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Made in Heaven, through the lens of the Big Fat Indian Wedding, chronicles the price women pay to exist in our society.
Made in Heaven, the new Amazon Prime series with episodes directed by Zoya Akhtar and Alankrita Shrivastava among others, is receiving rave reviews – thanks to its great writing, characters that are all shades of grey, and for its sensitive portrayal of the life of a gay man. A strong thread that ties together all the episodes is the idea of a woman having to pay a price, just to exist in a society that cannot conceive of an unmarried woman being happy, or a marriage in which both partners are truly equal.
Note: This post contains some spoilers.
In one of the episodes, a young mehendiwali is molested by a man who is ‘royalty’, during one of the pre-wedding ceremonies at his son’s wedding. Later, we see the man’s future daughter-in-law (an educated, articulate woman who works as a pilot) have a conversation with the young girl. She begins by empathizing with the girl, but as the conversation progresses, one realizes that she is actually trying to buy her silence. The price is two lakhs. The mehendiwali asks for five, and the deal is done.
It is a powerful scene – one designed to evoke a strong reaction. And it did. It made me furious, that a woman could trade another woman like that.
When one of the protagonists, Tara, tells her husband, Adil, about this incident, he says that the mehendiwali should have been smarter and asked for more. When Tara argues that no price is enough, Adil retorts by saying that everyone has a price.
A price is placed on the heads of all the women in the series, especially the brides. And heartbreakingly enough, they pay. With their self-worth, their dignity, their freedom, their ambitions and their dreams. I wish I could say this is just fiction, but each one of these fictional women has a real-life counterpart who we read about in the papers, or who we know personally.
One cannot blame them, because they are acting as the toxicity of the culture we have created around marriage and love forces them to act. A woman must be married. Weddings must be grand. Divorce is evil. Men make the choices. Women must be “good girls.” Women must prevent their men from straying. These are some of the messages that are fed even to urban, educated women. Is it surprising then, that so many women find marriage limiting?
The narrative around a wedding is always that it is the best and most important day of a girl’s life. It is a story we see eagerly told to every girl, by the media, by advertisers and by her “well-wishers”. What is lost in making the wedding the best, is the question of whether the marriage will make her happy.
I am not saying that women should not get married. I am not saying that men do not have their own problems in a marriage. The current system however, is greatly weighted in favour of men, and that needs to change. If it doesn’t, women will continue to pay the price.
Hope is not lost, however. In one episode, a bride walks out in the middle of her wedding because she comes to know that her parents have been asked to pay a heavy dowry. In another, an older woman falls in love and marries again, even in the face of disapproval from her own children, without worrying about “log kya kahenge.”
Not all women will pay a price for being female, we can hope.
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