Richard GeRe Again

I was overwhelmed with the response to what I thought was a filler! We live and learn! I have added the comments received to this blog for easier reading even though it really belongs to the 'GeRe Dhatida' blog. Anyway please look at all the comments. I really appreciate the time some of you took to pen (key in) in your thoughts!

It feels like reading 'letters to editor' of a magazine while I try to react to the spectrum of views and opinions. Varsha said that Indians had more serious issues, for instance, 'continued violence against women', than this one. Mukund said it reflected a more serious problem! He spoke of the many unemployed youth who would rally against anything as they had nothing else to do. It seems misdirected as well, the attached picture shows them buring a poster of shilpa!

While most agreed that a line was indeed crossed, Moloy and Mouli begged to differ. We miss Moloy and his occasional adrenal rush while playing golf! It is enjoyable golfing with him. Mouli had sound advice as well, while I spoke of Body Language, he was more specific with his advice about Body Odour, among other things, if one was to be popular among the hugging and kissing elite! Arunabha was scholarly as usual and came out with more to read and absorb. Now I know that those who study kissing in various societies are called philematologists, and that Apes don't kiss (Puritan organisers please note!). He was also kind enough to console. Nephew Sriram reminisced about how there was segregation even in his time.

Rao and I, the pre-Independence kids, were wondering whether it was a protest caused by the fact the Gere was a 'gora'. Would it have been a different if one our own 'Netas' were involved? We have many from the 'Yadav' tribe that our Lord Krishna belonged.

My niece Priya and grand niece Mohini surprised us by showing their conventional streak. Rohini was surprised with all the fuss considering it was for a good cause and it was just a kiss! Our Swiss charmer Ernie was as endearing as ever and I am sure that his desire to kiss a hand of a pretty girl was a ...'wopee'.. after all!


srinidhi said…
Hi Nidhi I wish there was as much, if not more, fuss/protest/effigyburning/raging controversy each time a female foetus is aborted, or a woman is burned to death by her in-laws... not to mention rape and other forms of sexual violence against women (certainly what tookplace during the Gujarat riots). This GeRe/Shetty show is mild incomparison.
but, enjoyed your blog very much!
srinidhi said…
Read your comments on the GeRe situation. Basically, I agree that this man overdid his act of affection and embarrassed the Girl, so to speak.
Perhaps it was true innocent affection, or maybe more. In my opinion, a slight hug and a peck on the cheek would have been enough.
This man definitely owes a well meant apology to everyone involved, but a court action by that country would be overdone.
Anyway, she is a beautiful woman, I would be happy just to kiss her hand.....wopee......Ernie/Cindy
srinidhi said…
Hi Srinidhi - always refreshing to read your notes !

As regards Gere, even at the risk of being slaughtered, I feel each person has his own way of expressing himself and shd be free to do so as long as it not inappropriate or vulgar.
More so in the west - pl recall Roberto Benigni after receiving the Osacr, who stood up on a chair and said that he loved all the women in the auditorium and wanted to make love to all of them - was he serious( I dont think so), the audience had a hearty laugh and the event just moved on.

How about Adrian Brodi , again while receiving the Oscar kissed Halle Berry for a loooooong 2 minutes. Did the audience take it badly ? Did halle Berry mind ? Did the world mind ?

Had the Gere incident occured in the West wd there be an uproar ? hardly !

These are gestures that come naturally to a person at that particular moment and to him that appears very natural. Just like when you get a shot on the sweet spot, you clench yr fist and say "yyyeessss" not bothered as to who is around. Its just you, the ball and your exuberant passion.

I am talking of that split second moment of adrenaline.

I rest my case !

1:20 AM
srinidhi said…

hi appa,

i don't think it deserves all this furore...he was at an aids rally to start with...something that should get more press in india. he didn't offend anybody there only once it came on tv did some people react. its crazy to arrest someone for kissing!
srinidhi said…

Nice tie-up between the name Gere and the Kannada GeRe! Apparently he (or rather she) crossed the Lakshmana Rekhe, but I can never reconcile the amount of overt sexuality that is present in the Indian movies and TV shows, with the "conservative" outlook of the Indian society.

I went to Seshadripuram High School, which was a U-shaped building, with one leg of the U reserved for the boys' sections, and the other leg of the U for the girls' sections, with the staff offices as the base of the U. The two legs were also separated by the fairly big grounds, so there was zero contact. Even in PUC at National College, there were only five girls in a class of 100, and they would all sit in the first bench. The bench behind them was always unoccupied, and the boys would start sitting from the third bench onwards! Engineering was also somewhat similar, with very few girls, except in architecture, for whatever reason. No girls at all in our ME class.

I am sure that Tara is very happy with the fact that you are "unhuggable and unkissable" by other females!!
srinidhi said…
Dear Nidhi,

Indira and I LIVED and worked in Avon Old Farms School campus ( 90% WASP) in conservative New England for over 22 years and went to countless parties with students, parents, donors, board members,and faculty.
Indira was buzzed and hugged many times obviously because she was probably the most exotic and attractive female often thought to be a mysterious princess from somewhere in British Raj times ! She cared a hoot and so did I. I hugged and buzzed as many times again because I was considered ( ahem !) a real handsome, dark, mysterious stranger( probably an exiled prince from a kingdom in exotic India), and females of all ages and sizes and descriptions( and odors) welcomed my buzzes and hugs. Kipling is alive in the USA ! Gunga Din ? Kim ? Rains of Ranchi[ur ? What is wrong with sexual attraction that stops period at a buzz and a hug ( one or both) ? Grow up kids !

But the the main reason, now that I can reflect in my celibate retirement in good old Bangalore sanse parties, is that both females and males must take a long shower, wear fresh clothes out of a dryer, and use plenty of gender appropriate deodorant ! Old Spice after shave for men please ! No raw onion or garic or spicy smell about you please, and of course zero alcohol breath. Absolutley nothing to do with culture appropriate behavior. I hug ( no buzz please)all my sisters, female cousins, sistersinlaw, neices, aunties, grandmothers and assorted wives and daughters of friends( lots of them use good old turmeric powder that beats perfumes). No problems so far anywhere. Again,a bucket and chombu bath with Mysore Sandalwood soap, and a gentle import name deodorant. When I could not quickly get a deodorant, I have sometimes used Indira's perfumes !

Indira and I disagree with you and Taara. Both Gere and Shilpa should be fined Rs 100,000 each and asked to donate it to Prime Minister's Disaster Relief Fund !

srinidhi said…
Dear Nidhi Uncle,
Nice one! Even after being in the UK for nearly 2 years now and having to embrace the European peck on the cheek, I was visibly shocked by GeRe's impropriety.
srinidhi said…
i don't have a google account so could not leave a comment on the page itself here are my comments: i myself only saw the picture, but i think the protesting and warrant out for his arrest was way too dramatic. i'm sure Shilpa was totally embarassed and i agree he crossed a "cultural" line, and should have been given a good talking too, but i don't see how his act 'warranted' a 'warrant'. that is this "Indian-American's" perspective. Bob back to you in the news room!~priya
srinidhi said…
It is a nice view point.

If you are watching recent Hindi movies - kissing and hugging is very much in vogue which is a sure way to the box office. I can recall more than a dozen movies passed through censors with kissing scenes that put any Hollywood movie to suffer an inferiority complex! So much for the "Display of affection " these days. As far as Shilpa is concerned this perhaps is not the first experience. She got a lot of mileage on publicity being hugged and kissed by a Gora guy.

I think that is all there is to it.

What is naughty on the part of the Indian media is: There was a hot kissing scene between Aishwarya and Hrithik Roshan (Which unfortunately I have not seen) was being repeatedly shown on TV on one pretext or the other on the wedding day of Ash-Abhi. Isnt it naughty?


srinidhi said…
high courts here critisized the over-ambitious lower court magistrate and he is transfered. here people enjoy getting published
srinidhi said…
That was some interesting reading! Sreela
srinidhi said…
Dear Uncle
I enjoy reading your musings every time, although I have not commented on your site yet. This was going to be one occasion but I came across an article that is best read in full than if I posted snippets on your blog (hence pasted below). Few interesting points:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, recently kissed the gloved hand of his elderly former school teacher – only to receive severe rebuke from the mullahs.
People who study kissing in various societies are called philematologists.
The earliest written record of humans kissing appears in Vedic Sanskrit texts circa 1500 B.C. – apes don’t kiss, according to experts.

I too confess that I was a bit surprised to see Gere, thinking he should have known better. And I don’t think your dilemma at parties is restricted to you – even my generation suffers from it! The social mores for kissing as a form of greeting even in western societies are not fully coded, as a recent column in the Financial Times suggested. Given issues of workplace harassment, etc. the advice of the venerated business newspaper was “don’t kiss unless the lady turns her cheek first!” A handshake, I suppose, is usually safer.

But then again, instead of crazies burning effigies of Gere, isn’t it infinitely more pleasant to listen to the immortal lyrics from Casablanca?

You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is (still) just a sigh
The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.

New York Times May 6, 2007

When a Kiss Is More Than a Kiss

RICHARD GERE, while not the first person you’d think most likely to invoke the wrath of a conservative religious mob by kissing somebody in public, was at least a passably recognizable symbolic target for Hindu demonstrators last week, when they burned his figure in effigy in cities across India.

If not a wavy-haired, pretty-faced, prostitute-patronizer-portraying American actor, then who are religious firebrands supposed to burn in effigy when a man violates a cultural taboo by kissing a woman in public, as Mr. Gere did? (He planted several lingering kisses on the neck of an Indian actress, Shilpa Shetty, at a televised charity event in Mumbai.)

Surely not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But think again. When Mr. Ahmadinejad, the ultraconservative president of Iran, kissed the gloved hand last week of an elderly woman who had once been his school teacher, at a ceremony for a national teachers’ day, he, too, received sharp rebukes from clerics.

Islamic religious leaders accused him of “indecency.” Islamic newspapers noted that under Shariah law contact with a woman with whom one is not related is a crime sometimes punishable by death.

Mr. Gere apologized to those he had offended.

Mr. Ahmadinejad did not. (And left town instead for a scheduled visit with the pope.)

But anthropologists and philematologists (people who study kissing) say the harsh reactions to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s and Mr. Gere’s kisses underline a certain cultural and political mystery about the seemingly simple act of kissing.

Kissing in public (private kissing exists in a different universe of discourse, and for the most part will remain there for the duration of this discussion) is quite often a public statement, they say: Witness the use of the public kiss in the lore of organized crime (to mean soon dead). Or in the political world, the moment in the 2000 campaign when Al Gore passionately kissed his wife, Tipper, (to signify his Alpha-Maleness). Or the mostly forgotten but once infamous kiss Hillary Rodham Clinton planted on the cheek of Yasir Arafat’s wife (signifying many things, not least of which that she would spend a good deal of time repairing relations with Jewish voters).

Vaughn M. Bryant Jr., an anthropologist at Texas A&M University, said that contrary to the lyrics of “As Time Goes By,” a kiss is almost never just a kiss. It is a language with a grammar all is own, which is as strict as the syntax of international diplomacy, he said.

“When people kiss, there are all kinds of hidden rules in play,” he said. “Where they are; who they are to each other; what the relationship between the sexes is in a country; all that gets considered.”

Robert Albro, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., who specializes in the role that culture plays in international relations, said Mr. Gere’s faux pas was an example of a cultural “border clash” that is increasingly common in the era of globalization.

To plant a kiss on the face of an Indian woman in public, he said, would be seen by conservative Indians as a trespass on “the cultural space” of their country.

“Women, in particular conspicuous women such as the actress, bear the burden of cultural identity in many parts of the world,” he said. “They are like the social skin of society itself.”

Kissing is more or less universal. People in all but a few, tiny cultures do it. And wherever people kiss, they practice the same categories of kissing that the Romans first identified: the “basium,” for the standard romantic kiss; the “osculum,” for the friendship kiss; and the “savium,” the most passionate kind, sometimes referred to as a French kiss. (Mr. Ahmadinejad’s was a classic osculum. Mr. Gere’s was probably an osculum playfully masquerading as a basium that, unfortunately for Mr. Gere, may have looked a little too much like a savium on TV.)

Monkeys do not kiss. Apes do, but usually only on the arm or the chest, to show respect. “Except among the bonobos, there is nothing like sexual kissing among the apes,” said Frans B. M. de Waal, a professor of primate behavior at Emory University. “Apes do not practice foreplay.”

The earliest written record of humans’ kissing appears in Vedic Sanskrit texts — in India — from around 1500 B.C., where certain passages refer to lovers “setting mouth to mouth,” according to Mr. Bryant.

There is debate among scientists over whether the kiss is an innately human practice, or one that we fortuitously acquired along the way. Some trace it to the mother who made the first mouth-to-mouth transfer of pre-chewed food to her child; others to prettier biological Eureka-moments. But in general it is agreed that people kiss in private mainly because it is nice.

So what does it mean when people, especially public people like the president of Iran or the world’s second most famous Buddhist, commit kisses in public places?

In the case of Mr. Ahmadinejad, according to press reports, his respectful kissing of his teacher’s hand was a gesture of conciliation with Iranian school teachers, who as a group have recently complained of low wages.

In Mr. Gere’s case, no one seems to know much more than the obvious. They were on national TV, promoting AIDS awareness together. She was pretty. He was Richard Gere. The results are on YouTube.

Robin Hicks, a cultural anthropologist at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., said that when the kissing involves people of different ethnicities — especially a Western man and a local woman, as in the case of Mr. Gere’s kiss in India — the cultural sensitivity of conservative-minded people is often greatly heightened.

“Frankly, I was shocked at his behavior,” Ms. Hicks said. ”He’s been to India so many times. He should have known better.” Mr. Gere, a practicing Buddhist and supporter of the Tibetan cause, visits India frequently to meet with the Dalai Lama.

“On the other and,” she added, “I guess this is one way for cultural anthropologists to get jobs.”
1:55 AM
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