When I was very young (in class 4, around 2005), one of my cousin-brother introduced me to ghazals. One of the very famous ghazals that I used to listen to was a masterpiece by the legend Ghulam Ali:
The famous lines of the song goes like this:
Daaka To Nahi Daala Chori To Nahi Ki Hai
Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa Thodi Si Jo Pee Lee Hai
(I haven’t stolen anything, and I haven’t committed a robbery. Why is there so much fuss? I have just drunk a bit of alcohol)
The 8-year-old me couldn’t comprehend the depth of the lyrics at that time. But now I find the lyrics quite poetic and poignant. I am not just writing about the song like this randomly. There is a reason behind it.
While I was back in my hometown Kolkata during the Durga Puja, I came across an old couple through one of my relatives. They seemed to be supporting the current opposition leader of West Bengal who used to be a part of the ruling party once. Now in Bengali, there is a metaphorical saying of ‘sharing the same glass of alcohol’ if you have done something malevolent in the company of someone. During a conversation, I just couldn’t resist myself and said to them “He used to share the same glass of alcohol with the current ruling party members once”. To which the couple unanimously replied: “NO! He might be a thief, but I don’t think he drinks alcohol.” I was a bit startled by that, and realised there is no point arguing with them.
There has been a similar incident with Rahul Gandhi and another political leader too. Where they were spotted drinking and from there the moral policing and virtue signaling began.
This not only shows how timeless this classic ghazal song is but also depicts a dire picture of our society. We have some conservative gatekeepers all around us. You can steal public money and make a fortune, as long as you have a particularly good man image set in the society or probably belong to a political party of their choice.
And I think the number of factors through which a man/woman is judged by these gatekeepers varies across the genders. For a man, the number of factors will be very less. The salary and some success will always be the primary governing factor. As long as those two are decent, a man will hardly be scrutinized. (Except a few times for drinking alcohol, though nowadays that is pardoned by many) And for a woman, there will be a long (a very long) list of parameters: looks, dress code, efficiency in household chores, friend circle and so many things!
My personal philosophy on this one is totally libertarian. When I was looking for a house in the new city, one of the landlords said that I can cook chicken or mutton at the place, but fish is not allowed. I am generally very bad at prompt replies but that day I was quite straight-forward: “Whatever I am doing in my bedroom and kitchen shouldn’t concern you given that I am paying my rent on time and not bothering any of my neighbours”
I wish people would listen to more Ghulam Ali (and ghazal) & stop being a gatekeeper.