Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Vagina is Tight and I feel Eighteen- Do You?

There is a U-turn here. There was time when feminists all over the world talked about man’s fear for toothed vagina. A toothed vagina is a tight one that bites man into pieces. A woman could impair a man with her vagina. She has always been an alluring secret because of her potency. Today, Indian feminists are a bit agitated when they see an advertisement promoting 18 Again, a gel that claims to have the powers to tighten a loose vagina. It could be a counterpart to the Viagra that keeps men’s flaccid organs in the right position for penetration. But those activists who have been fighting for the establishment of toothed vagina in our parlance now do not want a cream that could in fact tighten a vagina thereby reinforcing its powers to hurt man.

There is a problem when a product commodifies sexual organs and their properties. As in pornography, such products takes away sexual pleasure and the idea of sex from its entirety related to sublimated human emotions. The organ becomes the focal point and the possessor of that particular organ replaces the individuality of the person who possesses it. That means if we commodify sex or sexual organs it de-indvidualizes and de-humanizes the human being. In our male dominated societies women are the people who generally get dehumanized while they are just cannibalized by the market strategies as just organs that provide sexual pleasure to man. Seen against this context any hue and cry against a cream that tightens the vaginal muscles could be offensive to the feminist activists.

Localization of pleasure is an ideological tactics imposed upon human beings by the hegemonic powers that generally hold the reins of the market and reap profit out of it. Such powers take away pleasure that is to be generally felt as an emotional totality as seen in ‘good’ literature and good works of art (of any genre), and localize them to certain zones of the body and make the people believe that improvement of such parts would enhance the worth of the person. Market and its strategists while playing up the total effect of improved personality through the consumption of a product covertly push the idea of localization and decentralizes and defocuses a human being in thinking about him/herself as a unified whole. S/he becomes a conglomeration of several body parts and each part needs separate attention, as they put it. Vaginal whitening was one process that furthered the localization of women’s beauty to its minute details and now we have something to tighten the same.

A tight vagina is a myth as strong as the myth of the length and breadth of a man’s organ. If you have been a reader of ‘Ask your Doctor’ columns in popular magazines even today you would find several questions regarding immature ejaculation, size of the penis or lack of interest in sex. Some are worried about ejaculating in dreams. Generally women are not affected by such issues. They ask questions related to safe sex. That means, the most worried party in a sexual relationship is a man. He is bogged down by several issues; whereas women are more worried about the aftermath of a physical intercourse. The question of tightness of vagina does not arise in most of our social debates because that has never been an issue in our society. If at all it was an issue, none wanted to talk about it. Now people have come out to talk about it. That means somewhere someone is worried about the tightness of vaginal muscles.

The advertisement that promotes this product or the company that produces it does not say that it is the men who want taut vaginas. Nor does it say that women are now craving for tight vaginas because they want to hold on to or keep control of their men. This ambiguity of this product and its potential user (as women in India however urban or educated they are, are not going to walk into a store and ask for this cream. And in that case it must be men who do the shopping for men. That means there is a consensus between the man and woman who want to use this product) make it a very interesting case study. As I mentioned just now, there is a consensus between the woman who applies this cream and the man who purchases it for his woman.

In a normal or ideal case scenario we have to see, even if it is men who want taut vaginas, that this product could be used only in a familial situation. As the product title itself shows that it is all about feeling like eighteen again and it is an age which is presumably having the tightest vaginal possibilities. If so the users must be a married couple (as the product projects in its advertisement) who are grown bored of their sexual life. The wife thinks that she is not tight enough and the man thinks that he needs some more tightness as he has been taking the pole through the India Gate for quite some time. So in the bedroom discussions there is an agreement with the two parties. Now what is the problem if there is a product that provides sexual pleasure to a consenting couple? A man who is having an extra marital affair obviously does not carry this cream in his pocket because either he must be having it with a tighter vagina or even the simple suggestion that the partner in crime has a loser one that itself is enough to be thrown out of the extra marital relationship.

(18 Again Ad)

This product that offers to tighten the loose pussies of India is an interesting social marker, I believe. This society, like any other society which has full of married people is a bored society. They find solace in extra marital affairs, chatting and other real and virtual activities to find the right person to vent their boredom. It is perfectly alright. But the root cause of all these should be sought in our system of marriage. Here woman is left alone to maintain the sacredness of the establishment. She has to remain in a saree twenty four into seven if she is living with the in-laws. She need to do all what to make a man happy. She is equally bored as he is. But she is asked to maintain the balance of the family. His gallivanting could be caused by the loosening of her vagina thanks to childbearing. And even if she has a Caesarean section and her vagina is as tight as ever, the guy starts thinking that she has gone loose. This is the mindset of the Indian man.

Now, the product wants to keep the establishment of family intact. For that the woman has to do the ultimate sacrifice. She has to smear all those creams around her crotch and wait for the muscles to tighten up so that her husband can take all the pleasure. When she has a tightened organ, husband remains at home; he does not look for tight vaginas. On the one hand the product is something that makes the sexual exchanges between the husband and wife more transparent. On the other hand it gives all the onus of sexual relationship on women; she should be prepared enough to do the right act in the right way with the right tightness otherwise her man would go for tighter avenues. In a covert sense this product reiterates the fact that the boredom of the marriage should be removed only through the intervention of women and her tight vagina. While it reiterates the need for the establishment called marriage, it also celebrates all those age old values that hold the woman down to the pits of such households. Here the woman is free to tighten her vagina but she is not a given a chance to speak out the premature ejaculation of her husband.

(from the Ad)

Tight vagina, seen in a positive sense, is good for controlling men. They will not go here and there. But what is there is a tight vagina? That myth remains a myth. When a man thinks about tightness of his partner’s vaginal muscles must be asking for a porn star for the bed rather than a wife or a girl friend. And having a tight vagina, in a folkloric sense, is always good. Hold him between the legs, squeeze the shit out of him and ask him to deliver the things and behaviour that you want.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Preview of UAF in Pardi and Somu Desai

(Somu Desai with his works)

In 2007 November, I met a tall smart looking guy, though a little on the plump side, at Partapur, District Baswada, Rajasthan where I had gone to meet my friends doing Sandarbh Artists workshop led by none other than the bad boy of Indian contemporary art, Chintan Upadhyay. This guy was wearing a pair of dark goggles and a bandana around his head so I could not make out his real personality. If he had a few tattoos on, I would have taken him for a Harley Davison biker on the desert roads of Rajasthan. I thought he was looking at me from behind his dark glasses, which had made me a bit uncomfortable in the presence of my wife and a couple of girl friends present there. Finally nicotine called truce between us. On the way to check out a site to do some site specific work I asked him a cigarette. He was more than willing to offer me one. That was how we connected, Somu Desai and me.

(UAF Preview at Zero Kilometer, Pardi)

I was so impressed by his forthrightness, energy and ambition to do things that I came back and wrote a piece on his character where I tried to contain him behind a disguise, Moon D. Moon in Gujarati, Somu’s mother tongue, is Somu and D is Desai. My piece on Moon D had aroused a lot of guess works but I was reluctant to reveal the person behind the disguise till Somu himself was prepared to come out and face the art scene in India. Today, I am writing a blog again on Somu Desai. I feel that if I don’t write this I would be doing a great injustice to my friend and his verve in doing things for his own village, Pardi near the industrial town in Vapi in Gujarat, bordering Maharashtra. Pardi is geographically located near Daman and Sylvasa, the Union Territories.  This blog is an appreciation of Somu’s efforts to bring the small town artists in the mainstream and his meaningful engagements with the local audience community. During the last five years Somu has been successful in attaining both the goals.

(A New Audience Community at Zero Kilometer, Pardi)

When I took the charge of United Art Fair, both Somu and Chintan came around and said this much: “Go ahead, we are with you.” In a scenario where artists are swayed by the mood swings of gallerists, such an assurance coming from artists like them was really invigorating and rejuvenating. Chintan, the bad boy of Indian contemporary art (there are two reasons for him being called so: One, his school master used to call him ‘bad boy’ for his ‘good’ behaviour in class. Two, he always feels that he is in a subversive mood and subversion is not always deemed as ‘good’ behaviour) always thought that something like the UAF was always needed in our scene. If I am in a thanksgiving mode I need to mention a lot of names here but I am restricting myself with these two artists because it is all about Somu Desai’s efforts to bring an otherwise neglected area like Pardi into the mainstream art scene in India.

 (Somu's Studio- now a gallery in Pardi)

On the same night, it was moonlit and cold, a Sardarji doing timber business and living in Partapur gave the Sandarbh members a party. Firewood cracked and the faces that came around it glowed. The whiskey glasses were filled and emptied in regular intervals. Somu stood near me and I found he was not drinking. Nor was he eating non-vegetarian food. His huge frame looked distinct as he abstained from both. Above all he was/is a bachelor. If at all you called smoking a vice, he had that. Timber was stocked in the shed nearby where we stood. Some touched one of the timbers and asked did I know what wood it was. Clueless as in the case of many things, I looked at him and smiled. He said it is saal and it came from a place called Sylvasa, near his home. I did not know then that I was going to spend many nights in the Sylvasa forest resorts with many of my artist friends in the days to come. And it did happen in the years that followed.

(Somu Desai amongst the Viewers)

Zero Kilometer is the name of Somu’s studio in Pardi. Initially I was involved in the establishment of it. But distance and involvement was preventing me from going fulltime on this venture. I asked Somu to continue with his passion and he kindly relieved me of my responsibility. Today, Zero Kilometer is a hub for the artists in Pardi, Vapi and Amalsad. Even artists from Mumbai and Baroda visit Somu in his studio. The story of establishing this studio is magical and realist. Somu is a problem solver and he has proved that if there is a will one could convert anything and everything into a studio.

(The gallery view at Zero Km studios)

Zero Kilometer started off as a residency program. Somu’s idea was to bring artists from all over India (later ambitions grew and the parameters became global and today Somu is a founding partner of Ceagel Artists Residency Program in Scotland with artist Lynn Macneze Beckett and he travels every year to conduct workshops there in England and Scotland) so that the local artists get a flavour of the pan-Indian art. Somu biked around his village and found a dilapidated housing complex near the Pardi Railway station. After talking to the owner of the building, he took possession of a floor and converted it into a studio and Sukesan Kanka was the first residency artist. Sukesan’s stay in Pardi attracted more artists to Somu studio and slowly it became a hub and Somu wanted a bigger space for his studio. He found out another dilapidated structure near the railway track and converted it into a studio. Around six artists from the region started working there with Somu and he introduced them to Delhi and Mumbai art scene through potential friends and gallerists.

 (That broken wall is the door to Somu's office)

Somu is like Bob the builder. He asks his friends, Can we fix it and they say yes we can. Then he goes ahead. Whenever I have something to organize the first name comes to my mind is Somu. Anything and everything becomes handy in Somu’s hands. For example, when Chintan wanted to store his huge sculptures, Somu just pitched in and said he could do it. What he did was to go around and meet a few farmers in the area who had huge sheds that were used only during the mango harvesting time. Rest of the year these sheds were lying vacant. Now Somu says that Pardi could handle any kind of art work both in making and storing. The best example is the present studio where Somu has done the preview of the works that he and his nine fellow artists did for the United Art Fair.

 (Enthusiastic viewers)

The gallery that you see in the pictures was the storage of Somu’s studio, which was later converted into individual studios for the Zero Kilometer artists. This section with no such state of the art facilities was converted into a temporary but decent looking gallery, according to Somu, just spending a few thousands of Rupees. Some plywood was lying there from huge crates that brought Chintan’s sculptures. The plywood was cannibalized to make walls and local choona was used for painting the wall. No special light was available so Somu brought some tube lights. Some carpets were brought from the local pandal guy. Sofas were arranged from home. Food was locally prepared by friends and there was Karoke booth for enjoyment. What more do you need for an exhibition opening.

 (From the Display at Zero Km)

As you see in the picture, the people who came to see the exhibition are not the up class freeloaders whom we bump into in the urban galleries. These people are sincere and encouraging. They may not be buying works of art but they could now appreciate what their children would do if they choose to become artists. Artists who take a degree in fine arts only to become a part of the textile or stone cutting industry from this region could now think a different future for themselves. Their parents could also take pride in their works. According to Somu, the local industrialists have already taken interest in artistic activities in the Zero kilometre. At the same time he says that he is surprised to see that the local people’s interest even in the nude paintings. “They did not show any disinclination to my works that show my own nudes,” says Somu.

(A Video work at Zero Km)

K.G.Subramanyan once said that what we deem as the local is the real global when it comes to anything. If so, Somu’s experimentation in Pardi is really a global art activity. Without intellectual arrogance and jargon infested posturing, Somu could develop a local studio where artists could work, exhibit and interact with a new local audience community. Interestingly, Somu does not wait for the funding agencies to fund him. He is Bob the builder. He shows that together we could do many things.