To begin a blog with “swear words” was exactly not in my original scheme of things but the words themselves powerfully suggest, what I wish to convey through the next few paragraphs of this rant.
For a fiercely and often oppressively patriarchal society, Indians are reared on the “mother culture”. It may sound like a species of bacterium but obviously it is not.
My Indian brethren take much pride in bowing their heads in homage to the countless Mother Goddesses who are well established in the heavenly hierarchy. Then of course, there are Mothers of Gods and Mothers of God’s Son as well. There are mausoleums and monuments built in the name of the women who have come to occupy rather influential ranks in the holy Divinity, which otherwise is safely referred to in the male gender.
Back on earth, amongst us ordinary mortals, the female of the species in India is fast depleting in numbers (sex ratio according to the Ministry of Home Affairs 2011 is 933 females per 1000 males. Check censusindia.gov.in) but that does not deter more men or women from female foeticide because the “mother culture” also demands that the sacrifice from the women, of the women, and by the women themselves.
Then of course, there is the coexistence of the two extremes of this culture- in a city I know for example, I never fail to marvel that within the same area which houses the sanctum sanctorum of the Mother Goddess, one finds at some distance a thriving population of the women who are the underbelly of this city. Man venerates the woman as Goddess and then takes her to bed for self-gratification. That is our multi-functional mother culture.
Our man, whether the global citizen or his desi avatar, almost never fails to express his righteous anger and outrage using not only the ubiquitous “f-word” but by adding a reference to mothers, sisters before it , can get one the desired humiliation the usage was intended to bring upon the listener. Now isn’t that something? I wonder why such liberal references to fathers or brothers never come up as frequently.
One also finds it in the increasingly casual attitude to rape and sexual assault. Its DNA can be traced in comments such as it is nothing but “surprise sex”, or that it was the result of “provocation by the woman herself”, or even the simple justification that “boys will be boys”.
And then of course, there is Bollywood, Pollywood, Tollywood- all very jolly good because on celluloid the mother is THE mother, so do not trifle with her. She is the epitome of sacrifice, unconditional love, with an amazing capacity to engender the hero or heroine who in turn are paragons of virtue and talents to sing, dance, make love and war in any order or maybe all together at once. Her faith can bring back dead sons to life, or bring divine wrath upon the villains. Then there is the love interest of the hero- is she God’s gift to mankind? Of course she is, because who else can be paired with God’s gift to womankind! She is model thin, but with the right curves and moves to entice hero and villain and then be saved from disgrace at the right moment. Put her in any situation- in college campus, in a village, in an office, or even under a waterfall- she will come out tops, more or less 😉 But once the streak of red vermillion fills the carefully gelled parting, she will give up her fast paced life to fast for her husband’s long life and graces by pleasing the moon goddess and the mother–in-law.
For a society which feeds off this culture, we borrow a hell of a lot commemorative days like Mothers’ Day, Sisters’ Day, or even Daughters’ Week, from the western world. These have their utility by helping commerce, Facebook statuses with many “likes” and “shares”, and of course, reviving dying relationships. But they also serve mischief makers like me to ponder their actual relevance in a country like ours.
Visit Vrindavan or Kashi- a couple of cities associated with refuge at the feet of which Lord you fancy and watch the hordes of widows who exist in a parallel universe. Shunned by their families as unwanted and inauspicious, these widows survive paradoxically, on their hopelessness. Doesn’t the Western world have a “Widows’ Day”- obviously not otherwise, these women would have at least received a card in their mailbox.
So what was the genesis of this mother culture- which seems tilted unfavourably against the women themselves? I believe this was the mindset created by men and women for control- men for obvious reasons and the women who were in cahoots with the men because they felt they could control the men by controlling the women. Hmmm…
India needs fixing- badly and urgently. How this will be accomplished is anyone’s guess but it has to be done. Till then, we can keep celebrating and commemorating, till one day there aren’t any women around to celebrate and commemorate…mother promise!