I write this to express my displeasure over the article “Taking the aggression out of masculinity” (Jan. 3). The photograph of Vivekananda published with the article was taken by an American — not by a nationalistic cult in India — at the World Parliament of Religions, Chicago, where he was representing a religion, not a country. It is widely known that Swami Vivekananda and his organisation steered clear of the nationalist movement.
In the photograph, Vivekananda reflects strength and confidence which, along with his words, have acted as a source of inspiration for countless men and women around the world. There are many pictures of his in which he is draped in very simple clothing.
Choosing Vivekananda as a masculine symbol of Indian manhood is not without its connotations. Most institutions and doctrines choose such symbols from among their hallowed leaders like Lenin, Karl Max, and Che Guevara. That does not mean they represent the aggressive side of masculinity.
Swami Vivekananda preached universal brotherhood and religious tolerance. He was a national icon who inspired generations of young Indians with his impeccable character, discipline and wisdom. We understand that he never gave pose to lensmen to show his masculine power or gender dominance.
Vivekananda was one of the greatest Indians who enriched our country. The photograph is of a calm, serene person exuding wisdom. It cannot be described as promoting masculinity by any standards.
As for Karva Chauth, one wonders what is wrong in a wife praying for her husband and family’s well-being. As children, we knew our mother as the axis around which the family revolved. She prayed for the entire family and also took all important decisions. She was not a feminist or a male-basher but was assertive in her own way.
The culture of masculinity in India may be the reason for a few instances of crimes against women. But it is certainly not the only reason behind sexual crimes. Had it been the only reason, sexual crimes would not have taken place in other countries. If the diverse cultural, traditional and family values are understood properly, India will enjoy eternal peace and happiness.
Praveen P. Gowda,
Keywords: Swami Vivekananda