Thursday, May 23, 2019

The other half

There was a time when my day wouldn't start without a newspaper but these days I really fear to open the newspaper as most of the headlines tell about some violence on women. Although it is not something new but since media has now reached to every corner of the world and present minute details of each of the incidents, we get the real pictures from the spot and are shaken by the intensity of the tortures. I have a bad habit of thinking from the criminal's point of view and finding out the reasons of committing the crime. I kept analysing the mindset of the accused and tried to figure out the root cause of this mindset. What makes the half of the population of our country (or more than that) to think that it is okay to treat a woman as a property, as an easy way of earning money or an easily accessible package of entertainment. Is it lack of education? Don’t think so. As I've seen many illiterate men to respect women and also seen highly educated people treating women as a puppet. So education is not the root cause.

My curious mind took me to the beginning of humanity, to the first pair of ancestors of human. Many of us already know that according to ancient midrashic literature Eve was not the first woman on earth. There was another woman named "Lilith" who was first sent to earth by God. Lilith considered herself Adam's equal and refused to accept Adam's way of asserting his authority over her so she was banished by God and God had to create Eve in the second account as a replacement of Lilith. Well, since this story came from an ancient literature and there is hardly any proof of its authenticity so I am considering this just as a myth. But my take away from this story is that from the very beginning of humanity men never considered women equal to them otherwise they wouldn’t have written such story.

The mentality behind the tortures on women, that is considered as crime in today’s civilized society are actually inherited from our ancestors. In the prehistoric period all women were raped and we all are actually descendants of raped mothers. In ancient civilizations women were sold or exchanged like other products. Even just 200 years ago the custom of Sati, the immolation of a Hindu widow on her husband’s pyre is an example of barbarism. Now if we look at today's civilized society, we still find the same violence on women to lesser extent.

Mindset behind treating women as an inferior counterpart is actually very deep rooted. How many of you have grown up reading those grandma’s story where the story starts with “There was a king who had three queens.”. Now let me ask you, do you think you would have loved the story as a child if it had started with “There was a queen who had three kings”. I really doubt one would even write such story.

Polygamy or multiple affairs at the same time or the Harem system in Mughal period have always been accepted for years without raising any question to the society. But one Draupadi , who was forced to marry five men has always been treated as a woman of questionable character. Despite being a wise, intellectual and rebel woman she was never given the same honour and respect as Sita or Sabitri. Whereas each of the five Pandavas ,despite having other wives apart from Draupadi are still treated as heroes. While their ascent towards Himalayas, as they climb their way to heaven, Draupadi was the first person to die on account of her partiality in her affections for Arjun. Can you imagine, a woman is being punished for not being able to love all his husbands equally. Don’t you find it extremely ruthless? Moreover, when a woman had to regain her virginity every time after her tenure of one year with one husband so that the other husbands don’t get deprived of the pleasure of sexual intercourse with her. It was okay for her to sacrifice her love but it was not okay for the Pandavas to sacrifice their pleasure and still she was the one who was punished and not her husbands.

Draupadi was not the only woman from Mahabharat to be a victim of prejudice. Kunti had to sacrifice his first son as she gave birth to the child before her marriage. None of the Pandavas were sons of Pandu. They were sons of different Gods. But the practice was portrayed with lot of honour to give it a reason for acceptance. Amba, Abika and Ambalika , three princesses of Kashi were won by Bhisma in Swayambar to marry them off with his step brother Vichitravirya.

I really wonder how easily we accept the legends of Krishna having sixteen thousand wives and multiple Gopis in Brindavan apart from Radha. Why have we not questioned for years why Radha’s love was not sufficient for Krishna? Do you think we would have worshipped Radha if she had as many lovers as Krishna had? The picture is not different in other part of the world. One queen Helen’s love for prince Paris led to a Trojan war and there are many such examples in all ancient civilizations. So the bottom line is, women never had the right to live life on their own terms, they were always expected to sacrifice and devote their life for the sake of society and family.And every time they went against the age old prejudice it led to a war or a revolution.

The reason of giving these examples from mythology and history is just to establish the truth that the root cause of all the violence on women that happens today actually are result of a strongly rooted believe which has been flowing in our blood. Everything else went through evolution except this mindset that women are not equal to men.
Now coming to modern age. I don’t want to pick examples from the interior part of our country as the situation there has not progressed much from the era of Mahabharat. Let me talk about the urban people, who are educated and claim themselves to be liberal enough. Urban men love their wives until their wives start loving themselves more than their husbands, kids and in laws. The women even don’t know the true definition of love as they have hardly experienced it. They don’t even know their potential, their dreams , their true worth. Well educated, independent , modern girls still wait for their prince charming to propose them , marry off , cut their wings and cage them for life. I have seen few men who claim themselves to be liberal and have huge respect for women , actually can't see a woman's soul beyond her beauty and physical appeal.

I still can't see that day in near future when a 15 years old will not be thrown acid on her face for refusing a 32 years old's marriage proposal, a two year old will not be raped by her neighbour, a newly married bride will not be burnt alive for dowry unless women start questioning every move they take to fit into the society.