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'We're coming to burn your house down!'
Sidin Sunny Vadukut

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January 30, 2008

Recently there was much hue and cry over the clothes worn by a Tamil actress and how this was completely against the moral fibre of our country. One particular party has been recorded as saying that they will not let anybody's "daughter, mother or sister wear such clothes, it's anti-Tamil".

Which immediately made me wonder -- what about cousins, goddammit? And aunts? Not to mention grandmothers and sisters-in-law? Is the party saying that these types of women relations can wear anything they like? How dare they limit our moral indignations to such flimsy limits! Should I just cast a blind eye when my brother-in-law's second cousin once removed roams around in a pair of tight jeans and a halter top!

No, but seriously.

What's with the moral police these days? And on a larger note, what is wrong with our moral standards these days? A quick browse through the Rediff messageboards pertaining to the Shriya Saran case indicates that besides the political party from Tamil Nadu, a lot of common people seems to think that our country is quickly falling down the slippery slope of moral degradation and unholy social practices.

Irate readers, offended, were leaving comments like: "The West is corrupting our youth! All this sex, drugs and violence is terrible. It goes completely against our Indian culture and we should ban these things immediately! In fact I immediately plan to blog about this and would like a high-resolution version of this image of Shriya Saran along with any other images of woman parading around in immoral Western clothes... videos are best. Help me save the morality of our great country now!"

Personally I've been thinking about this whole moral, social and religious policing business over the last few days and a few things are beginning to puzzle me.

Ever noticed how we do a lot of things everyday because of our religious and moral standards? Some people do not eat meat. Others eat all meat except pork or beef. Others abstain from alcohol and other intoxicants. Onions and carrots are taboo for some. Certain people wear their clothes in a certain way because of their religion and others are very serious about their religious festivals, holidays and the like.

All this is good, of course. Nothing spreads communal harmony and human understanding like a national holiday -- Buddha Purnima, for instance. Especially when it falls on a Friday, thereby giving us an entire extended weekend to contemplate on the Lord Buddha while we are in Goa [Images] or Matheran, working on acquiring a world-class hangover AND thanking the heavens for them Buddhists.

Yet what troubles me is the sheer eagerness of people, of all religions and sub-categories within, to staunchly defend these elements of their culture. And get all psycho violent in the process. Burn, stab, stand for elections and so on.

Serve eggs as a part of the school mid-day meals? How can you? How dare you force these non-veg ethics on our poor unsuspecting children who need lots of protein, but moral uprightness a lot more?

(Note: Last para is cue for the anti-egg brigade to launch a psycho campaign on the messageboard below.)

Wearing a kurta with some sort of religious symbol on it, are you? Please pass on your full permanent address so we can burn your house down! Did you just say 'Bombay' my dear? Sorry. We will immediately land up at your office, traffic-permitting, and vandalise the premises and to make sure you understand your mistake and never insults our Gods again, we will steal office stationary too.

Let's not even get started about Sethu Samudram.

But have you ever wondered why, in their infinite wisdom and omnipotent power, our Gods never told us things we can use in everyday life? Lessons that could make our lives more civil.

For instance how come none of our Gods say things like: "Thou shall not jump a red light! Even if thou owns a BMW [Images]!" Why don't our scriptures house learning such as "If thou shalt approach the corner of a stairwell in a building and spit thy paan upon it, then thou shalt be beheaded immediately, with no hope of the kingdom of heaven, ever!"

And while there is nothing inherently wrong with vegetarian Tuesdays, imagine how much better our lives would be if instead, our religion demanded that "Every Tuesday thou shalt NOT sit in the deepest corner of the coach till ten seconds before thy train reaches Matunga, at which point thou shalt NOT propel thyself forward on thy sheer strength and the shins and feet of co-commuters."

Why don't our Gods and religions ever tell us cool things like that? Instead of asking us to give up our lives to protect the modesty of Shriya Saran and assorted female relatives, why can't we have commandments like "Making passes at women is not cool. You will earn bad karma and be reincarnated as something hideous -- a wild toad maybe. Or one of those crabs at Mahesh Lunch Home that waiters bring to the table and people actually choose to be tandooried."

Instead we have reams and reams of books and scriptures and rituals that tell us in excruciating detail about how to bless a house. Or kill a chicken.

Perhaps it is time to sit down and prepare a whole new set of scriptures and holy books. And, while we are at it, why not conjure up a few Gods, saints and such who will demand that their followers live life as responsible, upright citizens?

For instance, St James the Queue Discipline Respecter. He oversees all lines anywhere. Anyone who jumps a queue will immediately be doomed to eternal damnation.

Or Shri Mata Safai Bhagawan, the all-powerful goddess of clean cities who watches over our roads and societies, immediately striking with great malice on anyone who throws litter out of their cars or balconies. She makes them impotent, if they are guys, or gives them hair without bounce or volume if they are women.

The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that what we need is a whole new set of deities and brands new, refurbished holy books.

Otherwise we will have no option but to let that party in Tamil Nadu tell us what is write and wrong.

Earlier columns:

More adventures of the Vadukuts, mister and missus, can be found at Domain Maximus.

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