If you’re even slightly inclined towards liberal thoughts, piercing through all the notions that had been slapped on you while growing up, you’d realise that India is not really an opinion friendly country. Don’t get me wrong, people here love original ideas and thoughts until it challenges their cognizance. Suddenly all liberal thoughts go out of the window and before you know it, you’re a pseudo-intellectual who obviously needs to visit Pakistan. I’m sure it’s a great country, but there’s no need to literally implement the idea, ‘thoughts travel beyond borders’.
The obvious sarcasm in my words arises in the wake of recent events, the latest being the MeToo campaign. I won’t share any particular instance of sexual harassment, but the consequences of sharing a meme on my Facebook timeline. You could visit my profile and check it out, but for personal sanity purposes, I had to re-think my private settings option.
Why? Because of rape threats of course! The very logical approach when someone talks about highly sensitive issues, which in India is religion – not child trafficking, poverty, wage gaps or the environment, but religion. Talk about some crazy lunatic screaming “Bang Bang” on national television, but don’t you dare criticise the manuscripts of sanskaar.
If you’re an avid social media user, then you would have come across the following meme depicting Krishna stealing young women’s (Gopi) clothes as a prank. Because, stealing clothes while women bathe, leaving them in horror, is somehow funny. The sequence of Krishna teasing the village women has been normalised through ages and various versions of the epic in such a manner that today, it seems outrageous if someone questions the very act.
Now, before one of you asks me to read the original scriptures, I’d like to tell you that I haven’t, but I have read a very simple version of Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik. I appreciate how one can relate to the many stories illuminated in this great epic. I appreciate how intricately the complications encircling human lives have been depicted. I appreciate how liberally the great tale of Bharata has been written, where karma plays a very crucial role. But, the thing to be pointed out is, Mahabharata is not merely a religious textbook.
It’s a story of human lives living extraordinarily. But, they are in fact about human lives. Each character is as flawed as you and me. For someone like me, it’s still a story that allows me to criticise the actions and repercussions of each individual instead of simply justifying them as God’s will.
Referring to the meme now, Krishna as per the stories was a character with immense valour; an intense lover; a great leader, and an advisor of the highest repute. But, he also was the descendant of Yadu clan of homo sapiens, which again hints you that perhaps he was a non-magical human being who later had been glorified for the purpose of telling a tale, i.e. Mahabharata.
The particular meme is to support the cause #MeToo across all social media platforms so that women around the speak up against sexual harassment. And the meme very casually points out Krishna’s ‘pranks’ on the ladies bathing. I found the meme as an example of dark humour, which very accurately proves a point.
Post sharing the meme, the very first comment to argue my daring and ‘indecent’ act was that since he was probably of the age 4 or 5; a child full of innocence, the meme is pretty disrespectful. I don’t know how to comprehend that, because, as far as I remember, mother Yashoda was stunned to see the entire universe resting inside Krishna’s body when he opened his mouth. He was immediately conceived as a godly figure. Now then, why would god steal clothes from women while they’re naked in the river?
It bothers me that the entire dialogue on MeToo quickly shifted to religion and how I was insulting the gods. Everyone forgot the topic about sexual harassment and blamed me for being a threat to the society. I learnt that criticising the layered patriarchy in our mythological stories make you a disgusting human being, an unworthy woman who should drown herself. I learnt that since I am a lusty maniac, my thoughts are cheap, and I deserve to be called a prostitute. I wish I were affected though because a sex worker is an honest woman making a living despite dire straits.
I realised that religious sentiments are hurt in a blink of an eye in India, and while this sustains no positive dialogue can sustain. We’re so busy being the messenger of God who needs to protect his realm that it does not provide us the sufficient time to acknowledge the venomous issues actually contaminating the society.
In over 200 comments, various arguments were put down by people who were offended by the meme. But, none of them understood the real purpose of the very same meme; it’s not right to romanticise teasing women and pulling off shenanigans that hurt their dignity. The comment sections were flooded with young men and women typing rigorously how I was making a fool of the great Indian culture. But, greatness may not always come with righteousness.
The reactions to me having shared the meme has proven that whenever we Indians take a step forward in dealing with harassment, a mob of men and women do whatever it takes to push the conversation back. It takes absolutely two seconds to hurt religious sentiments, and I don’t understand as a liberal feminist (call me a feminazi, if you will) why are these sentiments so fragile? Is your faith in God so weak that my criticism or anybody’s criticism could hurt your belief?
I’d like to end with the fact that Krishna is a great character, someone to learn from. But, as I said before, greatness often does not come with righteousness. He had good in him, he had bad in him. And as long as we keep an open mind, we’d be able to grasp the positive things from the epic and discard the ones that are inhumane.
And finally, “Me Too”.