First in the cinema halls, and later in Chitrahaar on the national television, generations of Indians have grown up watching Shammi Kapoor harassing Rajshri T and asking her to say Yes. While some of us were puzzled and irritated by the way romance was shown in Indian movies, many young Indians including some who won elections genuinely seem to believe that the way to a woman’s heart is through sexual harassment (eve teasing), stalking (singing songs and following her from her home to college, school, tuition classes etc) and threats of suicide. A willingness to die (or kill?) for a Yes from someone was seen as the ultimate way of proving the ‘love’ was worthy of being reciprocated.
No one cared that if the girl does not admit to the obvious Yes, or if the ‘love’ doesn’t work out, young Indians had (have) no idea how to deal with the disappointment. We still don’t talk about it because we don’t believe in ‘love’ before marriage.
Also, since these movies glorified pehla aur akhiri pyaar i.e ‘first love is last love’, many Indians grew up believing that real love happened only once – (specially for women) and break ups, disappointments or ‘rejection’ sometimes lead to stigma and suicide (mainly for women); and acid attacks, stalking, harassment and blackmail (generally by men).
Nobody talks about these things to young people because we fear ‘Love Marriages spoil the family system of the nation‘. So many young Indians never learn that there is life after a heart break, that disappointments in relationships are a part of growing up, that it’s perfectly fine to have found a girl friend/boy friend incompatible after they got to know that person, and that moving on is a sensible thing is to do.
Many Indian men and women have no idea that having made place in their hearts for someone (or two or three or more) other than the person they eventually married, does not make women impure, corrupt, characterless, shameless etc.
Men and women who had interacted with each other (in coeducational institutions or in liberal homes) understood that women were not some weird species who needed codes to convey their love. Codes like ‘No when they mean Yes’ or ‘Look angry/harassed/afraid/complain/run etc when they mean Yes’ or ‘Smile when they mean Yes’.
Since there was no interaction, many Indian men and women believed that women were supposed to say ‘No’, no matter what they felt. No, to offers of ‘frandship’. No, for consensual sex. Infact women were not to admit to wanting consensual sex, ever. Many Indians believe that good women can have sex only as a duty, never for pleasure. Many still believe that if a woman did not say No then she was not a good woman, she deserved to be raped.
Saying No here includes a consistent No to boyfriends. What kind of men did such a mindset create? Were they confused? How were they to respect their girl friends then? They could if she did not consent to any sexual activity, or atleast not too readily. Sometimes just being any one boy’s girl friend was an indication of being a bad girl. Often boys seem to know these twisted rules better. Girls, even if they are confused, generally sense the untruths and the contradictions. Like in Jolly LLB,
Arshad Warsi tells her (Not exact words),”Ye Meerut hai, mujhe bhi pata hai yahan ke lounde kaisi boyfriendee karte hain bus thonko, peeto aur chor do”
Translation: This is Meerut I know the kind of ‘Boyfriend-ee’ (boyfriend-ship) Meerut boys understand, just use, abuse and throw.
So she was fortunate that he was a decent man, because she could not love another man. Because women not just had to say No, but ensure that the one who read the obvious Yes in their No was the man they married. What if he turned out to be an abuser? That’s what happens to bad girls who choose their own partners.
Mr. Sharad Yadav said, ‘Who amongst us has not followed girls?’: Sharad Yadav’s shocker during anti-rape bill debate. [Link and videos shared by Sharmi]
His exact words:
“Kaun hai hum mein se jo peecha naheen kiya? Aur mahilayen jo hai, wo mahila ko jab… wo usko baat karna padti hai to pahle mahila naheen lift deti hai, use koshish karna padti hai, prem se batana padti hai. Ye pure desh ka kissa hai. Samaaj ko chaitanya karne ke liye lambi bahas chalwao. Lambi bahas chalao aur ye tatkalik kadam zaroori hota hai lekin door ka bhi kadam bhi iske saath saath chalna chahiye.”
“Who amongst us has not followed women? And women… women don’t agree to talk to us at first, we have to try, we have to convince them.This is the story of the entire nation. To make the society aware, start long debates. Immediate action is necessary, but at the same time steps should be taken for long term too.”
Many cases of rape, acid attacks and murder begin with stalking, but perhaps those who see stalking as a normal and wholesome way for men to approach women see a ban on stalking as gender segregation. It’s possible that they see this kind of defense of stalking as cool, liberal, modern and bold, because they believe they are talking about a taboo topic – because conservative Indians will not talk in support of anything that might lead to love or love marriage.
Many who boldly support men’s right to stalk and harass women, would probably balk at the idea of sex education.
So what was Sharad Yadav trying to say when he seemed to justify stalking?
Here are two more occasions when his stance seemed sexist.
When the journalist asked him whether he prefers Madhya Pradesh or Bihar – he has represented both in Parliament. Yadav hemmed and hawed and finally said, “The whole country is good… even you are very beautiful.” …. [You are very beautiful, says Sharad Yadav to woman reporter]
Many felt this wasn’t offensive, after all it was just a compliment. What more could a woman want to hear from any random man, specially when she is asking him a serious question? In the complex misogynistic system we follow, ‘giving a creep a chance to pass a comment’ is something women regularly get blamed for. Putting a woman in her place by talking about her attractiveness is a common put down.
A long-standing critic of the women’s reservation bill, he is on record saying if it were to be implemented, only “par-kati” or women who get their hair cut would benefit. [Link]
Here’s another video shared by Sharmi.
Indian movies Heroes and Heroines
Even you are very beautiful: Nikitha Suryadevara
My Tehelka blog post: The difference between wooing and stalking
Mera Tharki India : Can we have more such music please!
Losers and Stalkers: ‘Tum kisi aur ko chahogee to mushkil hogi’
Love Marriages spoil the family system of the nation
An email: I am 18 year old male from a traditional (read:backward) Indian family.
Where is the opportunity for Indian men to learn the most natural thing in the world – finding a mate??
An email: An Old fashioned boy friend and a Liberal girl friend.
“Wonder how I survived for 4 years in this college!!”