The Wail Behind the Invisible Veil
This post is written by my friend and guest blogger Karthikeyan Chandran. He blogs at Glocal View
How many times have we heard that our culture is the best in the world? How many times we ourselves have repeated the same without even giving a second thought to what we are saying? What is this culture, tradition, the nebulous set of values that we are so proud of? Recent events that i have been witness to made me think. It made me evaluate the set of values we hold in such high esteem and the conclusion that i arrived at was completely at odds with ideas that were ingrained in me since my childhood. Notwithstanding all the paeans we have heard about how Indian culture gives a special place to women, i found ours to be deeply misogynistic which punished women in every walk of life, in every stage of their life. Each and everyday we are witness to so many atrocities committed against women that we don't even bat an eyelid anymore.
Right from the day a girl hits puberty, she is shackled with a whole set of rules that should put anyone to shame. Even in things like eve-teasing and sexual harassment that women go through on a daily basis, the excuses to justify such acts (like the girl invited trouble by not dressing properly) simply reeks of sexism. Or take the atrocious act of rape. How does our society treat women who have been raped? They are branded and face innumerable hurdles before they can even get married. How is this a tradition/culture that we have to be proud about? If art forms, popular or classical, does imitate the real world (or viceversa) it doesn't look great either. How many times have we seen a reel hero marry off his sister to the guy who raped her, and we don't ever feel a sickening feeling in our stomach watching such scenes. How in God's name is this justified? How many of us even notice the sheer stupidity and vulgarity of such an act? We don't because this misogynistic tendency is instilled deep in our thoughts right from our childhood, all in the name of Indian values, that we don't even realize this. I can give a whole list of dialogs from Tamil Superstar with his ridiculous misogynistic dialogs.
Another blatant hypocrisy in our society is the ridiculous value that is placed on female chastity (alone). If it is that important for the functioning of the society i am sure it would have been placed for both men and women. Why is infidelity of men condoned so easily, yet women are punished so hard. Or how many of us even question our own mythologies (not if they are real or not, but the underlying principle). How many of us think about Ramayana and question whether Lord Ram was wrong when he asked Sita to prove her chastity by going through agnipariksha? Again, as i see it, Sita was the victim here. (i know this is going to ruffle a lot of feathers, but i am not sure i have heard any decent explanation about this).I am not sure i am so proud of a culture that penalizes the victim than the criminal.
Dowry system, institutionalized to such a ridiculous extent in parts of our country that each educational degree carries a particular amount, should make us hang our heads in shame. The irony of the whole thing is, as the society becomes more literate all these practices (mind you, i am not even going into superstitions and rituals here)are supposed to wane. But i see the dowry amounts being discussed here as a matter of fact among desis (the educated world traveling ones) with respect to their degrees, their income and GC status. Some might try to explain this away with how the idea in the old days was doing the right thing by giving a girl a share from her father's side. In this day and age, when the property rights have been properly written, it doesn't hold good. I am sick and tired of having to listen how it all made sense a few thousand years ago, so its not all bad. I say Bullshit. I hear the same explanation many times to explain away the caste system. Again, i say Bullshit.
What do we do to widows, young and old? They are branded and they are not allowed to attend any functions. They are not allowed to remarry (easily). They are forced into a life where each and everyday is a monumental sacrifice, a fight for survival, a struggle for acknowledgment. What does our society do to a woman who loses her husband say at around 30 years of age with a little kid? Is ours a compassionate culture that places value in rehabilitating them, one that strives to help her get over the personal loss? No, it is one which doesn't want her to part of any other happy occasion like a marriage. It is one which never ever wants her to have another companion in life, even if she has another 40 years ahead of her. It is one which wants her to stay put in a corner praying till she drops dead and be grateful that she was born in a "wonderful" culture like ours. It is a story like this, of a young 30 year old widow, that made me think.
Is there any reason to be proud of this invisible veil called culture that is so cruel to half the population? I don't see one, do you?
(Note - This is my first post here at Sonyvellayani. I expect to post atleast once every two weeks. Originally published here.)