‘She put her chunky thighs on the table… to the juicy sounds of silken stockings rubbing up against each other.’

This is a line from a book read by Ashok Ferrey at the Bangalore Literary Festival last year. (This year’s Bangalore Lit Fest, by the way, is on the cards, and would take place during the past week of September…)

When he reads this line and others similar to this, small wonder he says his wife said she is not turning up for the launch of the book he read from. Very probably the no-show it is not for the reasons  that he thinks she is taking that rain cheque…

With prose like this — well who would blame her?  The juicy sounds of silken stockings rubbing against each other.

What's CookingThis guy is something else. When silken stockings rub against each other it may sound many things, but juicy certainly is not one of them, and any distracted student of acoustics would have been able to tell you that.

What is a juicy sound anyway, is it like a loud Cola or a deafening-latte? But this is Ashok Ferrey. A ferry-load of bombast and mostly, malapropisms.

But perhaps not much more can be expected when three panelists are invited for the Bangalore Literary Festival to discuss eroticism in literature, under the title ‘69 Shades of Gray.’

From the Kujaraho sculptures to the Kama Sutra, Indians celebrated erotica for millennia , but yet how do they want to style a discussion on erotica in literature? It’s by doing a lame take on the bestseller books of a writer of smut who got lucky because pornography sells, especially in the Amazon bookstore?

May be when the discussion is themed in this fashion they can do no better than invite somebody who thinks when stockings rub against each other it sounds, er, juicy.
There is a thin line between erotica and pornography, which, as it was famously said, is hard to define except to say that as far as pornography goes, it is like democracy — you know it when you see it.

For a country which these days thinks that the high point of democratic practice is entering lost candidates through the National List, seeing pornography and calling it what it is might be difficult as well. O the times, and the mores, it might well be said.
But, the affliction is regional as well, and when Ashok Ferrey’s fellow panelist on 69 Shades of Gray says that she is an evangelist for cunnilingus, one does not quote know whether it’s the mild blasphemy or the pornography per se that sticks out like a sore thumb in that claim.

At least the other more scholarly panelist in Bangalore, tries to infuse some element of justification to labeling the discussion one on ‘erotica’ instead of pornography, but she is largely ignored as the audience is goaded into accepting the prurient thrill of questions such as ‘Mr. Ferrey, how much of this character is you?’.

But nobody, not even Ferrey can possibly think that when two stockings rub together, it in fact for all intents and purposes sounds ‘juicy’, whatever that means — so that question should have been safely out of the way.

Perhaps they should have imported from Bombay, the prima donna of Indian pornography, Shoba De, to this typically Bangalorean festival where the Bollywood thing was done in a somewhat diluted way, and everybody was happy that 69 Shades of Gray was discussed in a manner that was not outright prurient, nor halfway serious.
‘Centering of female desire is a feminist project,’ says the panelist who says she hails from America, and this is as opposed to the early feminism that eschewed pornography, she adds.

That much is clear, but what is unclear then is why the BLF people want to regress to the earlier ages when feminism had to knock against pornography, as that was the only erotic literature that was there.

No doubt it is often times an uphill battle trying to delineate between pornography and wholesome erotica, though to some the latter may be an oxymoron …

The panel itself was either vexed or pretending to be vexed about the fact that book publishers wanted female legs in covers of books on erotica, even those paperbacks which dealt with male centered erotica.

Of course at least one of the panelists say that the delineation between erotica and pornography does not excite her, and we take that to mean pornography excites her, which is fine.

We’d certainly like this lady to be reading from Penthouse at the Literary Festival, but at least she is making some attempt to be honest here, which is in contrast to say, Shoba De, who tries impossibly most of the time to give the impression that she is Nobel Literature Prize material, while in fact writing Hustler prototype smut.

Ferrey typically cannot decide whether he is coming or going, and there is no pun intended at all, because for somebody who is excited about the juicy sound of stockings rubbing together, to say that the difference between pornography and erotica is in the ‘words’, sounds rather rich.

But Ferrey does say that the erogenous zones are aroused when the shock buttons are pressed and  what could possibly more shocking  that two stockings being juicy together, acoustically speaking at that?

And so on. At least this writer came away from the discussion with the tidbit of information regarding erotica in India — apparently 50 Shades of Gray is sold only with a brown paper wrapper and no exceptions are made, not even in the airport lounge.

This is called the Indian Victorian hangover which neutered Kujarao and all those influences. Some way to bring all that back, I must say, by evoking a smut artist by the name of E L James who specializes in sado- masochistic scenes that are borderline psychotic!