opinion about how women should dress, how women in jeans is unbecoming of "Indian Culture", how women should behave to be perceived as being beautiful and most importantly, how women wearing jeans are responsible for forcing people to do undesirable things. If this is the demographic that entertains ideas and opinions like these, then I don't see women's condition in this country changing for the better any soon.