'Indecent Proposal" is a 1993 movie based on the novel of the same name by Jack Engelhard, in which a married couple's relationship is rocked when a stranger offers them a million dollars for the wife to spend the night with him. Set in Las Vegas, Robert Redford plays the rich lech while Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson play the couple. The plot is unoriginal; those of you of a particular vintage may remember Lord Beaverbrook making a similar proposal to a dowager at a ball. She bristles indignantly at the proposition but then a million pounds isn't chump change… so after a token display of maidenly modesty, she demurely accepts the offer. At which point Lord B revises the fee to ten pounds. 'Five pounds, what do you think I am?' snarls the dowager, whereupon he looks her in the eye and deadpans, 'We have already established that, madam. We are now setting the price.'
Does life imitate art? Who can tell, but a story doing the rounds about a certain member of a golf foursome provides some insight on indecent proposals, the battle between the sexes and sex between the classes. A group of women labourers at a golf course in Bangalore were de-weeding the fairway and in order to work more efficiently were squatting on their haunches. They weren't provocatively dressed; in fact their heads were covered to protect themselves from the blazing midday sun. Enter our man Manju, his prurient instincts aroused by the squatting women. 'Shit, I tell you, some of these females, you give them a good scrubbing and they'd be well worth a…,' he guffawed. Now golfers are not the most politically correct species but even his four-ball were gobsmacked. 'You know that's exactly what they were saying about you when you were teeing off,' deadpanned his playing partner and the links reverberated with laughter.
On a more somber note, the public protests over the Hyderabad rape tragedy carried precisely the same whiff of feudalism and what made it all the more distressing was the parochial nature of their confected outrage. "These are decent girls from upper class community, not your Lambani women," screeched one hysterical granny who ought to have known better. Why should the hapless Lambanis be singled out? If that wasn't an indicator of how low our public discourse has sunk, here's Jaya Bachchan, Rajya Sabha member and Samajwadi MP giving us a sample of her wit and wisdom,
"These types of people need to be brought out in public and lynched," Ms Bachchan said. "I think it is time. The people want the government to give a proper and definite answer." So that's all right then, Nescafe and instant justice, Jayaji?
Not one of the baying, hysterical mob seemed to have grasped the irony of the situation: while they were slamming the cops for having delayed registering the FIR when approached by the victim's family, they were prepared to blindly accept the culpability of the alleged rapists on the say-so of precisely the same Keystone cops. Totally inefficient at registering a complaint but Sherlock Holmes when it came to tracking down the perps? Latest reports indicate that the alleged rapists were taken to the crime scene on December 6th and then "encountered", which top lawyer Karuna Nundy ridicules saying, "And what on earth were the police "investigating" at 3.30 am all this time later? When they were sleeping during the golden hour of evidence, refusing to register an FIR, when the young vet was alive?"
One isn't suggesting that rapists be treated with kid gloves; by all means, hang them if they are found guilty after due legal process. But abandoning the checks and balances of a civilized society and relying on mob fury to deliver instant justice is certainly not what our founding fathers had in mind when our Constitution was framed. Empathy for the victim cannot be conflated with allowing a lynch mob to be our judge, jury and executioner because that, Jayaji, would be a truly indecent proposal....