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I supress the anger rising inside me. An outburst of my fury would mean I am culpable. And I refuse to take the blame on my shoulders.
In a parallel universe, this is what should have happened.
I look at my reflection as I while away my time at the lake.
Yes, I see a young woman. Her almond-shaped eyes stare back at me. Her luscious lips would make any man go weak in his knees. Her raven black hair cascades down her neck like a wild waterfall.
With a sigh, I get up and adjust my upper garment.
He is a sage. That makes him great, I suppose. But he is my father’s age. And that is reason enough NOT to marry him.
Why don’t people around me realise that a 20-year-old woman also has her physical needs? Why am I being relegated to the status of a domestic help as I cook for my husband while he meditates? I put my foot down, firm in my resolve.
Hermits are not known to accept a NO for an answer. Their tantrums are infamous. It is nothing short of a divine providence if he has overlooked my ‘folly’ and ‘forgave’ me for my transgression. As a beautiful and young (as if it were a crime) woman, I should offer myself to him, thank him for accepting me and spend the rest of my life serving him. Even in bed!!
Is that the term? My husband has gone out to meditate and I resign myself to doing those mundane chores. A shuffle of feet at the threshold shakes up my monotony. I look at the figure at the doorstep and stop myself from chuckling.
Dear imposter, you might dress up like my husband, but I know his gait very well. You are too regal for that posture.
As if reading my mind, the man smiles. His eyes sparkle with lust, a feeling I have never experienced before. I almost stumble with disbelief as he reveals his identity. I should have been filled with disgust at his advances. But my heart skips a beat. The Lord of the Lords is smitten by me, and trust me, the sheer rush of adrenaline is something I cannot explain. Doing the exact opposite now, my heart beats faster.
I extend my hand towards the visitor.
The time spent in the arms of the King of the Lords were the most beautiful of my life. Alas! All good things have to come to an end. Before the King can leave, my husband is back. The rage in his eyes could have burnt down the forest. His thundering voice could have woken up The Divine Vishnu. Sages are known to curse. I am well aware of that.
I look at my lover. He is shaken and looks ready to depart. Leaving me alone to face the wrath of my husband. I supress the anger rising inside me. An outburst of my fury would mean I am culpable. And I refuse to take the blame on my shoulders.
Before my husband opens his mouth, I take a step forward and stand before him. The Lord is still behind me, hesitant yet confused. An onlooker would deduce I am shielding Him from the angry sage. Oh, the irony!!
“Oh Husband! I know you are about to curse me. I have no idea what that would be. But I have something to say. The Lord here should share the curse with me. He was a party to the crime, if you can call it that”. The visitor recoils in horror. My husband looks at me with a mixture of shock and bewilderment.
How can I ever expect the Lord to be cast in stone? Waiting for ages before another benevolent avatar of Vishnu sets him free? To seek forgiveness (for uncommitted sins) is a feminine virtue. No, I cannot do that. If adultery is a crime, let there be equal punishment.
And while I am talking of equality, can I expect a Goddess to ‘redeem’ me?
They should rephrase it. I was born at a wrong time in a wrong place. In a parallel universe and in a different era, I, Ahalya, would have stomped out of the Ashram of Gautama, head held high, leaving Indra behind to His fate.
First published here.
Image source: By Raja Ravi Verma, Public Domain
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).