Thursday, February 09, 2006

A rap for rape

Having read Fetcher Monk’s disturbing poem on Caferati I can’t but pen these words of the beaten-to-death theme of who started the fire or point a finger at the originators of the culture of rape that our country has of late become a prey. If true, this story being his poem makes interesting comparison with the many incidents of rape that have been filling the pages of newspapers these days.

A foreigner is kidnapped and raped from a Delhi parking lot, a South African model is raped in Bombay, a minor is raped inside a Bombay local train, countless instance, I don’t remember, forgive me. It seems our wives, daughters, mothers, and girlfriends are threatened by everyday acts of lewdness and perversion. The latest fad in Bombay is throwing acid on girls who spurn their suitors. If you don’t get her, destroy her, disfigure her, or, better still, rape her.

I read an article, which claimed that moral values are on the decline in India. I have no doubt that it is. Why blame politicians when we ourselves do not raise our voices against the increasing sex and nudity invading our own drawing rooms in the guise of music and soft selling promos for consumer products.

Now, India is a traditional society that has only recently stepped into the mall culture and twenty-four hour television. Once loud thumping beats and wailing guitar riffs was the domain of discos and nightclubs, if and when one was lucky enough to be in one. And that, in my case, happened only rarely. But today they are part of the living room where families sit down to eat their supper.

Music television has brought to India the images of naked women dancing around pop stars and having a good time. (A popular bhangra pop song these days has a lyric that is sung in a hung-over voice, “Ek gilasi, do gilasi, theen gilasi, char,” meaning one glass is not enough, that only four glasses will do. There is, I suspect, a strong sexual undertone in the dancing shown in this music video.) The adjunct to all this is the presumption that sex is freely available in our society, when it is not. Sex is as difficult, if not even more, than before. I may be wrong here, again, forgive me!

A few men would mistakenly think that everyone is being permissive while they are the ones who are being deprived. What they would go ahead and do is not too gruesome to the imagination considering what is already happening. They would go ahead and get it by force. And rape is not confined to dingy corners in shady areas of the city, it happens inside bedrooms and playgrounds of people considered “decent” and “gentle” too.

When music television invaded our drawing rooms I was the one to sing its hosannas being a music freak. I would give my right hand to see Elton John sing his “Your Song” with his pudgy fingers punching the keyboard, and Elvis’s gyrations extolling his “Blue Suede Shoes.” But I wasn’t quite prepared for what was to follow – meaningless sex and nudity shown on music television. Now I dread the very sight of my son’s addiction to a twenty-four hour music channel, to the exclusion of everything else.

Votaries of freedom of expression, and covert advocates of the advertising fraternity pontificate that sex and lewdness are in the eyes of the beholder. And, they add, rape has been going on down the ages. Massive rapes of the conquered women, and extermination of men have followed wars. But are we still living in that day and age to advocate the decay of moral values that we have so assiduously cultivated over the years?

Then why give this impression that we in India are a permissive lot and we dance well-choreographed songs in synchrony, skimpily clad on the beach? As most of our music videos these days show. Are our people, members of a society in transition from very conservative values able to adjust to the powerfully beamed images of a permissive society?

Our movies have taken a cue from music television and have fabricated their own version of music television — what are known as item numbers. They now show naked bodies gyrating to insistent beats one would associate with discos and nightclubs.

I have always maintained that the powerful medium of television and mass media can influence people in the extreme. They say a picture can say a thousand words, I say, a music video can say a million words in a split second. What are beamed through the media are powerful images that can influence and pervert.

I am asking these questions, has anyone got the answers?

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