Did the traditional family of the past have a happy, blissful time? This question has intrigued me often. I hear from the elders, and read in books too, that once upon a time ‘They all lived under one roof. There was love and care and sacrifice. The human values were intact’, etc. etc.
I don’t refute the elders’ claim. In fact I find it very soothing to believe that once the world was a better place to live in. It makes me happy to know that people were once happy!
Being an urban woman — dweller of a concrete jungle — you get an idea of your rural counterparts — the women who inhabit vast lands and terraced mountains — only through crude statistics that tells you of their illiteracy, of their deaths during child-births, of their unpaid labour, of their harsh life.
It’s seldom that you have a glimpse of them, not spun out of the figures of statistical bulletins but of real encounters, no matter how brief, how abrupt.
Why can’t we have men friends the way we have women friends? A volatile question indeed, that often puzzles a friend of mine. She thinks women can have friendship with men.
What she means by friendship is a relationship based on mutual understanding and care and sharing of interests and ideas — minus motive, sans desire. Just like a relationship that exists between two female friends.
When a marriage falls apart, who suffers? Either of the spouses, logically. The woman, most probably. But there are times when logic fails in our peculiar social scenario.
When I saw Aapa lately, I was dumb struck. She looked like a ghost of her former self. From a plump, hefty woman she had been reduced to a skeleton. Dark circles had made her eyes sunk deep in her shriveled face. Her skin had broken into a rash and her body itched from eczema — a long suppressed ailment that re-surfaced with a ferocity.
There is something getting on my nerves day by day: it’s hypocrisy in our society and our life. Above all, in familial relationships. It makes me sick and I dread the day when it would rob me completely of my trust and pride and good feelings I have for the ‘family’.
The ‘family’ of the East has been so glorified and its accounts so studded with adjectives like ‘love’, ‘warmth’, ‘cohesiveness’, ‘stability’, etc., that it’s almost a sacrilege to point out any flaws, glaring or subtle. You can only talk about ‘the good’ and dare not contemplate ‘the bad and the ugly’.
And the last thing you can question is the parent-child relationship.
Of all the misfortunes that befall women in our society I think the hardest is an idle husband. A husband who doesn’t work, doesn’t earn, doesn’t do home chores, and neither does he go away and leave the woman (and kids) alone. A woman stuck with such a husband is in a quandary.
An idle husband (nikthatto shauher) is not an uncommon phenomenon in our society. Women suffer in silence accepting their condition as fate. They know the treatment of this diseased situation is divorce. But they don’t want a divorce because of the stigma attached.
“In women,” Bertrand Russell said, “zest has been greatly diminished by a mistaken concept of respectability”.
Zest is an in-born human capacity to enjoy life, to be interested in the world and the varied and the beautiful things it has to offer. In our society, I think, this basic human instinct is, to a large extent, killed in women not only by a mistaken concept of respectability but also by a distrust of men inculcated in women by men themselves.
Take for instance travelling. Not till very late, a woman’s going out of her house for pleasure was considered a horrible, ignoble act. Times have definitely changed. The women who have the opportunity and desire to travel in-land or abroad, do travel. Still, by and large, conventional thinking persists — that it’s dangerous for girls to travel unless they are duly chaperoned. Girls who do travel may have to face raised eyebrows and sarcastic remarks.
The concept (and practice) of taking up to four wives has always intrigued me. Rather, enraged me. I always thought irritatingly, ‘Well, if a man can take four wives why can’t a woman take four husbands?’
As I grew up and delved further into the question I realised the complexity of the issue and naivety of my stand: polyandry is no answer to polygamy. Telling the kid one’s not sure who his father is among the four guys is as confusing as the disclosure that the poor soul has got four mothers (one real, three step)!