The self-appointed cultural police in Mangalore believe that women in pub degrade our cultural values. In the process obviously, Muthalik & co have forgotten the need to address the core of women’s issues – dowry, female infanticide, health, illiteracy of women especially Harijans and Muslims.
If Muthalik & Co feel that drinking by a few women in a pub can degrade our social values, they are sadly mistaken. By their own arguments, Indian culture is too strong and eternal to go the Titanic way. Yet why worry about drinking by a few women in a pub instead of larger issues listed above?
Muthalik & co must also clarify – are they against drinking by women or against drinking per se. After all, there is no good drinking for men and bad drinking for women. And if they are against alcohol per se, why then, target women? Why not declare a total war on alcohol across the country?
The fact of the matter is that Muthalik & Co are products of some lobby – perhaps the liquor lobby itself. What better way of an advertisement for the pubs through free lead stories about this issue in virtually all media across the country, especially in these times of recession?
Over and above this we have a Central Minister advocating a Pub bharo programme. Nowhere in the world perhaps a constitutional minion, much less a minister, would advocate something as scandalous as Renuka Choudry has done and get away. Naturally, if I were a pub owner I would be laughing to the bank, with or without a pink chaddie.
Societal responsibility Vs Individual rights
Like most readers, I believe I am fiercely independent. But as I introspect, most of my character has been repeatedly shaped and de-shaped by my family, friends, teachers, peers and of course by the Open University called society.
One need not be a seer to understand that societal ills are nothing but an aggregation of all our individual ills. Therefore, the billion dollar question remains – do I owe anything in return to a deformed society which has originally shaped my personality? In the alternative who will correct individuals in a society who have gone astray? Crucially who is to decide what is good and bad in a society?
The fight against social ills, especially something as widespread as liquor, is best left to social reformers and not to ordinary mortals. It is a Mahatma Gandhi or a Swami Vivekanda who can perhaps advice someone – men or women - against drinking. And even they cannot, in my considered opinion, use force.
Naturally, if a Mahatma were alive he would have gone on a hunger strike or rallied the entire society against any evil practice through his patented brand of satyagraha. Muthalik & Co have missed this obvious point. Sadly, they do not realise that they are neither the Mahatma nor Swami Vivekanda to deal with the extant problem.
And if Multhalik is concerned about drinking, let him go on a hunger fast till all pubs across the country are closed. The fact is that he won’t as puppets created by lobbyists have a loose pink chaddi that comes off at the slightest pretext!
The link between women and economics
Nevertheless the question of individual rights versus societal responsibility remains. This question is as old as that of humanity. Several philosophers, religious thinkers and social reformers have over time and across different countries and culture attempted to provide answers to this vexed question. And add women to the entire calculus we have a heady social brew not served even in the pubs of Mangalore.
It is in this connection one recalls that women in most Scandinavian as in other western countries enjoy development virtually on par with that of men. Women are equally educated, well employed and financially independent as men. No wonder these countries are high up on the global Human Development Index.
But there is a fatal flaw in the entire logic. Nearly three-fourth of adult women in these countries are not married and accidentally live with their male partners under the same roof. Obviously, under these circumstances, violence against married women – a crucial parameter in HDI - is extremely low in these countries! Where is the question of violence against married women when there are not many women who are married in the first pace?
But this is not as humorous as it seems on first brush. Nor does it concern individual morality. The issues relate to economics, pure and simple. Readers may recall that several countries till late twentieth century failed to accord equal status to their women. And this discrimination was partly rooted in religion as it is in their culture.
This led to women even being treated as witches including being burnt alive at the stakes in medieval times. Further, West treated women as evil – and thus “Left” side became synonymous with women as was “Right” the purer side, with men.
Only a concerted women’s liberation movement in the early part of the twentieth century ensured equal status for women (including the right to vote) in these societies. But if universal suffrage was a by product of this movement then, successive waves of women’s liberation movement there ensured higher standard of living for women.
The next stage of this liberation movements ensured that women were sufficiently empowered – so much so they became independent of men, family and even the society. This atomisation of the society and liberation of women had a profound impact on the national economics and in a globalised world on global economics too. Women’s liberation movement had an end game of equating women with men. This in effect liberated man from women and both, from the institution called family!
Thanks to this collapse of family western economies became heavily dependent on consumption so much so most advanced western economies barring perhaps Germany has negative or marginal net savings. Importantly, breakdown of family system which originally lead to untrammelled consumption for the past few decades is now causing a collective consumption fatigue in western economies.
That is not all. Most of these countries, thanks to the collapse of family, are facing dwindling population and run a risk of demographic collapse apart from economic collapse.
This is the non-economic dimension of the present global economic crisis. To amplify further, get four pink chaddies, you would develop revulsion to the colour pink. I am sure the reader would have got what I meant.
In short, the liberation movement was a response by women in the west to centuries of repression. And once unleashed it has virtually become unstoppable to this extent that it has destroyed family and social groupings in the west completely. That is the price the West had to pay for first repressing women and then liberating them.
In contrast, the traditional Indian way was never to equate women with men. The Indian alternative was to provide two choices for women – one they could be free by their own choice and the other – they could well voluntarily give up their freedom and be respected. This respect is so profound that women are objects of veneration in traditional Indian families even today.
And this veneration is with a purpose and not merely symbolic. It is in fact an acknowledgement of women’s contribution to family, community, society and the nation. While the correlation between women’s liberation and the fall in the savings rate is near perfect in the West, Indian savings, thanks to its women and family institutions stands at a high of thirty-five percent.
That is not all. If India is a savings economy when compared to the west, India is a consumption economy when compared with the Far East. That enables India to grow at an impressive rate over a period of time. In effect, by saving, our women ensure that we have enough capital for our investments and by consuming out of family compulsions, we consume what we produce.
That in a way insulates India considerably from the economic downturn. But for women and family we too would have been like the West fatigued by consumption and driven to pink slips. Contrary to the popular belief that it is the government that runs the economy, it is this woman of this country who is sustaining our economy.
Most women’s group in India are oblivious to these and merrily mirror their western counterparts. No wonder women’s liberation has been equated to going to pubs and distributing pink chaddies. Like Muthalik, women’s group are equally guilty of trivialising the entire issue and are perhaps puppets of some pink chaddy lobby.
The choice to go to a pub and be “independent” or not to go and thereby be an object of veneration is entirely theirs. In my opinion most Indian women across communities have chosen the later for the larger good of the family and country. If you still have a divergent view – ask your mother – does she believe in women’s liberation, pink chaddies et al?