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“I was introduced to my future husband by email, met him for the first time on Skype and married him two months later,” says Divya.
Divya got married two years ago to a match arranged by her father’s friend. According to her even though an arranged marriage doesn’t sound like the most romantic thing in the world, it’s the best decision she has made in her life.
Last week I was in Kashmir for some journalistic work. It’s a predominantly Muslim place and can’t really boast of a liberal culture. That made life uncomfortable for me.
I spent a lot of time with some girls as old as me. I got to know them and their conservative views. But I didn’t dare challenge their ideas. I sensed I’d have risked all hell breaking loose!
I was staying with a hospitable Kashmiri family during my time in Srinagar. The two young girls in the family spent most of their time watching melodramatic Hindi soaps on TV. And I felt obliged to join them on some of their soap-viewing sessions.
There was a peculiar trend I observed during the commercial breaks. Every time there was an advertisement that had even the tiniest sexual connotation, the girls would flick channels. I observed it a few times and asked them why they were doing so.
“I don’t like these ads,” one of the girls said, adding, “They are just nonsense. Women with short clothes. So suggestive. Shee!” I kind of got the point: anything, even in its slightest, to do with sex was unwarranted.
There was going to be no argument or discussion around sex. They wouldn’t even say the three-letter word. “These ideas are corrupting everyone, even here in Kashmir, which we consider to be very sacred. The TV and internet is indoctrinating a lot of our youngsters with these obscene thoughts,” the other girl said.
I wanted to put forward some contradicting ideas. But that wouldn’t have been pleasant. ‘We won’t talk about sex’ seemed like an accepted diktat and I was too scared of disrespecting it.
But I had an imaginary conversation with the girls. I thought of telling them about sex being natural and biological. About how thinking about sex doesn’t really corrupt anyone. About why it’s healthy to have sex. About how sexual pleasure is important to human development. About how women can also talk about sex. About why knowing about sex is better than not knowing about it.
I went up to my room and held a quiet speech to my imagined audience of the two girls. I lost some sleep that night wondering how long it would take for me to share my thoughts fearlessly in this society.
By Gayatri Parameswaran
Photo: Gayatri Parameswaran, © Love Matters/RNW
The views expressed in our blogs don’t necessarily represent those of Love Matters.
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