Sunday, December 14, 2014

J.Devika, Kiss of Love and the Orgy of Tongues and Saliva

(Kiss of Love protesters in Kerala)

Kissing is not an innocent act; it is a cultural construct. Like the dress code that people follow in different cultures physical acts of intimacy and their permissible limits in the public domain are also culturally constructed and ethically defined. In most of the societies ethical notions derived from folklore, myth and certain religious dictums assume legal authority by virtue of them being there for a long time and followed by many without contesting vigorously. When contested both in the private and public domains such quasi-legal notions fall apart and then those people who uphold such notions take refuge in large scenario of cultural constructs. Added to it are religious teachings that are meant for maintaining a conformist society in place. A kiss exchanged between two consenting adults in a public domain becomes an objectionable thing when it is seen as something that undermines the dictums of a conformist society. Those who object the act of kissing in public primarily seek legal sanction for their opposition and when they fail to find any such support they add religious sentiments to such objections. When religion comes to the fore in issues that involve sexuality and gender, a conformist society takes up the defining principles of the ideological (state) apparatuses like family, church, temple, police, school and so on to support its arguments. That’s why in Kerala, the larger civil society whose norms are defined by the male members of it, raises family values to resist the Kiss of Love protests by human rights activists and intellectuals.

(singer K.J.Yesudas)

Will you allow your mother and sister to kiss or get kissed in public? If police stop sexual relationship between two consenting adults, will you do it in public to protest? Questions like these have been seen on a daily basis in social networking sites that eke out disgust than argumentative response. Most recent one went on like this: AIDS is a communicable disease and the possibility of it getting contracted through saliva is high when it comes to Kiss Protests. For an average Malayali male (generically for an average Indian male) a mass protest where male and female human beings kiss each other could only be seen as an orgy that involves a lot of tongues and saliva. You must remember that peculiar question asked by a male police official to his female counterpart when she demanded trousers and shirts as uniform in the place of intimidating sarees and churidars. The question was: What will you do when you feel like peeing? The female police officer was quick enough to answer to that chauvinistic and sexist question. She said: We will do exactly what you will do when you feel like shitting. This incident happened almost a decade back and the question was posed to a female IPS officer. After a decade, after much public debate the Kerala society is still where it has started. The climax was contained in a comment by the popular singer, K.J.Yesudas who objected girls wearing a pair of jeans. Ironically Yesudas is one of the Indian singers who have sung the maximum number of sexist and male chauvinist songs. What else one could expect from a singer who has sung a song like ‘Thanka Bhasma kuriyitta Thamburatti’ (The lyrics say obliquely: Oh lady, I will interrupt your vows and squeeze your breasts).

 (Mohanlal approaching to kiss Shobhana in Thenmavin Kombathu)

Little did the young couple who had kissed behind a restaurant in Kozhikode know that their act would change the gender discourse in Kerala (and in India too). Little did the hooligans know that their act of vandalism on that restaurant would turn the heat on their ideology. Little did the news channel that telecasted the MMS clipping of the kissing couple know that they were triggering a larger debate. Good that it happened because the butterfly effect of their kiss has now taken Kerala by storm, though the cynicism of the average Malayali males still lampoons this protest down with their sexist comments. Now, let me tell why the average Malayali male sees the kiss of protest as a public orgy of tongues and saliva that would actually harm the ‘protect’ dignity of their mothers, daughters and sisters. (They conveniently forget the fact that the women whom they attack on streets both in the context of protests and otherwise, are also somebody’s mothers, sisters, daughters and wives). They also conveniently forget the fact that women do not seek male agency of redemption anymore. The very act of protecting somebody’s dignity has already been nullified when women take up their own agency and fight it out for themselves.

 (Seriel Kisser of Bollywood, Eemran Hashmi)

As I mentioned before, kissing is a cultural construct. In many societies kissing is not seen as a taboo. A passionate kiss that begins with lips and ends up in sexual union is not considered to be a kiss of love. It is considered to be a kiss of passion. A kiss of love is an act of showing affection, provided both the parties involved in it are comfortable while doing it. A kiss need not necessarily involve lips or tongues or saliva. It could be a flying kiss and even one could kiss with eye lids and eye lashes. Kiss also need not necessarily connote sexual foreplay. Kiss could be an innocent act. It is so in many other societies. But unfortunately in Indian societies that include the Kerala society too, kiss is an act of violation and subjugation. A strong kiss is as good as a tight slap. That’s how the films (the most influential public medium of modern times) have taught us. An uncompromising heroine is subjugated by a violent kiss on her lips. The kisser could be the hero or villain; irrespective of their roles, they are males and their aim is to subjugate the woman. When hero kisses forcefully it becomes a sort of conquering for good and when the villain does it, it is an act of violence that eventually seeks justice through the male agency. Those people who have seen ‘Thenmavin Kombathu’, a Malayalam movie by Priyadarshan, know the effect of kiss. Muddu Gavu is the catch word; the hero does not know the meaning of it. Finally he finds out and he takes his revenge on the heroine by acting it out forcefully on her. An average Malayali male who is born and brought up in the culture of Muddu Gavu (or similar things that have been happening for ages) cannot think about a normal kiss of love and affection. For him, it is always hidden by the sudden introduction of a flower. Otherwise, one has to be a shameless kisser like Fahad Fasil or Emran Hashmi; both could be avoided by calling them new gen actors. We have larger than life figures in Amitabh Bacchan, Rajnikant, Mammooty and Shah Rukh Khan who flaunt their aversion to on screen kissing like Oscar trophies.

 (Mammootty leading his sisters, poster of the movie, Hitler)

An average Malayali male is not a Prem Nazir. He is a Mammootty. He is a Valyettan (Big Brother), Udyana Palakan (Gardener) or Hitler (that does not need translation in any language). He is like a proverbial dog. Thinnukayumilla Theettikkukayumilla (A dog in the haystack. He does not eat hay nor does it allow the cow to eat it). He has become a Mammootty because he is born in a culture that subjugates women through kissing; the violent and passionate kissing. If that is not possible, he like the mythical Hanuman abstains from it. Hindustan Latex, the biggest condom producers in India has its head quarters in Trivandrum. If they would introduce lip condoms, I believe, Malayali males will proudly consume it. That would be one product that does not need any export for business success. The average Malayali male has taken kiss of protest wrongly. For him it is a public orgy because he expects to be witness/voyeur than a participant in the protest. He expects an orgy in these protests. When he fails to see it, he becomes aggressive. It is the Freudian repressed sexual fear and anxieties that come to play in the public domain when he attacks the protesters with lathis and clubs. Somehow, in Kerala, the kiss of love has become a gendered protest. Women have to lead the protest because men are Mammootties. Malayali men do not dance and they do not allow their women to dance too. Chitra checchi is good but Rimi Tomi, Ranjini Haridas and Praseetha are ‘pokku cases’ (gone cases).

(Dr.J.Devika)

I have been using the phrase, ‘average Malayali male’. I am sure, my friend Dr.J.Devika will be critical of that term. From her experience as a leading protestor in the kiss of love agitation, she has made it clear that there is no average Malayali male. Every Malayali male is average in his thinking, including the so called intellectuals and leaders. Devika has said that ‘May be fighting moral policing is optional for you. But for us women, it is life and death.’ For the male intellectuals in Kerala, joining the kiss of love protest is an optional thing. They are not different than the so called average Malayali male. Devika has written from the Kerala International Film Festival venue where she and likeminded women had led the kiss of love protest. But I want to assure Devika that the intellectual Malayali male who hops festival venues by night becomes a chauvinist and prefers ‘kambi padam’ (porn films) to Kim Kiduk and Abbas Kirostami. They are not going to change. But we are with you dear friend, Devika.

1 comment:

usha ramachandran said...

OK! We get an idea of how average an average malayali is��.At my recent exhibition in Bangalore I asked a man who was going around with lot of interest if he was a malayali and his quick,firm answer was "No I'm normal."��