‘व्हिसिल बजा’ की संदर्भ सहित व्याख्या

Posted in General with tags , , , , , on June 6, 2014 by HemRaj Singh

whistle‘व्हिसिल बजा’ ‘हीरोपंती’ नामक चलचित्र का एक अत्यंत लोकप्रिय गीत है जोकि श्री जैकी श्रॉफ़ के पुत्र श्री टाइगर श्रॉफ़ पर फिल्माया गया है, और जिसकी लोकप्रियता के कारणों के सन्दर्भ में कुछ भी कह पाना किसी भी चिंतक के लिए कठिन है और मैं तो चिंतक भी नहीं हूँ। परन्तु इस गीत की व्याख्या हेतु ये कहना आवश्यक है के इस गीत को एक विशिष्ट वर्ग के लिए लिखा गया है जिसके समकक्ष होने के लिए ये अति महत्वपूर्ण  है की आप अपनी बुद्धि के उपयोग में थोड़ी कमी लायें। इस गीत को समझने हेतु बुद्धि का अत्यधिक प्रयोग न केवल पूर्णतया अनावश्यक है बल्कि कुछ परिस्थितियों में मानसिक संतुलन के लिए घातक भी सिद्ध हो सकता है।

कवि पंजाबी, आंग्ल भाषा एवं हिंदी के समिश्रण से उतपन्न एक विचित्र भाषा में अपनी प्रेमिका से अपने साथ ‘व्हिसिल’ अर्थात ‘सीटी’ (मुख द्धारा उत्पन्न संगीतमय ध्वनि) बजाने का अनुरोध करता है और उनसे अपनी संगिनी बनने की प्रार्थना करते हुए प्रश्न करता है की वो उन्हें मानसिक प्रताड़ना क्योंकर दे रहीं हैं। कवि प्रेमिका को प्रतिदिन प्रेम करने का आश्वासन भी देता है जिससे कवि की राजनैतिक पृष्टभूमि का पता चलता है। कवि प्रेमिका को ये भी बताता है की उनका हाँथ पकड़ उन्हें ले जाने के बावत भी उनके कुछ अत्यंत उत्कृष्ट विचार हैं। उनके इन विचारों से ये पता चलता है की वे किसी पुराने राजनैतिक घराने के नवदीप हैं और उनके आगामी जीवन में राजनीति का प्रमुख स्थान होगा।

प्रेमिका जी उत्तर में लोकलाज का पूर्णतया खोखला बहाना बनाते हुए ये कहतीं हैं की उन्हें प्रस्तावित प्रेमी के उन्हें छोड़ कर चले जानें का भय है। ये भय श्रीमान टाइगर श्रॉफ़ के काव्यबद्ध निकृष्ट विचारों और छिछोरे कार्यकलापों को ध्यान में रखते हुए अनुचित प्रतीत नहीं होता। परन्तु कवि श्रीमान टाइगर श्रॉफ़ की ओर से पुनः आश्वासन देते हैं की उनका प्रेमिका को छोड़ कर जाने का कोई विचार नहीं है और वे घोड़ी चढ़ने अर्थात प्रेमिका के साथ विवाह करने का का विचार रखते हैं। इसके तत्पश्चात वो प्रेमिका से पास आकर अधरों से अधरों को मिला सीटी बजाने का अश्लील अनुरोध भी करते हैं, जिससे उनके वासना-आश्रित प्रेम का परिचय मिलता है। एक और विचारणीय प्रश्न जो प्रस्तुत होता है वो ये है के अधरों से अधरों को मिलाकर सीटी बजाना किस प्रकार संभव है? इस विलक्षण कार्य के निस्पादनार्थ किस वैज्ञानिक विधि का प्रयोग प्रस्तावित है इस पर कवि पूर्णतया मौन है। अतः ये मान लेने में किंचित कठिनाई नहीं प्रतीत होती कि प्रस्तावित अधरालिंगन का संगीत साधना से सम्बंधित कोई प्रयोजन नहीं है अपितु ये श्री टाइगर श्रॉफ़ की कामपिपासा की संतुष्टि हेतु रचित एक षड़यंत्र मात्र है।

कवि श्री टाइगर श्रॉफ़ की ओर से पुनः आश्वासन देता है की बालिका को चिंतित होने की तनिक भी आवश्यकता नहीं है और इसके साथ ही वो बालिका को श्री श्रॉफ़ की कक्षा में शामिल हो प्रेम की आंग्ल वर्णावली सीखने का प्रस्ताव भी रखता है और इसके साथ ही अधरालिंगन कर सीटी बजाने का अनुरोध भी दोहराता है।

इस गीत में श्री टाइगर श्रॉफ़ पूरे उत्साह के साथ अपने लटकों-झटकों और कूद-फाँद से परिपूर्ण तोड़-नृत्य (ब्रेक डांस) से वर्षाऋतु के मोर की भांति अपनी संगिनी को आकर्षित करने में संलग्न पाए जाते हैं। और अंततः उन्हें तब सफलता प्राप्त हो ही जाती है जब उनकी प्रेमिका उन्हें इस बात से अवगत कराती है की उनके जैसा प्रेम-विक्षिप्त तो गूगल नामक खोज-यन्त्र द्वारा भी नहीं ढूँढा जा सकता। और इस प्रकार मानसिक अस्वस्थता के मापदंड पर खरे उतरे श्री श्रॉफ़ को उनकी प्रेमिका का सानिध्य प्राप्त होता है और गीत का समापन हो जाता है।

जो भद्रजन अधरालिंगन की प्रतीक्षा में हैं उन्हें ये सूचित किया जाता है कि गीत समाप्त हो गया है और उन्हीं की भांति श्री श्रॉफ़ भी प्रतीक्षा में ही हैं।

Highway: Stale Dish Overheated

Posted in Legal, Movie Review with tags , , , , on June 3, 2014 by HemRaj Singh

One can’t simply mix Stockholm Syndrome, Child Abuse and the idea of love-on-the-go in different proportions, throw in some rustic dialogues, and tout it as path-breaking cinema. It is a ‘different’ movie only to the most naïve of the audience; for the rest it’s a cocktail of The World Is Not Enough, Monsoon Wedding and Jab We Met.

Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) wants to bask in the freshness of freedom, craves freedom from the shackles of expected political correctness and from the compulsion to be appropriate at all times. This purportedly free-spirited, rebel girl is the daughter of a wealthy man of considerable political influence. She is about to get married, and calls her husband-to-be over late at night, steals out of her house and asks him to take her for a long drive, which he refuses to do initially but concedes to ‘touching the highway’ and coming back after realizing that the girl wouldn’t back down. They stop for fuel. And despite being told not to, by a concerned would-be hubby, she steps out of the car to breathe in the air of freedom. Unfortunately, there is a robbery in progress and the robbers, on their way out, take the girl hostage and drive away in the couple’s BMW. The lead robber, Mahavir Bhati (Randeep Hooda), later realizes that the girl they had taken hostage is the daughter of a man of great means and political influence. They realize almost immediately that it was a shark on the other end of their fishing rod and there was no way they could drag it aboard their little canoe. They realize that holding the girl for ransom was not a viable scheme, given who the father of the girl was. But, Mahavir, in reckless disregard of conventional wisdom and the advice of his seniors in crime, decides to go ahead with the plan anyway.

To misdirect law enforcement agencies, Mahavir sends one of his associates to Bengal to make a few calls to the girl’s parents and later they also send a picture of the girl holding a recent Bengali language newspaper to indicate that she was alive and in Bengal. All this while Mahavir continues with the girl in a truck through Punjab and into Himachal Pradesh. After her first attempt to flee fails, she is no longer a hostile hostage but a willing companion, who even helps her kidnappers give the police a slip.

Mahavir is a coarse man and does not treat his hostage with any genuine gentleness though he is not particularly cruel, overbearing or rough to her either. And he does save her from falling prey to the lust of a lecherous associate of his, who is hit and reprimanded by Mahavir for his act, which results in his leaving Mahavir and later helping the law enforcement agencies in locating Mahavir. With generous assistance from the Director the hostage is made to realize that the kidnapper is not much of an enemy. Consequently and predictably, she opens up and reveals her painful past replete with repeated sexual abuse as a child at the hands of her uncle condoned by her own mother. The kidnapper warms up to her, and his protective instincts come into play like they have been waiting patiently for decades to gush out at the right moment. Equation changes fast enough. And she is no longer a ‘deal'; she is a delicate flower in need of protection. And the flower self-confessedly likes the road more than any garden in the world, which gives the Director the opportunity to once again take us to the dry and twisty as well as the snow-lined roads of Jab We Met . He could have easily used some footage from Jab We Met itself and saved some shoot expenses.

The coarse, uncouth villain has a good side. In fact, he has no bad side at all. He is the victim of his circumstances, like the rest of us. The heroine, having grown up in a heavily protected environment, gets out to see the big, bad world, where nobody really cares. She finds the goodness in the bad, and falls in love with it. The bad she finds is a lot better than the best in her well-cushioned world of seat belts and airbags. Not that there is no real bad in the world, and she comes across that too, and is for that reason convinced that the man she now loves is better than most—if not the best—in both the worlds.

She finally finds a home for herself and also her man – the kidnapper – far from the ruthless world. And just when everything looks rosy and settled, a bullet presents itself on the scene and ends the kidnapper-villain-turned-hero. She is shocked and shaken, rejects the world, walks away to make her own world in the memory of her man at the same far away place. The credits roll.

The movie lacks novelty miserably. It treads a much beaten track, and what’s worse is that Imtiaz Ali has massively overdone all critical scenes and Alia Bhatt has failed to carry any of those scenes with any amount of conviction and ends up over-emoting every single time.

The first time she admits to Mahavir about being a victim of child abuse at the hands of her uncle, she goes over-dramatic to the extent that it loses much of its impact for anybody who has seen ‘Monsoon Wedding‘. The overly sudden warming up of Mahavir towards her after her admission of abuse looks out of sync with the angry, hardened character Mahavir is made out to be.

Her confronting her uncle and her mother over the abuse she suffered as a child in front of the entire family reminds one of Shefali Chhaya’s brilliant performance in a similar scene in Monsoon Wedding ; only Alia is not quarter as good as Shefali. And then the hysterical screams at the end aimed at displaying the suppressed rage in the girl is actually hilarious for the insufferable failure of the actor. Alia has tried too hard to act and the effort shows.

Perhaps Imtiaz Ali intended the hysterical screams of the heroine to convey her rebellious agony. Unfortunately, Alia fails miserably and ends up looking like a pampered kid throwing a tantrum. Besides, the cinematic device of using screams to display agony is a little loud and unless both the Director and Actor are very skillful and the scene really demands it, the output is bound to emerge jarringly loud. In this case, it is hopelessly flawed, too. Monsoon Wedding shows precisely the same thing in a much restrained fashion and leaves a lasting impact.

The sequence where Mahavir dies is similarly overdone. A much shorter version of the entire drama could create a much greater impact; if only the Director knew how to tell a story. The drama of Veera’s holding a dying Mahavir and trying to defend, lioness-like, her companion against a posse of armed policemen is melodramatic. Imtiaz Ali could simply show a sudden shot, an immediate death— like Bhiku Matre’s death in ‘Satya‘ — and a shell-shocked heroine, who undergoes a nervous breakdown and slips into silence. Nothing novel about that either, but it’s still a lot, lot better than the badly overdone melodrama that Imtiaz serves up.

Furthermore, why Mahavir had to be fatally shot anyway? The hostage and the lone, visibly unarmed kidnapper are around 20 feet apart with a clear, grassy field between them. In view of no immediate danger to the hostage, more than adequate opportunity to isolate the hostage, and surround, disable and capture the kidnapper, no trained task force in the world would shoot to kill. But Imtiaz Ali wants him dead for his own purposes and doesn’t mind shoving it down the throat of the audiences with a broomstick, which he does often enough to take away any cinematic merit that the movie could have otherwise had.

Originally published as part of my Legal Movie Review column LEGAL SCANNER in LAWYERS UPDATE [April, 2014 Issue; Vol. XX, Part 5]

Rahul Gandhi: The ‘Soch’ Man!

Posted in General, Political with tags , , , , on January 30, 2014 by HemRaj Singh

Rahul Plato Gandhi. The world is an idea. A big idea. A grand idea. It’s such an idea that one cannot even begin to imagine what an idea it is! At the heart of this idea, the grand idea that is under discussion here, there is this immeasurable depth of ideation, which is so deep that one can only look inside and shudder in wonder at the depth.

Our philosophy should be based on such deep ideation, the depth of which remains forever immeasurable. It is in this depth that we would find the answer to all our questions because there are no such questions the answer to which cannot be found, and if the answers can be found, we must look for them in the depth of the idea. The reason why we should look into the depth of the idea for the answers is that one cannot find the answers anywhere else because the answers are nowhere else. The answers are inside the idea, but it is difficult for some people to understand the idea because the idea is deep inside our hearts.

One can always ask so many questions, but those who ask these questions so often do not realize that the answers can easily be found, and we all know where they can be found. It is easy. But in order to actually find those answers we need to change the system. It is the system that prevents us from going deeper into the idea and find the answers to our problems. It is not easy to change the system. It is actually very difficult because the system is very systematic, which makes it closed to any change. But there is a process. We do have a process by which we can change the system. We must use the process. But before bringing the process into play to change the system, there is one thing we must ensure — Women Empowerment!

 First published on my other Blog on January 29, 2014.

CBI or CBCC?

Posted in General, Legal, Political with tags , , , , , , on May 11, 2013 by HemRaj Singh

When the CBI top man, Ranjit Sinha, revealed – not much of revelation though no matter how desperately we hoped it wasn’t true – that the CBI had to ‘consult’ the government on certain issues, I began wondering if I really understood what CBI really was and what it was supposed to do. What did he think he was doing showing an investigation report to the government in a case in which the government officials were the chicken on the roast? If it was an investigation agency, it didn’t make sense for it to ‘consult’, much less take instructions, from those whose role it was investigating in a certain criminal wrongdoing one way or the other.

What did Ranjit Sinha seek to achieve by making a statement as completely out of line as that, I wondered, although it was not hard to understand his reasons to actually ‘consult’ the Law-Minister-no-more, Ashwani Kumar and allow changes to the final report at the behest of his political bosses, which invited the wrath of the Apex Court when the matter came to light.

The fact of the parrot’s parroting its master’s voice and words, and doing the master’s bidding was not exactly a secret, but was still veiled, howsoever thinly. But Mr. Sinha’s statement was more like throwing caution and shame to the wind and admitting rather meekly that CBI was not ‘independent’ in any significant way, but was a government agency, which also implied that it’s being the top ‘investigating agency’ was a sham because if one goes by the letter and the spirit of the law, an investigation officer at any level is independent of departmental hierarchy with respect to the investigation he or she is handling. Nobody has the right to direct the investigation in progress. However, it is only when there is a reasonable threat to the independence or fairness of the investigation, a judicial check – and no other – is warranted. At no point during the investigation is an investigation officer bound to consult any of his superiors in the department or the government. And here was the director of India’s premier investigation agency talking about the necessity of consulting the government.

So, the sacking of Mr. Ashwani Kumar for the reasons too well known to be mentioned did not come as a surprise to me. But it took a bit – just a bit – of thought to guess the possible reasons for Mr. Ranjit Sinha’s making a statement that made no sense at all. Perhaps – and this is only a guess – he found it to be an opportune moment to bring the helplessness of the CBI to the notice of the top court so that it could arrange for the agency’s actual independence. It is not easy to be a little animal with its tail either wagging vigorously or firmly tucked between its legs.

If the independence of the CBI cannot be ensured, let’s change it from ‘CBI’ to ‘CBCC’ – Central Bureau of Consultation and Coordination.

The Final Argument

Posted in General, Legal, STREET LAWYER with tags , , on May 11, 2013 by HemRaj Singh

As a 14-year-old it was beyond me as to why my father wanted my presence when Kailash — a drunkard rickshaw-puller employed for small chores at the hotel owned and run by my father for better part of his life — requested my father to talk his daughter into abandoning her abusive husband for good. Even today I can only speculate, for I never asked and he never told his reasons. But, if he wanted to educate me in the strange ways of the world, well, he did succeed I suppose. 

Her husband lived in a nearby village and kept her with him only so long as her money lasted, after which he would beat her up and throw her out. And she would return back to her native town, start working in the houses as a maid, save money and go back to her husband with the savings. He would readily take her in, eat, drink and make merry till the savings lasted, after which she would again find herself on the street. The cycle continued for long. She had the option of leaving her husband and re-marrying without much fuss, for her husband wouldn’t have bothered. But that was one thing that never crossed her mind, nor did she even as much as entertain the suggestion. 

Her father, Kailash, couldn’t bear to see his daughter suffer that miserably. And so he approached my father to talk some worldly sense into his daughter. My father was his last hope. And I was to witness the undoing of the hope. 

In the early hours of the morning while the hotel waited for its first guests my father sat there hearing intently with a grim, plain face as Kailash retold the whole story while his daughter and I heard on. She was sitting on the floor, cross-legged while I stood with my arms crossed against my chest trying to look as serious as I could manage. Puzzled and startled, I heard the bizarre story for the first time, and I am sure my face must have displayed some funny colours, for my father cast a glance towards me and the hint of a smile appeared on his face momentarily though his light grey eyes remained still betraying no emotion at all.

Kailash had told the story in different words many times over to my father, but — as I would gradually come to know in due course — it was standard practice with my father to make the complaining party place the facts afresh so that the other side could agree or disagree to the presented facts. And if the complaining party changed the facts even minutely or watered down the tone for some reason, he drew certain adverse conclusions. “Those who can’t speak for themselves can’t speak for anyone, and must not be trusted to defend anything and anyone,” he once told me in his typically even tone. 

After Kailash was done with retelling the story as passionately and as angrily as he ever did, my father looked at the girl and asked if it was all true. She nodded slowly. 

I had thought she would say something to the effect that it was not all that bad, and her husband was not quite so evil. None of it. It was how it was. No defenses. No explanation. 

“So, why do you continue with him when he hurts you so much all the time and every way? He does not even provide you with the basics,” my father pointed out without taking his eyes off her as he spoke each word dispassionately. He seemed to note the way each of his word was received and reacted to. The girl nodded sincerely all through, listening. But did not say anything. 

He let a moment pass in silence. And then waited some more. Was it so difficult to understand really? It was elementary to my teenage, public-school mind. But there was a real world outside, which defied reason with dizzying regularity. 

The pause stretched undisturbed. For what seemed quite a long while he did not speak. Neither did she. And then he decided to be more specific and a bit more pointed. “Why don’t you leave him?” 

Kya karoon babu ji. Ab pyar to usi se hai na,” she said very politely and a bit hesitantly, but very clearly and unambiguously. That took me by surprise. I couldn’t believe that I was hearing it said that simply in the real life. It was straight out of any number of Bollywood movies, but was delivered with such astounding ease and such perfect conviction that it took quite a long while to sink in. I looked at my father immediately expecting a surprised look, and met a steady gaze. He had simply nodded in understanding. Not a word. He got up and moved away with a smile. And the smile carried no enigma. It was the easy, pleased smile of understanding, which baffled me even further. 

I and Kailash exchanged glances of incomprehension and puzzlement. We were on the same plane of confusion while my father and the girl existed on an altogether different planet of understanding. And I wanted to migrate. So, I walked towards my father. “Papa…?” He looked at me and his smile deepened while he said — and I can hear it as clearly in my ears even now — “Prem hamesha antim tarq hota hai.” (“Love is always the final argument.”) He was a man of few words, but at times he was a man of ‘very few’ words. It was such an occasion. He went away and got busy in the regular business of running his hotel leaving me perplexed. No further elaboration was on the way from his side, I knew. I was on my own with it.

Originally written and published as part of my monthly column — STREET LAWYER — in LAWYERS UPDATE [April 2013 Issue; Vol. XIX, Part 4].

Gujarat 2002: The Unforgettable

Posted in General with tags , , , , on May 4, 2013 by HemRaj Singh

Let me start off by admitting that no matter how hard I try I just can’t forget Gujarat 2002. No, I was not personally affected by the pogrom; not even remotely. And, no, I am not a Muslim behind a Hindu pseudonym, in case you are wondering. I am a normal Indian. An average Indian who believes in simple things, and has simple – almost naive – ideas about justice and righteousness. And someone who would not like to believe that we live in a world that runs on  heartless pursuit of selfish goals and we live for no ideals greater or higher or better than individual ‘pursuit of happiness’. 

But at the same time I am not as much of a novice in the ways of the world as to not know that one must relegate the bygone to the dark, dingy, limitless recesses of the past, and forget about it. Turn a new, milk-white page, draw out a clean sheet and start all over again, like there was no yesterday. That’s the way forward. Is it? That’s how one must live, for that’s how life works – forward. Living in the past served nobody, benefited none. History must not be read, much less taught. Look around, the world is what it is because of the past. If the past was any different, the present would also be considerably different; and perhaps far less happy. Why less happy? Why not more? Because a ‘different past’ means ‘less of present’? And ‘less’ in what sense? In terms of happiness? And whose happiness? The grand total of happiness? Does the quantum of sadness offset the quantum of happiness, like ‘negative marking’? Is quality of happiness also taken into account? And is the darkness and density of sadness also similarly measured and considered? None of these questions can be answered because the very first question is unanswerable from the very start. 

Logically, a ‘different past’ could only produce a ‘different present’, and not a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ present. Since ‘present’ is just one entity, it’s being ‘better’ or ‘worse’ is out of the question, for there is nothing as real and as tangible to compare it with. This makes all possible comparisons logically invalid exercises in drawing parallels and pointing out discrepancies between the real and the imagined. 

So, why get into the past when there is nothing to be gained from it? Live in the present, for that is all there is to life – living in ‘now and here’. How comforting is the thought of breaking free from the past. Just how irresistible is the way out. Released from the past, how liberating the present feels. Yes, a ‘present’ suspended mid-air in the middle of nowhere would look pretty much liberated and possibly would also feel truly liberating provided there actually ‘is’ such an unfettered, born-out-of-nothing ‘present’ possible. But actually there is no such ‘today’ that wasn’t born of a ‘yesterday’, and no such thing as a ‘self-born’ present.

“The roads were all clean and smooth. No potholes. The investment from all over has been massive. The buildings. The malls. The industries. That’s what development is! Man! The nation must learn something from this! Really!” Wearing long, rockstar-like hair, smartly dressed in sports attire with a baseball cap to complete the package, this young man was a Delhi University student pursuing M.Phil. in Philosophy. So, I can justifiably consider the fellow ‘well educated’ and ‘well informed’. We were talking casually on a birthday party, and he did not know much about me, or the views I hold. Clearly, he was assuming a few things. And from the fact that I am quoting somebody talking of ‘development’ in a particular State of India, it is very easy to guess the Indian State being talked about.

I kept hearing, and kept nodding to keep him going so that if he really had a point, I did not miss it simply because what he said had not made a great deal of sense that far, for anybody can turn wise anytime at all. And yes, he did manage to thoroughly convince me of a few things. One of them was that the ‘development’ was extremely important, and one who brings about ‘development’ could rightfully indulge in a few excesses.

He also convinced me that riots were a result of public anger, which must be allowed venting in the larger interest of the society. When I asked the obvious question, it was vehemently pointed out that there were anti-Sikh riots in 1984 in the Congress-ruled states, and they, ‘too’, could not do anything about it. And I was left wondering briefly as to what these riots had to do with those riots, and where was the distinction? This was wrong, and so was that. So, where was this bizarre defense going? But it did not take too long for me to realize the attack that he imagined he was facing. A very similar sentiment is detectable when it is argued that even the Muslims in Gujarat approve of Modi’s developmental policies, and are ‘happy’ under Modi’s ‘rule’.

But it’s a monumental mistake to think that this is about BJP versus Congress, or Hindus versus Muslims. It’s simply about state versus citizens. And it’s all that my complaint relates to. So, even if a Muslim is or all Muslims are prepared to ‘forgive’ Modi, it would still not suffice because popular opportunism cannot accord moral legitimacy to something as heinous as a state allowing its own citizens to be brutally raped, maimed and slain.

But I was still listening intently until I realized that he had begun repeating himself citing instances of injustice to justify other instances of injustice. He continued, and I kept nodding for a while. And then I tuned out, like I always do.

Originally written as part of my monthly column — STREET LAWYER — in LAWYERS UPDATE. However, the Editorial Board found the piece too hard hitting and a bit too politically charged to be published.

Eve-teasing and the Law: The ‘Cute’ Cancer

Posted in General, Legal on December 19, 2012 by HemRaj Singh

Statement 1: “Main aapko bike pe ghumaunga. Hum badi aish karenge…Ice cream bhi khilaunga.” (“I’ll take you around on bike. We’ll have lots of fun. Will also get ice cream for you.”) – A 4-year-old boy to a distant female relative of 24 (twenty four).

Statement 2: “Didi, aap bahut sundar ho. Main bada hokar aapse hi shaadi karoonga.” (“Sister, you are very pretty. When I grow up, I’ll only marry you.”) — A 5-year-old boy to a 22-year-old cousin sister.

Statement 3: “Jab main badi ho jaungi na to **** Bhaiya ki ‘girlfriend banungi.” (“When I grow up, I’ll be **** Bhaiya’s girlfriend) – A 10-year-old girl to her female friend of the same age referring to a male neighbour of 25 (twenty five). 

A barely 5-year-old boy living in the Kingsway Camp region of North Delhi found it entertaining to aim his laser pointer at the passerby girls on the street and also at the girls that lived in a paying guest accommodation across the street. The anatomical choices he made for his laser pointer embarrassed and infuriated many. A few girls took it up with the mother of the child, and the lady found the complaints frivolous, for her little, innocent boy could do no wrong like the British Crown. Her idea of a ‘solution’ was that if her baby prince was too much trouble, the passersby could take different streets, and the tenants could look for other accommodations. Such deplorable defense of a child’s inappropriate is not exactly unusual. Things like “he is just a kid”, or “he doesn’t really know what he is doing”, “no, he is really very innocent” are regularly said in defense of the chile even if the defense is not as brazen in the case reported above. The indefensible not only cannot be defended, but also must not be defended. In fact, it’s a moral obligation of the parents to ‘not defend’ such conduct of their children. 

Let’s now consider the ‘cutie statements’ cited above to know exactly how ‘cute’ and innocent they really are though people are likely to smile, laugh, giggle and guffaw at all three alike. ‘Statement 2′ and ‘Statement 3′ fall in, more or less, the same category. Both the statements are aspirational with the idea of a relationship at the center. The child in ‘Statement 2′ wants to have a pretty wife, finds his cousin beautiful, and expresses his desire to marry her when he is eligible to do so. Generally, children understand marriage as something that has the effect of keeping two people together forever. So, they want to marry to keep the person with them for all times.

‘Statement 3′ is much like ‘Statement 2′ except for the predominance of ‘romance’ in the former, which is why the little girl aspires to be a ‘girlfriend’ and not a ‘wife’. She has found someone she would want to be ‘her special someone’. Given her age and the exposure that comes with a metropolitan background and lifestyle, the girl associates youthful ‘romance’ with being a ‘girlfriend’. And since she seeks ‘romance’ in a relationship, she aspires to be a girlfriend. In this case too, ‘relationship’ is central. Quite obviously, both of the kids do not fully understand the implications of ‘bhaiya‘ (brother) and ‘didi‘ (elder sister) because of their limited understanding of complex societal norms and their intricate interplay. 

However, ‘Statement 1′ has nothing in common with the other two statements. The child wants to take the girl on some kind of a date. But make no mistake; it’s not a romantic, candlelight dinner that he has on his mind. He would take the girl around on a motorbike though his little legs might present some difficulty there. The ice-cream is also on the menu as an additional perk. And they would have lots of ‘fun’. The expression ‘aish karenge‘, in this context, takes a particularly squalid colour because of its unmistakable sexual undertones, and would sound quite repulsive coming from a 4-year-old. The first indicator of a rotting society is the general acceptability of filthy speech. 

While in the other two statements the children treat themselves as children and talk of their future as grown ups, in ‘Statement 1′ the kid brazenly positions himself as a ‘male’ trying to persuade a ‘female’ to go out with him on a ‘fun date’. A ride on the bike and ice-cream are used as incentives – tools of persuasion. There is no relationship of any kind in sight here. There is no ‘romance’. It’s just ‘fun’. Why? Well, because women are meant to have ‘fun’ with, objects to be ‘enjoyed’, things to be ‘used’, toys to be ‘played’ around with. The kid does not see himself as a kid and despite his pint size he would take her around on a motorcycle, for he is the consummate ‘user’ by virtue of being a male. 

The apparently innocuous statement carries, in the miniature form, the complete male-centered power structure that breeds and sustains men who look at girls and women as sexual objects to be played with, and bitterly resent if their favourite toy talks back or asserts its independence in any manner including by spurning unwanted, sexual advances. Eve-teasing – which is just a soft word for sexual harassment of different degrees – acid attacks, rapes and gang rapes are resentful, bitter assertions of male dominance aimed at suppressing the newfound female independence. That she, who suffered silently all these centuries, suddenly musters the courage to say ‘no’ is not what the traditional ‘users’ of this ‘fun object’ are ready to tolerate. 

When catcalls and obscene street remarks are objected to, the harassers turn into physical molesters, and many a time rapists and gang rapists as well. When an eve-teaser’s ‘love proposal’ is rejected, the jilted lover becomes an acid-thrower. Bottomline: ‘No’ is not allowed. 

Serious offenses against women like acid attacks and many a time even gang rapes start with eve-teasing, rather ‘sexual harassment’, as it should be properly called. As pointed out earlier, it is when the woman takes a stand against the harassment that she subjected to inhuman treatment in retaliation. On the issue of ‘eve-teasing’ (sexual harassment, that is) the law, the government and the courts are getting tougher by the day. Is that a solution? Yes, it is, to an extent because the thorns that hurt must be taken out. But the problem is the tree. So, the solution is in the roots. 

‘Statement 1′ was made by the 4-year-old at an informal gathering of two families related by marriage in the domestic, drawing-room setting. It is easy to imagine the peels of feminine laughter with all aunties, bhabhis, buas, didis and maasis joining in to celebrate the ‘cuteness’ of their little smarty. No harder it is to imagine a smiling, proud father sitting or standing nearby, and muttering inaudibly to himself, “That’s my boy!”

The 24-year-old girl to whom this statement was made texted it to me. It left me majorly irritated and my first, deliberately restrained response was: “Well, not exactly a nice boy.” (verbatim). “I felt instantly disgusted,” she said. She also admitted, rather regretfully, to having smiled for the sake of politeness. Wallowing in the resounding approval of all, the little boy must be very pleased with himself and with the course he is on. 

The girl felt that the little boy could not be scolded because it is his parents and his upbringing that must be held accountable. That’s another major mistake. We do not draw psychological maps of a criminal to find what made him the criminal and go after those who contributed to the formation of his criminal psyche. We punish the criminal for the offense, plain and simple. Take care of the symptoms or the secondary disease or infection, then deal with the principal malady and then get to the prevention. That’s how doctors work. That’s how the law and legal systems works. And that’s how legal scholars, jurists and social scientists look at such issues and apply themselves to it to find a solution. But in this case, the least one can do, to begin with, is not encourage such ‘cuteness’ by looking ‘amused’ by it. 

The law has to and does take care of the harassers with the law enforcement agencies already gearing up to do more to prevent sexual harassment in public places. Some of the states – like Uttar Pradesh – have come up with measures such as the helplines one could use to report instances of harassment without having to confront the offender, and without having her own identity disclosed. Recently, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, announced that the eve-teasers would not get driving licenses, passports and other government facilities, and that a database of eve-teasers for this purpose will be maintained. These two states have taken those measures in the past two months. So, the Indian state is stirring up, which is primarily because the problem has assumed alarming proportions. 

Sterner laws, harsher punishments and swifter action against the offenders might sound like god-sent panacea, but the remedy comes with certain serious side effects. Like in case of the anti-dowry laws, an over-zealous approach to effective enforcement might make the remedy prone to gross misuse. Since the best way to prevent retaliation against the victim is to keep her identity secret, the measure opens itself to misuse in many ways. Its core strength is also its foundational weakness. But that risk has to be taken simply because when the society fails keep its unruly elements in check, the state is compelled to intervene. 

So, the other bottomline is: Either you teach your ‘cutie’ 4-year-old his lessons the mommy way at home today, or the police will teach him the ways of the world tomorrow by the roadside the big-daddy way.

Originally written for and published as Cover Story in LAWYERS UPDATE [December 2012 Issue; Vol. XVIII, Part 12]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers

%d bloggers like this: