Sunday, January 4, 2009

Times have changed, so have values

by KParthasarathi 05 Jan 2009
When I was a young boy of fifteen years a few decades back, a beggar woman used to come twice a week in the mornings. She was young with a chiselled face, sharp features and quite attractive. What irritated my mom and sisters was that she was always scantily dressed with a low neck blouse that showed her cleavage and exposed her voluptuous bosoms partly. She carried a small baby nursing the child even though it was two years or more. She was draped in a towel like cloth that was short in length and torn in places revealing her thighs. She will not go until she was given some change. She will call “Ayya, ayya’ inviting the men folk to witness her pitiable condition. The moment I hear her voice, there will be a spate of calls from my sisters and mom”Partha, don’t come out. Stay where you are. That shameless woman is here.” They will hurriedly give her some change to send her away quickly. But she would linger and cast sideways glance to see whether any eyes are looking at her. My curiosity aroused I will invariably peep through the window to see her who would be partially hidden by the plants and the walls.
My mother gave her two saris and a few blouses asking her to wear them whenever she came out to beg. But she would not use them and come in the same insufficiently dressed manner. When admonished by mom at her shamelessness, she would reply, “Amma, sorry, please do not mistake me. Unless I come in this way, people do not give alms. The moment I enter a house, the ladies rush to give me money and send me away to save me from the prying eyes of their husbands and grown up sons. I wear the clothes you gave while at my home.” My mom would tell her “Your logic is strange. Can you show your skin to earn money? Why don’t you work in some household and earn an honest living?” She would reply “Amma, I belong to gypsy community. My man would not allow me to work in other houses. We keep shifting base frequently. In the afternoons I make necklaces with cheap but colourful beads and he sells them. I am good woman and faithful to my man.” The logic and values of well-to-do never applied to them. It is a tough world posing challenges to the poor people. Extreme poverty drives some people to compromise on some values.
This set me thinking about the present days when nothing seems to shock us. Obscenity manifests in various ways. The extent of sexual depravity and extreme vulgarity has assumed alarming proportions. The obscenity prevalent in films, disco bars, advertisements, internet, literature and everywhere have numbed our minds. Voyeurism is an accepted habit amongst youngsters. Blue films and live shows take place stealthily. Cinema theatres slip in obscene clips in between film scenes to attract crowd. Some lament that the commercialisation of entertainment and media industry has posed a serious threat to our culture.
The problem is the widely differing perceptions of what is obscene and what is not. What is obscene to X is not to Y.The cancellation of licenses to bar dances in Mumbai invited mixed reactions. The definition of anything ‘impure, indecent and lewd” is itself subject to different interpretations even in the courts of law. They are subjective in nature as no clear guidelines are possible. Possibly the test of obscenity should be ”whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall” or to whose eyes the offending object/person may be open. But who is to judge, the government or the society? The beggar woman may not after all be considered today to offend the sensibilities of the prudes and the puritans.
Could it be that the more we hide more the curiosity to see? The women in US and Europe clad in scanty bikinis in the beaches attract no ugly stares as is common here. They are there in malls, parks, restaurants and everywhere in skimpy dresses not seen in these parts. There are always some elements even there who obtain pleasure in oggling.Be that as it may, the values have changed a lot and differ from place to place and country to country. There is nothing absolute about them and depends upon one’s predilictions.
Uni-sex dresses unheard of a few decades back are the in thing. The girls from decent homes, who twenty years ago would not come out without a duppatta covering their chest and a loose full length skirt, come today dressed in tight fitting jeans and tighter fitting sleeveless T shirts. It shocks us no more and has become accepted gear worn by all.
Obscenity to my mind is relative and keeps changing with times and generations. The types of relationships that would shudder us a couple of decades back like live-in-relationships, gay/lesbian marriages have all come to be regarded as normal with the governments of the day eager to give them certain legitimacy and legality. Post and pre marital relationships are very widely prevalent thanks to the internet and the wide opportunities to both genders to mix and socialize. They are regarded commonplace occurrences now and do not jolt anymore. The weakening of religion, spiritual values and the erosion of the stature of its leaders are also contributory factors to these changes. The lure of easy money is irresistible tempting everyone to compromise on cherished values. Whether they are welcome or not depend on one’s perception? Can anyone hazard a guess what would be the scenario two decades hence?


  1. a relevent post sir, i wanted to comment some more, but as for i am busy preparing for tomorrows college, later in the day sir.

    "Post and pre marital relationships are very widely prevalent thanks to the internet and the wide opportunities to both genders to mix and socialize."

    what if the opposing genders mix and socialise? what if hey go out together and party? what if they date? what is wrong? but still the morals are to be kept and followed.

  2. I have not commented on the right or wrong of such changes.I had only pointed out that the values keep changing with the times.

  3. Nice, thought-provoking article. In my opinion, ther expression of morals change. For example, what can be worn in public or not. But the true morals, the eternals verities of life, are based on rock-solid values and do not change. Decency, compassion and faithfulness, to name a few.

    To Shravan: The two sexes mixed freely in urban India even twenty years ago. There was decency and indecency even then. The problem now is that people do not show much sense of inhibition in expressing indecency, generally-speaking. The expression has changed, not the thing.

  4. I agree that what is decent or not is a matter of perspective. Actually, I feel morality itself is culture-bound.Something that is immoral in one society is completely acceptable in another. As the differences in society shrink and the world comes closer, it is but natural that a lot of inter-mingling of cultures and values happens. Well, all I can say is, this also will change....

  5. Thanks Shravan,Ayesha and Vim for perceptive observations.Once it is posted in msn we will hv moer comments in that site.

  6. nice write up...
    socialising isnt a gr8 mistake in cities....n its pointd out as a mistake by people in rural areas....dey jus see in it a wrong way i guess!!!!
    i would say,i dunt like so much of socialisation because my present society does not allow so much of it and the other reason is that boys mistake our relation with them....and i dont have any comment about couple relations...totally depends on the persons view!!!!
    well,opinion and idea differ!!!!right????
    i normally see your comments in shravans blog..
    thanks for viewing my blog and thanks for your valuable comments....

  7. Thanks (My world!!)is it Rugma? for the nice comments.Socialising is not per se wrong so long as it is within certain boundaries.But what are the boundaries again differ from people to people,place to place and time to time.

    I hv added your blog in mine.Thanks for adding mine in yours

  8. I only want to add that moral or cultural values should be set for onself & one should stay within this invisible boundary, & listen to one's conscience about what is 'correct'..

  9. I only want to add that moral or cultural values should be set for onself & one should stay within this invisible boundary, & listen to one's conscience about what is 'correct'..

  10. Thanks Vasudha.I wish you also commence posting in your blog with stories and articles on health

  11. They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder..I would say the same things applies to obscenity and so-called values imposed by society. It's upto us how we view and react to anyone doing things differently.

  12. Thanks,Sheba,I agree with you.The perception varies from individual to individual,country to country,time to time.Nothing is absolute. regards,KP

  13. Its good to know that ppl miss those values till date.Freedom , liberty, every word for that matter has been moulded to suit the people wherever required.
    Thanks for bringing it up and all the very best to you.

  14. Thanks for your comments(A new beginning)

  15. Hi Mr.Parthasarathi

    It is one week since you posted on your blog. Time seems to be running too slow.