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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Big Ban Theory

If banning stuff is the new ‘in’ thing, then here’s my own wish list

In case you haven’t noticed, this is the season of bans. Beef has been banned in Maharashtra; anyone found in possession of it or selling it will be jailed for five years and fined Rs 10,000. The Central Board of Film Certification issued a list of all the ‘bad’ words that would henceforth be banned in the movies (though there has been some furious back-pedalling on the issue since). The movie, Fifty Shades Of Grey, based on the best-selling erotic novel of the same name, has been banned as well, in case it corrupted our morals. And, most famously, the Government of India has banned the documentary, India’s Daughter, made by Leslee Udwin, on the December 2012 gang rape in Delhi (though a defiant BBC went ahead and aired it anyway, and millions have since seen it on the Internet).

On a visceral level, I am opposed to the banning of anything, whether it is The Satanic Verses or M.F. Husain’s nude portraitures of Hindu goddesses. Freedom of expression is meaningless if it does not come with the right to offend. That is why even those who did not necessarily agree with the views of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists chose to march the streets with placards proclaiming Je Suis Charlie. The fact that you disagree with a point of view – as expressed in a painting, a cartoon, a book, a movie, or a documentary – is not reason enough to ban it. Look away if it offends you; but defend the rights of those who choose to do otherwise.

But given that bans seem to be the flavor of the month, I decided to follow that old maxim: if you can’t beat them, join them. So here, for the kind consideration of the Government of India, are just some of the things I would like banned. I would be much obliged if the same could be taken under its kind consideration (that’s proper bureaucratic-speak, in case you’re wondering, so that the babus can do the needful!).

Let’s ban all netas from commenting on rape. That way we would be spared such gems as: “How can you hang someone for rape; boys make mistakes sometimes” (Mulayam Singh Yadav, SP leader). Or “rape cases are on the rise because men and women interact with each other more freely now” (Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal chief minister). Or “If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the way wrong way. If they (women) want freedom, why don’t they just roam around naked” (Manohar Lal Khattar, Haryana chief minister). I could go on, but this is depressing enough.
A ban should also be imposed on all those who would interfere with women’s reproductive rights. So, no more Sakshi Maharajs telling us that Hindu women should produce at least four children. Or Shymal Goswami (BJP leader from West Bengal) increasing the count to five. And certainly, no raising the limit to ten kids, as the Shankaracharya of Badrikashram, did recently. How many kids she has is up to every individual woman; whether the count is 0 or 10 is entirely up to her.
If you are going to ban beef then you have a moral obligation to ban tofu too. It’s Chinese in origin, tastes of nothing, destroys every dish it comes into contact with, and did I mention that it is Chinese? No good can come of tofu; let’s get rid of it from our shops, our tables, our restaurants, our shores. Let’s give paneer a chance, instead.
Ban cell phones in movie theatres. No, turning on the silent mode is not enough. The odds are that some self-important sod will neglect to do so, and his phone will emit a shrill ring just as a crucial scene of the movie is playing. Then, he will take ages to answer, ignoring all the baleful looks cast in his direction, until he finally picks up to stage-whisper, “Sorry, can’t talk now. Am watching a movie.” And sorry, but even phones that have been silenced are a complete nuisance. They flash incessantly through the movie, with new messages and calls coming through, quite ruining the theatre-going experience.
High heels must go. They are just instruments of torture, inflicted on women for centuries now. And alas, we are such suckers for punishment that we have clasped them to our soles and refuse to let go, never mind those aching backs and painful knees (not to mention the bunions). If you tried to sell men shoes that made walking – let alone running – an exercise in pain, they would laugh in your face. So, why don’t women just say ‘no’ when it comes to high heels? Well, never mind. Just ban the horrid things already. 
Ban all fairy tales that teach young girls that they need rescuing. That their only salvation lies in a handsome young prince who will come riding up on a shining white horse and save them from an unhappy fate. And that they will then live happily ever after. Stop telling them these stories; you are just setting them up for disappointment.

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