The Unquestionables In India: Has Our Tolerance Gone To The Dogs?

Posted on February 4, 2013 in Society

By Shubhra Kukreti:

Be it the act of exiling M.F. Hussain, house arresting Taslima Nasreen, silencing Salman Rushdie in Jaipur Literature festival, 2012 and now, banning Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam, we have left no stone unturned to show that we are the most ‘tolerant’ nation in the world. We are accustomed to tolerating every nuisance on the planet- we have no issues dumping our garbage in front of the neighbour’s door, we must park our car in the ‘No Parking Zone’ and we make a point to spit in the ‘No Spitting area’. We have changed the Indian Standard Time to the Indian Stretchable Time, we do not mind ‘Bhai bhateejawaad‘, and we suffer absolutely no qualms of conscience in burning our wives for dowry. But, yes there is a limit to our tolerance as well, our anger knows no bounds when it comes to the ‘holy cow‘ issues. After all, we are also mere Homo sapiens.


Following are the issues which if we question; we would be qualified as the ultimate ‘badtammez’. We in India are not to snap back to our elders. Teachers are the ultimate connoisseurs on any given topic. For us, it is the ‘Guru Bhrama, Guru Vishnu, Guru devo Maheshwara’. Sex and anything remotely connected to it is a taboo. And, religion, it is all about Gods, isn’t it? Who are we lesser mortals to discuss It? These topics enjoy the status of the ‘unquestionable’, it is considered wrong to go against the norm regarding any of these topics. We are told to follow certain rules without questioning them, and the lawmakers, never make an effort to explain the logic behind them. It is, as if, we are still stuck in the period of Classicism.

But, is it not natural for human beings to get more curious about anything that is hidden or kept away from them? The more you oppose it, the more determined we get to do it. For instance, a few days back, a Pakistani play ‘Kaun hai ye gustakh‘ was refused by the National School of Drama (NSD) the permission to be staged at the 15th Bharatrang Mahotsav. As a result, the popular interest was fuelled further, all thanks to the ban, and therefore, the play was eventually staged twice in the capital to cater to huge demand. More than thousand people were cramped in the auditorium and all of them stayed till the end of the play, hoping for the allegedly controversial stuff to happen because of which the play had to be banned. Alas, they were disappointed. The play bore no ‘masala’. In a way, NSD did well to the Ajhoka theatre group by giving them free popularity.

It is important to understand that whatever rules were once formulated would have been legitimate in the then society. For example, Prophet Mohammad had allowed a Muslim man to keep four wives. That is because, at that time, many women were widowed due to the ongoing war and the population of women outnumbered that of men. The Prophet preached polygamy for the social security of every woman. Again, certain sections of the Hindu Dharma Shastras, or law books, banned taking a voyage by sea or visiting the lands beyond India. The lawmakers must have reasoned that travellers would be polluted by the influence of foreign culture, especially by their non vegetarian cuisine. Yet, these days when overseas journeys have become so safe and the so called foreign culture is nothing but the international culture, it would be really stupid to even take this law into consideration. Similarly, a few decades back, people used to get married at an early age and we appreciated the concept of sex after marriage. However, now when the average life expectancy has doubled and along with it have doubled our expectations from life, we wish to get married only after acquiring our own, and not daddy’s gifted, ‘bangla aur gaadi’. It is quite obvious that not everyone can practice abstinence till their 30s. But when the society asserts you to remain ‘pure’, either you get frustrated, or you end up getting ‘dirtier’. I wonder, would the perversive incidents decline if we adopt a liberal attitude regarding sex?

Being the guardian of traditions is not wrong but “The important thing is“, as Albert Einstein says, “not to stop questioning“. Accept your ‘samskaras’ only when you understand their sense. They are programmed in our minds by our parents, but the why and how of them has to be determined by us. Unfortunately, this understanding is something not easy to acquire. Learning, through books and voyages, is one way of achieving it and it obviously takes time. Of course, before the required level of understanding seeps in, we ought to cling to the words of our elders. If I am confusing you, may be Aaron Swartz’s words can be your guiding light. He said, “Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. I think a lot of what people call intelligence boils down to curiosity.” The best way to pay him homage would be to implement his words in our day to day actions.

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