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The Kiss of love and death

Photo: Meena Menon  

The last thing you would expect on a heritage walk in Hauz Khas is that the lovely archways or windows have overdressed and over made up couples necking in full public glare pretending to be in love with each other while photographers advise them on how to pose and pout at each other. At first I thought this was a joke, it had a very unreal feel to it till I saw the elaborate setup with cameras and lighting and some of the girls even had makeup assistants to boot. Hauz Khas with its pavilions, has plenty of arches, pillars and windows and all of them were choc-a-bloc with fake pre-wedding romance.

The three domed pavilion was a particular favourite and it was hogged all morning by a woman who kept tripping over a long rust skirt. She and her fiancée locked their arms around each other in great displays of passion. The young man took chivalry to another level by carrying her in his arms, all orchestrated by the photographer, and doing a couple of laboured pirouettes. All of us watched with bated breath, wondering if he could manage without dropping her, but in the end he set her down gratefully the ordeal had ended.

In addition to us, watching this spectacle adoringly was a thin young girl who couldn’t take her eyes off the couple as they pranced among the ancient arches. I could see the pre-wedding shoot had hit a home run with this girl. And as we meandered around the L shaped madrassa and Feroz Shah Tughlaq’s tomb, overlooking the lake, there were couples everywhere and attendant photographers. A girl was being taught to pout, all very awkwardly and another couple had in a master stroke of innovation. They brought along a rather small and dainty umbrella with frills and some gold design under which to pose for pictures.

Sitting on the weather-beaten stones, another bride-to-be, dressed in an unbecoming, green polka-dotted halter, was being made up with haste, as she tried to ignore the amused gaze of the visitors, while in the short grass photographers set up equipment and made sure the poses were modest, but suggestive. So this girl dressed in some flowing gold ensemble stuck close to her man and looked adoringly into his eyes while others hugged in front of tombs, giving the phrase ‘turning in one’s grave’ an altogether new meaning. We asked one of the couples what this was all about and they confirmed this was indeed a shoot before their wedding which was sometime next month. Obviously this had become part of some ritual much like the mehendi and the sangeet which has invaded marriages even in the south.

A day earlier, right wing activists disrupted the Kiss of Love protest held near the RSS headquarters in the capital but students incensed by moral lectures had had enough. The Kiss of Love movement, which began in Kerala, seems to have caught on and these moralists feel pain only when they see people displaying affection in public. Kissing is Western culture, say these oracles on what is Indian culture and its do’s and don’ts. But in the best tradition of hypocrisy, it’s perfectly okay to cling to each other in public, look deeply into each others’ eyes and pose in the most suggestive manner possible. Most of these poses seem to be borrowed from Hindi films where titillation rules the roost. Even that Sunday there was plenty of suggestion of what is possible, a trailer, really, frozen on hundreds of digital frames, of things to come. But this is a pre-wedding shoot you see and we must be modest and pretend. How is it that these same guardians of morality never think of stopping vulgar extravagant weddings or the huge amounts of dowry that families have to pay, or protest when women are burnt to death for not bringing enough money. That’s Indian culture, not Western, you see. We are like this only.

The history of Hauz Khas goes back to the 13th century and is a sterling example of planning and architecture, all totally lost on the mooning couples. The madrassa was established in the 1350s and also overlooks the lake which was dug during Allauddin Khilji’s reign and was named after him – Hauz-e-Ilai. The water body has been revived under a new plan and even if it’s treated sewage water, it has a serene emerald look in the dull morning haze. The lake had dried up completely, says Sohail Hashmi, the man who knows everything there is to know about the history of Delhi and who conducts these walks. He remembers going on day-long picnics at Hauz Khas when it was dry.

The saving grace was there were no pre-wedding shoots then. It’s the kiss of death to any monument.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 3:07:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blog-free-for-all/article6586947.ece

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