April 27, 2005

Lust for life

Spent a day a couple of years ago at the Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa. This is a spectacular piece of Indian history. The carving is lush and intricate, the lines elegant and imposing, and the overall effect inspires awe. I've visited another exquisite sun temple -- in Modhera, Gujarat -- but Konark is a masterclass.

The Government-approved guide we hired had no time for history and lines and such like. I don't know if he sized us up and that explained his behaviour, or if he does this with every client. But his only focus, the only things he pointed out to us over a couple of hours, was what you can see, no need for a guide, all over the temple: its erotic sculptures. From the medallions in the large chariot wheels that have become the symbol of Orissa, to a larger-than-life vision of love high on one face; from gentle but definitely sexual caresses to scenes explicit enough for a live sex show -- Konark has it all. It's a fabulous celebration of lust, love and full-blooded life. It's a soaring tribute to the joys of being woman and man.

And we saw it all with this odd little man whispering tempting phrases gratingly in my ear: "oral sex here", "lesbians there", "see position of couple in that panel." Not that I minded him. Mostly, I was too goggle-eyed to even hear him.

Over the last several days, I have been thinking about that trip to Konark. Thinking that I can travel to this temple and gaze at sculpted scenes that would fit nicely in Penthouse magazine; but this temple and these scenes are a celebrated part of our heritage. As they should be. I'm proud of them. Judging by the crowds when we visited, others are as well, and a trip here is a common family outing. Take the kids along, look at some finely-crafted erotica, sit down for a picnic lunch. Who's got the ketchup?

Something immoral in Konark? I'm unaware of it. Some exhilarating life force in Konark? No less.

So here's the buzz, tell me what's happening: in Konark you can ogle unabashed erotica as a man mutters excitedly in your ear, and that's fine and dandy. Meanwhile here in Bombay, the state Government has decided that girls dancing in bars is an immoral thing that must be stopped. A corrupting influence on young boys (nothing said about girls), a symbol of decadence and degeneracy, everything else you can imagine in between.

I met some of these dancers only days ago. Ordinary young women, with the ordinary worries young women have. Talked to them, sensed their real fear of what will happen to them if the bars shut down. They are looking square at the spectre of losing a reasonable income with no other way to earn one. They are looking eyes wide open at poverty. Save young boys from corruption, push young girls into poverty. Oh yeah.

Konark, dance bars and that possible poverty: so tell me about immorality. Tell me why the word means simply nothing to me.

21 comments:

RR said...

But Konark-DanceBars and Penthouse-DanceBars, I find the latter comparison more apt.

Softcore porn is freely available on our streets, legally made and sold. At least one editor, Vinod Mehta, started by selling softcore porn. Strange as it may seem, some of DSouza's opportunities to get published in print owe their origins to the (legal) porn inudtry!

So, the question to ask is: why is Debonair kosher but dance bars are not?

Could it because Debonair is published in English, the Western import which allegedly is a mark of the Indian elite and the educated? Because some "respectable"-sounding names have edited it?

Why stop at Debonair? Why not take a good look at some of the pictures and content in Times of India, Hindustan Times, Outlook etc? I bet girls in dance bars are more modestly dressed than some of those Times models!

And the entire family reads the Times!

Konark is seen either as reflecting some inexplicable artistic code of a bygone era, or as, D'Souza pointed out, a celebration of classical India's attitide to sex.

But Debonair and dance bars are seen differently. The women who figure in both, in popular perception, lack dignity, honour and respect. In fact, the defenders of the girls' livelihood themselves are saying that if robbed of their bar employment the girls' only alternative is prostitution! They don't say, for example, that journalism is an option available to them!

What gives? Why do not the women who perform for men's pleasure command respect? Things were not always like this. Once upon time, the temple dancers were counted among the nobility. In the sanskrit classic Mricchakatika, the basis of Rekha-starrer Bolywood film "Utsav", the married brahmin pandit courts the city's most famous prostitute. She is portrayed as influential and powerful, and there's a nary a hint that her profession was viewed as demeaning.

Could it be that our once-freewheeling attitude to sex is negatively impacted by our exposure to western notions on sex, our mindless aping of our erstwhile rulers and their religion?

Could it be that we are influenced by lunatic concepts like the "original sin"? Could it be that the same theological impulses that lead repressed sexuality to perversions like "ecclesiastical paedophilia" -- the wide spread incidence of child sex abuse among Western Christian clergy -- are influencing us too?

Why are we even afraid to ask these questions? Are we fearful of treading on sensitive toes?

Anonymous said...

the damn 'puritans' have spoiled everything...even something as sacred as physical love...
the society has been forced to look at it with disdain...
goddamn the 'puritans'!

Larry Darell said...

While British puritanism was a big factor in molding modern Indian sexual repression (especially in the middle and upper classes), I think that Islam is also a huge factor that you (rr) are ignoring. The combination of Victorian and Islamic cultures (two of the most prudish cultures that have existed) made India a repressed country sexually.

The country that produced the Kama Sutra is now a country in which men cannot hold hands with women on the street. Strange, isn't it?

rash said...

Its amazing to see the example I've used everytime a conversation about India and its attitude towards sex comes up being used by you.
Just wanted to share a small anecdote about this famous temple...
Last year my 14 year old sister went on an excursion from her school to Orissa. When they went to see this temple they were told that under 15 it was free. At the entrance they were asked to pay... the girls said that they were all below 15, but the man was like you girls look older or something like that. When she was back home, she was telling my dad about the entire "nainsaafi" of the situation. Dad said, "under 15 it's free?!?!? under 15 should not be allowed!!".

Sriram said...

But, Dilip, if the almighty government wants to regulate morality for the common good, that is a good thing, right? Sounds like you only want the government to regulate what you would like be regulated.

Free to watch erotica; not free to drive up to the erotic club in their car!

The answer to your question is very simple in my mind - there is no sphere of activity in India that cannot be controlled and regulated by the government, why should sex be an exception!?

Most people don't seem to find anything wrong with that. After all, it is "our" government and it should be able to do whatever the majority agrees with.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sriram, this time you've lost me.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sriram, I'm passing on a request I've just received for you to read and react at Mis Vislumbres de la India.

Prahalad Appaji said...

Hey dilip mian,

howdy? Hope you remember me as your teacher of yester years? :-)
Now some more teaching...about your recent column in Rediff

I liked your recent column... for knowing where your heart is. Yes, you want us to go the christian/western way when it comes to morality, now that's not surprising coming from D'SOUZA. You pulled all your strings taking the rickshaw wallah's remarks to your advantage. it's like last time when you endorsed some kiddo saying 'patriotism hurts peace' crap.. extrapolate something islolatedly wrong at lower levels and apply it generally at extreme scales and lose common sense. The day that autowallah actually kills let me know then I am on your side, till then it's a empty threat. The logic for your colored mind - is - what can we do to prevent rapes from our side.. dressing less provocatively, acting less amorously may help ..it's a suggestion coming from shiv sena NOT A SHARIA LAW ( of your friends! )

>> how women dress that is the cause' for rape

aha! Do you know what's happening in Europe and Australia... just check your islamist friends and you will know more about this perverse logic that has lead DEATH of innocent christian girls. This perverse logic was also applied by SECULAR (?) junta to say that Godhra victims brought it on themselves by being ram bhakts!!! And in all these cases people HAVE BEEN KILLED

I agree that Maharastra govt is misguided in it's actions, this is yet another instance where the state fails to identify the root causes but takes actions that further complicates it. We should just legalize prostitution.

>> I want to find a convenient place to go commit the terribly immoral act of throwing up.

Rediff is quite a convenient place.
After all what you do is here is always throw up :-)

Here are words of wisdom for you - Don't extrapolate miniscule aspects and end up throwing up. Look from a bigger perspective dispassionately without your blinkered "SECULAR" thoughts.

Dilip.. can you write about Paedophile priests and about the new conservative poop next time. Morality is indeed terrorism when aboprtion activists throw bombs at clinics and kill doctors.

Anyway, Morality of the kind you talked is not terrorism but your kind of "Secularism" is!

hoping you will learn,
Prahalad

Eswaran said...

Dilip,

Your claim is that government should not attempt to control morality, which definitely seems to make sense.

But would you allow a bunch naked people in a public place, like a park or a beach? Would you allow your kids to see them? If you think this action should be fined, then who decides which action is immoral?

A recent example of morality control in US - Virginia passed a law fining 50$ if anyone displays their underwear in a 'lewd' manner.

Eswaran

Anonymous said...

haha! eswaran - which world do you live in? how many naked people have you seen sitting in park benches in india? get real. chembur or behala are not virginia, dude!

appaji, after reading your comments, i am convinced that you are the last person people need morality lectures from.

you say the autowallah's comments are isolated, but you say the same thing!

what is better? 'western' morals that condemn the rapist cop, or shiv sena's (and your) defence of the rapist cop? - "how dare the girl wear low waisted jeans?! go ahead sainiks, now is your chance, punish her!"

appaji, you are pathetic.

Larry Darell said...

Appa,

One thing I have found: the more vitriolic the comments, the less the writer has to say. That certainly is your case. Perhaps people would not laugh you off if you actually backed up your points instead of writing bigoted (and bloated) phrases.

Anonymous,

Hilarious comments about India compared to Virginia. In India there is no danger of nudists running around terrorizing people. Consider that women in shorts or miniskirts push the boundries in most of India.

Eswaran said...

Anonymous,

Though I would love to see nude couples making out in park benches, I know it doesn't happen in India :) And sadly, it doesn't happen in virginia either.

What I asked was a hypothetical question. If your stance is that the government should not attempt to control morality, would you be okay with public nudity? (Or public intercourse or whatever..) At some point, if you say that this is disgusting and shouldn't be allowed in public, I will just point out that different people have differing standards.

Eswaran

Sriram said...

Dilip, I don't know which part of my post was unintelligible to you, but let me ask you a few questions:

What do you think is the role of the government? Are there some areas of an individual's life that the government should have no control over? What are those areas?

I have been reading you for a long while now, but still cannot figure this out.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sriram,

I have been reading you for a long while now, but still cannot figure this out.

Ah, the miseries of the slotter! Well, I suppose it will have to be that way, Sriram. I can't help people figure this stuff out.

Anonymous said...

This is for DSOUZA'S CARNAL PLEASURE :-)

http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=69570

Cleric says rape victims have only themselves to blame; Muslim organisations force him to backtrack

SYDNEY, MAY 1: Wonder if Sheik Faiz Mohamad subscribes to Saamna?

Just days after the Shiv Sena’s Mumbai mouthpiece said women who wore skimpy clothes were inviting rape, the Sydney-based cleric has echoed that line. The former Australian boxing champion said rape victims had no one to blame but themselves.


‘‘Strapless, backless, sleeveless, nothing but satanic skirts, slit skirts, translucent blouses, miniskirts, tight jeans—all this to tease man and appeal to his carnal nature,’’ the 34-year-old told a 1,000-strong crowd at a Global Youth Islamic Centre in south west Sydney.

Unlike Saamna though, the Sheik was forced to withdraw his comments the next day, after a dozen outraged Muslim organisations joined hands in protest.

On Thursday, he said he had been misunderstood. “I know I said something not thinking at that time. However, with all honesty from the depths of my heart, I never meant it like this,” he told the Australian media.

But the apology came with a rider.

“Maybe I should have said it another way, meaning they are attracting attention to themselves and are partly to blame but not fully to blame,” he clarified.

Australia’s appalled Muslim community dissociated itself from the Sheik’s remarks. Callers flooded Arabic radio station 2ME’s phone lines to denounce the Sheik’s comments.

“I should remind the Sheik that under Islamic law, if someone commits adultery or rape, he’s punished by death. So he should keep that in mind,” said one caller who identified himself as Mohammad.

Anonymous said...

Ha! Ha! The following should be etched to Dilip's carnal zones :-)

"Dilip.. can you write about Paedophile priests and about the new conservative poop next time. Morality is indeed terrorism when aboprtion activists throw bombs at clinics and kill doctors.

Anyway, Morality of the kind you talked is not terrorism but your kind of "Secularism" is!"

Mediochre said...

interesting article.
shutting down the dance bars is simply another instance of our amazing hypocrisy wrt the body and sex. more importantly, a case of blaming the victim for the crime. while they all target the desperate women, i don't see anyone asking why men go to such places... or questioning the morality of such men. oh no,let's ban the women and full stop.

Anonymous said...

Morality like beauty is in the eyes for the beholder.

Coments of Konark is not any different than that applicable to say M'anglo's David. Trust even the US Atty Gen was "offended" I believe by this masterpiece.

Now is hitting on defacting girls at Mardis Gras morally repugnant or not? Believe Dilip has an article about that little accomplishment. Doubt if that rickshaw-wallaha had any ideas about this little episode ;-)

Sriram:
"After all, it is "our" government and it should be able to do whatever the majority agrees with. "
Majority did agree with Nazi Germany or oppression of blacks for a good 200 years after 'Independence' in US. Still dosen't make it right.

Eswaran:
Though I would love to see nude couples making out in park benches, I know it doesn't happen in India :) And sadly, it doesn't happen in virginia either.

Not in Virgina, then how about 200 miles up North in say New York:
A man and woman having sex in a vestibule at St. Patrick's Cathedral - a sleazy prank broadcast live on the shock jock Opie and Anthony radio show - were arrested yesterday after an usher spotted them, police said.
Details at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/story/11350p-10737c.html

Pralahad:
Great points!

Dilip D'Souza said...

Dear Great Points! (is that really your name?):

You know, I'm completely baffled by your comment. I can't tell if it is supposed to be praise, or criticism, or something else altogether.

For example, I've scratched my head for a long time trying to figure out what "defacting girls at Mardis Gras" might mean. I have no clue.

Then I don't know what you're saying about Manglo's David.

So all in all, as I said, I'm baffled. Never mind. I've decided to assume you are praising me. Therefore: thank you very much kind sir.

Anonymous said...

Errr Dilip... 'great points' was were for your teacher Pralahad Appaji. Can see how you can be 'baffled'.

As far as M'angleo's (M - I - C - H - E - A - L - A - N - G - E - L - O -U - S) David..old news:
-----------
Fed up with having his picture taken during events in the Justice Department's Great Hall in front of semi-nude statues, Attorney General John Ashcroft has reportedly ordered massive draperies to conceal the offending figures -- which have been displayed since the 1930s!

The draperies were installed last week at a cost of just over $8,000, reports ABCNEWS.com's Beverley Lumpkin.

At the center of the controversy: two enormous and stylized but largely naked aluminum statues.

The female figure represents the Spirit of Justice; the male on the right is the Majesty of Justice. The male is clad in only a cloth draped over his essential parts; the female wears a sort of toga-style garment, but one breast is entirely exposed.



------------------

which was a real Christian thing to do ;-)
And here let me take the guesswork out - I'm praising him.... I mean John Ashcroft

And thanks for your attention (over your teacher Appaji).

Anonymous said...

^^

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