Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Love, Sex aur Gotra....

"Touch a Life, " is an important initiative started by Parmeshwar Godrej to reach out to children with AIDS. Pediatric AIDS prevention is a very specialised programme spearheaded by Parmesh ( The Bill Gates Foundation partners her ) which reaches out to the most vulnerable segment of AIDS affected patients. I spent over two hours with her last evening getting to understand the complexities of what her organisation is doing in this area. Given her excruciatingly painful back, this tireless ( and super glam ) lady flies for a day to Mexico to attend a conference and then flies right back to Mumbai before jetting off to Vienna for another conference. She has managed to raise a great deal of money ( and has just won a prestigious award for philanthropy in America)... but as we all know, money is never enough when the cause is this critical and huge. Check her out on facebook....she'll soon be on twitter, too.

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This appeared in the Sunday Times....

Naveen Jindal seems like a reasonably sensible chap – dresses hip and modern ( sharply cut bandgalas in textured raw silk). He appears to lead a modern life. Wealthy, educated and well traveled. He’s the kind of 21ST century politician urbanites feel comfortable around. He speaks our lingo, seems passionately ‘involved’ in issues that go beyond clubbing at the latest lap dancing hotspot in the capital. So what’s a guy like him doing in a mess like this? No matter how fast he backtracks, the thing is he did put his foot into his mouth…. and there it has stayed. It isn’t going to be all that easy for him to waltz away from the controversy now. Had those archaic arguments about ‘gotra’ ( what the hell does ‘gotra’ mean, ask most young people in total bewilderment?), come from some fuddy duddy uncleji representing an obscure constituency in the back of the beyond, nobody would have given them the slightest ‘patta’. But come on, here’s this suave, good looking chap blithely going into gotra terrain and instantly losing his ‘cool factor’. My guess is, he doesn’t really care! And why should he? He knows the sentiments of his core support base – and he is obliging precisely those medieval-minded folks who are gotra fanatics. Naveen knows he doesn’t have to bother about the rest – he is doing what most politicians would in his place – hanging on to his kursi.
Young India lives in a gotra-neutral zone – at least, that is what one would have liked to believe. Ask around – ask basic questions. When the census form arrived at home, I happened to be sitting with a lively group of collegians. When they saw me baulk at the box which said ‘caste’, they laughed initially and then turned serious. They actually started asking each other, “ Dude, do you know your caste?” More than half the kids present went blank! Some responded in such a silly manner – I was secretly thrilled! It was obvious from the way they’d converted the whole thing into a joke, that caste really didn’t matter a damn to any of them. They were vaguely aware of their own! Very vaguely. Just a few days earlier, I had met a retired police officer who could talk of nothing else! And if he was so obsessed by caste, how could his family of well- educated
professionals be free of bias? I wondered if his daughter ( clad in trendy denims) and working with a foreign bank would be ‘allowed’ to marry outside her caste. I met his married son, who works for an advertising agency…. met the son’s attractive wife and wondered – same caste, but different gotra? Same gotra but different caste? Same gotra, same caste? This was insane. Just then a school- going grand- daughter walked in jauntily( some more denim), followed by the cop’s wife ( not denim-ed, but wearing a salwar- kameez, not saree). I was asked my preference – limboo paani or chai?? I declined both ( too bloody hot to enjoy either). The cop looked most offended and asked peevishly, “ Why aren’t you having something in our home? Is it because of our caste?” I was so taken aback, I promptly demanded limbu paani instantly. The entire family looked vastly relieved and beamed approvingly as I sipped the drink. I told the cop I was surprised by his overreaction to my innocuous refusal. He told me he was most accustomed to visitors refusing his hospitality and making up some flimsy excuse. Seeing my skeptical expression, he added, “ Because of my caste!Yes, madam…. it still goes on, even in this day and age.”
Driving home, I thought about Naveen Jindal’s published remarks once again. The same night I caught him on a television show where he was being hauled over the coals by an incensed studio audience. He was grinning away regardless, as if to convey he knew something those idiots didn’t. Of course, he had come well prepared for the grilling and trotted out all the pet theories defending his position. It was hard to turn away or switch channels, even though the aggravation was extreme. I listened to the counter- arguments and his subsequent justifications . I thought about a blatantly caste- based tv serial that is being avidly watched, almost as if we are hoping to get some answers to our own deep seated confusions via the dilemmas faced by the protagonists ( Brahmin boy – Kayasta girl). Perhaps the serial will have a happier ending than the couples who have been hacked to death for daring to defy the elders, and horror of horrors, marry for love…. perhaps, even for sex!!
Something weird, very weird, is going on out there. Words like ‘Khaap’ were not a part of anybody’s vocabulary till a couple of months ago. Honour killings?? Those happened in the dark ages – why, even Bollywood movies didn’t touch that regressive subject any more. Everybody was convinced India had moved swiftly into the ‘caste, creed, no bar,’ situation – if not in our backward villages than certainly in our mall-obsessed, boom towns ( tier-1,2 and 3). Apparently, and very depressingly, not! We in media woke up when one of our own ( Nirupama) took a hit. That’s when the ferocity of the crisis sank in. Uptil then, this was the stuff smart kids routinely lampooned while scripting shows for music channels …. exactly the kind of material that went into making a small budget movie crazily titled ‘Love, Sex aur Dhoka’ . Critics told us it had worked because it accurately captured the zeitgeist of this restless generation. And now this!! Hard to believe we are dealing with ‘Khaap’ dominated headlines and ‘Gotra’ related stories on breaking news in an era where nothing was supposed to matter but love. With ‘honour’ itself on the rocks, what use is pyar?

35 comments:

wordsmith said...

Well, caste does exist and does affect pyaar...
One of my friend broke up with her boyfriend, because his parents objected to his marryinga girl from another caste.
BTW, the guy's mother is a teacher in a school. And, so strong is her hold that he isn't sure what to do. The girl, meanwhile, walked away.
The caste factor too embedded in our fabric to just wish it away

liveonimpulse said...

We Indians have a penchant for retrogression ..Caste, gotra,parochialism name it and we're just waiting to fall in the trap. Politicians laugh their way to the bank by managing to garner votes in the name of caste and gotra..while young people hopelessly in love either lose their lives or are compelled to part ways..sad it is...

Sidhusaaheb said...

The pro-Gotra brigade should give up their violent ways and voice their opinions in a peaceful manner, as befits citizens of a democratic country with the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

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Another Kiran In NYC said...

The college age people you asked about caste... do not have to bother with it... they have things that make up for caste. They have better denim than most, and they have the backing of money in an urban environment. No wonder they are blank or silly about it.

For the rest of India which is small town and rural, caste and it's discrimination exist in humongous, stinking heaps. And that is where the real India is.

However cringe worthy the thought, Navin Jindal and your police officer friend, have thier fingers on the pulse of India. This India has never changed. India remains feudal and its economic wheel still runs on caste divisions and yes Khaaps... keeping it feudal.

Navin Jindal speaks to the media, your police officer friend complains and talks to you in private.

I am lucky to have better denim than most. I just hope I will never be silly about this damning subject that binds millions of my countrymen in chains of penury and dread.

This is a subject that needs discussion, not be just berating against. Without discussion, there can be no lasting grassroots change.

UjSen said...

Jindal is a douche. If couples are breaking up because of caste, they shouldn't have been together in the first place.

I think it's pathetic, how grown men still have their mothers tell them who to chose and what to do.

In the army , navy, airforce or even a school for that matter, there is a uniform to be worn, so that all are equal, and a certain level of respect is commanded by every individual.

Sometimes I wish Bin Laden hit parliment house instead...with all the MPs together. But that's a far fetched dream. We'd just get rid of about 1/3rd of them.

Delhi Goon said...

Caste is such a touchy issue that i think only the most fortunate ie elite can escape from it and that too partly... remember Nitish Katiyar... As long as the political class keeps us divided we will only end up making each other blind. BTW Mr Sen, far fetched dream indeed!

ms said...

well, mz de. start a campaign "caste is in the past"! the way the "khaap, baap aur aap" controvery is headed, same species marriages are also going to be banned. in future, expect human-simian couples. i think we should put this idea up for discussion - all humans are related through genes. "honour killing" is an oxymoron. in fact, all people concerning themselves with the gotra issue are morons. in a country where uncles marry their nieces, first cousins marry each other (some faiths allow it), what the hell is this gotra-issue?

*Aham* said...

regarding the "issues" of the Khaap. How i wish i had more middle fingers to express how i feel about them.

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Caste based TV serials. Aiyyoo.. I have heard words like " ANATH" "BAANJ", "NEECH JAATH", "AURAT JAATH" used flamboyantly in serials. Wonder if the censor board and the petty organisms in the I & B ministry and Censors only notice and object to stuff that they find orgasmic.

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the Nayaa Navin is a smart cookie. he will come out clean. he will have the cake, eat it too, with the cherry.

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i dont know about Love Sex Aur Dhoka... but i do know that the western railway is like a Stock Market on wheels, where the mighty mighty ramees bhai and ramnik bhai's of the Mumbai discuss about Love, Sex and Dhokla.
**********************************


Param Eeshwar - The God Rage.

what a phataaka she is. even god must be angry and jealous of her. though she at times seems stretch her free spirited attitude too much at times, all is well when she has her heart in the right place.

it takes a lot of effort to see pain, work for a cause, and still be unapologetically rich. especially since in our country, we make a virtue of being poor. here fake modesty is our middle name.

Latha said...

Oh Shobhaa, do you think Jindal cares about 'Gothras' or whether he knows 'Gothra kiss chidiya ka naam hai ?'
This is a democracy. And in a democracy, he needs to get 40% of the votes (of the Khaap & its supporters) to win in his constituency. Only if he wins, he can come to power. Only if he comes to power, can he change the system. So, in order to punish the culprits, he needs their own votes ! that is democra'z'y, my dear !
Khaap is a law & order problem.
Where politicians don't care to punish the guilty, in order to protect their votes, nothing can be done. No Jindals or even Gandhis or Singhs can do a thing to change the system.
If they take action against the khaaps, they will be voted out by the same culprits & then they had it.
Criticisms from the opposition to score browny points....you know.

SUBHASIS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SUBHASIS said...

"politicians laughing their way to the bank on caste based divisons"....the easiest thing which we all love to do, blame it on the politicians. in the process wut we forget is its our thought process that they r takin advantage of....the college kids u r talkin abt is most probably kids grown up in metropolitans(where they have other distinctions to deal with now a day mostly based on the financial status), in small towns caste has a huge presence n the moment someone tries to be oblivious abt it the ugly monster raises its hood n takes him down. we r surprised to c it again on front pages cos theres conformity on a totalitarian scale...exceptions r punished or outcast. lovers dont part their ways cos of lack of courage but only cos it bcums a choice btwn their love n their family who r deeply embedded into this system n simply refuse to accept nything against this system,citing illogical and irrational reasons .There was n is always a need of discussion which wud lead to change n media cud play a vital role in it but they love to cash on the emotions of the mass till its a brking news...after that everyone comfortably sleeps waiting for another nirupama to die to let the perpetrators of the system thrust it on unwilling but weak individuals. mera bharat mahan.

fazal said...

hii shobha jee pl. write something on Flotillaa voyage on Israill ! .....

krutika said...

I am a 23 year old and i have lived 18 years in India. I can expalin to these Malabar kids what caste means.
Well if you are upper caste and rich- You can marry Sonia Gandhi and make her the pm of India.
if you are poor and upper caste - you are right royally screwed and would devote 23 of 24 hours trying to enter a decent university in India.
If you are lower caste and poor- you are a farmer who has no idea what reservation is
and if you are rich and lower caste- you are a politician or a high official government employee.
now if you would have kept in mind that some of your readers are middle class urbanites you would have bothered to explain what gotra is. I dont know what it is to be honest.

Sun said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sun said...

those college kids you mention, the ones who don't know their caste - they seem alarmingly like a certain variety of South Mumbai kids who have a complex about acknowledging ANYTHING Indian...I think it's rather moronic for an Indian not to know his/her caste...it's pretty much as moronic as not knowing if your roots are from Gujarat or Punjab or wherever.It's one thing not to discriminate on the basis of caste, it's another thing altogether not to know one's caste, given that caste is such an integral part of our culture. But then, these kids seem not to know they are Indian in the first place! I don't think there is any virtue in an Indian not knowing his/her caste, there is however most definitely virtue in not being prejudiced on caste lines. But are these kids free of prejudice? Unlikely. These college kids would likely be prejudiced on other lines eg. class (or what they perceive as class), and silly stuff like what brands of clothes/cars etc people use, etc etc.

I have been greatly saddened by the sheer pseudo (and completely fake/pretend) ignorance of all things Indian (considered to be a 'kewl' attribute) by a huge number of these misguided kids.

Ignorance or pretend ignorance of certain ground realities in India (good, bad or ugly) isn't kewl, what is kewl is lack of prejudice.

I don't wanna generalise abt all South Mumbai kids, coz that too would be a form of prejudice, but what I've just said is true for a significant number of them, and that is very sad.

What is also very sad, and a big factor in fostering/ encouraging this kind of attitude, is that their parents think it's tres chic for their kids to feign ignorance of so many core Indian issues.

Sudhir Kekre said...

Hi Shobhaa,
Congratulations on the Red Saree Scoop. You were a good one month ahead of all. It is fun now seeing all the channels discussing about it.

goodluck said...

There is always discrimination whether it is based on caste or class. A caste conscious person will sometimes marry even if the other party is not well off. But a class conscious person will rarely marry a below status person and will rather marry any who has riches and status. Why the clan oriented Aishwarya rai or Shipla Shetty could not marry within their community? Or for that matter other such high profile celebrities? Though most of them boast of broadmindedness, it is sadly very narrowmindedness of not tolerating a poorer life partner. As for as these kids are concerned, these same kids say, 'I am an Aries and I am a Virgo'. One form of blind superstition is replacing another set.
We are prisoners of one or the other.

Pareeneeta said...

Dear Madam,
I can empathize today with the sentiment of the modern youth, who does not know what caste or gotra they belong to.But at the same time, there are people like me, who have been brought up in conservative households, where it was a part of our upbringing to refrain from getting romantically involved with a guy who was of a similar gotra. And as i was brought up in benaras, it was not too difficult either.
Like it is very normal for a city bred, urbanite to not know his/her caste, it is perfectly normal for us to keep our romantic liaisons in check.
Mr. Jindal just expressed what he felt. He never said that he supported the honor killings by the khap panchayats, but yes, for him to accept same gotra marriages could actually be difficult. Scientifically also, these marriages lead to genetically transmitted diseases.Which just helps to strengthen the argument given by our elders.
Mr. Jindal is a member of the parliament, and it is his duty to to take the voice of his people to the party. That is all he did. He did not say that he was opposed to the marriages, but he would advise against it. Perfectly justified.
Yes, some of us are wired differently ma'am.There is a world beyond the limits of the cities and metros. They have opinions too. Let us at least listen.

kavita said...

Wht I hv understood from my parents is the same gotra means a common forefather and hence same gotra people are like brothers and sisters .. and this is scientifically accurate and checks inbreeding. I agree to what these Panchayat hv stood up for opposing same- gotra marriages…. but the panchayats and parents should teach these values at a young age to their children.. we all should understand and respect our tradition…Naveen Jindal has done nothing wrong by hearing out his people and if he will not listen to them whom wil this guys go to..they don't have modern platforms like so-much-in-fashion BLOGS!

vivek said...

shobhaa G, u are known for so many things, u r versatile, at 62- young enough not to understand the meaning of gotra and commenting on it. The article is fantastic and my compliments to you but it would have been a marvel if u had been rational enough to understand the entire episode. I also wish had u taken a note of how this gentleman, and i m sure a true nationalistic and a leader with modern ideas. People have sais so many things and what i want to ask u is how many in ur own family have married in the same gotra...or for that matter how many u have u know who have married in the same Gotra. We the so-called modern and urban are hypocrates and i would also like to draw ur attention...on the crimes happening in the metros...then we talk about so many things...It is a pain that every thing has been blown so much out of context...any ways there is no point...every body has to contribute...As i learnt from my grandfather..there are two types of people- One :- Who have to say something and Two:- Those who have got something to say...we all belong to the first community who has to say something and they are doing it...

gina said...

Dear Shobhajee,

Just want to say a few things;
1) He is man who got us the right to fly the national flag
2)He is the man who is education and serving his constituents for the 2nd term
3)He is known for his nationalistic feeling
4)He is a man who has raised questions in the parliament relating to Zero Hunger, Female Foeticide, Education, Sports, Women Empowerment and many more...
5)He runs free medical camps for the needy, Schools, Provide Books to the needy and the list is endless - You should also visit his constituency to understand all this thing...
6)The list can be endless and every body should do what i have done...Go to his website and u will get to know..

And as a people's reperesentative if he listens to his people then there is a problem...I can only say one thing, one should not be judgemntal...if there is group whi is critisised for being judgemental then i am sure some section of writes are no different...I hope u will understand that...Any ways i hope when ever u write next u will consider all these things...

Prayukth j said...

I don't know why we are raising a storm over what Jindal said? At the end of the day, he is a political clown, a joker...he is just worried about getting himself reelected which I am sure he will..any just check out my blog to see how the idiot bomber has forced pakistan to revise its curriculum at this link

http://karmicsoliloquy.blogspot.com/2010/06/idiot-bomber-forces-pakistan-to-revise.html

atul said...

well, the gotra is confused with caste i guess. I sure our ancients had a precise definition. As someone has correctly pointed out that such gotras may have been checked for possible genetic disorders, assuming our ancients were really advanced. imagine if in US they start doing a Genetic code testing before marriage. that can easily be categorized into some things which might as well be called Gotras. Its all upon how u look at things. as for the caste, i think, Quantumn Mechanics can explain such a phenomenon.... cheers !

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Mahashakti said...

Hi Shobhaa, this is the first time I have visited your blog, and I have found this topic so interesting because of the many different points of view. Just today I received this topic-related article and thought I'd share it with your readers:

http://news.iskcon.com/node/2858/2010-06-02/census_question_over_caste_identity_divides_india

I look forward to reading your posts.

Mahashakti said...

I meant to add this link also:

http://jasonoverdorf.blogspot.com/2010/06/indias-castes-dont-ask-dont-tell-dont.html

:)

Anil Kumar said...

Shobah De,
If you don't know the meaning of Gotra at the ripe age of 65 plus then it shows how much connected you are to rural India. Naveen Jindal may have taken a political decision. The main point is that there are millions of people in Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, UP for sure where Gotra does matter and it's a tradition and has scientific reasons to support that.

iAlien said...

marriage has different faces. and lot more when it comes to relationships those are oposed by the social structure. But then who will care about the other kind which dwell out due to modern outlook and try to hide realities? I happen to get hold of somehting like this which happen to be of a concern. even though i am not a writer, i still see this is an issue that will rock the society eventually.
http://obsoleteme.blogspot.com/

Himanshu said...

see if u see thru eyes of young india than caste wont matter above taste... as we people do believe in seekin for some really good, which in itself very hard to find than by including this caste factor as will put a limitation clause makin the choices less...
i knw it better as after many a affairs i really wanna stick to sme1 for life long, n have a lot of time to search her too as m just 21.

Vijay said...

Data says that most of the Indian actress either in bollowood or in south filmindustry are from Brahmin community. At one end these brahmins pretends to orthodox religious and talk about there dignity culture and being vegiterian on the otherhand brahmin sends there daughter and sisters in the film Industry to earn money.

I have example from Hema Malini, Rekha, shreedevi, madhuri dixit, mamta kulkarni, shilpa shirodkar, rani mukherjee, kajol, vidya balan etc etc in bollywood to the tv actress like shweta tiwari, to the south like bhanu priya in telgu, trisha krishnan in tamil film industry all are brahmin girls in the glam film industry.
I guess every one is aware that like in hollywood, in bollywood also actress/heroin have
to sleep with producers+directors+lead Actors/Heros to get the role..
These brahmin actress are on sale of there sex openly to get even small role.they are ready to be slut to earn money and to gain supremacy.

I dont understand what is this double standards in indian society..on one hand these brahmin atress/girl are just behaving/getting like slut to get even small role in movie on the other hand these brahmin girls of the same community pretends to be sati savitri and says about chit pavin brahminism..where we have lost chit pavin brahmin girls?..

now a days as girls comes in college or in jobs they make boyfriends.All community girls keep boyfriends including brahmin girls to satisfy there lust and to get physical enjoyment before marriage.brahmin girls are fast in making boyfriends also from other community girls.they make boyfriends and have sex with them before marriage. brahmin girls go in live in relationship also but still people call them chit pavin brahmin to them,...what the hell are these double standards in india.

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