The old men staring at you while you’re talking to your girlfriend in the metro; the aunty giving you mean looks when you walk hand in hand with your boyfriend in the mall and the giggly girls gossiping behind your back when you hug your boyfriend near the park. Sounds familiar? Well, this is India. Yes, the same, Kama sutra and Khajuraho-wala- India. We people are ashamed of hugging, kissing and holding hands with the opposite gender. If you ask why, well I don’t know. It seems unnatural to more than 80% of the population. PDA or public display of affection is not only stared at but it is also a crime! Yes, you can go take a piss anywhere in this country but PDA is a crime in India.
“Under section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, Public Display of Affection (PDA) is a criminal offence with a punishment of imprisonment up to 3 months or a fine, or both.”
Since this law does not explicitly explain the meaning of PDA, it is deliberately used by police for harassing couples. So all those lovely ladies and their handsome boyfriends, you have been warned that- Boys and girls are not permitted to be within eight inches of each other.
Even in the 21st century we are embarrassed of expressing ourselves. Hugging or kissing the opposite sex is looked down upon as “un-Indian” or “too-westernized”. We are unable to talk about intimacy. Parents still prefer living in the world assuming that their little darlings have no idea what sex means. Even the present generation is unable to pronounce “sex” as if saying it would malign them. Watching a movie with a simple kissing scene with your family becomes a whole big deal than it is supposed to be. Expression of love seems to have died away. Amitabh Bacchan in an advertisement of crockery’s says that we express our love by serving food. The explanation that anti-PDA supporters give is, “How will it affect our children?” Well, I would like to say that it will be healthy for them. There is also the problem of over PDA among Indians. At times in parks or colleges couples tend to cross the limits, thus embarrassing themselves and everyone around. While a gesture of care or affection should be acceptable but being overtly sexual in public places not only makes everyone around uncomfortable but is unhealthy for children too. But normal kissing, hugging and holding hands teaches our children how to express themselves and helps them open up. PDA or even expressing our love has become such a taboo that a child knows that he or she should keep distance from the opposite gender without being taught. The problem is that kissing is seen as an erotic gesture in India and hence is tagged as disrespectful.
On the International Kissing Day (6th July), Jennifer Kotwal in a report to TOI said, “Indians will be flabbergasted to see couples kissing in public. Though a certain section of society wouldn’t have a problem, others will go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ when they see couples kissing in public. While it is a common sight abroad, people in India should avoid kissing in public. It just calls for unwanted attention, and I am sure couples wouldn’t want that.”
This mentality leads to a lack of privacy of the lovers who find some quite time with their beloved in parks or secluded areas to spend some time together. But, these couples are usually harassed by greedy policemen for money who would rather roam around pestering couples than go after criminals. It isn’t that we abstain from or are less active in our sexual lives because there must be some thunder going in the bedrooms here that we are the second largest population in the world. We have gained popularity because of rising rape cases. Our subways stink of piss and walls are covered with paan spits. But, our biggest concern is that a couple should not hold hands in public as it is un-Indian and immoral.
Is this mindset changing?
I am questioning this law which is proof enough that it is. Beside my article, there are youngsters and families who believe that expressing love increases love. Though the Indian anti-PDA law is intact but there are families who give their children their privacy and freedom. There are more couples or opposite gender friends who walk hand-in-hand, kiss and hug publically than there were a few years ago. The media industry has had a huge role in loosening us and our rigid principles. Bollywood affects us much more than the fear of law can- both negatively and positively. Where in the earlier movies kissing meant two flowers or a couple behind an umbrella, today we hardly notice the earlier offensive intimacy on-screen. A peck, a hug or a kiss in movies seems much more comfortable than it used to. There are places like Mumbai and Goa where a little bit PDA is pretty normal and metro cities are slowly accepting it. Obviously there are still some objections and censures but things are moving. I do not wish to shovel down your throats that PDA is right but it is not wrong when done within proper limits.