Just for a change, this week I decided I will take a bird’s eye view of various happenings around the country, particularly those that had something peculiar or ridiculous to comment upon. Fortunately, in India we are never short of news items culled from our dailies that amuse and / or startle us. Whether these nuggets should be classified as ‘funny peculiar’ or ‘funny ha-ha,’ is largely up to you, dear reader. Comedy lies in the sensibilities of the beholder. Truth to tell, most times funny does not even come into it. A person being put to death or gangraped can never be funny or amusing. The circumstances leading to such a heinous crime, however, can befuddle and even amuse, in a dark, macabre kind of way.
Take what happened in the garden city (that tired moniker is quite funny) of Bangalore. Mubarak Pasha, a 30-year-old businessman comes home from work, his wife sets the table for dinner. ‘Dinner’s ready, come and get it,’ she coos invitingly, presumably in the vernacular. The bread winner of the home sits down to eat, examines the fare on offer, scrunches up his face and looks extremely displeased. ‘Where is my fried chicken?’ he demands. Evidently this Pasha is a bit of a fried chicken freak, and cannot bear to go through a meal without sinking his teeth into some succulent chunks of the local equivalent of KFC. ‘I specifically told you to cook fried chicken for dinner and you have arrogantly disobeyed my orders, and not for the first time either.’ Clearly, the couple have had foul words before over fried fowl. Now whether his dutiful wife gave him a rude retort or merely walked away in a huff, the news report was not forthcoming. What happened next was what grabbed the headlines. The short-tempered Pasha flew into a fit of rage, looked for the nearest lethal log of wood, and proceeded to bash his wife’s head in. Before you could say Kentucky Fried Chicken, he had become a widower and their three children were left motherless. The fact that he trotted off to the nearest police station later and confessed to his crime is neither here nor there. My plea to housewives, therefore, is to be ever vigilant. Today it is fried chicken, tomorrow it could be mutton biryani or masala dosa. I am not suggesting you should be ready to serve your lord and master’s favourite cuisine day in and day out, at his whims and fancies. I am merely advising you to be on guard, keep your own weapon of choice handy, be it a log or a well-honed axe or meat-cleaver, just in case your husband starts acting up violently. Forewarned is forearmed.
Let’s move on to another horrific incident. The Home Minister of Karnataka upbraids a young university student and her boy friend for straying out and wandering around in the vicinity of the picturesque Chamundi hills near Mysore well after dusk, as a consequence of which the girl was waylaid and gangraped by a bunch of six inebriated goons. The boyfriend had been neutralized. Not to be satisfied, the criminals had actually made a video of the assault. ‘What was she doing there at 7 – 7.30pm? Why did she go to a secluded place with her classmate after sunset?’ asked the minister. At a very basic level, the minister’s scolding, rather like an irate parent’s, would have been reasonable (just about) if the victim had returned home safe. In the face of a ghastly incident, not to have first-off, condemned outright the venal crime and targeting instead the victim’s apparent carelessness, the minister was at best unbelievably naïve and at worst, criminally callous. To be fair, he did describe the incident as ‘unfortunate’ and that drastic action will be taken against the culprits. Naturally, the opposition political parties, always with an eye to the main chance, rightly deplored and condemned the minister’s insensitive remarks. Later on, the state’s Chief Minister tried to assuage matters by strongly condemning the home minister’s tasteless comments. Whether the matter will end there or take on a more incendiary form, only time will tell. Meanwhile, the unfortunate victim’s life has been irretrievably damaged while the goons, at the time of going to press, are still at large lurking around for another quarry.
Still on the subject of rape, the Chhattisgarh High Court had an interesting take on the subject. Wait for it and fasten your seat-belts. This is what their honourable justices of the court had to say on a plea from a wife claiming intolerable sexual harassment by her husband. ‘The complainant is the legally wedded wife….therefore sexual intercourse or any sexual act with her by the husband would not constitute an offence of rape, even if it was by force or against her wish…’ (my italics). The court, as per the news report, did add a proviso that the ‘victim’ should not have been under 18 years of age. We should be thankful for small mercies! Naturally all manner of sections, sub-sections and clauses were quoted by the High Court in extenuation of their archaic judgement. My heart goes out to the poor wife, the complainant, who will, in light of the judgement, not be able to proffer the age-old excuse of suffering from a headache to ward off the lascivious advances of her husband. The horrible man will whip out the rule book and point to the loopholes in the IPC Section 376 of the relevant act, as deemed by the esteemed court, and demand conjugal satisfaction – headache or no headache. Perhaps the Act ought to be amended to provide relief to the unfortunate wife, in case she is suffering from a migraine or some other ailment to which women are prone. That will serve the wanton hound right. Otherwise, every other male in the country will quote this judgement and make his wife’s life a living hell. Come on, all you lords and ladyships, can we have some amendments please?
I conclude this ignominious round-up of bloodthirst and unbridled lechery with yet another sleazy account that simply refuses to go away. A basketball coach, who preyed on his young female wards and who was briefly incarcerated under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, was recently released on bail to roam free. Pramodh Kumar, that was the disgraced coach’s name, is presumably in hiding somewhere, while his alleged teenage victims have been coming out of hiding to narrate horror stories of forced sexual advances, inappropriate touching and all manner of unsavoury acts. Some of the descriptions trotted out by over 20 girls, all aspiring basketball players, were quite graphic and does not leave much to the imagination. That the local police authorities were unable to explain precisely why the accused was allowed to leave the suffocating confines of his prison cell continues to baffle. Evidently all this happened in the state of Karnataka which also witnessed the fried chicken murder and gangrape. Not that I am suggesting that Bangalore and its mother state own sole copyright on salacious crimes (it happens all over the country), but that is the way the cookie crumbled this time round. In passing I must add that the photograph of the alleged offender, the basketball coach, in the newspaper, a passport mug shot, would make any mother want to welcome him home as a son-in-law – pleasant, trustworthy and good-natured was the impression created. Who knows, perhaps the photograph was inappropriately touched up to give a favourable impression! This should be a lesson to all those matrimonial match makers who go superficially by an exchange of photographs. Dig deeper. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but those words could reveal more than you had bargained for.