Haresh Shah

Some Call It Smut – Others Read It For The Interviews – And You?
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Why I felt the need to write to my parents to justify my taking a job at Playboy, I don’t know. But just in case if they had similar misconceptions about Playboy as do most of the people who had actually  never even read it. I wrote a long letter telling my parents  how happy I was to have had an opportunity to work for one of the best magazines in the world. Of the four magazines I consider to be the standard bearers are: Time, The New Yorker, New York and Playboy.  The letter was basically me refuting the people who expressed their opinions with a smirk: yeah right! You read it for its interviews.

To my astonishment, my father’s response was: so what’s the big deal? Haven’t  you  ever read Rasa Manjari? Right!! But my dad read Rasa Manjari? Uhm! Not only had I paged through Rasa Manjari, but also had to study two Sanskrit classics: Shakuntla by Kalidasa and Swapna Vasvadatta (Vision of Vasvadatta)  by Bhása. Their microscopic descriptions of the female anatomy in all their graphic details would make even Madonna blush. Not to speak of Kama Sutra, which I hadn’t read.  And what about all those multi-dimensional  carvings of Khajuraho and other Indian temples depicting every conceivable positions in blatant fornication? They all prove the point made by the late Bollywood legend, Dev Anand,  in his opinion column that appeared decades earlier in  I  believe either Indian Express or Free Press Journal.  Accordingly, what we now proudly call the Indian culture was sadly brought upon us by the culmination of several hundred years of  rule by the Moguls and the English. Along with the breath-taking Mogul monuments such as Taj Mahal and the British building of the country-wide network of railroads, what we also inherited from them were their prudish socio-sexual values and morality. India before them was the country of the gender equality and the ultimate socio-sexual freedom. It was a country in which the court dancers occupied honored positions in royal advisory councils.

Breathing a sigh of relief, when a year later I boarded the Bombay bound Swissair flight, squeezed in-between my clothes and gifts were several copies of Playboy. The magazine long banned in India. I wanted to show my family and friends the love of my labor. How would I get it through the ever so vigilant customs of the country was something I had to play by ear.

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