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Anecdote/Opinion Lists Social Issues - Article

What Kiss of Love Stands for and What it’s Doing for India

Let’s get this straight. The fact that Indians have to hold a protest on the streets for the freedom to show affection in public is itself ridiculous. On top of that, you oppose the symbolic protest that strives to broaden your mind? Now that’s getting as ridiculous as Shah Rukh Khan’s new movie Happy New Year. We have reached Mars and we still feel the need to assert our moral policing roles in others’ love lives. How typical of us. Before you jump your gun and talk about the holy “Indian culture” that has to be protected, consider what this unique protest actually stands for and what it’s doing for India.

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1. Kiss, Not Sex; Love, Not Lust

Kissing is not a precursor to sexual intercourse. I repeat, kissing is NOT sex. In most of South India, especially in Kerala being seen with a guy or holding hands with a guy or God forbid, expressing affection to a guy in any way, labels the girl as a slut. The couple is subjected to harassment, in the form of looks, words and actions. Kiss of Love stands for the freedom to not be harassed by goons, for showing affection in public, i.e. if one hold hands with someone in a park or shopping mall, kiss or hug someone or celebrate Valentine’s Day with one’s loved one. The natural question then becomes, where do we draw the line? That is a matter of personal discretion and simple common sense. Kiss of Love does not stand for a show of nudity in public, full sexual intercourse in public or non-consensual show of affection in public. You want to kiss, you kiss. Two individuals showing their affection is by no means, any of your business. An aversion to PDA (public display of affection) exists even in the liberal Western world, but nobody harasses or beats anyone up for it. Get the difference?

2. Acceptance for homosexuality

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Among the protests that have taken place in Kochi, Hyderabad and Delhi it has not just been a man and a woman kissing. The Kiss of Love movement recognizes that love is not just heterosexual. It is high time that gay and lesbian love be accepted in the Indian society as a form of love itself and not an aberration or perversion of heterosexual love. Even while being a protest against moral policing, Kiss of Love is also providing voice for the homosexual community in India, causing a lot of butt hurt among the RSS and Hindutva organizations who stand for “Indian culture” and the normative heterosexual love. If the controversial Section 377 that criminalizes homosexuality has to be changed, society’s perception of homosexuality should change. This is what Kiss of Love is doing in a latent way even as they struggle against moral policing and homophobes.

3. Exposing anti-female sentiments in the Indian society

Most counter-protesters (yes, that includes the state and the police who have oppressed the Kiss of Love protesters) have shamelessly engaged in shaming the women who participated in the Kiss of Love protest. Perhaps the most extreme and vulgar example of this can be seen in the Ban Kiss of Love Facebook page of a group called Kochi Freakerz, who have resorted to the despicable act of shaming a popular model and one of the female advocates of Kiss of Love, in an example of moral policing. What more, they have gone on to express “sympathy” for “such women” who are evidently seen as base and immoral. Have they seen the sculptures in Hindu temples that show our goddesses expressing their sexuality and freedom? What “Indian culture” are they talking about? The truth is, by Indian culture, they mean the cloistered Victorian mindset and the puritanism of the British that was reproduced in many ways, through Section 377 and the mindset that women are responsible for “upholding morals” in the society. There has been no other instance that has brought on such widespread anti-female sentiments recently, with some individuals even justifying rape in the context where women are allowed to express love in public! Again, Indian culture? Please understand that rape (non consensual intercourse)  is the perversion, not a consensual public show of affection.

4. A show of love, not violence

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Rapes happen in broad daylight. Murders and assaults happen in public. What is so wrong about kissing in public that irks the Indian society so much? How does a bunch of youthful protesters gathering to kiss and show affection tick off the violent goons of RSS and the police? In a world where wars and terrorism reign, where violence and gore is only causing numbness and less and less indignation, in a world which desperately lacks empathy, why does love and not violence offend you?

5. Conversation-starter within families

Families, being the basic units of society and where most of socialization starts, the Kiss of Love protest capturing national attention contributes to more conversations within families about moral policing, freedom of expression and perhaps even homosexuality. In a context where such a protest is a mainstream discussion topic, there is no better time than now to have a conversation with your family members about what their take is and why they think so.

When I began having conversations about the protest and started showing my support for the movement, more than two male friends expressed their interest of whether I would have gone for the protest if I were in India. Their tone clearly showed the mockery for the nature of the protest. Some others expressed their concern that we should be focusing on other pressing problems such as lack of sanitation, rape cases and corruption. To them I want to ask, is there a priority list somewhere that the society should follow in order to solve issues? Why not appreciate the effort to redefine personal freedom in a repressive society? I don’t know how long this movement will last or what the results will be. But judging from the rapid spread of the protest from Kochi to other parts of India in a matter of days, the youth’s sentiments against moral policing certainly seems like a force to reckon with. In this context, to those protective brothers,sisters, uncles and aunties, who are concerned for their neighbor and “Indian culture” than for the protection of individual freedom, Mwaaaahh! Get well soon 🙂

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Anecdote/Opinion Lists Travel - New York/Buffalo

Top 3 – My List of Bizarre things about America

In two days, I’ll be back in Buffalo, New York for my very last semester at UB. Before I bid goodbye to America in December, life abroad until now warranties a reality check.

Although there have been many things that have astonished, shocked, bewildered – well you get the idea – my delicate (ahem) late-teenage self, nothing has brought recurring waves of culture shock to my veins more than the following facts. They are bizarre because of the absence of the familiar, because a Malayali girl, brought up in Kerala craves for porotta more than a Subway special; wants to burst crackers for Vishu rather than see fireworks from a distance during Fall Fest.

This is for you Athira, you silly Malayali girl.

 

1. Ask an American what a jackfruit is. (November 2012)

It's not about the tool, but the skill...
It’s not about the tool, but the skill…

In my sophomore year, I was cleaning and carving a pumpkin for Halloween with friends, under the supervision of my lovely roommate Audrey. I happened to mention how people usually work hard to clean and sort out jackfruits in Kerala. Audrey had no idea what I was talking about! It had taken me more than a year and a blank look from her to realize that I’m in a really bizarre place, to which jackfruits are not native…

Look at those thorny beauties.
Look at those thorny beauties.

The beloved chakka growing in our backyards and smelling like sweet fruity rotten flowery rubber, has no existence in America.

2. Zebra Crossing? Nope, crosswalks.(January 2014)

During my Study Abroad program in London, I noticed my American friends from UB were baffled when I walked through a Zebra Crossing and the vehicles just stopped. One of them exclaimed “It’s like magic!”

The Beatles probably preferred Zebra Crossings too.
The Beatles probably preferred Zebra Crossings too.

 

They got used to it later, but the look on their faces was priceless. India being an astute follower of the English system, (you’d be surprised how much of the British we still retain) Zebra Crossings appear even in primary school textbooks here!

I still cannot BELIEVE that I didn’t notice the absence of Zebra Crossings in America! The crosswalks simply exist for crossing while the traffic signal allows pedestrians to walk. What is the point of that, really? More info on Zebra Crossings here and Crosswalks here.

3. Strikes are almost non existent. Even illegal. (April 2014)

Yes, you can read that again. In my class called Global Realism with Prof. Holstun and some wonderful classmates, someone mentioned how most employees in various states – railway, airline, teachers – are banned from organizing or participating in strikes. I had to blurt out aloud and check if I had heard it right. My surprise seemed to have embarrassed them.

Supermarket Strike in Washington State.
Supermarket Strike in Washington State.

Banning strikes is a surprising concept to me. Socialist thought runs in the veins of many Keralites and we hold our right to enjoy hartals very close indeed! I missed the hartals. Here’s a hilarious article on Kerala’s fascination with strikes.

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Not that I’m a big fan of unnecessary strikes, but I don’t believe a ban is good either. For more details on strike bans in the US, click here. My naivety denied me from foreseeing this fact, but I should have known the capitalist capital of the world would have some form of control over labor strikes. Oh well.

This is just part one of my pre-college-closure reality check. The next Top Three list will be up soon! Please wish me a jet-lag free week ahead.

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Lists

15 Random Things About Me

Okay.So this list was in my journal since 13.02.2009.I have made some editing but I post this with the realization that only a very few things in my life or about me, change.And some of the below-mentioned facts are those which I wish never ever change.I dont believe those who say that change is the law of life.(My orkut fortune today happens to be : CHANGE IS THE LAW OF LIFE).Law of life?.I just dont wish to accept it.Especially when simple and good things change.Not even if they are changing for THE best.

So here goes..

1.I don’t like chocolates 😀 .Milkybar is an exception.

2.I had three piercings in each ear since Second term of 10th standard but since the second hole faded away, now I have one on the very top and the normal one where all girls put long earrings.

3.I actually had a craze of painting and once won a second prize for painting a picture with a young girl and boy sitting on a beachside and a kite gliding away. It still remains my favourite image ever. 😀

4.My craze for MSD is well known among my friends . But the player I admired the most before Dhoni came along was Rahul Dravid. 🙂 Also, I have an album with MSD’s paper cuttings(since 2007).Now stopped collecting though :D.

5.As a young girl, I was crazy about Barbie dolls and presently own about 8 of them and 2 whole Barbie sets. 😀

6.I have left three novels and a travelogue in a hotel room in Ooty. I didn’t pack them in. Carelessness. 8)

7.I don’t know swimming. Neither does my Dad(which might come as a surprise because my dad works at sea.But the fact is, in dangerous situations, backstrokes in the middle of say,Pacific Ocean, would be of no help whatsoever).

8.I am the first grand-daughter for my Dad’s parents since I have just elder cousin brothers on that side of the family.

9.Even being an ardent cricket fan, I have not been to any international matches in my life and also, my grandfather was a club cricketer 🙂 And yes, I support Chennai Super Kings.

10.I know some slogans in Bhagavat Gita by-heart , thanks to Chinmaya Mission’s vacation classes.

11.There has been only one instance when I cried my heart out and that was back in 8th when my best friend decided to relocate.

12.I have been to almost all world countries (which has a port) before I turned 5 years of age.Due to this fact, I haven’t literally sat in Kindergarten. My mother taught me.

13.If there is one thing I never ever get bored with, then it’s cricket. 🙂

14.My first gift which I really value is a Parker pen from my Dad. 🙂

15.I love blue, social science and Devdas. 😀