LITERATURE AS THE MIRROR OF SOCIAL NORMS-1

 

I am going to make a comparison, a sort of, between three books that have hogged considerable lime light when they were published. The books are : V. S. Naipaul’s “Half a life”; Salman Rushdie’s “Fury” and Khushwant Singh’s “Women and Men in My Life”. Naipaul’s book had won a Nobel Prize although I had read it before that announcement was made. “Fury” has been widely talked about (and acclaimed) for providing a new insight into human psychology. This book was also in the race for the Nobel but missed it. “Women and Men…” has been in the limelight for the notoriety of the author in exposing the people around him with a rare “honesty” and “candidness”. I am not going to comment on these virtues of the author. What has compelled me to pen these lines is the unique common thread that runs through the works of these celebrated authors who, as the cliché goes, poles apart so far as their background, education, experiences and philosophy towards life goes; and that common thread makes me a little apprehensive, even scared, about the future of the human race!
The common thread is the importance given to sex – free sex, so to say – promiscuity in common language. More than the importance, it is the legitimacy these books are likely to provide to this lustful way of living. “Half a Life” and “Fury” are the works of fiction, obviously base on some realities experienced or observed by the authors around them; or, at least both of them are able to visualize or imagine the similar types of sex-escapades. I reproduce below my observations recorded immediately after completing the reading of both these books:
HALF A LIFE:
“This is the first book of the author that I have read. Earlier I had read his exhaustive interview with Dilip Pandgaonkar. I had been much impressed by his views. Therefore, off and on, some small pieces /write-ups on/by him were read here and there. .. The beginning of this book, though slow, looked interesting. It also seemed a little boring at places, to begin with. I wonder if he had not included so much sex would it have been possible to finish the book so quickly. In the end I feel a little cheated. The book has conveyed a very disappointing and demeaning message about the morality of the black people, and the obsession of the hero with sex only is also a little way ward. If we take literature to be the “guiding” instrument, this book is negative. If the escapades are true, which is most likely, one wonders whether so many religions and their morality related sermons – especially on chaste life have any value. It would be interesting to look at the Punjabi culture with focus on Sikhism from this angle.
“No doubt, at many points I related myself with the hero. Perhaps every Indian male will fall in that category because it is here that sexual feelings are curbed so strongly. But the revelation that the blacks are so sex-centered that married and unmarried girls are also looking new outlets is something new. Suddenly I recalled Sukhjeet’s (my school friends) boastings about 20 years ago when he had said “we take the girls from the school itself and after doing the ‘job’ leave them here only”. I was shocked at that time with his words. I am shocked now at Willie’s disclosures. But I cannot deny similar feelings having crossed my mind often- though they remained only in mind and nothing ever came off.
“If it is autobiography of VSN, then another question about personal life and morality versus author’s right to vitiate public mind needs an answer. Or. At least a question mark remains as to whether ‘such morality is required at all? If everyone is always thinking about (and looking for) prohibited sex and mostly succeeding in getting it, then why pretend?” But, perhaps, it is the final words of the hero that count. On page 21 Willie says “… there came the beginning of respect for the religious outlawing of sexual extremes.” Isn’t it a live example of ‘having the cake and eating it too’? Enjoy your lustful life, then exhibit penance and advise people to resist such life! People like me remain at the receiving end- ALWAYS. First, feeling inferior when these people describe their escapades and, then in the end, for being immoral for having such thoughts!”

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