PDA On The Rise Amongst Indian Couples Courtney Barnett

India may be notoriously recognized for its responsibility in creating those Kama Sutra books our preteen selves giggled over in Barnes and Noble, but only recently has the culture begun to embrace something we Westerners find as commonplace as we do phenomenal: the act of kissing.

It’s hard to believe that something we so casually do with family and loved ones out of obligation (ugh, gross Mom!) and admiration (ay boo!) is not the norm in other parts of the world, but the nation’s social values surrounding chastity and its low rates of pre-marital sex have made publicly showing showing affection almost taboo. As a result, any general outward expression of love is considered improper and, in your little brother’s words, pretty icky. Ironic to hear from a country that celebrates weddings for several days in epic party garb.

The New York Times discussed the gradual increase in public displays of affection amongst the country’s youth population, a trend that can easily be accredited to the exposure to media. In December 2012, the Bollywood film Jab Tak Hai Jaan featured the first ever on-screen kiss, not only marking the changing of the times, but pushing it right to its totally smoochable edge. Shah Rukh Khan, basically India’s answer to Ryan Gosling, planted his debut movie wet one onto star Katrina Kaif, so basically every woman there now wants to be her. The nation actually lifted its ban on kissing scenes in the 1990′s, but Khan and other romantic filmmakers mainly stuck to keeping their trembling mouths a breathy centimeter away from ladies’ faces, much like your run-of-the-mill Nicholas Sparks movie poster. Ya know, baby steps.

“That kiss was an incredibly important moment,” Dr. Sanjay Srivastava, a professor of sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth at Delhi University, stated. “Shah Rukh Khan defines what is mainstream. If he does it, it becomes acceptable.”

Just like everything Ryan Gosling does.

Now, the whole youth population is skipping class and pecking in the streets! Okay, not really, but in the grand scheme of things, making kissing socially acceptable in India creates more freedom for the female voice, a nation still largely committed to the arranged marriage lifestyle.

Over the last few years, young women have experienced a growing power in actually deciding who they want to marry. According to Dr. Debra Lieberman, an assistant professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Miami, “Women are now able to select mates without having to negotiate as much with family members.” If a gal doesn’t like a guy her parents have chosen for her, she is now offered the chance of a veto. Therefore, you get to marry a dude you might actually like and, as a result, want to kiss him all the time all over his socially progressive face.

While getting all romantic on each other in public is only slowly becoming more accepted, women are at least becoming more insistent when it comes to discussing their intimate needs with their husbands. Just like how American women are all like, “Blahblahblah why aren’t you Ryan Gosling?!”

The technologically advancing world is bringing Hollywood’s influence to more parts of the globe, and Bollywood is feeling the impact. Amongst the educated, urban 20-somethings whom make up its audience, this cultural shift into sexual revolution is no doubt due to its inspiration. While I find India’s reasons behind PDA disapproval understandable, a product of its zeitgeist, this social change will mean the rising voice of the nation’s female population. Young couples who find themselves on the cusp of new versus old, tradition versus progress, can find it more common to marry for love and not family status. Alright, I’m officially sapped up enough to go pop in my copy of Bend It Like Beckham.

Featured image courtesy of Examiner.com

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  1. My source for most of this was the New York Times. I apologize if, in fact, this was not the first Bollywood film to feature a kiss, but whether or not it was isn’t the main message of the piece. I’m talking about the overall increase of kissing creating a positive impact for women in India.

    As for Ryan Gosling, the comparison was purely for humor’s sake. Forgive me, comedy is subjective.

    Courtney Barnett | 2/20/2013 12:02 pm
  2. Please don’t compare Shahrukh khan with Ryan Gosling………….Ryan Gosling is way ahead.

  3. You seriously need to do some fact-checking, a simple Google search could have told you that rare onscreen kisses happened back in the 1920s. Before the end of the colonial empire. Also while PDA is taboo, it’s hardly what you make it out to be in urban areas – but you can still be arrested by narrow-minded, self-serving policemen. If you’re going to write about a culturally sensitive issue, leave out the Ryan Gosling waffle, and do some research first.

  4. I don’t know who your sources for this article were, but you have got a lot of things wrong. “Jab tak hai jaan” did NOT feature the first on-screen kiss in Bollywood. There were at least a zillion before it.
    It was the first for Shah Rukh Khan though. And I bet Dr.Sanjay was just trolling when he said it was significant. The film bombed at the box-office and Shah Rukh Khan is not India’s Ryan Gosling.
    But it is true that PDA is frowned upon in India. In fact you can even get arrested for it.
    India is a complicated place….very diverse. While PDA is commonplace in the bigger cities and in nightclubs, it is still taboo in small towns.

    • I agree, this article makes a lot of assumptions about Indian culture, and the writer’s bias is clearly made known. I think Madhulika Vinnakota is right is saying that India, like any country, is a complicated place and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed on a topic like PDAs.

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