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'Can we please be self-controlled?'

india Updated: Mar 19, 2011 23:53 IST
Renuka Narayanan
Renuka Narayanan
Hindustan Times
Renuka Narayanan

Many of us sustain the notion that only the vulgar and the elected are publicly abusive. But now that it seems abuse, even the Oedipal sort, is permissible in the Indian workplace, I'm left with no 'moral' position on Bangkok's Soi Cowboy which I must daily walk past.

Law evolved from religion and I cannot but think of St Paul (though regrettably he detested women, whom he saw as Snares) in Romans 13:13: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying."

Isn't it interesting how he clubs 'strife' with the rest?

Basically he's saying, "Can we please have some self-control, because without it, both you and the atmosphere you inhabit are perfectly awful."

It's not rocket science to figure that he wants overall individual self-control to promote the greatest good of the greatest number, so that social order can be a supportive context to personal salvation.

What then of the drunkenness, chambering and wantonness on Soi Cowboy?

Like other Bangkok malls, this street of CSWs too is orderly and well-behaved. No raucous cries assail my ears at any rate, as I go by.

What would St Paul say? His logic is shot to pieces, isn't it? Can you be 'bad' in a personal pursuit while being 'good' in going about it in open quiet?

And so to another traditional Eastern position, ours: "Maintain decorum, no matter what and why."

Just consider Queen Kaikeyi, if you haven't already, so livid that Ram, not Bharat, is to be king. How correct she is, nevertheless. No nasty, vulgar scenes in public. She retreats alone into the kopa griha, the anger room.

It's wonderful how she's proper even when she's being horrible. Perhaps aspects of this two-faced culture, the old Indian double standard, have their pluses; because while righteous anger cannot be wrong, unrestrained temper even in liberal climes damages both the team and the functioning process.

That's why it feels like the beginning of the end of civilisation if the law dispenses with the common citizenry's need to manage anger and endorses instead what the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16, calls "demonic nature".

How are victims of road rage and workplace verbal violence supposed to avail of justice now? And will we all fit into Parliament House? St Paul has a point and so does Soi Cowboy. Do we?

Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture