Post-recession era - "India Shining" - Lots of money and spending mood with middle class - we are a big global market.
Indirect gainer of this feel-good factor is the entertainment industry. It has capitalized on the sudden inflow of money and seemingly consequent liberal attitude among people, to come up with tons of sexually explicit Hollywood lift-offs in the name of diversifying into relatively bolder subjects like infidelity (ex: Murder) and homosexuality. Thanks to Mahesh Bhatt and few other copy machines, we have nearly a hundred hot girls who are willing to strip and Emran Hashmi who is kind enough to smooch them at least two at time in every movie.
Ten years ago, the same thing would have raised a few eye-brows. Today, be it the curious kid, the restless teen, the cool collegian or the nostalgic middle-aged, all take it in their stride. If they do mind they don't come up with their objection very publicly. So that brings us to the question of interest in the discussion OverTea. Are we a liberal society?
What is liberalism? The idea that has freedom as its core. A liberal living is a life according to ones own freedom, provided it respects others.
What is conservatism? A idea of discipline and convention. A conservative, leads a life that conforms to specific rules, mostly drawn by religion and to a lesser extent, but still significantly drawn by the society.
If we view the Indian society in the light of the above definitions, the truth becomes evident, especially if we ask ourselves certain questions.
- How prevalent and welcome is inter-caste and inter-religious marriage in our society?
- How are a certain sections of our community like homosexuals, AIDS patients treated? Do they feel important in the society?
- How tolerant are we to ways of living that we don't really understand or agree to?
( A good example is the traditional Tamil Nadu Vs Rest of India cold-war)
- How much freedom does the female community enjoy when compared to the male community?
- How many physically challenged people enjoy the same level of independence and mental well-being as a normal person?
- How many adopted children are adopted by potent couples?
None of the above questions evoke a positive answer. In all the above questions, some one's freedom (inter-religious love-birds, women, homosexuals, etc) is over-ridden by some rule (marriage within community, having an opposite sex partner, "all should know Hindi" or "I wont speak in Hindi even if I know it", "Women should be more disciplined than men").
So, my take is that we are far from a liberal society. If we assume ourselves to be a liberal society based on the increasing number of pubs and modern ways of dressing, I am afraid we lack reasoning. Of course, social drinking and liberal dressing are constituent of a liberal society, but such aspects are not substantive to liberalism. In our case, those are just effects of media-driven fashion trends and half-baked knowledge about the western culture. Such aspects are not necessarily wrong, or as conservative extremists may say, destructive to Indian culture. But it is not very progressive either.
The day when it is common for a totally potent couple wants to adopt a child, and is not opposed by the immediate relatives (thus granting them total freedom) is when the society is liberal. The day when a physically challenged person enjoys the freedom to move around with minimal or no help, and evokes a feeling that his impairment is no real impairment is the day a society becomes liberal. In short, a society achieves liberalism only when it matures to recognize and encourage a progressive trend especially when such a trend opposes a convention.