(An inquiry in Cyber-Sociology)
By Sibichen K Mathew
By Sibichen K Mathew
Kerala is unique in several respects. So are malayalis (also called ‘mallus’, the inhabitants of the state of Kerala, South India whose mother tongue is malayalam. ) This small state in the southern tip of India sends millions to various corners of the world. They render their services as teachers, engineers, nurses, software professionals and also in may fields. Kerala is also known to be the biggest consumer of personal and domestic goods and conspicuous consumption is the order than exception. Believes in extreme cleanliness, it is said that Kerala men take bath twice or thrice a day! Despite the progress, exposure and overall educational achievement, this state also claims to manifest itself as a society upholding pseudo- conservative values. It wants it women to walk behind the men. It frowns upon women who work late hours outside. There is strict demarcation of seats between women and men in buses, churches etc. Arranged marriage is a virtue. List is endless.
Unfortunately there is also an extremely contrasting flip side for the ‘enlightened’ malayali culture. That is its ugly manifestations of the sexual impulsiveness emanated from a sexually repressed community with superficial value system. One can see several men who spread their wings of unfulfilled desires on hapless women in public transports and private domains. One can see that in the ravaging eyes of men who shamelessly focus on every unaccompanied lady on the road the moment sun sets in.
Though prevalent mores strongly discourage any public exhibition of romance even among those legally wed, there is no such effective ban on visual entertainment through whatever available sources. Malayalam movies were known for its pornographic content in the seventies and eighties. Some of the Malayalam movies still make their presence in other states of the country for the above historic reputation and not because of directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who placed Malayalam cinema in the world map. Many such Malayalam movies are dubbed to most of the Indian languages. One senior police officer from another state narrated some facts that speak for themselves. Raids in almost all video shops have resulted in the seizure of thousands of compact discs containing Malayalam pornographic content. This language is second only to English in providing such visual stuff for the vicarious satisfaction of millions of expatriate malayalis. Why there is no such substantial contribution from any of the other Indian languages. Does it tell about the behavioural pattern of malayalis vis-à-vis people of other states?
Another equally shocking disclosure is about the role of cyber cafes in sourcing and disseminating such materials. Cyber cafés in the main cities of the ‘conservative’ Kerala provide a ‘cubicle avenue’ for hundreds of young couples to express their intimacies in private. Little they know about the sneaky café owner who record such market worthy stuff through a tiny digital camera placed at a well-researched position. These videos are stored in discs and copied for the consumption of millions of needy malayalis and for equally hungry foreigners. The not-so-innocent victims who ‘acted’ in such video clips can pray that such stuff are not seen by their own kith and kin residing in some other parts of the world.
Mallu web culture
Malayalis are quick to indulge in infotainments of all sorts much ahead of several linguistic collectivities. They also make their unique impression on such activities in their own typical way. Internet provides cheaper, faster and diverse information on any subject. It also caters to communication needs across the globe. Net-chats provide unhindered communication between known and unknown persons across the globe. There are hundreds of chat rooms on every aspect of knowledge, life and society. One such category of chat room is regional chat rooms where different ethnic and linguistic groups share their news, views, and ideas. Mumbites, Calcuttans, Tamilians, Gujarathis and many such regions have their own chat groups in the net. There are even locations one can zoom in further in a particular city. For example desperate chatters can even narrow down for their counterparts attached to specific locations such as Brigade Road in Bangalore city or Defence Colony in Delhi. Keralites are also never behind such unique opportunity in the World Wide Web. There are hundreds of malayali chat rooms by leading server providers. One of my Keralite lady friends who entered one such room for some healthy conversation had to log out in no time. One may be curious to find what is so unique about many malayali chat rooms so that ladies flee out instantly.
The moment you log in to these rooms, it is advised to keep your voice chat in the off position. That means your microphones should be off. Otherwise you tend to hear all sorts of highest degree abuses in Malayalam between anonymous chatters. In the comfort of a mysterious obscurity provided by the dubious user name and misleading disingenuous profile, they converse crossing the boarders to vulgarity and offence. The moment a lady user name (not necessarily a lady, as many fake their gender for reasons known to them) appears, entire desperate crowd frantically pounce over that user with very intimate questions. If the gender of the victim is genuine, she would disappear from the clutches of the empathizing counterparts and their filthy conversations.
The irony is that similar web culture is not reported about other chat rooms. The friends from other regional and linguistic identities vouch that such licentious banter typical of mallu chat rooms are very rare in other chat locations. Hundreds of Kerala based network groups which store and exchange pornographic content have been blocked by several search engines and web servers. However many of them return to the web space with pseudonyms.
Though the above behavioural pattern cannot be perceived as a serious criminal offence and is also not a universal phenomena among all Keralites, it tend to expose the moral degradation of a sizable population, partly a consequent of a repressed culture. Obsession to external cleanliness is often marred by pseudo morality. One would not be surprised to see the news of hundreds of sex scandals and sex hospitality centers from a state that frowns upon things like beer parlours, ladies wearing fashionable dress etc that are very common in other states. Kerala lives with many such paradoxes. And mallu web culture is only just one such manifestation. It is high time that policy makers and social activists break the shell of hypocritical purity of Kerala and provide licensed centers to fulfill the desires of Kerala men as in several western countries. Let the ‘casualty’ cases get a reprieve from the repressed feelings through licensed entry without covering their heads. And let women walk and live peacefully without any harm from such chronic cases.
Read: Sunanda Pushkar, Mallus and Sexual Escapades
Read: Sunanda Pushkar, Mallus and Sexual Escapades