Have you heard of Yo Yo Honey Singh? I had only heard of him recently when I warmed up to the tune of the song ‘High Heels‘. And the reason I warmed up to it is because it seemed to be a pleasant confluence of two songs I am fond of for very nostalgic reasons. Ole Ole and Ishq. I’ll readily admit I have never paid attention to the lyrics of High Heels. Who ever pays attention to the lyrics of hip hop songs? They’re almost always about one night stands and raucous sex. I am aware this is a bit like saying, I watch Baywatch to see the beach.
But hear me out. A certain song called ‘Main Hoon Balatkari’ has been attributed to him. And there has been a lot of fuss around his shows and his supposedly misogynistic lyrics. I am heartened to know that no violence took place in getting his show cancelled and that Change.org actually works. However, it is unfortunate that in a country where 50 cent and Akon have previously performed without any fuss, everyone is suddenly up in arms about Honey Singh. I am most disappointed to see that the people who have signed the petition to have his show cancelled are the same left-leaning self-proclaimed libbies who spend the rest of year talking about democracy, freedom of speech and defending Salman Rushdie in breathless tones.
This selective and skewed love for freedom of expression can only be attributed to a feeling of helplessness. The UPA government has proven itself to be utterly useless. Our only alternative is a right-wing group that loves demolitions and the occasional communal riots. We want change but have no idea how to go about bringing it. We want someone to pay, we want someone to be punished, we want retribution. But we know how our justice system works. So we go about demanding death sentences (which I secretly support) and chemical castration and other forms of brutal punishments while decrying Iran for sentencing a woman to be stoned for adultery.
I do not imagine that people listen to ‘Main Hoon Balatkari’ and decide to go on a rape rampage. It is quite tasteless I admit. But no more so than the garden-variety chauvinistic comments made by our ministers and policemen. When discussing this with a friend, his counter-argument was “But that’s same argument gun-lovers make after every shooting. ‘Guns don’t kill; people do.’” I did not point out that no one has died because they accidentally heard a particularly obscene song.
Twitter and Facebook has a particular way of amplifying the shrilly voices of self-righteousness which during our parents’ times were restricted to the polite company of peers within the confines of the living room. No, instead we must not only prove to everyone that we are more righteous but also make others feel bad for holding a different opinion. A journalist who first revealed the name of the hospital where the rape victim was being treated and then implored for privacy (irony was on holiday) tweeted, ‘To all those out there jiving to Honey Singh’s sexist rubbish tonight, just remember YOU are part of the problem in this culture of misogyny”. I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that this very litigious reporter on whom at one Bollywood film was made does have friends in the film industry who have found clever ways to write misogynist scripts and songs without being overly explicit. Is she perhaps, then guilty of being part of the misogyny problem? One of the Gaysi team members is a die-hard fan of Salman Khan (I cannot stand him). Is she guilty of causing extinction to Indian wildlife? I would be entirely remiss if I did not mention she loves her dog very much.
All this fuss about Honey Singh isn’t about preventing rape. It isn’t about defeating misogyny. Because that would actually entail some big changes that take a longer time and much patience and perhaps, some personal sacrifices. No, instead this is about picking on low-hanging fruit…instant gratification. This is about setting the bar so low that you easily feel a sense of accomplishment for having taken a step (never mind that it is in the wrong direction).
So we go about sitting in a dark room behind a flickering screen anxiously typing up online petitions to cancel concerts. Congratulations, you can pat your back now for bringing about change without ever having left your living room. Millions of women sleep safer every night because we have prevented Honey Singh from taking the stage.