The ‘Touch’ Phobia: why such double standards?

Posted by Vasudha Kapoor
August 12, 2017

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It’s not every day I decide to go on a bike ride with my boyfriend. It had rained and the Himachali roads were inviting. Just to get a full view of the foggy ranges, we climbed a nearby cliff but couldn’t go high enough, a kohlapuri footwear doesn’t let you to! The grass was dripping as we checked for snakes around and after finding it safe, sat down on a comparatively less drenched rock. Holding hands, we lost into a deep conversation which we hadn’t had a couple of weeks. As soon as I felt his arm resting on my shoulder, I noticed a figure rising up to the cliff. In no time I made out that it was a local man with a sickle in his hand. Before I could convince myself that he had come to cut some grass, he pounced on my boyfriend slapping him uncontrollably. With an undisturbed flow of sexist abuses and swear words, he punched him in his face and tried to slap me. Adhering to politeness, we found apologizing to be the safest option then. Certainly, it calmed him down as he dropped his sickle and lowered his pitch, but something in me brews up from that very moment. This sudden encounter of Indian hypocrisy towards public display of affection was unsettling (though I am not sure about whether I could use the term as there was no public involved and affection is too subjective to define).

To my disbelief, the feeling of humiliation was accompanied with a feeling of being less nationalistic. Yes! The very same nationalism which boasts about its culture and values, which we seemed to have damaged somehow, had important part revolving around the idea of touch. What’s most ironical is that this ‘touch’ when unintended, non-consensual and unasked is a very prevalent practice in India (where relatives love to touch you and no one can imagine a day-out without being touched, pushed or held) whereas boys and girls holding hands, girls and girls or boys and boys doing so often raise an eyebrow.

I was reminded of  the ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign which broke out  a couple of years back and spread from the city of Kochi in south to New Delhi in north, explicitly aiming to challenge the ‘Indian moral policing’ (informal groups spreading fundamentalist Hindutva views that consider PDA to be anti-Hindu or anti-Indian). Though, I still wonder how ‘affection’ can degrade a nation! In a state where the CM casually, rather irresponsibly, states incidents like rape do happen (pertaining to Mr. Virbhadra Singh’s statement on  Shimla’s gang rape case) and display of affection between consenting adults is immoral and illegal – something requires serious mending!

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