Personalising morality

Telly Talk

Personalising morality



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he ran for her life but was caught and killed in bloody daylight. So was he. Moments after he had changed into his favourite shirt and combed his hair. “It was not done,” said a village elder. “What?” he was asked. “The honour killings of the two alleged lovers?” He would not answer because what he wanted to say cannot be said in any human language.

This orgy of self-righteous, murderous rage routinely plays out  in many parts of India to stalk and kill those who “offend” ethnic, religious, ‘moral’ sentiments by daring to choose love or marriage across deeply entrenched lines that no one must ever cross.

Morality is not a personal issue in India. It is a social issue. And so a woman of allegedly “loose” character is stripped naked and molested by a mob in Bihar while a camera records the proceedings passively and the news channels “break” the news of her humiliation repeatedly. 

And to think, there has actually been a furor over something as innocuous as “Sach Ka Samna” a TV show that threatens to show Indian society how slippery its grip on home grown morality is. To think that we are in danger of moral and social danger of losing our hallowed and hoary institutions of family and marriage only because a house wife on the show was asked if she would have liked to have a sexual relationship with someone other than her husband. So now the unfulfilled fantasies of middle class India are also under the eye of the moral scanner and if a woman is caught cheating even in the privacy of her mind, there will be hell to pay.

Really, who are we kidding?

A family's dirty linen hauled out in the open from a musty closet can ruin the nation but we are not shamed by honour killings, rapes, dowry deaths, paedophilia, incest, children caught in prostitution rackets?

In India we are the custodians of  everyone's morality except our own. So we have issues with women bathing in the open in the awfully banal “Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao” but have nothing to say against traditions that condone honour killings?

We are fine with the footage of politicians mouthing expletives, women being beaten in pubs or lovers being punched in public parks for daring to hold hands but our TV channels must edit out kisses from movies, beep out cuss words and sanitise shows? So are we a nation (as the Muthaliks and others of his ilk would have us believe) that values “traditional values” above and beyond human dignity and individual freedom?

For many politicians and moral guardians of the society who are also neighbourhood watch dogs and the lifelong monitors of their children’s life choices, issues like gay rights, inter-caste marriages, women in work and leisure places ‘meant’ for men, women in trousers, skirts, jeans and lives of their own making are as dangerous as live grenades because they blow up the big picture into disjointed little pieces. And what is this big picture? Well, to start with, everyone and everything in this picture has a place that cannot be interchanged.

Sach ka Samna just scratches the surface of the shifting sands. What the show's critics need is to look into their own closets and in the minds and hearts of their children to see what simmers and reeks  there.

Maybe they will realise that sometimes truth is not such a bad thing at all and can declutter lives, liberate people and bring them face to face with each other and themselves. Unless, that is the most frightening thing of all.

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