I am sitting at home and thinking to myself.... It's kinda appropriate to be posting a column about Yoko Ono on India's 62nd Republic Day. 'Give peace a chance' , the immortal anthem written by Yoko's husband John Lennon so many moons ago, remains frighteningly relevant today. And there's Yoko, energetically carrying on in her own unique way... raising the bar with each cause she backs.
I shall attend the Governor's 'At Home' this evening, held on the manicured lawns of the magnificent Raj Bhavan, and then rush to watch 'Agneepath'. More on the movie tomorrow.
Meanwhile... here's saluting India. A great nation. Proud to be Indian.
“Give peace… and women…. a chance!”
Yoko Ono is one hell of a woman. She has guts. And tenacity. She also has tremendous self-belief. As the loathed and reviled wife (and now, widow) of the legendary John Lennon, Yoko has been accused of many ‘crimes’. But I think, her biggest one (according to critics) is that she has refused to buckle under, and disappear quietly into the woodwork. The feisty ‘protest artist’ as she describes herself, is in India to woo and perhaps celebrate the women of this country with a show aptly titled, “Our Beautiful Daughters”. In a free wheeling interview to a daily, Yoko Ono spoke engagingly and passionately about her concerns, making several references to her late husband’s immortal anthem which featured the inspiring lyrics that urged each and every one of us to ‘make the world a better place.’ Yoko insists she has been doing her best to take that theme forward. But the most telling quote in the interview stated, “ The whole world is starting to realize that it was the most unwise thing to have ignored woman-power, to run societies with male priorities.” Yoko articulated what millions of women across the globe deeply believe in, but cannot articulate as lucidly. Yoko also clarified she was never a flag waving activist for women’s rights. She said she had spent her entire life merely being herself, which automatically meant ‘promoting women’. As an avant- garde conceptual and performance artist, Yoko has invariably and inventively tested the limits, challenged stereotypes and broken rules. Unfortunately, the international art world has stubbornly refused to take her seriously.Ditto for the music world. If anything, Yoko has been consistently snubbed by the art elite, most of who happen to be men, as she herself dryly pointed out. But instead of retreating hurt and spewing bile, Yoko has soldiered on, undertaking high risk projects that have generated controversy and comment, but rarely any appreciation.
Women like Yoko Ono almost always generate hostile responses since they cannot be placed inside a neatly labeled box. When she married the man who was acknowledged as ‘the most talented Beatle’, she got savaged in print by John Lennon’s besotted fans that saw her as a weird outsider, a control freak, a gold digger. The fact her husband respected and trusted her, did not count for much. After his brutal murder, she was expected to lie low or preferably, disappear altogether.But she wisely refused to walk away from her husband’s mighty legacy. Against tremendous odds, she hung in there and faced the barrage of anti-feelings that confronted her each time she was seen in public. Her ‘protests’ were viewed as stunts and gimmicks. Her public rebellion was dubbed suspect. And her appropriating John’s persona was called cold blooded and opportunistic. Yoko became the official ‘Evil Witch from the East.’ And even today, so many years later, she remains a persona non-grata in snooty circles.
Women in India are far more open minded and accepting of people like Yoko Ono. She says she has been welcomed and greeted by so many intelligent and beautiful women from the Indian art world. This is an accurate and reassuring observation. Yoko Ono is not perceived as a ‘threat’ by anybody in this part of the world. In America, her Japanese identity may have been held against her. Fans of the Beatles continue to blame Yoko for the split, and she is still made to answer for that high profile break up of the group. Had she conformed to the assigned role and behaved like a groupie (which is what most wives of famous musicians turn into), maybe she wouldn’t have generated so much heat. But Yoko Ono it was who persuaded her husband to pose naked with her for the jacket of their album. And it was Yoko again who defiantly sat next to her husband, holding hands, during their first trip to India. This was at a spiritual retreat in Rishikesh where men and women were segregated and made to sit separately. Expecting Yoko to be a good girl and behave herself was never a part of the plan! Thank God she didn’t disappoint anyone. Let’s wait and see what Yoko does on her second trip to India! Let’s hope she manages to generate shock and awe this time round as well.