Hugs and kisses are suddenly evoking much passion in the subcontinent. Shilpa Shetty’s self-appointed Big Brothers — mainly members of her fan club in Varanasi and the Shiv Sena — are in a frenzy over the kiss-and-tell show, featuring the actress and Richard Gere, that took place at an Aids awareness function for truck drivers in Delhi on Sunday. While Shetty was swept off her feet, her fan club is brandishing the broom to clean the supposed blemish on a “rich Indian culture”. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Pakistan, Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar is the latest recipient of a fatwa from her country’s clerics for apparently falling under the immoral Western spell and hugging a male paraglider in Paris. (It wasn’t too long ago, you’ll remember, that their malice was directed towards the Pakistan High Commissioner’s daughter, who received a grandfatherly peck on her cheek from Khushwant Singh.) Does it surprise anyone that all three incidents brought out the patriarchal fervour of these self-appointed custodians of our morality?
In the Gere-shifts, they saw Shetty’s new-acquired ‘Goody’ image crumbling. In Miss Bakhtiar, a defiance that needed to be broken down, never mind how innocent her action. And in condemning Khushwant Singh, they showed themselves to be possessed of petty, frustrated minds.
Now, if they would only stop playing with their effigies and focus on making the streets a safer place for women. That is the kind of policing that we would really appreciate.