Sunday, January 20, 2008


In one of Mira Nair’s films (I forget which), the female protagonist is bemused by the fact that most men think she is exotic and wonderful because they think being from India, she must be well versed in the art of Kamasutra-style love-making. And indeed the view of the general populace about Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra is that it is a detailed manual of sexual gymnastics. It was also my view until I began reading it. It was with hopes of great proportions that I began reading the Kamasutra. With virginal trepidation and guilty glee, I cracked open the slim volume (the original version, not the interpretive one), hoping to be transported mentally into a world of Ellora cave sculptures. Imagine my surprise then when I saw that these aforementioned sexual gymnastics form only a small fraction of the book! The Kamasutra is really much more a treatise on the code and ethics of courting and love-making than on the actual method by which people make love. Some of it is mildly erotic, and several chunks of it make sense in a vague way, but most of it is absolute rubbish.

For example, Vatsyayana lists numerous reasons why a man should seduce another man’s wife. All are stupid reasons, but this one takes the cake: “so that you can make her fall in love with you, kill her husband, and thus indirectly gain access to his wealth.” Here is another example: when a man wants to seduce a woman, but is unable to make his advances because of the presence of others, Vatsyayana recommends procuring a child and proceeding to kiss and fondle the child in the lady’s presence thus indirectly transferring the affection to the lady. Also, most of the Kamasutra appears to be based on deception of others. It is recommended that husbands deceive their wives and sleep with other women (whom also it is recommended that he seduce by deceit by doing things like faking illness so she would come and visit him), it is recommended that courtesans fake poverty to milk money out of their benefactors, that kings invite the wives of common man to the palace under some pretext and then proceed to seduce them... the list of deceptions is never ending. And, as you might expect, the Kamasutra is written entirely from the viewpoint of a man, and is about how man can derive pleasure from woman. The wife, as expected is supposed to be virtuous, unless she happens to be seduced by a more worthy man. Courtesans for some reason have been given full license to enjoy carnal pleasure as much as men do. The book is enormously confusing, but the most confusing thing of all to me is why it has become a byword for exotic sensual delights. That’s a mystery I never hope to be able to solve.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Critic

My first blog post this year… I feel compelled to post updates, but too much has happened and I can’t even if I tried to. School starts on Monday, and I am not looking forward to the end of my holiday. But other things are going well. I have already completed my first book this year, am almost done with two others, and have read a few pages of a fourth. I’m doubling last year’s resolution, and hope to read at least two books every month. I also have resurrected several of last year’s resolutions, none of which I will attain, so there really is no point in discussing them here. But I do hope I can post on this blog less sporadically than before. We’ll see…

I’m grinning as I write this – my blog now has an outspoken critic. This critic likened my blog to a teen magazine, said it was girly, and I think he might have implied that it was a tad silly and naïve, although I am sure he will deny that he implied anything of the sort. Now, silliness, naiveté, and frilly girliness are all things that I vehemently disapprove of and look down upon like a terrible snob. I’m always telling people that I hate such stuff, my beloved sister can’t persuade me to watch a chick-flick if she begged me for a month, and I like to believe that I am something like a liberated version of Jane Austen’s Anne Elliot with a wonderfully exaggerated intellect. And when the critic offered me this estimation of my blog, I staggered back in shock. I protested that it was nothing of the sort. “Teenage girl-like indeed! Anything but!” I objected. I considered adding an aggressive “Humph!” to bring home the extent of my disapproval of his opinion, but decided against it. Much as I dislike silliness, I think I find churlishness more objectionable. The wise critic smiled, “Who else would have a ‘current sweetheart’ section”, he asked “like a teen girl’s magazine?”

My witty comebacks froze on my lips. I flushed, and then saw. He was right. It was like the conversion on the road to Damascus! The astute critic had brought home in a few simple words something that I had failed to see. And it wasn’t just the “current sweetheart” section - it was also the blog posts, most of which as he rightly pointed out were testaments to the existence of a romantic in me which (he thinks) is beautifully feminine. And you have to admit that when someone puts it like that, it is very complimentary. And I rise to meet all such compliments with grateful alacrity. :-)