Give The Kiss A Miss


Give The Kiss A Miss

did to Rakhi Sawant in a stupor of self-indulgence was labelled the ‘Pressing Vine’ in the Kamasutra. “When grasping her chin, you pinch her mouth to an ‘O’, kiss her hungrily and hard, it is called the pressing vine.”

In Vatsyayana’s text, this kiss is the most intimate of them all. In fact, some translations make a distinction between the pressed kiss and the greatly pressed kiss.

Mika pressed his luck. A typical north Indian bullying trait. He did with the kiss what he naturally does with queues at airports. Jump them. Rakhi pressed her point that she was molested. Typical conservative outrage when modernity doesn’t work as a bodyguard.

Now as the two slug it out in court, it is the kiss that stands in the witness box. Arrested for becoming a split personality.

It is not the veracity of the incident that is under scrutiny. Mika and Rakhi might be laughing up their sleeves for having pulled a fast one on the media. They got attention that only the best PR firm could have arranged for them. Hours of live TV coverage, zooming into a belligerent, boob-heaving Rakhi and a defensive Mika. Two days after the incident, he performed at Elevate, a Noida pub, and the crowd went berserk screaming “Rakhi, Rakhi….” He smirked.

Publicity notwithstanding, what is at issue here is the significance of the kiss. When is a kiss a kiss and when is it a mere gesture of familiarity?

Time was when Indians did not kiss; only flower petals did. Except Devika Rani, who was no wilting violet. Her long and lingering kiss in the 1933 film Karma with Himanshu Rai, her real-life mate, shocked the prudes out of their wits. That kiss remained in the museum of memory for many decades. Those were the days when “What after the kiss?” was the starting point of tingling erotic imagination.

Raj Kapoor kissing the Russian actress, Ksiena Rambiankina, in Mera Naam Joker only reiterated the point that Indians girls were not for kissing. The ’80s and ’90s might have opened the floodgates for the kiss in cinema, but in real life it was still the best peg for a controversy. When Padmini Kolhapure gave India’s royal guest, Prince Charles, a peck on his cheek in the 1980s, the media turned it into a morality debate. Just as the world thought that Indian girls were not for kissing, Kolhapure assumed every white man could be kissed. Little did the adolescent and “forward” Kolhapure know that royalty must not be touched, leave alone be kissed.

When Khushwant Singh kissed the daughter of the then Pakistani high commissioner, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, his grandfatherly gesture further jinxed the tenuous India-Pakistan relationship. Qazi rushed back to Islamabad to apologise, while Khushwant carried on, without malice.

There was some heartburn even when Shabana Azmi gave Nelson Mandela a “freedom kiss”. Later, Indian cinema, constantly battling with the censor board’s sharp scissors, stepped in to give the kiss a new lease of life. Aamir Khan and Karisma Kapoor’s liplock in the 1996 film, Raja Hindustani, rekindled fire for 10 minutes. But by the time the kiss reached Mallika Sherawat and serial-kisser Emran Hashmi in 2004, no one was counting.

Not all kisses count for intimacy. Some hint at familiarity, others indicate allegiance to a certain social class. When you mix up one with the other, you are left with a Mika kiss. It confuses the sexual with the social. Does he know the difference?

The social kiss that Mika has acquired along with his just-out-of-Punjab lifestyle is a Page 3 excess. Versions of the social air kiss surround us wherever we go—shaadis, parties, book launches or Appu Ghar. Everyone seems to be air-kissing—easily, frequently, unthinkingly. It turns a bit comic at times with strands of hair, collars, ears and earrings being kissed to save makeup-smoothened cheeks. Some kiss once on one side of the face and stop, others believe in kissing both cheeks. So one has to keep guessing and simultaneously smiling.

It is now a do-it-anytime, anywhere with anyone, exchange. A social currency, quickly doled out, robbed of its unique ability to make someone feel special. A free gift with the rapid English speaking course. It has blurred the difference between the friend and the acquaintance, between empathy and eagerness.

It’s time we saved the real kiss. And reserved the affection it symbolises for those who we like or love more than others. Less is more. Especially in social kissing. Vatsyayana would agree. It is all about the right context, he wrote.

He never pressed the point.