There’s no gesture as miraculous as a kiss. Kissing in full daylight, with people watching, may be a hundred of them — a movement of the kind that states, ‘My kiss is mine to kiss, wherever and however it is,’ is underway in India. The youth is taking to the streets for the ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign, and university students are marching with slogans of ‘My body, my emotions/Go away institutions’ on the streets.
In Kerala, the police remanded a young couple for kissing in public, in Kolkata, a girl wasn’t allowed to enter Star theatre because she was wearing a mini skirt. Evidently, policemen frequently harass couples whenever they come across any display of intimacy in public, on streets, river sides, lake sides, parks. As if loving were an unpardonable crime. Publicly holding hands, hugging, kissing — apparently these are all immoral and vulgar. Sexuality is vulgar! Is violence vulgar? I don’t think anyone seriously believes that violence is vulgar.
Humiliating others in public, using abusive language, sexual harassment, beatings, lynching of petty thieves — these are not scenes, on the other hand, that appear vulgar to a majority of us. People spitting betel juice, or phlegm, on the streets, urinating or defecating in the open — no one in particular is protesting against these. People dying of hunger, of starvation, of untreated illnesses on the roadside — these scenes do not violate our sense of morality. And yet, it’s improper when people in love touch each other’s hands, kiss each other’s lips. Loving is a crime. And since loving is a crime, hatred wins such glorious victories everywhere.
Remember how The Beatles’ John Lennon protested against the Vietnam war? He posed nude with his wife Yoko Ono, and declared to the whole wide world, “Make love, not war.” Believers in the politics of hatred and violence would obviously find war preferable to sexual intercourse. It is strange to think that intellectuals and writers of the 21st century still believe that people should not kiss outside of their homes.
Renowned author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay said, “This is not an appropriate language for a protest. It is in extremely bad taste. Just because students are kissing to protest in Kerala does not mean the same has to happen in Kolkata.” The state minister and well-known theatre practitioner, Bratya Basu stated, “If their guardians start kissing openly, will the students accept it?” Moral policing abounds everywhere. Even in intellectual circles.
I always insist that sexual intercourse is something that should never be restricted to the four walls of a bedroom. Go to the very heart of nature, explore the quietness of forests on moonlit nights, enjoy the silence of sandy beaches, place a loving kiss on your beloved’s lips, make your bodies mingle. We are nature’s children. Let the world watch us love. Let the skies peek, let the flowers peep.
Even though my friends from the west are used to this, my friends from the orient are not. For them, the body itself, especially the female body, is a sight of vulgarity. Sexuality is still indecent and offensive. When I went to Europe for the first time, I watched in disbelief as semi-nude or fully naked men and women sunbathed on the beaches. This is perhaps the first time I discovered that bodies are things of beauty, not symbols of crudity or impropriety.
When I look at two lovers immersed in the moment of their passionate kiss, I understand that a walled fortress isn’t necessary for intimacy. A kiss is as beautiful under the open sky, as delicious. It tastes exactly the same inside and outside your doors. When one wants to lovingly kiss another human being, to be forced to repress that desire for fear of social strictures results in a pain more terrible than anything.
I never had a lot of lovers. But one of them I kissed in the city of Paris every now and then — in gardens, alleyways, cars, cinemas, cafes — whenever I wanted to. I am not talking about those dry, mechanical pecks on the cheek. I am talking about tongue-teeth-mouth mingling into those deep, passionate kisses. I always felt life was too dry without those wet kisses.
It is a wonderful feeling to watch one person loving another. Cynics cannot stand people in love. They feel comforted to see hatred between men. Those who support intimacy in public, and those who are against it, both sides blame patriarchy. Publicly kissing women is objectifying them, so it must be a patriarchal conspiracy. On the other hand, disallowing public display of affection to women is part of the plan to keep women home-bound, undercut their independence and identity, so this must be a patriarchal crusade as well. I don’t want to discuss patriarchy, I am taking sides in favour of the body. In favour of love.
Heteronormative or otherwise, all kinds of love between men and women, men and men, women and women, must be acknowledged. And I congratulate the expressions of these different kinds of love. I don’t want to see people ailing or dying on the streets, people beating, screaming, harassing, raping each other on the roads. I’d much rather see people kiss each other. I’d probably be happier if they made love on the streets. Because love is a blessed, pure, beautiful scene. And it sure trumps morbid scenes of war, famine and death.