A bend in the river - remember that marvelous book? Well.... this spot in Rishikesh reminded me of the book, and I thought to myself, I would have undertaken that river rafting experience along with Arundhati, had I been thirty years younger! Today, Arundhati and Anandita are in Hong Kong, discovering one of my all time favourite destinations .... but on their own! They are big girls now.... I keep forgetting!
And Rana is back in Singapore.... after a jaunt in China. He called to congratulate me from Shanghai. And I asked him 'for what?"' He said it was because my web presence was entirely blocked in China, and I should take that as a huge compliment! He couldn't access my mail, blog, twitter account or FB page. Okay, Rana. I am flattered.... but what a bloody bore!
Clearly, I had forgotten to post this earlier... it had appeared in The Week...
days are here again…
India with all its crazy contradictions,
still manages to surprise. Our broad acceptance across the board of Sunny
Leone, an adult content films performer ( porn star, to put it bluntly and
crudely), continues to baffle. Not only has Sunny gone mainstream with a
starring role in a Bollywood movie, she was invited to ‘grace the Navratri
celebrations’ in ultra-conservative Narendra Modi territory – Gujarat. Durga!
Durga! On one level, this new openness is a great big leap forward for a nation
that has earlier remained obstinately stuck in a pseudo-moralistic morass.But
the Navratri invite
to Gujarat has definitely sent out mixed signals. Navratri is considered
a particularly auspicious period for Hindus, preceding Dusshera and Diwali.
Gujarat virtually explodes with elaborately staged Dandiya Raas nights during
the nine day Festival . Navratri’s unwanted pregnancies used to be Gujarat’s
worst kept secret. In such a confused cultural hot pot, it was inevitable that
a canny organizer came up with the Sunny Leone masterstroke. There is big money
riding on these colourful nine nights.
Youngsters spend extravagantly to deck up for the festivities, often saving up
chunks of their income to buy nine sets of fancy costumes. Quick to cash in on the
occasion, organizers invest in hiring Bollywood and Television stars to perform
on the vast grounds that attract
thousands of dancers night after night. Even by these OTT standards, hiring a
porn star was an inspired move indeed!
Sunny herself, is attempting a serious
makeover after brazening it out in the Bigg Boss house. Sunny wants to go respectable
( but why, honey?). This transformation is worthy of an independent reality
show, if only an enterprising producer would
get Ms.Leone to cooperate, which
shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s a great India story! Here’s a hot Punjabi kudi
from Canada, who has established herself in the highly competitive
international porn movies market with steamy films directed by her husband. Her
liberal parents know about her day job as an adult film performer, and are fine
with it.They respect her choice of career and encourage her to excel. But aha,
look at what happened once she came to the country of her origin ( India).She
swiftly figured her future is here, given the extraordinary amount of publicity
she generated from day one. Opportunities galore came her way, and soon Sunny became
a brand. And, since every brand comes with a price tag, she smartly decided to
cash in on hers.She also went in for some timely strategies designed to make
her old job look better. For one, she insisted she would not kiss her co-stars
in Bollywood! F or another, she talked of being a devoted and faithful wife,
lucky enough to be married to a progressive, liberal guy who understands her
line of work. The message is loud and clear : Hands off, guys! It seems to be
working. She is now referred to as Sunnyji. Soon she’ll be Bhabhiji. And her
transformation from a liberated Canada-based porn star, to a saree clad
Bharatiya Nari will be complete. This sort of a fairytale ending to an
unconventional life, is possible only in India. We’d seen it earlier with Raakhi
Sawant. We saw it with Pakistani starlet Veena Malik. And now we have Sunny
Leone living the dream. That’s a pretty remarkable breakthrough in our prissy,
judgemental attitude and it has taken place in under a decade. Poor Silk Smitha
was not as fortunate. Sunny Leone’s transition
is a fascinating account of India’s love-hate relationship with women who run
with the wolves. Despite our pretensions and protestations, we are at a significant cultural cross road that
will determine where we go from here.
My own feeling is that the fake and
exaggerated Devi complex (“We worship women…. because we worship Durga”) men in
our society project, is finally ready to get a decent and overdue burial.
Today’s Indian woman is neither a Devi nor a whore. She is herself. A Sunny
Leone is free to participate in porn films that titillate millions across the
world, and yet retain her right to re-invent herself at will, as a loving wife
and dutiful daughter, doing what a gal has to do to make a living in these
recessionary times. Clearly, large segments within India are willing to give
her that chance – no questions asked. That, to me, represents a remarkable
shift which grants the required space to a woman to exercise choice, even if
that choice happens to be radical.So far, I have not come across any protests
from those self-righteous groups that take it upon themselves to guard us from
‘evil influences’. In that context, the Sunny Leone saga does indeed represent
a moral bastion being successfully stormed and torn down.
The only downside? Heavy breathing will
never be the same again!