What binds Indian families together: The fear of perception

Ever seen how an Indian family reacts when a kissing scene comes on TV?
What binds Indian families together: The fear of perception
What binds Indian families together: The fear of perception
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Let me start with a common scenario in an Indian household.

A family is watching Titanic together on Star Movies HD on a 36 inch TV, in a comfortably set hall.

As the scene of Jack and Rose standing on the deck of the ship, watching the sunset with their hands spread approaches, the mother suddenly goes to the kitchen as if she’s forgotten to close the cooker which has been switched off for the last two hours.

The grandfather suddenly picks up the newspaper and starts reading a random page which has the new film releases of the week.

The grandmother finds some dust on the floor and starts talking about how the maid is not cleaning the floor properly.

The father changes the channel in panic mode.

And the 7-year-old is left wondering what happened to everyone.

‘The scene which should not be watched as a family’ has been dodged by everyone yet again!

The funny thing is that everyone in the room knows what that scene is. It’s as if there is an unspoken agreement among family members that they will not watch that scene together. The family will be cursed beyond repair if they are to watch it together.

That scene? What are you trying to say, you may ask? Please don’t force me to spell it out.

You still want to know?

Ok…here you go. Only because you asked for it.

That scene has the actors smooching! Lip-locking! Lip kissing! Oh I feel much better, now that I have put it out there. I have passed the curse to you.

On one side, we proudly claim that our literacy rate is increasing, we fiercely fight for freedom of expression, we protest vehemently when someone talks about our society’s patriarchal mentality.

On the other side, we cringe when we watch a kissing scene on screen with our entire family.

On one side, India is among the top 5 countries when it comes to watching porn. According to a 2015 report, India was at 4th position on this list, up by 3 ranks from 2013. (I don’t have the latest data. I am sure we are progressing).

On the other side, our society is in a constipated mental state, consuming on screen sex but refusing to acknowledge sex in real life.

Heights of hypocrisy, one might say? No. Heights of the fear of perception.

As a collectivistic culture, we like to make decisions together, discussing with others - whether it is a wedding, a vacation spot or which canteen to have tea/coffee during the 3 pm work break.

We like to be together, in groups. We like to go with the flow and get along. In all these processes, we end up feeling like we “belong”. Unfortunately, the flip side to this cultural conditioning is that we strive to be perfect in pleasing others, in creating the right perception about us and in coming across as “acceptable” according to society norms.

And this pattern to project “acceptable” behavior is a vicious circle.

This circle forces the majority of the population to believe that, if they drink milk with their eyes closed, then the world will not see them. The only irony is, everyone’s eyes are closed and everyone is drinking milk.

So, in 2017 when the world is progressing in many aspects including gender equality, education, innovation, automation, and space exploration, we still encounter the following experiences:

*A male friend shocked and embarrassed to hear his female friend talking about the latest porn movie she has watched (Do women watch porn?!) – Of course, as far as I know, they belong to the human category. 

*Parents using “Kuchi” ‘Muchi” “Small boy” “Small girl” (What not!) names instead of genitals names while talking to the kids in the context where genital names need to be used. 

*A small tsunami happening in the TV hall, and the family dispersing urgently to save themselves from the embarrassing moment of watching a kissing scene together.

*Public display of couples perceived as “show off” (since when did hand-holding become foreplay?).

So, what are we ashamed of? Are we ashamed of our body parts, are we ashamed of reproduction and the process of making love? Are we ashamed of kissing and expressing our love? If we are ashamed of all this, we wouldn’t be watching porn in the closet.

So, what is it then? We are scared of what other people will think. Period.

Is this part of our culture, too?

Since anything progressive is blamed on Western culture, we probably would like to say that being closeted is part of our culture. But hey, at least we are still sticking to our culture. Hurrah!

Note: Views expressed are the personal opinions of the author.

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