This is in reference to Mr Shashi Tharoor’s article “It’s time to stop harassing M F Hussain” in the Sunday times of India on 29/7/2007. I think this is his third article on the subject where he keeps defending Mr Hussain’s independent right as an artist to keep portraying Hindu gods and goddesses in a naked form. Recently, we also had some controversy where some artist from a design college in Gujarat was also condemned for the same reason in sculpting.
Sometime ago, Mr Vir Sanghvi, the editor of Hindustan times had expressed the view that freedom of expression was all very well but it entailed a sense of responsibility. One may express himself artistically on touchy issues but did it have to be there for public consumption?
I can’t help but agree more with Mr Sanghvi. The first prime minister of India, Mr Jawaharlal Nehru had expressed his displeasure on religion because of the kind of violence that had taken place in the past in the name or organized religions and the fact that it was contrary to what they preached. When there are so many things to choose from, why choose something that is bound to arouse controversy unless it was started with some ulterior motive in mind. From a practical perspective, it is deemed that no publicity is bad publicity.
Though not much of a poet, I started my poetic career in making silly limericks on issues and things. Then I gradually graduated to poetry on other people’s wives apart from my own ( one has to lose the battle to win the war.). Just as bunking school which was more stringent gave more thrill than bunking college, writing poems on forbidden fruit was more challenging This is an example of my “artistic expression”:-
I happen to be quite good at spur of the moment Hindi limericks. Needless to mention, initially the ladies were delighted and my thrill knew no bounds on receiving handsome compliments. However, for all their spontaneous responses, I never got a request for an encore after the first two or three narrations. For a while I was perplexed but it soon dawned on me that sooner or later, the husbands( hasna band) were bound to intervene. I could understand their plight because for all practical purposes, I was one myself. All good things have to come to an end and my poetic initiative could not but have a premature end
Mr Tharoor, in his previous articles had expounded on the virtues of what is called “reasoned argument” but one only needs vested interest and a good imagination to circumvent that. In my case :-
1) My friends knew that most of my poetry on their wives was frivolous and there was not anything remotely romantic in them.
2) My friends also knew that I wrote “serious serious” articles on intellectual matters in spiritual/ intellectual/ HRD magazines and was therefore “safe”.
3) Dale Carnegie had mentioned once how one’s spouse and one’s occupation were the two most important decisions of one’s life. Since I have already written almost 15, articles on the latter( links on my blog – http://mypyp.wordpress.com/ ) and practically nothing on the former( I am glad my wife has not read Dale Carnegie), one can assume that for me, spouse/spouses were on the backburner.
4) One Punjabi gentlemen had once asked me “ Do you Gujarati men address your wives also as “ben”. I refuted that strongly and after spouting a spur of the moment limerick on his wife told him “ We may not call them “ben” but this is just to show you how can we can address the real ben(other people’s wives) if we choose to. Then, I resolved to improve this absurd “ben” image of Gujaratis and set out to narrate poetry on other people’s wives with a vengeance.
5) By a process of serendipity, I discovered that my silly rhyming was acceptable when, once in a blue moon, I managed to write somewhat “classy” poems on spirituality, cricket etc accepted by some reputed
websites. One sample:-
Since practicing rhyming on the ladies had led to all this “achievement”, I could argue that it was all for a noble cause.
6)It is said that “God punishes the intention, not the action”. Apart from the above, I give vent to my artistic expression on all sorts of subjects- from the ball boys on the Tennis court to the delicious cooking. I may make poetry on someone who I may not attractive enough but whose name rhymes well and vice versa.It is not difficult to prove that it is the love of poetry or more specifically, the delight of rhyming and as long as the motives are noble, nobody has any business getting perturbed.
In my view, not even a lawyer can refute these “reasoned arguments” though they sound more like the devil quoting the scriptures for his purpose.. The fact remains that no matter how “civilized” we get, in our heart of hearts “A human being is still a creature of emotion, not logic”; The ladies expression of spontaneous delight did me in because sooner or later, the husband’s ego was bound to be hurt. One of them did try to give me a dose on my own medicine and would have succeeded but for the fact that god did not deem it fit to confer the art of even lousy poetry on every Tom, Dick and Harry.
Being a writer, Mr Tharoor would do well to heed Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “
“A writer almost always presents one aspect of a case, whereas every case can be seen from no less than seven points of view, all of which are probably correct by themselves, but not correct at the same time and in the same circumstances. “ Though this is written in the context of motives of people who write books, it is generally true as well. Talking in the context of looking at a thing from a different standpoint in different circumstances, Gandhiji adds “All my life though, the very insistence on truth has taught me to appreciate the beauty of compromise.”. He even described this spirit as an essential part of Satyagraha.
The liberals can go on arguing in the name of freedom of expression but the fact remains that when one can move on to greener pastures(women, children, nature), why restrict oneself to touchy issues? In a country of a billion people, there are plenty of anonymous Greek gods and goddesses who could do with some limelight. Just as Mr Hussain had an obsession with Madhuri Dixit once upon a time, he would probably get more money and job satisfaction on revealing unknown talent. The twenty first century is as it is expected to be stress prone and there is no point in being provocative on sensitive issues. If you put your hand on top of a candle, won’t you get burnt?
Mr Tharoor is bang on target on one issue though. He says towards the end of the article that in his old age, Hussain is forced to live in exile and not allowed to return to the land of his birth because of the threats to his life. For a religion that prides itself on tolerance, this is despicable. He is not a naughty young poet after all.