So what troubles the average Sanghi boy more – the length of Priyanka Chopra’s skirt, or the potency of the peacock’s tears?
The celibacy of the peacock was national news in the same week that the actor, who first became famous for being crowned Miss World and is now promoting her Hollywood release Baywatch, received flak for displaying her legs while meeting the Prime Minister. Never mind that her legs are a deal more shapely and easy on the eye than the hairy protrusions that assault our vision from below the khaki shorts which the Sanghis until recently favoured.
The peacock, said Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma, on the day he retired as judge from the Rajasthan High Court, is so sanskari a bird that it does not fornicate to reproduce.
“It is a lifelong brahmachari,” he says, “It never has sex with the peahen. The peahen gets pregnant after swallowing the tears of the peacock.”
He went on to add that the peacock’s celibacy was the reason Lord Krishna wore its feather as an accessory. The fact that Lord Krishna was anything but celibate does not seem to play into this reasoning. The peacock is a beautiful bird, and it may be pious for all we know. But would having sex – which science tells us it does – make it undeserving of being the national bird?
Krishna’s dalliances with the gopis are celebrated in song and dance, as well as in various tellings of his tale. Does that make him any less godly in the eyes of the Sanghi?
The deification of celibacy is a symptom of the same malaise that leads to the demonisation of sex. Sex to the Sanghi is sinful, a necessary ordeal which all females but the peahen and all males but the peacock must undergo in order to manufacture light-skinned, sanskari babies.
And yet the same Sanghis want to “bring back home” the Catholics who actually believe in immaculate conception.
The judge claims there is a reference to the tearful procreation of peacocks in the Bhagwat Purana. Let us then turn to the other epics of the Hindus.
Which of the kings and princes in the Mahabharata was born of the fathers to whom their mothers were wedded? Other than Bhishma, who also took a vow of celibacy so that his father could remarry, none. Yes. None. The war so glorified in mythology was fought between illegitimate descendants of illegitimate heirs. Whether or not science proves it, the religious texts do list the fathers of the Pandavas and Karna; they also trace the Kauravas to an aborted blob of flesh, which was cut into pieces and given life by the sage Vyasa.
On the subject of epics, an introspective essay by poet and scholar A K Ramanujan, Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation, was dropped from the history syllabus of Delhi University in 2011, when the Congress was in power, in response to protests by right-wing groups.
Books that “offend” sensibilities have been banned – from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus, by way of Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey and Joseph Lelyveld’s Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, have been pulped by various state and central governments to appease Muslim and Hindu bigots.
I will never forget the one platform that bigots across religions were willing to share – it was on the day Section 377 was de-criminalised by the Delhi High Court, in 2009, and it was at a protest against “unnatural sex”.
Unnatural sex is essentially non-procreative sex.
And for once, the Sanghi boys, the mullahs, the priests, and the millionaire godmen had something in common – their detestation of all sex, except, you know, the necessary ordeal borne by some unfortunates for the furthering of their species.
So, then, back to the peacock, an exception from this procreative ordeal – the peacock which only has to shed a few tears to go forth and multiply; the peacock which is allowed to be blue (in this world where light-skinned babies can be engineered with a sanskari diet), like the gods in portraits and picture books.
For the same reason they revere the peacock, the Sanghi boys will slut-shame women who wear skirts (which expose about as much skin as the very kosher sari), and the Sanghi boys will threaten women who don’t conform to the peahen ideal with corrective rape.
The problem with the Sanghi boys is that they won’t acknowledge that sex is the reason they got here.