Cases have been filed against actor Ranveer Singh for posting photos of him ‘nude’, although nothing noteworthy is actually visible. Another actor, Shilpa Shetty, has been making the rounds of the courts because she ‘kissed’ Richard Gere at a public event. In a day and age when there are so many actually criminal acts that need to be investigated and taken to trial, where do society and the system get the energy to raise such paltry issues? And what is it with the courts that entertain such cases?
Where has such prudery emerged from in a classical civilisation like India’s that has scripted the Kamasutra and sculpted temples like Khajuraho? Historians blame the puritanical British missionaries of Victorian times who were aghast at the hedonism being increasingly adopted by leading lights of the East India Company from the Nawabs of the later Mughal era. Their narrow moral code, within a century, became the norm for many Indians under their rule. It has now been unconsciously internalised by the conservative classes and emerges on occasion to condemn ‘loose’ behaviour among not just the youth in their mohallas, but also the iconic influencers in society. One can be dismissive of such conduct in one’s personal life but to try and impose this morality on others through use of force or legal stratagem is clearly crossing the line. Of course, one should behave in accordance with the context of time and place – one does not wear knickers to a wedding reception. But, one should adopt the attitude of our ancients towards the human form and the manifestations of beauty – so magnificently expressed in India’s arts and literature. It frees the mind and the consciousness and opens one up to fuller experiences of life, rather than being limited to the metaphorical ‘missionary position’. All those who lecture in the mistaken belief that they represent ‘Indian culture’ when they shame others, should take the trouble to inform themselves about its depth and breadth. And the system should certainly not pander to such prudes.