What Richard Gere did to Shilpa Shetty on stage in New Delhi the other day wasn’t a kiss. It was a peck, says The Times of India, making a finer point. And here we were, the uninformed, getting hot and bothered, protesting, burning effigies and shouting hai, hai slogans without as much as knowing a peck from a kiss. Now we have it from TOI, quite unambiguously, and I quote, “About the latest case of Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere, it must be clarified that it wasn’t a kiss, which is meant to be planted on the partner’s lips”.
“It was a peck,” adds TOI, “which in many countries is a normal way to greet each other, and not a sexual act”. It wasn't an S-act, agreed,; but it wasn’t a normal greeting either. Shilpa herself admits it – ‘Richard went slightly overboard’. People elsewhere in the world who peck each other by way of normal greeting are not usually seen bending over their partner in close embrace, while working on her cheeks, both sides, more than once.
The Times(Mysore edition)story – Curb national pecking disorder - carries a picture showing Richard, bending over Shilpa, in a ‘pecking’ position. Says the photo caption,‘The kiss that has nation up in arms’. Nit-picking apart, the newspaper story, played up on Page One, has it, “in a situation where the law is vague and the general public apathetic, the moral brigade seems to be usurping the space’. Shouldn’t that be read as ‘morality brigade’?
Anyway, the thing about TOI is that it gets down to the basics, just in case its readers are clueless even four days after the event, which has been played out in newspapers, TV channels and by bloggers (including this one). I can’t think of many other newspapers that would have given thought to the possibility that the millions who read the Gere-Shetty story and viewed visuals on TV and the Internet, wouldn’t have applied their mind to draw a line between a peck and a kiss.
Where TOI lays it on the line is in this sentence – ‘even the slightest of pecks can raise a furore in the land of the Kamasutra and Khajuraho. Correction, my reporter friend, we’re now known as the land of call centres and the Bollywood that gave the world the song number – Choli ke peeche kya hai. And I have a problem with the TOI report that says bizarre public reaction (to ’a slight peck or a mere brush of the lips’) is not something peculiar to India – ‘it seems to be a sub-continental malady’.
Such needless comparison, that in no way furthers the story, may not go down well with our neighbours. I doubt if the story would have played out in this manner, had a comparable incident happened in Pakistan or Bangladesh. I don’t know if TV channels there would have shown the tell-tale video clip, which fueled widespread public protest. One can’t imagine such incident happening there, in the first place. And in some parts of the world, the pair involved would not have got away with it, and survived to tell their tale to the media.
Cross-posted in Desicitics .