Who will save Kerala from a ghastly, misogynist attitude towards teen interaction?
A hug is the most primal, harmless, unadroned and uncomplicated engagement Of affection between living beings since the beginning of time. The word ‘hug’ has Nordic origins and Norsemen were known to be the most fatalistic of races with no pride of place for emotions. So it is rather despicable that the most transcendent form of human interaction was considered sexually deviant behavior by the St Thomas Central School in Thiruvananthapuram to suspend a boy and a girl simply because they had hugged each other in its premises. What’s worse, the girl has said on record that she (and her mother) were ‘slut-shamed’ by the school principal using highly objectionable language, bringing her upbringing into Question. It is odious that the school is even now only ‘considering’ allowing them to appear for their board exams in sanitised environs following a public outcry instead of taking action against the principal. The school, known for its conservative Christian discipline, found the act of hugging to be indecent and scandalous regardless of context. Turns out the girl student had done well in a musical performance, following which the boy hugged her in a gesture of appreciation,encouragementand friendliness. However, the teachers didn’t like this and interpreted it as unacceptable public display of affection which, if it went instigmatised, would upset the moral compass in co-educational institutions across the State!
It gets worse. The school authorities went to the ridiculous extreme of hacking into the boy’s Instagram account and interpreting his private pictures with the girl as proof that the two were in a ‘licentious relationship’ that could not be condoned. Having summarised their friendship in their myopic vocabulary, they suspended both the kids. Bigotry has no place in a country which seeks to reap the demographic dividend of its youth in the next decade, be it the teachers of Kerala, the vigilantes against Valentine’s Day, or the enforcers of (female) dress codes. By magnifying and attempting to stigmatise an act of friendship and/or affection, the authorities have effectively corrupted and sexualised the idea of friendship between a girl and a boy, something which needs protecting and nurturing if ever we are to have a healthy society which is gender-neutral. If a hand- shake or a hug between a boy and girl is proscribed as raunchy and unacceptable, then you do not allow the young to emerge healthy but compel them into defining their capabilities and physicality from the standpoint of gender cliches. This perpetuates unhealthy curiosity about the oppositeness of sexes rather than an easy acceptance of its complementarity. That this extreme revisionism takes place in Kerala, allegedly the most literate State in the country, is worrisome; the High Court’s endorsement of the school’s view that societal decorum across the State would collapse and the students should not resume classes is even more so. Although the judge did observe that the school should have a broad- er outlook when it comes to issues of adolescence and treat certain behaviour as life’s realities, it did in the end rule in favour of he school’s actions.
This case has a larger implication, considering that upwardly mobile Indians still consider missionary schooling as an essential part of their children’s English education. Even though some missionary schools have had a hidden evangelist and propagandist agenda,their education model has overall resulted in the birth of more modern Indians and fostered capable individuals. Acts such as these only denude their high standing in India’s education sector. They should know that the most educated liberals that the Christian world endorses have been promoting the ‘Free Hugs’ to bond people and communities. And the St Thomas Central School should understand that a hug has been proven to lower stress levels. Especially abnormal ones.