Indians love morality plays. Most of us like it when we can put people, relationships, liaison statuses, social statures, genders, sexes, classes, castes and other innumerable identifiable features into neat, perhaps mutually exclusive, brackets of social recognition and perpetuation. We are comfortable when the good wins over evil, white triumphs over the black. Just look at the fairness crème industry!
Naturally, while we analyse every little detail from a glamorous courtship that’s playing out in the open, we often break into a sweat over its "undefined" nature. While we reluctantly agree to make concessions for the college-going, smartphone-obsessed younger generation, because “they’re still figuring it out”, all hell breaks loose in case it’s one of us – those in their late 20s or early 30s, professionally successful, the career-wise independent sort.
The most glaring example of such a glamorous courtship we haven’t quite come to terms with is Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma’s. Whether the BCCI is right or wrong in its outlandish requirement that wives and girlfriends of cricketers not be allowed to mingle and stay with the players during a tournament (they can, however, attend matches and enjoy the sport like regular, VIP, audience), is another, if not unrelated, debate. But the moot point we need to discuss is just how childish we tend to be when it comes to a consensual, adult, heterosexual (we have not grown up enough to handle it in case homosexuality were the case here, its “criminality” notwithstanding) relationship. A relationship that has outgrown the clichéd phase of mutual denial so that the media and galaxies of crazed fans on social media can go nudge-nudge-wink-wink. But a relationship that is also not ready to quickly transform into the long haul contract of marriage, which is still the accepted bulwark of Indian society in the conservative bastions.
|Virat Kohli walks hand-in-hand with Anushka Sharma at Mumbai airport after 2015 World Cup in Australia.|
While quite a few star couples in Bollywood are opting for the next best situation, the “live-in” relationship – case in point is Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif, there are some like Virat and Anushka who are taking a tad longer than the rest “figuring it out” while not shying away from occasional public displays of affection, hurt, indignation and other assorted emotions.
Media goes ga-ga when a fellow player addresses Anushka as “bhabhi". Twitter went berserk when Virat Kohli underperformed in the World Cup semifinal against archrivals Australia and blamed his dismal score on Anushka’s presence in the pavilion. Would the trolls have reacted the same way if Virat and Anushka were married? How many times has a bad score on the part of Mahendra Singh Dhoni been attributed to his wife Sakshi? The answer is simple: never.
Virat’s “arrogance” and “flamboyance” have been blamed too: perhaps as Indians we consider humility a trait worthy of praise. Yet, this is the same country that has elected Narendra Modi as its prime minister, another man whose indeterminate relationships with women have not stopped us from raving about his every move, old and new. So what is it about Virat and Anushka that irks a large majority of us, if not everyone?
Spoonfed on infantilised versions of politics, Bollywood and cricket, is it that Indians have lost their ability to appreciate anything remotely adult in form and content? What a regression this is from the swinging 60s and flower power of 70s when actresses and cricketers breached religious barriers to be together, posed in swimsuits and openly flaunted their “illicit” romance without being subject to the glare of moral policing from mainstream and social media! The so-called transgressions of an Anushka Sharma or a Priyanka Chopra pale in comparison to the bold lifestyles of say a Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman, Smita Patil, Rekha, and even Hema Malini. What’s Virat Kohli’s flashiness before a stylish Pataudi or the ultimate playboy Imran Khan?
Yet, despite a sexual revolution being underway in the upwardly mobile urbane quarters of educated, cosmopolitan Indians (a category which can loosely accommodate the sporting and film stars), when it comes to mass behaviour, Indians ape a ghoulish creature that just refuses to grow up or embrace a sexual/moral grey zone of nebulous definitions and blurred boundaries. It’s to this lot that Virat shows his middle finger, and perhaps rightly so!