BENGALURU:Arnabjit Dutta, who works in an advertising agency, got his drink knocked off when an old woman threw a stick at him for hanging out with his female friend in his own apartment in Halasuru. He had to soon vacate the rented apartment because the house owner could not do anything about the situation from Dubai.
Shwetha Roy, a student, has been scolded and ridiculed by a cab driver for sitting ‘too close’ to her partner. Allan Fernandes’ apartment security guard sent a complaint against him to his own mother for studying with his female friend in the apartment terrace.
Bengaluru claims to be more tolerant and less judgmental, as compared to other states and cities in the country, but these incidents shed light on the extent of moral policing done here. So much so that it even has a say in what we do and who we hang out with in our own living rooms. In Kolkata, a couple was thrashed by a mob for hugging and displaying ‘obscene behaviour’ inside the Metro. The incident came as a shocker for a city that calls itself liberal. However, it was soon followed by a series of ‘hugging protests’ across the city, in solidarity with the couple.
CE spoke to some of the citizens in Bengaluru to get an idea of whether couples are subjected to moral policing here. While some claim that the city is way more broad-minded than other cities, most claim that there is a high level of moral policing that is done here too. “I think Bengaluru is pretty safe where people have a live-and-let-live policy as long as you don’t get too brash in front of them,” says Geeth Shetty who works as a senior manager of special projects.
On the other hand, 24-year-old Kavya Reddy says, “My partner and I don’t get glared at much, but when we do, we get glared at, just for holding hands.” Bagisha Mandal who works as a copywriter was subjected to moral policing in her university. “We are not allowed to put our arms around our friends, sometimes even if they’re from the same sex. The teacher would say, that’s not decorum,” she says.
Even though there are no designated anti-Romeo squads in the city, the squad exists not as an external entity or group, but as one that is found in the park, in the cab, in the college and sometimes even in your homes. As Geeth Shetty puts it, “We are a society which is open to opinions and beliefs but we can’t choose to be the judge, jury and executioner when someone or something contradicts that. I won’t get into the young vs old or new age vs old age or culture vs western influence debate. It’s plain and simple – physicality is never okay unless you’re on a battlefield.”
The Kiss of Love protest in 2014 also gathered a lot of flak and mirrored restrictions youngsters have been facing in the city. But until an incident that sparks a debate, the glaring, ridiculing and policing of how much love must be expressed in public spaces will continue to haunt couples of this city.