Nari Tujhe Salaam!
International Women's Day
Editor's note; We start our International Women’s Day specials with a host of writers discussing different issues.
I am not a feminist Godzilla but as part of the 'womanity' that holds up half the sky I must echo Bob Dylan's words: 'times they are a changin'! The waters were muddied centuries ago with the patriarchal edict that 'women are like property on which only the owner has absolute powers'! Whereas the other strand of women being worshipped as Goddesses was also over the top!
Even in mythology one can see a gender bias if you ask me,or even if you don't! I have yet to hear of an instance in history where a man is exiled or chastised for being unchaste on mere suspicion!
Perhaps not based on fact as evidenced by the British Museum, the idea of the Chastity Belt with a padlock in Europe seems to be the product of a prurient male imagination of controlling female sexuality. Quite a laughable idea to the new generation!
The silver lining is that Gen Z is not burdened with this baggage. Baby boomers and the preceding generations were caught in a cleft. Not these 'cool' kids who are a whole alphabet ahead of the oldies in more ways than one! They can handle any manifestation of gender in any combo of the alphabet: LGBTQ+. They have reinforced the concept that Woman is a dimension,
not just a female form!
But to give the devil his due we do have Parvati as the 'ardhangani ' of Shiva--- without Shakti Shiva is 'Shava'(corpse). Durga, is the most powerful embodiment of Shakti who slayed the demon Mahishasura inspite of the gift of immortality conferred on him by Brahma, with the caveat that only a woman could slay him. There is a stellar lineage of women in India from Vedic times to now. Gargi(circa 800-500 BCE) had a profound knowledge of Vedas and could outsmart any sage in debates.
Despite this shining context women have to run twice as fast to stay in the same slot in any field. Patriarchal attitudes run so deep that it is a gritty woman who breaks the glass ceiling. And we have the current gothic horror stories of women being chopped into pieces by their paramours, burnt, raped and abused! Tragically, the cliche that men are from Mars has been taken to its worst extreme.
A woman can not be defined but felt! Its finest manifestation is a mother, but even if unwed she is a force to reckon with. What a fine construct She is! A steel magnolia who can unplug drains and minds, cook up a storm in the kitchen (there is always Zomato!)and a tsunami of ideas in the boardroom, work with grit and determination and yet melt into tears at the sight of a hurt child, animal or bird---that's a woman for you.She is Aditi, Mother Earth,Shakti.She is all this and much more!
So on this International Women's Day, I have to fall back on Bollywood lyricists and composers who create lilting songs for every occasion in life. So with a nod of acknowledgement to A R Rehman and tweaking his song a bit, I say ' Nari Tujhe Salaam'!