A toast to liberty

The writing is on the wall. If you, like me, are a female citizen of this country and like living life to the fullest, beware — the self-proclaimed Army of Lord Ram may catch hold of you. They’ll abuse you, hit you, pull your hair and shove you to the ground. Then, after you are suitably bruised, they’ll stand back like proud sentinels, pat themselves on the back for saving a culture from disintegration and say self-righteously, ‘But it’s our job to do it, so what’s the big deal?’

What happened in Mangalore’s Amnesia pub is a big deal, and a very disturbing one at that. It’s disturbing because a group of men have (again) brazenly slighted the rule of law and taken it upon themselves to be the bearers of culture (as if ‘culture’ is ever singular). It’s also distressing, because a section of civil society has been grossly, and unapologetically, violated, and the State has been lax in taking serious action.

It’s not the first time something of the kind has happened, and without definitive action, it’s surely not going to be the last. Women are soft targets for self-styled moral guardians, and drinking and partying the easiest weapons in their armoury. That it’s alien to Indian culture is just one of the reasons used to justify their discomfort. At other times and in other circumstances, there are different, more polite ones, that are offered —‘It’s not a respectable thing to do. What will people say? You may not be able to…conceive later on, you know. Maybe you could have wine or shandy instead of whisky neat?’ — all of which is uttered in suitably dramatic whispers.

They have the right to protest, of course, and I the right to (politely) disagree and to continue living life on my terms, within the ambit of the law. What they need to understand is that their rights end where mine begin.

Here’s raise a toast to (responsible) drinking, pubbing, partying…to living life. To not being cowed by bully armies claiming to be the Lord’s and the Nation’s saviours.

And here’s a most cordial invitation to you, Mr Muthalik, to meet up for a discussion. Bring along your pawns and other ranked officials, too, if you like. We’ll sit and debate our points of view in the way of civilised people — calmly, logically and peacefully — over a drink.

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