I caught a glimpse of a serial on television the other day. This was the scene – a blind wife throws herself at the husband’s feet begging to be allowed to stay with him. Her disability is seen as a major hindrance that prevents her from doing her wifely duties and chores. Well-wishers urge the husband to dump her at an ashram and find a new wife to take care of the house and his child. With tears streaming down her face she begs this stone-faced man who scolds her and tells her to make her way to the ashram.
She painted such a pathetic picture of herself, wailing uncontrollably, helpless and totally at the mercy of her husband that it stirred something in me. This was no modern day soap but inklings of such desperate behavior do show up in pretty much every television offering. Forget television, in the back drop called real life a lot has been going on. The triple talaaq debate for one. Raping an unconscious woman gets a Stanford student a light sentence to protect his future. And in another part of the world a woman gets on the wrong side of law for reporting sexual assault. A Bollywood star compares the rigors of shooting his film to being raped and if history is to be believed he will get away with it thanks to his celebrity status and blind fans who will back him up unashamedly.
Where is the justice? I wanted to reach into the screen and shake up that wailing woman and tell her she was better off alone and to stop treating him like some God that needed to be appeased. Known for people pleasing, we women take it to another level when it comes to men. We deny ourselves in order to please our men. Oh, he doesn’t like me wearing make-up. Oh, he likes my hair short. Oh, he doesn’t want me to work. What the hell do you like, woman? Does he honor that as well? I hope so or he is so not worth it. Some women deny their own needs to the extent of living in loveless or abusive relationships. You deserve to be loved and honored for what you are. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. It is sad that so many economically impoverished and uneducated women are left high and dry by men who use and abuse them. It is sadder that many educated, highly capable women suffer in silence instead of walking away from abusive or adulterous husbands.
The excuses are many. Kids. Society. Financial dependence. But when a man does the same thing no one questions him. He can wash his hands off his kids and get away without paying child support or alimony. But women? Oh no! Walk away from an abusive relationship and you have ruined your child’s future, marital prospects, psychologically damaged them and what not. And guess what? It’s always the woman’s fault!
If educated women can’t stand up against these atrocities then what hope does a poor housewife who can’t read or write have? Her fate is sealed and she can be cast out on a whim or just by uttering a word three times. Or worse, held hostage and made to do the housework while the husband carries on with other women. Victims of aggression and insatiable lust, these women suffer unspeakable horrors. Some pay the ultimate price for standing up to oppression. Throw in dowry deaths and acid deaths and you have a bleak picture. When will this end, I keep asking myself. Sometime soon I really hope and then the narratives on TV and in cinema will reflect that change by showing empowered women who hold their own without a man hovering in the background.
Damayanti Chandrasekhar loves yoga, baking and the Tao. She has a Masters degree in journalism and her other interests include reading, travelling and playing agony aunt via her blog www.punctuatelife.com