Last week at the Sahayana Sahityotsava, friend and a fine scholar Arun Joladkudligi mentioned about modern folk stories that have come into circulation in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region which reflect people’s fear, distrust, suspicion and aversion towards city. As he spoke I was reminded of a story a small boy had told me two years ago. Today after watching the film Bombay Velvet I am reminded of the boy and the story again. So here I share it…
It was in the month of February. Year 2013. Taking my plate, in the mess, I went and sat with Com. Kislay who was having dinner with Lakshman, who then was lesser than 10 years of age. Lakshman’s father works at the FTII mess, hence Lakshman was on campus being loved, pampered, irritated by almost everyone. Later he was put to a boarding school with the help of Com. Kislay and few other students.
So on that night when I went and sat with Com. Kislay and Lakshman I was asked by Com. Kislay how I was doing and what was happening in class. It was just few days before the Screenwriters Conference-2013 in Mumbai. We, the students of SPW Department, were expected to attend and for extremely personal reason I was reluctant to go. As I was explaining all of this- the compulsion to attend the conference, my reluctance to go – to Com. Kislay, Lakshman who was eating roti asked me, “daadaa aap Bombay jaa rahe ho?” (brother, are you going to Bombay?) and when I said “haan” [yes] he widened his eyes saying, “aapko pata hai,” (do you know) and then immediately twisting his wrists his fingers his arms and squinting his eyes also, acting paralyzed, said, “wahaan pey aisey aisey log hotey hai,” (there are such people there) and added, “woh log aap ko touch karengey toh aap bhi waisey ho jaaogey.” (if they touch you even you will become like that.)
Saying this he went back to his roti and sabzi. I looked at Com. Kislay who was still looking at Lakshman wondering what he meant by what he had just said and what prompted him to say so. Those were my questions too.
Lakshman, I guess, must have (over)heard quite a lot of modern folk tales about Bombay and the harsh life there. He must also have heard about the “moral corruption” there which is always the non-metro perception about metros and non-urban folk about the urban space. So he must have heard all these stories and in his mind had made a picture of people in Bombay being tedha-medha (twisted) and not seedha (straight). Interestingly in his mind this twisted-ness was contagious.
My favourite quote about Bombay has always been that of K.A. Abbas who said, “Bombay is a state of mind.” But Lakshman with his fable said that “Bombay is a state of being.”
In the entire family of films made in India, certainly, Om Dar Ba Dar by Kamal Swaroop stands as one of the most unusual films. There is a very interesting scene in this film which unfolds this way:
Jagadish and Gayathri are unmarried and in love with each other. The two, once, are at Gayathri’s place and about to get onto the bed. While Gayathri is lying down on the bed and Jagadish is sitting by her we see a boy peep through the window next to the bed. The boy who peeps in laughingly and then leaves immediately is not seen by Jagadish or Gayathri. But Jagadish soon finds the room door open and goes to close the door. He closes the door and comes back to find the door open again. He again goes to the door, closes it and comes back. When he comes back he is unable to undo the knot of naada of his boxer. As he is struggling with the knot Gayathri’s father is heard who is going around the house on his bicycle screaming, “Gayathri Gayathri” which makes the two slightly anxious. Gayathri picks up a scissor and breaks the knot. Jagadish and Gayathri sleep with each other. Once done, Jagadish get up and sitting on the bed starts to weep.
This scene holds mirror to the ways in which our society has complicated things in the human mind by making human sexuality a matter of taboo and by mixing human sexuality with morality.
The sexual urge of humans is as natural as hunger and thirst. It is only sad that such an intimate, private, fragile matter of human life which is also very natural has been turned into a matter of taboo and morality. In the matters of sexuality even those who otherwise are progressive become slightly conservative.
Sexual urge of humans doesn’t wait till a ritual called marriage. But humans, as per the norms set by society, have to wait till they get married to meet their sexual needs. This norm is absorbed by humans from a very early stage as the society makes sure it is drilled into the human consciousness in more than one ways. Though nobody never knows why and how, we all grow up believing that marriage is essential to meet our sexual needs and any attempt to meet these needs before marriage or outside marriage is blasphemous.
Yet curiosity makes quite a lot of them explore and restriction makes many rebel and explore their sexuality before marriage itself. For some the condition/ situation helps explore also. But at times such explorations end up being bitter though the act is of/ for pleasure.
Gayathri and Jagadish are grown ups and are in love with each other. Love is never divorced of sexual attraction. When the two decide to make love, because of the societal norm which says sex before marriage being wrong and that norm having seeped into the minds, there is naturally a fear about being spotted while in the ‘immoral’ act. That is why Jagadish finds the door open. That too twice. Even after he having shut the door once. Because Jagadish has gorwn up believing making love before marriage is ‘immoral’ and ‘wrong’ there is hesitation in him while in the act though he is just responding to a basic need of his body. The hesitation is the knot in his boxer naada making it difficult for him to slip it down and get into the act of making love. Gayathri’s father going around the house on bicycle saying, “Gayathri Gayathri” is a reminder of the society which has always, in invisible non-verbal ways, warned us of making love before marriage and outside marriage. The pressure of the society to ensure we do not get into such an act.
In spite of all these Jagadish proceeds, with the help of Gayathri, and ends up making love with Gayathri. But once done with the act he is gripped by a guilt of having walked against the societal norms and that guilt bites him so hard that the act of pleasure leaves a slightly bitter feeling and he ends up weeping out of guilt.
The reason why society has made the act of love making a matter of taboo a matter of moral is unknown. But because it has been made a matter of taboo a matter of moral when humans give in to their natural instincts and urges these norms and codes of behavior scream from within of humans making them feel guilty and turning the act of pleasure, bitter. This is not just sad but also tragedy because sexual urge is no matter of shame. It is not matter to hide. There is no need to hesitate to accept for it is very natural. And meeting the natural needs- sexual- is no blasphemy, though the societal norms wants us to believe so.
The will of the society to control humans and human sexuality causes damage to humans first by restricting them and then by making them feel guilty when they respond to their instincts their urges and go against the societal norms and thus paralyses them from within.
Om Dar Ba Dar through one scene shows how difficult it is break the shackles that society has imposed on us and has made us accept those chains willingly and how even when living by one’s own will it is difficult to ignore the societal norms which we have absorbed unconsciously.
[Originally written in Kannada for the fortnightly column I am writing for Karavali Karnataka]