From ‘Taboo’ to ‘Tolerance’


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LOVE AND INDIAN SOCIETY – TRANSITIONING FROM ‘TABOO’ TO ‘TOLERANCE’

It is summer. Imagine you are walking down a long dusty road. You are tired, your throat is parched. A little water to drink is all you need. You have two options:

1-     A roadside tap with cool, fresh water – but you do not know the source

2-     An unopened, branded can of still water – but which is a couple of months old

What would you choose?

Er, let me guess. Most would choose Option 2. The reason: We assume it is safe, because certainly, it has been officially approved.

Well, this may be an awful example. But this is exactly how we treat this commodity called ‘Love’.

Indian society is known to have classified its people into different castes, groups and sects. This has always been the case. Even so with Love. We believe Love is divine. We worship it. And we divide it into Pure and Impure. Just like that branded and unbranded water!

So long as Love refers to ‘clearly named and approved’ relationships, it is accepted by society. Therefore, affection towards parents, love for the spouse (own spouse, of course 😉 ), children, siblings…is respected and appreciated. But love that crosses any of these boundaries immediately turns on the danger signals!

And that exactly is where problems begin. We build a mass of unwritten rules about love.

Parents must love their children…Children must reciprocate this love by looking after parents in their old age…Young girls and boys must not fall in love with each other (unless of course, its a very brotherly/sisterly love!!)…One must Love within the same community…etc. etc.

Now, I am not saying these are all bad. But these rules are way too rigid!

We are utterly emphatic about our limited understanding of ‘pure’ love, and disparaging of anything beyond that, which we conveniently denigrate as illegitimate!

Indian society is brutally intolerant towards emotions that cross approved peripheries.

Let us take a few examples from recent times:

–        An honour killing takes place in the most gruesome manner because it is love across ‘approved boundaries’, a panchayat wants to ban same gotra-marriages and a survey shows most people actually support it!

–        Certain self-proclaimed moral police / Sena threaten to marry off couples who were found celebrating Valentine’s Day and supposedly in love!

–        A famous educational institution suspends a professor on grounds of him being homosexual! So if the same professor had been with a female lover instead of male, then it was alright? It is a shame too, that he will – forever – be remembered as ‘the gay professor who committed suicide’.

–        A film actress, who actually has a Temple built for her by fans, is worshipped for her ‘on-screen talent’. The same actress however, is taken to court for because she dared to support pre-marital co-habitation. So in reel-life, one can be in love multiple times, and still be respected, because in each film, the ‘character’ was supposedly a devoted wife/’sincere lover’. However, in real-life, the thinking individual is veritably excommunicated because she challenged unwritten social norms.

–        If a girl were to express the slightest interest in a neighbour who belonged to a different caste, for example, what are the odds that she will be asked to tie a Rakhi for him and firm up a ‘chaste relationship’!

We are witness to such violence emerging out of ‘love’. And all this, because in our society, Love is an emotion that is largely overrated.

We are passionate people! And I don’t mean that in a weird way. In the true sense of the word, we are over-excited about Bollywood, Cricket and Love.. And not necessarily in that order! We toss these on a pedestal and worship them!

Therefore, ‘Love’ moves from being an everyday, common emotion, into something absolutely sacred. And something that is taboo!

We do need to realise, though, that like hunger or thirst, love too, is an everyday, common emotion. It is not a secret! It certainly isn’t untouchable!! We are not guardians of ‘love’. We are just insignificant beings that feel the emotion. Simple!

The quicker we accept this fact, the lesser the importance we will award to all those unwritten cobwebs of rules that have served to build our perception of Love! And then, we might also stop confusing Love with other things like Virginity, Duty and Responsibility, amongst other things!

We can bid adieu to all those moral policemen who try to formalise and shield Love, to those followers of Godmen, who confuse love with sex, and to those hate-mongers who use Love as a pretext to inflict more violence on society!

When Love isn’t taboo, then ‘honour’ killings are meaningless, too!

When Love does not bind you to someone of the opposite sex whom you do not actually love, then certainly, we would make a more tolerant and happy society!

It is extremely difficult, but it is the only way forward!

Indian society at large, has to liberate itself from its monumental perception of ‘love’. It has to broaden its boundaries. Nay, trash all boundaries, and accept that Love has many different forms (defined and undefined), and that they are all natural, human emotions. When we accept this fact, Love will not be ‘taboo’.

So, again, let me ask you a question.

It is summer. Imagine you have reached that long dusty road. You are exhausted, your throat is parched. A little water to drink is all you need. You still have two options:

1-     A roadside tap with cool, fresh water – you have no idea of the source, but it seems clean

2-     An unopened, branded can of still water – which could be a little stale

What would you choose? Er, let me guess. Option 2!!! Bah!!! I told you, that was a bad corollary to Love.

But I do hope this post made you think. And accept the fact that Love is just another emotion.

Let us stop idolising it.

The mantra is not ‘Taboo 😦’ but ‘Tolerance 🙂’.

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48 thoughts on “From ‘Taboo’ to ‘Tolerance’

  1. Well I don’t go for branded love 🙂 And I don’ think anyone will stop me..have my mixed marriages in my family….if you want it, you will stand up for it 🙂

    True, if you believe in something, you will stand up for it! Hmm.. btw… I smell something fishy 😉 Something up your sleeve, Vichu? 😉

  2. Wow, Nice post….I so agree with you on the branded love part!! Absolutely true

    Thank you, Prats 🙂 Branded, approved and well-packaged 😉

  3. Interesting post…but wondering where this shot up from?? 😉 ..definitely tolerance has pervaded to the Indian society …why inter caste..even inter-nationality marriages are well received, however that segment of people, who are yet to look beyond these boundaries are the ones who make headlines regularly….as long in news, they do seem to represent the general public.
    Nicely written and elaborated..:)

    Thank you so much, Anon. However, I do not think Indian society is tolerant. Inter-caste marriages are definitely still taboo and scorned upon (from personal experience!!) I think its just a very small faction of broad-minded people who do not mind such marriages. The common man – be it the traditional families – the super rich – the poor – are all very much into ‘approved’ matches. And as for same-sex marriages/love, this is a complete No-No! But the more we think of it, the more we realise that such tendencies are inborn, hard-wired. Its not like the person (gay/lesbian) is diseased. Its just the way they are. And it is still very difficult for society at large, to accept this as ‘normal’.

  4. I agree with you Pal
    It’s very rigid. There’s no reason why somebody HAS to love someone. It’s not a compulsion. Just a wish

    And all the best! 🙂

    Thanks, Nive. Exactly what I was trying to convey, and you put it beautifully. Love is not a compulsion. Its a simple and natural emotion! 🙂

  5. BTW I will always go for the tap water :)…..
    Actually a lot of things in this country is a ‘taboo’ but things are changing, bit slowly though …

    LOL!!! Glad to see that, Dhiman. 😉

  6. Brilliantly put, Pals. Yes,love, in context with our Indian society,has sadly become a commodity and is not seen as an emotion anymore :(. Its been gravely molded to suit our personal gains and convenience.

    Wish you all the best for the contest 🙂

    Deeps, thank you so much!!

  7. well, find the example pretty apt …………….

    we do tend to follow what’s been happening for years……..but i’m glad that things are changing…………..i know with as rigid culture as of ours……it will take time……..but it’s been initiated………

    this was a nice read………

    Thank you very much Hitesh. Yes, things have started to change, and like you said, it will take time.. a lot of time, before people begin ‘accepting’ Love in its various forms 🙂

  8. WOWWW! that leaves me.. how do i put it? “Dumbfounded”? “Wonderstruck”?

    that was like engrossing, and u put it in such a picturesque way too.. good strong write.

    all the best for BPL.

    Thank you so much Vinay 🙂

  9. Liked the tap analogy especially. But the debate between rules and regulations versus complete freedom can always go on be it in any sphere. Rules and regulations give power to human society at the cost of individual freedom.

    Thank you, Karthik 🙂 I agree, rules certainly have their distinct benefits. Otherwise it would be mayhem 🙂
    The problem arises when a group of people try to suppress one individual for crossing the boundaries. I think just as much as we have rules, we need tolerance and be broad-minded too. Indian society is way too skewed in its opinions. For eg., a man who is a polygamist would have ready acceptance in society, whereas a man who is gay, will not!! That’s where our double standards begin to kill individuals.

    1. I would like to put it as Rules, Regulations & Duties (again manmade and makes the system more rigid) but as Karthik said can be taken to a different realm altogether! People on their part remember only the two Rs and forget their duties conveniently! to remember them when an innocent or a powerless one makes an not so popular decision… It’s not love at all, it’s all about who is in power and how manupulative he/she can be… often such ppl are good orators, strange… Hitler was one too!! Where to strike the balance, is the question? Will take time…lots of it, the concept is so skewed, veiled, over and under rated, time will tell … I guess

      Enjoyed reading U as always:) 🙂

      1. Couldn’t agree more , PNA. Rules are definitely necessary to maintain order. With times and attitudes that change, rules also need to broadened 🙂 And you’re right.. so often, it is manipulation and not love. Love is the most confused emotion ever 🙂

        Thanks, PNA 🙂

  10. I wholeheartedly agree with what you have written..
    Most people do confuse love with virginity and duty…
    Our heart is not bound in strings and it cannot be captured and made to love someone because society agrees to it and gives it an O.K.

    Thank you, LP 🙂 Exactly.. we can neither force someone to love, nor fall out of it 🙄 And it isn’t even that important, if we look at the larger picture of Life. There are so many other important things.. problems of grave consequence.. and we get bogged down with mis-conceptions of love! Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment 🙂

  11. I just agree with you to the core! Love is treated like dirt these days. You say, you are in love, and what you’re asked is, is ‘He/She a Hindu?, What caste?, Earns?, et al! When will people grow up! Love is an emotion and has to be dealt with like one.

    Anyway, post very well written. I liked the way you’ve used pics to depict things written! I like ur template too. Elegant! 🙂 All the best for BPL 🙂

    Thank you soooo much, Pooja. I was infact preparing to get a new shield to protect myself from backlash after this post. So you can imagine how relieved I am to find so many people like you, in agreement 😛

  12. Have you noticed how a cold-blooded, premeditated murder is dubbed as ‘honour killing’… ???
    Absolutely right, Roshmi! This is ‘murder’ and nothing else!!

    The ‘custodians’ of Indian society… and the legions of ‘sons-of-the-soil’ who vow to ‘uphold our ancient culture and traditions’… makes sure that nobody dares to cross the ‘set boundaries’. And if anyone does that… he/she will be confronted with ‘our ancient culture and traditions’ in the most barbaric and brutal manner.

    Meanwhile… there is a collective amnesia about ‘syamvar’…
    Now that you have highlighted it… absolutely right again. Swayamvar was accepted in a bygone era. But in a modern ‘today’ we would consider it a ‘loose practise’?!!

    Our mythology, epics, etc are full of it… innumerable love stories that is.

    Look at Kunti, Mandodari, Draupadi… et al. And they are 3 of the 5 ‘kanyas’ our scriptures ask us to emulate.

    We all know the story of Karna and the other Pandavas. None of the Pandavas were Pandu’s sons. Infact… the epitome of piety/principles… the Dharmaputra Yudhistir is very likely Kunti and Vidur’s son. Not Kunti and Dharmaraj/Yama’s son. Since Vidur was the human manifestation of the Dharmaraj on earth.

    Similarly… Sita is thought to be Mandodari’s (Ravan’s main Queen) daughter… in a story akin to Karna and Kunti. They looked so alike… that even Hanuman was confused!

    Wow, that was a real eye-opener, Roshmi!!! Thank you for sharing! I wonder, if we actually believe in these ancient stories… mythology… why then are we so uptight about Love these days?!

    In India… folks are comfortable once lovers who cross the set boundaries/rules… have safely met their maker. Then temples/shrines, etc are constructed in their name. Paens are written, songs are sung… and they are ‘immortalized’.
    He he he… yeah, live and be a villian, or die to attain heroism 😉

  13. I hear you. Such a misplaced sense of “culture” and right and wrong. We do see the change happening slowly, but in a very small part of population. We have a very long way to go to get to acceptance.

    Exactly, Pujitha 🙂 The change is so minute and so slow….!

  14. Everybody makes rules according to their convenience, they will drink tap water or unopened branded tin depending on what benefits them the most…thats the society we live in now… Nice write up pal :))

    Well said, Pushpee 🙂 We subvert rules to suit us 🙂

    1. Folks, thank you so much for your wonderful comments and support!!! Didn’t expect to receive so much ‘acceptance’ on a post that might seem ‘taboo’. Puns totally unintended 😉

  15. Like I said earlier. I would’ve gone for the tap water as well. Agree with you totally. And I think you nailed it when you said, love was an emotion. Not a can of food, that has ‘how to’ instructions on the pack. Beautifully written.

  16. Like the wild river that creates its flanks
    Love too will define its own banks
    and wash away the crazy cranks
    who try to play God with their pranks.

    Tap water or bottled water people should be allowed to make their choice. Good write Pallu.

    1. @ Sudhakar: Thanks so much!! Well said, about the ‘instruction manual’ 😉 People just tend to forget!!

      @ PRG: A lovely 4-liner as usual 🙂 thank you 🙂

      @ RSV: LOL @ calling me a ‘contender’. ‘Contenter’ is more like me 😉 I think I read your post this morning, lemme go check again 🙂 Thank you RSV 🙂

  17. Palllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll 😀

    loved this one.. I told you na that I have full faith in you and you didn’t let me down even a bit..love you for this wonderful write up.. keep roaring 🙂

    1. ok, now that was a very conceited comment 😛 but I loved the post..I feel lucky to be a part of the team you are in (now that’s more like it :P)

  18. I think we are yet to come over the days of monarchy pals… I think the whole concept comes from there… Marrying a prince to princess of other country it would Have passed down to each levels of society… Its more to do with our identities of caste, creed, and religion more than anything..
    Wonderful post pals 🙂

  19. Loved the way you brought this issue.
    I totally agree on your take about branded love. Though education and ingress of cultures from all round the world (both by media and migration) has changed the face of society but still a lot needs to be done….not to the society but to our rigid views.
    We need to learn to ‘tolerate’ and ‘let live’ 🙂 🙂
    Impressive addition of that drinking water example 🙂

    1. @ Kanagu: Thanks a lot. You’re very right when you say the perception of ‘Love’ has more to do with other factors like caste and religion!!

      @ Chatterbox: Thank you so much. You really liked that drinking water example? :mrgreen: LOL 🙂

      @ Quirky: He he… I was equally worried when I wrote the post 😯 Thank you 😛

  20. Now tap water will gain more preference, one against the bottled water and second for the emotion called love! 😉 Well written Pal!

  21. Now tap water will gain more preference, one against bottled water and second for the emotion called love! 😉 Well written Pal!

  22. Wow Pal, such clarity of thoughts, and so well presented… Such an impassioned post!
    And yeah, I prefer tap water, sometimes… it’s more cool, literally and figuratively! 😉 😀

    1. @ Arif: LOL! Thank you 🙂 I better watch out now, if too many people start drinking tap water and blame me for any illness 😉

      @ Guria: Thank u Lady 🙂 I do too 🙂

  23. very well written, Pal! I completely agree of course! The concept of love is still pretty warped up in India. And it is only a fraction of the society that is slowly embracing more liberal views. And this is not changing any time soon. It is deeply embedded in our ‘culture’..
    Thank you so much, Piper. You’re so right in that its a very miniscule fraction of society that is becoming truly liberal!

    You`ve done a great job, Pal! All the best!
    Thanks a ton, Mish 🙂

  24. I remember a discussion that was happening on TV a long time back about censorship in movies and there was a very interesting thing being said there. there was a movie(sorry cant recall the name) which was asked to delete a scene where the heroine is sitting on the cycle while the hero was riding it.
    Really? 🙄 Wow!! We’ve come a long way, then 😉
    But today, well we all know what movies are like. Times change and so do the definitions of ‘taboos’ and ‘tolerance’. We as a society are at the crossroads at the moment and I feel we really are struggling with an identity crisis and here I talk about our cultural identity. Thats the reason we find all these problems cropping up. The solutions are not going to be that simple, we are a very complex society.
    Absolutely..we are unbelievably complex!
    Anyways I will be writing a blog post soon on this topic. Would def link it to this. It was very well written and all the best for BPL. 🙂
    Thank you Tavish, will look forward to reading your views on this 🙂
    Cheers!
    Tavish

  25. What a wonderful post, Pal! Could not agree more with what you say. It is the familiarity, and the norm, that has become the rule, and a rule such that it has strong boundaries and strong repurcussions to those who break the rules.
    You hit the nail, Smitha.. what is familiar is safe! Anything unfamiliar is dangerous!!

    As you say, if we talk in terms of tolerance, things will change. And the unknown, may not always be wrong or evil… It might just be the paradise we had been avoiding with our fear of the unknown.. 🙂

    Wonderful post, Pals! All the best for the contest!

    Thank you so much 🙂

  26. Interesting take on love and Indian society.You re dealing with a very difficult topic here Love and Society.

    somewhere I inferred that free love, or love without bindings or accountability will only be possible if it is not given so much of importance? think of situations on the flip side if that thought were to be truly passed as law.

    You also refer to love becoming sacred and taboo. Don’t you think these are mutually exclusive ? If an overwhelming mass of people revere something…then how does it become taboo? Which leads me to deduce that the definition of love itself could be debated.

    As noble the intention is ,the execution will be slightly difficult. Nevertheless,like I mentioned above, this is a vast and complex topic, and you have explored one aspect of it, with a very noble intention,and that is good enough.

    1. @ Bikram@ Thank you very much!!

      @ GB:
      Thanks so much for a very balanced critique (as always)!

      I’m not sure what you mean by ‘free love’. I wonder if you are confusing it with ‘open relationships’ or ‘free sex’. 😯

      IMHO, it is neither of these.

      I was only referring to the fact that our society has clearly defined love and relationships, and anything that does not fit within these are condemned. :mrgreen:

      Reg. ‘sacred and taboo’. We treat God and Divinity in the same way,don’t we? The masses revere God, but still, they keep people belonging to ‘so-called-lower-castes’ out of Temples. 🙄 So what is Sacred is certainly taboo for ‘others’.

      But yes, the definition of Love is certainly under debate!! 😛

  27. Very well structured post Pal… extremely well I must say… 🙂 . Unfortunately, it’s the bitter truth of the so called society we live in…

    I mean, who sets rules…who sets conditions…who sets such pre-requisites…? and for whom? Is it for convenience or causing pain and dishing out injustice..I fail to get some answers to my inquisitve mind.

    Its inhumane society sometimes i feel….

    1. Thanks so much, Dew, for sharing your thoughts on this. Absolutely with you when you say we are quite an inhumane society!!

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