“Mera sheher ek lambi behes ki tarha hai, Sadkein- betuki daleelon si, Aur galiyaan iss tarah, Jaise ek baat ko, Koi idhar ghaseet-ta, koi udhar.” ( My city is like a life long contention. The roads are like useless justifications. The streets are such, as if someone is dragging you, sometimes here, sometimes there.) ~ Amrita Pritam
I want to take you back to the year of Babri Masjid Demolition, the year of 1992. Having been born to a Punjabi mother and a Muslim father, I know exactly what it is like to fall in love in the times of moral policing, and not because they had to give up on their love, but because they did not give up on it.
There was so much else that they gave up, the so-called ‘izzat’ (honour) of the family, what the society thought, what were the best, most cheerful years of their life that went by struggling for their love, their career that they had to give up on and suddenly join the “working class” to become independent and take care of each other, the honeymoon-phase that they lost out on. Why? Because their families were just not ready to accept their love.
Things did work out well in their favor in the coming years, but there was so much that they lost.
In a world like today, where everything seems to be changing and developing on a good roll, we are leaving a few things behind; one of them being unconditional love. There always are conditions applied. Conditions like the families being of the same strata, same caste, same religion, the same kind of conservative, or the same kind of liberals. It is sad, isn’t it?
The couples we see walking hand in hand is one thing and the couples we don’t see is another. Let’s think a bit about the ones we don’t see often. These are couples that fear being seen, that fear being in love because of moral policing. They fear being seen by their own parents, they fear being seen by the society, they fear coming under the lens of extremists such as the Hindutva forces.
“Dharm-Jaat ke chakkar hi khatam nahi hote aakhir” (These issues of religion, caste don’t seem to get over) says Anjum while she talks of her love story that is still very much in the initial phase. Her partner is not a Shia, while she is and that is creating a ruckus in their families. When there is so much to feel threatened by, how amidst all of this will the love survive? A lot of times it doesn’t and it does go down. So many stories fade away because of things and people that technically don’t even matter.
Another example is divorce. What is divorce? Walking away from something that is now broken, walking away from something we don’t feel comfortable in or loved in? How is that a bad thing? Why can society not approve of that? And who is the society, after all? Let’s say the couple stays together and doesn’t opt for divorce. Let’s say they stay together but fight every other day, let’s say they get taken over by depression, let’s say their children suffer and it all becomes crazy, will the society then take a stand for them? We know the answer. Marriage is a choice, not a race. It has to be lived through and not finished or won over.
Live-in relationships are stigmatised too. The society calls them degrading, bad, vulgar and what not. The lives of the couple is made hell by the society they live in. People start sliding in letters and applications asking them to vacate or so as to when they’d get married. Usually their only concern should be if they are paying the rent in time or not. That is it but no “Kuch toh log kahenge.. logon ka kaam hai kehna.”
“Yeh Gay-Lesbians jaisa kuch bhi nahi hota, beta. Sab mann ka bhram hai. Tum apna dimaag theek karo.” Homophobia and transphobia plague our society. While the law recognises the third gender, an expression of their sexuality, an expression of their love is a crime in our country.
Love in the times of moral policing. What does it mean? This valentine’s day I took a resolution of making love lovely for all of us in the society because my father recently said to me, “Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break that chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness, greet grimaces with smiles, forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.”