In the last few weeks, the state of Karnataka – which gets a ‘trickle down’ of national politics – had two incidents to react to. One was the birth of a male heir to the ‘educational empire’ of a Lingayat ‘pontiff’ (note the quotes – they are there for a reason). The second is a regular staple of the mainstream media – the release of a sex CD of a leader in his 20s associated with the Patidar community in faraway Gujarat.
While the sexual urges of a healthy young man in his mid 20s were seen as a ‘blotch on his character’ (thank god the target here is a man and not a woman!), the news of the octogenarian’s son being born was seen as ‘news’, and only that. The mainstream media followed up on celebrations that broke out at the educational institutions and mutt run by Sharanabasappa Appa, a father to seven daughters and many grand children.
Don’t get me wrong here. My goal here is not to deride the existence of sexual desire among 80-year-olds. That’s hardly the point. The whole argument here is about the way the media perceived and projected both news items to create a public perception.
So, the ‘good news’ from Karnataka seemed to be that Appa could now finally put a full stop to his ‘mission male child’. His second wife Dakshayani, who also happens to be his sister’s daughter, had borne him an ‘heir’.
Dakshayani married Appa in the late 1990s, after his first wife passed away, leaving behind four adult daughters, some of whom were already married by the time Appa married again. One daughter passed away some years ago.
Now 48-years-old, Dakshayani married the septuagenarian Appa in her early 20s. The objective was clear. She was to bear a male child for her ‘maama’ as maternal uncles are called, in Karnataka. But unfortunately, there was only news of daughters being born. Appa fathered three daughters with Dakshayani, before the son came around less than a month ago.
Appa is thought to be a descendent of the ascetic saint Sharanabasappa Appa, who lived in the 18th century in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, which was under the rule of Nizams. But the contemporary Appa is a ‘laukika’ (lives in the material world), who has established an empire of educational institutions in Gulbarga and its surrounding areas, and is one of the most ‘well-respected’ persons in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region.
He has even built a dedicated college for girls who want to study engineering. With all this, when he remarried with a clear brief and objective, the Lingayat community spoke in whimpers against it. Interestingly, Appa’s elder brother, who stays away from this humdrum, has a son. Many Lingayat leaders suggested that Appa could take that son under his wings and train him to carry forward his legacy. But, no. None of that was palatable to Appa.
The cases of Appa and Hardik Patel are a fine example of how selective disparaging of human desires happens through media. Appa is obviously a big shot who can ring the right notes. His influence is far and wide. Hence his penchant for a male heir is justified in view of his grand legacy.
But what does a man in his late 20s have to do with sex? Should he not abstain himself from that ‘human desire’, that’s as natural as hunger and anger?
In perceiving and accepting the senior citizen’s ‘male baby’ desire, we seem to be furthering the feudal mindset we thought we had shunned long ago. We may live in cities, drive cars and use technology, but for us, nothing is more enraging than a youth watching porn or having sex.
Somewhere on the way to our journey of being an IT superpower of the world, we left our commonsense behind and trusted to some unseen forces to further our hallucinations.
Which is why, a Karni sena in Rajasthan can threaten to chop off the nose of a female artiste over a film like Padmavati, and a Hardik Patel will have to defend his libido or be forced to apologise for possessing it. Yet, an 82-year-old can rejoice the arrival of his son in media, irrespective of whether he’s done the most responsible thing or not.
This is Bharat – home to hilarious and ironic contradictions. We can only hope that our unprivileged, unrepresented daughters ask us some tough questions and demand better answers from us.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own