Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The politics of public romance

Considering that India is the land which gave as Vatsayana's Kama Sutra, it seems perplexing that Richard Gere's kissing of Shilpa Shetty (and only on the cheeks at that) would create a ruckus of indignation throughout the Indian subcontinent.

Perhaps because of Victorian colonialism or the Mughal influence, Indians turned conservative when it comes to public displays of affection. Just early this year young couples were attacked by the police in Uttar Pradesh for hugging and kissing in a public park. One couple who kissed during their wedding was charged of violating obscenity laws in another case in India.

Kama Sutra aside, it is the current opinion of most people in India,in Asia and in the Philippines that public display of affection (hugging, kissing, even holding hands) is improper. Also for Muslims in the Philippines, a man and a woman unrelated must never touch each other. Even a friendly handshake between a man and a woman some Muslims do not countenance. What's acceptable in the West and in Latin America makes most of us squirm here.

How then should one in love conduct oneself in public? While we have every right to express our affection, we must also balance it with a due regard to the sensibilities of other people. After all, there is no social advantage to public displays of affection. If one must really be amorous, one can always retire to the bedroom or, lacking that, rent a motel room. There the possibilites are infinite and we are limited only by our imagination.

My personal beef about public displays of affection is that while I understand those doing it have probably found their one true love and would probably live happily ever after, but must they rub it in our face? Rather than promoting amatory feeling in the world, public displays of affection only breed contempt, envy and finally disgust on the part of the people who aren't in love and are witnessing the display. PDA is probably okay if we can all be in love at the same time. But then again falling in love all at the same time sounds too much like free love, so we may have another set of problems with that.

One Indian blogger also has this to say about those who force their liberal outlook on this matter:

We must become more liberal in our outlook, I totally agree. But do spare a thought for those who condemn change. Change is never easy. Look at yourself. Did you get over your last girlfriend? Do you like your new job?

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