Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments on Kolkata metro incident: ‘Young people should go easy on displaying affection’

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Kolkata Metro incident

We are products of generations of societal repression (“In viral photo of two arms embracing a young woman in green, Kolkata has betrayed its liberal image”). But our reactions to public displays of love or endearment will also change in time. While some of us may look on at such incidents, there are others whose reactions border on violence. Law enforcement authorities often empathise with the latter. The younger generation should also bear in mind that the transition towards acceptance of western standards of morality occurs slowly. Hence, they should expect minimum sympathy from the law. Hence, I would advise the younger generation to go slow on public displays of affection because they will face hostility all around. – Sumit Majumdar

***

Kolkata was never that liberal in sexual matters. The young generation has always been frowned upon. We see extremes where the young generation blindly imitates the West and believes it is okay to reject anything that is formal or requires protocol. On the other hand, the older generation feels insecure with change and perhaps even jealous and left out at times.

The Supreme Court is undecided on the definition of the word obscene, hence Article 294 becomes redundant as a law but restraint is important in society. The media and a few guitar-playing pseudo-liberals are trying to sing “follow my lead” but that won’t happen. Kolkata is still Calcutta and it will follow its own lead. Ask the people (not just the teenagers) who have families and children and they will say, “violence is bad but obscenity is bad as well.” Media reports and people claiming to be eye witnesses say that the couple was extremely rude and made no attempt to cool things down. Why do you think a lone senior citizen was able to gather so much support if nothing unusual happened? – Rajarshi Chakrabarti

***

This article only tells half the story. It talks about the aftermath of the public anger due to the vulgarity. Incidentally, the matter did not concern a simple hug. We are all brought up in this culture, an element of which is respect in all circumstances, as both generation needs to coexist.

The author should have spoken to onlookers on that coach who had to witness the uncomfortable situation. We don’t stay in Bangkok or Paris. – Suvro Ghosh

***

The assault on the couple is condemnable. But to be intimate in a public place without adequate reason is also undesirable. You have hotels and bedrooms for that. If we start doing all these things right in the full public view, is that not some kind of perversion? After all there is difference between animals and human beings. – Dilip Pal

***

This article on the Kolkata Metro incident seems extremely biased, contrary to Scroll.in claims to be. The writer has not spared a single thought for the passengers and what may have prompted them to assault the couple. It is extremely unlikely that a crowd would assault a young couple just for standing too close. The author should have found out both sides of the story.

Young people these days are ready to revolt against any advice coming to them from elders. That’s why there is so much substance abuse in that generation. Is the Metro compartment a place for sexual activity? Don’t publish biased, one-sided articles and criticise moral police. – Subhodeep Bose

***

I was present there in the Metro, there was more than just hugging going on. We should not allow such activity in public places. Be a good citizen rather than a good writer. – MK Singh

Supreme Court crisis

In any other profession, seniority is the bench mark for promotion if the candidate is adequately qualified (“Opinion: It’s clear Dipak Misra is unwilling or unable to defend the Supreme Court’s best interests”). It is strange that in the case of the Supreme Court and High Courts, promotions are done in the most opaque and seemingly arbitrary manner. And no one can question them.

Is the mantra “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”? Nowhere in the world and in no profession are people appointed to high posts without any external and impartial scrutiny. Jumping the seniority list to promote someone because he is brilliant should be exception and not the norm, else it will erode the institution’s credibility. If seniority doesn’t count, then any judge in the Supreme Court can adjudicate on any case as they are all adequately qualified. But in this regard, seniority is espoused and only the collegium judges wish to hear important cases. There is a dichotomy in the thought process and a double standard.

Lastly the judiciary, executive and Parliament are three equally important Constitutional authorities.Why can’t the executive or legislature question the judiciary on transparency, accountability and equal representation? How can a small state have three Supreme Court judges at one time and other bigger states have none? It’s time for the Supreme Court to walk the talk on transparency. – Srinivas Rao Bopparaju

***

Very apt and very pointed. The damage wrought on the highest court of the country is incalculable. The saddest part will unfold not so much in the present (though that too is immense!) but in the future, when the actions of the present will be cited as precedents and shall be hard to defend and ignore. That’ll be the unkindest cut. It will drown the sane voice of the four senior-most judges who in an unprecedented move had laid bare their anguish before the nation in a press conference. How one man could undo the wise counsel and moves of other senior judges, only notches below him in the judicial pecking order! – Sudhansu Mohanty

***

There is no question of weakening the judiciary. The government has every right to examine the recommendations of judiciary as there may be something between lines. You media people meddle and poke your noses into the judiciary’s business. – Suresh Dikshit

***

The government should not have interfered in the judiciary, that could set the wrong precedent. Why has the chief justice not stood firm? – DSA Arthur

***

The day the four judges went public with their grievances, they converted the collegium into into a trade union.You reap what you sow. – GMK Sarma

Sri Sri’s remarks

Did you even see the video? The essence was how to deal with a difficult situation smartly. It was not about any sexist idea. You are so small minded that you don’t understand the real essence. – Barathi Krishnamurthy

***

You have totally misunderstood the dilemma that he wants to explain. He just spoke in general terms rather than being biased. It is not necessary to always mention the corollary for every situation. We should understand that everyone is not a misogynist. Sometimes, people speak on a lighter note and it should not be taken otherwise. – Sagar Mishra

***

Sri Sri Ravishankar was simply narrating a well-known story in Kannada folklore called “Chandi Kathe”. Just because the story is about a woman who is not doing something, it does not become sexist. It is just an example of how people are different and the story talks about how people of different mindsets can find common ground. Please don’t criticise someone without knowing or understanding the full meaning of their message. – Davana Santosh

***

I think you have misinterpreted video. Its essence is that there is no problem in life that cannot be solved. You just have to think wisely and work on a solution. It has nothing to do with how husbands should behave with their wives. – Ketaki Jagtap

***

Did you really watch the video? The gist of it is that you have to find a way to work around others. Where is the sexism here? – Srinivasan Ajantha

Namaaz row

Many of my friends who work there have no choice but to offer Friday namaaz in open spaces and parks, because there are no mosque close to them (“‘Pray in mosques’: Why Gurgaon’s Muslims might not be able to follow the Haryana CM’s advice”). If the government doesn’t want the Muslims to offer namaaz in open spaces, then it must allow more mosques to be built. But that is also likely to be opposed by Hindu fundamentalist goons. This is a clear case of violation of Article 25 of the Constitution on freedom of religion. I hold responsible all those who voted for the divisive politics of the BJP in 2014. – Ahraz Athar

In memoriam

Ashok Mitra, renowned economist, Marxist thinker, profound scholar and prolific writer was committed to the cause of the common man (“In 1975, Ashok Mitra (1928-2018) asked whether fascism would pass in India. Many are still asking”). His death 90 is an irreparable loss to the nation. Common Indians have lost an indomitable fighter for their cause. During his last years, Mitra valiantly contributed to the fight against Neo-liberal fascism through his mighty pen. Let us pay our respect to him by doubling our fight against capitalism and communal fascism. – Purushuttam Roy Barman

Karnataka elections

The new-found attraction for Karnataka is only because of Bengaluru’s revenues (“What would Gauri Lankesh have made of India’s ‘discovery’ of Karnataka this election season?”) Despite that, Bengaluru people end up living with between filth, foaming lakes, bad roads and poor water supply. Politicians should remember that they should not kill a goose that lays golden eggs. Unfortunately that is happening. If the situation continues, 10 years from now, Bengaluru will be a desolate city without water or businesses. All IT companies slowly moving to other locations in India. – Sandeep Ramankutty

Jinnah poster row

It makes zero sense to hang a Jinnah poster in an Indian university (“The Daily Fix: Row over Jinnah portrait at AMU betrays an increasingly fragile national ego”). It is ridiculous because the man was central to division of India and creation of Pakistan, after which wars and deaths ensued. Through such idiotic practices, these people elicit idiotic responses by fringe groups. Who is a bigger fool? – Vickram Mederata

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.