We Indians are a little too rigid when it comes to moving ahead with the times. In an age when there are bigger problems like pollution, population, inflation, etc. to deal with, we are still stuck on issues that prevent us from being a truly free society.
There are many things we Indians need to be more liberal about and no, this is not some Utopian dream; it’s actually possible if we just make the effort. We are still hung up on many things and we need to change that. They are things like (not in any particular order)-
1. How to Dress-
In India we seem to be under the notion that the amount of clothes on a person’s body (more so in case of women) is directly proportional to his or her character. What’s worse is, these patriarchal thoughts get indoctrinated from a relatively early age.
2. Artistic Expression-
If someone doesn’t like a book, he shouldn’t read it; you don’t like a film, don’t watch it. But in a free society you can’t go around calling for bans or burning books.
“Oh no, how can you say that word?” “Sorry, you can’t say ‘sex’ in the subtitle.” Yes, these things happen in India. But for how long? Sex is a natural thing. Will our delicate cocoon of a world explode if people start talking about sex?
There’s a natural tendency for most people to feel some sort of attachment to their homeland – it’s called patriotism. But at the end of the day it’s still love, something that cannot be enforced.
5. Rights of the Individual-
In a free society, every person, irrespective of his or her argument, has the right to criticize something he or she believes is problematic. But in India that’s not the case. We still have Blasphemy Laws. We still cannot criticize religious thoughts and beliefs because it might “offend” some community or fundamentalist lobby.
I still remember the time when an entire generation in the 90s went to watch Titanic in the movie halls expecting it to be a family movie and being “shocked” (read: pleasantly surprised) to see a naked Kate Winslet on the big screen. Awkward with parents around? Yes. Does that make it wrong? Absolutely not.
7. Food Habits-
When it comes to food habits, there is this apartheid-like atmosphere out there. Landlords not renting out to non-vegetarians, RSS volunteers writing letters to HRD ministry to stop giving out tamsic food in IITs, local Muslims in Kerala raging over a school that served pork, saffron activists calling for bans on cow slaughter (it’s not about animal welfare though; they don’t ask for ban of chicken or lamb slaughter), these are signs of a society where some people believe they are better than others just because of what they eat or don’t eat.
Relationships-We are a society obsessed with marriage. In fact, it’s the one thing that unites all the religions in India. But seriously, is it really something we ‘have to’ do? If you and your partner want to get married – great! But if you don’t, this country’s laws are heavily biased against you.
9. Gender Identity-
We really need to start addressing some core problem areas in our society. We tell our kids that “hijras are annoying” because they “exhort money” but we don’t tell them how schools and offices in India shun the trans community.
A woman who has lost her virginity is seen as someone who is promiscuous. It’s not the same for the men though, for whom, losing their virginity is like a rite of passage to manhood. The number of men and their families in India looking for virgin brides is not funny. The two-finger test is another procedure.
Ah yes, culture, one word that old people use to tell young people how to lead their lives so that one day these young people turn into similar old people so that the loop continues. Like I said earlier, celebrating your culture is fine as long as you’re not using it to
a) display dominance against someone who is different, b) blame a victim of gender violence,
c) Justify criminal acts like rape and honour killing.
12. Religious Beliefs-
We call ourselves a secular country but we’re not one in the truest sense. The ideal definition of a secular society is one where there is separation of religion and state but in India we seem to practice a system where we respect all religions equally without defining the separation between religion and state.
13. Who to Love-
Aren’t we, as a generation, already tired of things like ‘love jihad’, ‘Operation Majnu’, police arresting couples seen hugging or kissing in public, politically backed hooligans disrupting Valentine’s Day or trashing a cafe in some city because couples go there to spend time together?
14. The Other Truth-
Every story has two or more sides. We shed tears for the jawaans we lost in Dantewada to Maoist violence, but how often do we complain about the state’s Land Acquisition Act that throws Dalits and Adivaasis from their own land? We support our Armed Forces but we turn a blind eye to actual events like the “Malom massacre” (which prompted Irom Sharmila to protest).