Ekta Kapoor is the reigning Queen of Indian Televison. Here is a tongue-in-cheek look at the norms she and her contemporaries dictate!
As I did my evening flip-flop in front of the television – that is, flopping down on the couch like a potato and flipping the channels – I was hard-put to choose between the annoyingly loud, depressingly analytical news channels and the repetitive blood and gore movies.
So, there I was, inundated by the offerings of the czarina (and similar pretenders) of Indian TV once more, after a great many years. Watching the ‘story’ unfold, I realized that we, the women of India, really need to thank Ekta Kapoor and her fellow producers for her contribution to our understanding of Indian women.
Most of us drag ourselves into our cooking space at the crack of dawn with a bed-head, bleary eyes, and morning breath. Actually, cooking needs a full layer of make-up, tinkling jewellery, and designer saris, even if it is at six am in the morning. Women even go to bed with full make-up and heavy jewellery. Kudos to them!
Once she is married, opting for the full regalia of maangmeinsindoor (customary red mark on the forehead of married women), glittery jewellery, long mangalsutra, multiple bindis, bangles from the wrist to the elbow, and shiny sarees are mandatory for all women. It does not matter if we have been used to practical clothes like jeans and tees, or salwar- kameez before wedded bliss intervened.
We know now that Karva-chauth and its attendant formalities of starvation and worship of one’s husband are the true litmus test of wifely devotion. Husbands are, and should, be generally excused from this.
Senior men are either hen-pecked or authority figures. There is no median.
Had it not been for the Tulsis and Parvatis of TV, we would have never ever known that the gossip and machinations of kitchen politics come a poor second to the politics that we endure at work.
Every family has the obligatory vamp. If there is no one, then some woman is appointed to this post. This is usually the woman who wears loud make-up, low-cut, halter neck blouses or ‘bold’ modern dresses. Ergo – the stereotype that a woman dressed in modern fashion has to be a vamp! The Vamp has to also talk to herself and have bizarre expressions on her face while plotting the heroine’s downfall.
Weddings should be spread out over a minimum of five days with due homage paid to Karan Johar films vis-a-vis the dance, costumes, music, and lavish scale of the celebrations and orchestrated functions. It does not matter if the family is middle class; a scaled-down version is sacrilege!
There is no space here for single or divorced women.
People in Mumbai either live in ‘chawls’ or palatial bungalows. Said chawls are obscenely spacious ( by Mumbai Standards) and are ‘Chawls’ because the entry-doors are perpetually open and there is a buzz of human traffic (extras) happening outside! These set designers should really, really visit a chawl. There is no space to swing a lens in, let alone the camera. The role of the vamp in a chawl is usually fulfilled by a meddling member of the family or neighbourhood, who then gives a new definition to the words ‘loud and crass’ and reinforces stereotypes about ‘low-class’ people.
Every dwelling is full of the extended family, i.e a joint family on steroids. Buas, chachas, taus and mamas abound; nuclear families are rare here.
Every family has the obligatory very, very senior member, usually a grandmother, whose only role is having health problems so that she can coax someone to fall in line with her wishes and marry (ha!). Once the marriage (unsuitable mismatch) is solemnised, she (the grandmother) relaxes on the sofa, guzzles the immortality elixir, and lives forever.
This entire cycle of petty politics is highly addictive. I am now sucked into this alternate reality and the lure of tales much like those by Brothers Grimm during my childhood, only this is the sisters and aunties Grim!
You may have realised this from the sheer number of observations enumerated, that I now live for the advent of nine o’clock. All for the practical demonstration where I can learn how I can cook, walk, shop, clean, work, plot, sleep while in full regalia of tinkling jewellery, shimmery sarees, et al and become the Adarsh Bharatiya Naari (Ideal Indian Woman).
Also of import is the secret of the long-life elixir that these old ladies seem to have at their fingertips. Who knows? I might even coax one of the grandchildren to do my bidding in my dotage!
Hi. I am an anaesthetist by profession living and working in Mumbai.
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