Virginity and pieces of string


As a child, I had often heard of the fabulous Indian rope trick, and was disappointed that I had never witnessed it. The feat has variations, I just read on Wikipedia, but most involve an ordinary rope ascending by itself into the sky, rigid enough to support the performer’s weight, who climbs to the far end, and then disappears. It is the India of the snake charmers, a magical land, a bygone era.

India today demands an even more developed sense of fantasy. Two instances of this were on Twitter yesterday.

One is a medical college which asks employees whether one is a virgin or not. Jeanne d’Arc would have understood the reasons behind this, but we who are not medieval French teenagers are mystified.

The other is a governmental order directing all employees of a certain department to celebrate the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan. This is not a suggestion. The note demands that “all the lady staff” shall tie pieces of string around the wrists of their (exclusively-male?) colleagues. This would be a harmless, amusing anachronism, if the energy, attention and other resources were not urgently needed to solve problems of indigence, human dignity, violence, unemployment, education and hygiene. The usual things, that is, that elected, paid governments are expected to tackle. Instead, they want the females to symbolically regard their co-workers as their siblings — and hope that those to whom this particular Hindu tradition is alien are tolerant enough to accept this transgression of the state into the realm of the Gods and personal cultural choice.

On the topic of culture, it is time to repudiate the usurpation by the Czechs: wherever Kafka might have been born, he is Indian.