Hindustan Times columnist Mayank Austen Soofi (Austen as a tribute to Author Jane Austen) recently shared an image of a rotten orange on the website Instagram with a seemingly sexist caption.
For the uninitiated, fruits like oranges are often used as ‘artistic symbol’ for a vagina. This half orange is used to imply how a ‘free woman’ who has had ‘many lovers’ would be like. So, this is how a vagina of a ‘free woman’ who has had ‘many lovers’ would look like.
An orange or a grapefruit, peeled in half like above, is often used as creative euphemism for virginity of a woman. If the ‘hole’ is small, it is used to show how she is a virgin and hence, ‘pure’, while the one with bigger ‘hole’ has had multiple partners. Such images usually go viral on the Internet when men think they need to let women know how to remain ‘pure’ and how to be so that men would love them.
In the above post, Mayank is romanticising and in a bid to come across as a romantic of some sort, Mayank writes how he yearns for a woman who has had many lovers. “Many lovers” depicted by a bruised, rotten orange. It is just disturbing.
A few days later, he uploaded the same image with a different caption.
Mayank, obviously, got called out for his image which is clearly in poor taste. But then there are a lot of things about him that don’t get called out. Example, his ‘white tourist’ perspective on the poor of Delhi. If you read Hindustan Times in Delhi, he writes the column where he displays his poverty porn. He will take picture of an NDMC gardener, write a story about him how he is going to eat 4 rotis and aloo-matar sabzi for lunch and then nap in the park. He would also add how his child is studying in some school and even knows English. Mayank thinks he is bringing a slice of life of Delhi to our homes except there’s a lot of pretence about his columns.
Maybe it is me but I have issues with people who romanticise things like poverty, daily struggle, normal things like being a free woman who has had multiple lovers and people like Arundhati Roy. Yes, Mayank is also an Arundhati Roy fan and likes to describe her as ‘his most beloved Delhiite’. So much that now he has even started resembling her.
Mayank got called out, obviously, but he was not too worried because like any other artist worth his salt, he was also misunderstood, obviously. “This is a most delicious variety of orange found in Sicily, Italy, and it reminds me of the ideal and delicious life of women (and men and everybody else) who work to be free and do all the things they desire in life,” he explains. Hold my orange juice while I go throw up the aloo-matar I had for lunch.
This pretentiousness is not unique to him. Over the years I have come across so many such artists or professors who like to identify themselves as ‘intellectuals’ who like to sign online petitions to legalise marijuana. Some such ‘poets’ and ‘artists‘ were recently called out as sexual predators too during the #MeToo movement which swept India in October last year. Many ‘woke feminists’ who regularly spoke on women empowerment, gender equality and feminism were called out as predators, including one who was accused of sexually harassing a minor. This just goes out to say that just because someone calls himself a ‘liberal artist’, does not mean that he could not turn out to be a sexist person camouflaging his sexism under the guise of ‘poetry’