Dr. Richard Delacy delivered a talk titled “Love, Sex, and Female Identity in Modern India” at the Quad Auditorium on Aug. 10. Through examples from a film and a book, he asked his audience to think about what it means to be a modern Indian woman.
Dr. Delacy said that there are tensions between being liberated and being Indian. “You want to stay Indian … but a lot of those Indian things are oppressive,” he said. Mr. Delacy asked the audience, “How do you handle that?”
Dr. Delacy continued, saying that the film industry is only serving to stretch these tensions between liberation and conservatism. One example he gave was from the Bollywood film Queen, where a conservative Indian girl travels to Europe and finds freedom to drink, party, and have sexual relations with whoever she pleases.
Dr. Delacy said that the film presents this as a positive thing. The filmmakers essentially said, “We believe that this is the most liberated way to be in the world as an Indian woman,” Dr. Delacy said. But what about the conservative Indian values the star of the movie grew up with? Dr. Delacy asked what happened to those values: are they not worth saving? The film said no, throw them away, but Dr. Delacy said it’s not so easy as it may seem.
Though he didn’t give a definite opinion on whether this separation of conservative and modern India is okay or not, he did ask the audience to think about some questions. What does it mean to be a liberated woman in India? How can one balance being modern with being Indian? Is it even possible?
After the talk, Nandini Seth and Fiza Bakshi, both Class of 2019, reflected on those questions. Focusing on what it means to be a liberated Indian woman, Seth said, “I think you should be free, you should feel respected, have dignity, love yourself.”
Bakshi said of being Indian and modern: “You can’t be fully modern and fully Indian. You can take ways [from both], but fully on both sides? I don’t think it would be possible.” This isn’t something to be mourned, she said, it is just a fact of life.