Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I began, once again, to reflect on Indian culture which I have often derided, see “Are We Civilized”
The following day, the topic for discussion was; “Soap Operas help evolve the value system”. I was hoping to see some of today’s generation tear into the ‘Saas bhi kabhi Bahu thi’ genre but I once again got praise for how these serials show family values & the benefits of joint families. The farthest anyone went to criticize the sexist, casteist & reactionary was to say that maybe it was meant for our parents. So, our youth sees nothing wrong in good women being portrayed as those who are willing to suffer every injustice stoically for the family izzat & accept the cruelties of mothers & sisters in law for the sake of preserving a marriage as even the “good” husband cannot question systematic cruelty & exploitation.
The next morning, on the eve of Women’s Day, the Times of India carried extracts of a report on men & gender equality. The survey apparently shows that Indian men stand at the top of the world in sexual violence & that two thirds of them think it’s OK to beat women and that raping a wife or partner is their birthright. Also, most Indian men felt it was the woman’s job to avoid pregnancy, they were offended if asked to don a condom, many have sex with sex workers who are minors. They do not communicate with their partners & certainly don’t believe in doing “women’s” work like changing diapers or giving the baby a bath.
The great mythological epics Ramayana & Mahabharata reinforce this approach to women. Sita was forced into exile a second time, alone and pregnant. She raised her child as a single mother & then sought deliverance when the earth opened up & swallowed her. It is said that she was mercilessly banished not because Ram had any doubts about her fidelity but because he heard of a washer man berating his wayward wife, declaring that he was "no pusillanimous Rama who would take his wife back after she had lived in the house of another man". In other words women are expected to belong to their husbands & can be sacrificed for political convenience.
In the Mahabharata Draupadi is wagered & lost by the Pandavas. The Kauravas then proceed to strip her. When her pleas for mercy are ignored she even questions the legality of Yudhishtra wagering her when he had already lost all his possessions but the father figure Bhishma merely states “The course of morality is subtle and even the illustrious wise in this world fail to always understand it.”
It’s not just women, anyone who is not a male Brahmin or Kshatriya is inferior. Dronacharya first refused to accept Ekalavya as a student explaining that he only accepted Kshatriya princes as his students. Later Dronacharya demanded Eklavya thumb in exchange for teachings imparted.
In practice our “sabhyata” encourages us to ill treat women, to enslave them, get them to cook, clean, part their legs whenever the man who owns them gets the urge & very often even to go out & earn the daily bread while her husband or father lazes around & drinks himself stupid.
Our Sanskriti ensure that significant sections of our population are bonded labour, with many duties, but no rights. As an upper caste you will get polluted by sharing the well, although raping the Dalit’s daughter doesn’t spread the contagion. Village Panchayats often burn Dalits & their homes on the flimsiest pretext. Khap Panchayats extol the virtues of honour killing. These panchayats are supported by senior politicians & ministers.
I know many of my readers (largely privileged class) from the metros will take exception because the segment of society they live in has evolved and doesn’t look at caste except for arranging marriages & taboos even in this area are being dismantled. This group says that the reservation system has made it very tough for their kids to gain admission to colleges or government jobs. They see affirmative action as a curse.. Unfortunately even in this limited space affirmative action benefits only a small backward & OBC elite who are now as exploitative as their high caste predecessors. What’s the difference between Mayawati & the exploitative Brahmin aristocracy?
This is the small minority that has benefited the most from British rule. It was the British rulers & the handful of intellectuals seeped in British liberalism who ushered in some reforms. Later they accepted Ambedkar as the head of the constitution drafting team. But the reform process has left much of the real India untouched.
Recently at a social gathering one of the ladies told me that the greatest proof of our superior culture was the fact that Indian (she meant Hindu) culture deifies women! So, she waxed eloquent on Durga & Saraswati. She had no answer to the question of why then we had so many cases of female foeticide & infanticide, why brides are regularly burnt for dowry, why widows are condemned to indignity for life & why in some parts of our country the practice of Sati still persists. The practitioners of such atrocities are not necessarily fringe elements.
My years as a production supervisor, referred to in the piece Are We Civilized taught me that these are not exceptional cases but the norm.
Posted by G at 5:45 PM