The debate around the AIB controversy has at least three distinct levels of discourse that many commentaries have confused.
1. The first is how one judges the use of language, gestures, humour, etc. (of the kind the show used) in one’s personal lives and the levels of moderation or excess that go with it.
2. The second is how one judges the content as that of a stage show or internet video. This is quite different from the test of use in personal context. To explain, one might thoroughly enjoy watching murder mysteries on TV without being in the habit of going around town slaying people or being too fond of getting butchered either.
3. The third is, where one draws the line on the right to free speech. One may not, while disapproving of a certain content, subscribe to the belief that others should be deprived of the right to access it or even approve of it. People may also have different opinions on when curbs on the right to free speech should kick in, or whether they should at all.
This post does not aim to defend the ban or support the FIR filed against AIB, nor is it about how I like or dislike the show per se. While the show and the ensuing discussions have been a catalyst for this, this is in defence of my personal preferred idea of language use and abuse. To be clear, this is only about point 1 that I mention above. The views were arrived at much before the show and its controversy came about. In tragic irony, I have to splatter this post with the choicest expletives. Forgive, or enjoy, as your personal taste may be.
No. No. No. Preferring communication sans expletives does not mean an attempt at holiness. Why should it, unless those who like speaking a different language take their own ways to be banal? Thus, just like there is nothing immoral in cussing, so is there nothing moral in not cussing. After all, a loud ‘Hai Ram!’ and a face-palm ‘Hey Bhagwan!’ have expressed many generations’ frustrations, rather successfully. So, if one is making a choice about how they like to speak and be spoken with, wherein comes the need to undo your blessed loincloth or wrap it around another?
Fun and funny.
Mine is what you proverbially call a big, fat, Punjabi family, with branches in every corner of the world and roots going as far back as swinging primates on trees, just like yours. The family is so scattered that any get together is bound to be teeming with equal measure of excited loudness and shared ranting. To be fair, I pick one aunt from my maternal side and one uncle from my father’s side to express my point that it is possible to vent frustration and be humourous, both, without necessarily going dirty.
Uncle’s favourite rant-phrase was ‘Batao ji?!’ coupled with both palms facing Heavenwards in front of his belly, a perfect sphere responsible for keeping his arms out-stretched when he gestured thus. His phrase was spoken in the angriest of times, say when a fake insurance company swindled some lakhs off him, as well as in humour or even mock-ire. That as children we giggled on both is a different matter. That as an adult I realize the successful grown-up reaction it received remains the point now.
‘Kee dassaan’ (What to say) is what aunty was heard using in fun and serious times. How these two Punjabi words came to change in intonation decided how they were received. In her most troubled times as well as in her angriest she would say this with necessary amount of force combined with the whole story. She expressed, was understood, taken seriously and helped in return too.
These people’s dates of birth and the use of archaic expressions show they are very old, but the expressions they chose to vent or celebrate give them a unique timelessness that a ‘Chutiya’ punctuating fool can never boast of.
Fuck you. Fashion.
Interestingly, ‘Fuck You!’ is a magic phrase. It is malleable, ductile and still enamel-hard to withstand as many contexts of usage as are known. It can be used as any punctuation mark, article, adverb and in some cases as a middle name too. Obviously then, one would think a person like me a fool to not want to use it in its various intellectual avatars. But I do want to keep it at bay. Not because I hate sex (I love it!) but because there is enough of it, in all the wrong forms, transpiring around in shady corners of cities.
At a subliminal level most expletives are not simply sexual but carry a violent imagery too. A well-expressed ‘Fuck you!’ no matter how much stress it relieves, is disposing of the other’s presence by a threat which attaches disgust to the very act which got you into the world from your mumma’s ‘choot’. Its translation into an action, hyperbolically, will probably be a synonym of rape?
I asked myself – Do I want to attach significance to something that is so difficult to see apart from the most common head line in India’s rape capital (Behen chod and madar chod are real people)? Will I take it calmly if not my elite best friend but a stranger on the road uses it for me? And, am I so far gone in the ability to use a language that I cannot recall any other way to express anger, frustration, happiness, sadness, anything except a ‘Fuck you!’ or versions which bring into the limelight genitals of humans, cows, etc? Phew. No.
At a larger level, are we also promoting the same social and sarkari hypocrisy we want to do away with when we “encourage” a peer to use it to and then go home to his and our respected parents with a finger on our lips?
What does a foul-mouth get us? Of course, it shows the world that we are either anpadh-ganvaar or cool-dude, entirely depending on the class and status of the user. Because we are like that only and Hindi gaali users are just lowlife roaming the streets and we are just good family people keeping up with the times chill yaar. Okay. Good for you. But what else?
Don’t know about you, but I am unable to take chronic expletive users seriously. Poor dears could just be bemoaning how their wives left them but somehow I cannot stop myself from counting his ‘behen ka land’s while he narrates his story. While I manage to offer my sympathy I also wish to send them to a Dolly Bindra or Masterchef’s Krissi, who would have big shoulders to lend in understanding – well-versed in cussing through loud mouths, often making people de-recognize their talent and beep their presence away.
So, not always do expletives make you seem cool. Often, they make you misunderstood.
I want the government to understand that I should be allowed to watch what’s coming on TV. But equally importantly I want the people to understand that there is a certain way of communication that I find more effective, and enjoyable than others. Because, while I can turn off the noise on the idiot box, how do I turn off the idiots around me?
My idea of family values, culture and even debauchery is quite different from my parents’ – not just because I live in a different time but also because I arrived at newer values to follow in conference with those who I live with now. But we have chosen to live a certain way, just like some others have embraced their own ways. Neither is one way ancient nor the other modern. It is a choice, a basic choice that all are allowed to make.
How important the idea of Family becomes.
Every night when we polish these shoes we repeat to our child something that was repeated to us, and which we see no need to reject even though times have paced on - that the part of the shoe that needs to be most polished is the one that stands inside it and that one need not follow ‘friendly fashion’ or even the authorities’ ‘forced discipline’. One needs to follow what is most important to oneself, away from the glamour of clamour.
One day, my child will move on and beyond our umbrella and follow the latest on the communication vine. He will ask of me to grow-up with him. I plan to. And so I will try. But something tells me that I will never grow up enough to have the heart or the hypocrisy to accept my son saying ‘Fuck off!’ to me, without cringing and crying inwardly.
That will be another story. Another day. Maybe. Fuss about cuss, yet again, but still entirely my storm in my tiny tea cup.