Why Do Some Men Address Their Wives As ‘Bhagyawan’, As Though Marriage Is The Ultimate Good Fortune?!

In many films (and sometimes in real life too) some men address their wives as 'Bhagyawan'. It is not just ridiculous, but also denies the woman her identity, her name.

I am sure those among you who are hooked to Bollywood potboilers might be familiar with elderly rustic gentlemen (in the films) addressing their wives as bhaagwaan/bhagyawan rather than using their actual names. To me this appears rather bizarre, and seems to indicate that women’s identities really don’t otherwise matter!

Etymologically the word bhagyawan (bhagya+van) is derived from Sanskrit and signifies a holder of good fortune good luck or unalloyed happiness. It is used prolifically in nearly all the regional languages which happen to be offsprings of Sanskrit.

Since this is a highly liberal forum where no-holds-barred discussions are conducted let me confess that the above-mentioned term infuriates me. Consider a typical traditional desi girl hailing from a humble background high school pass/ college dropout. In such a situation her future lies in matrimony for sure. Nothing else. 

Now visualize her post-marriage scenario as expected by society

Even if the girl is ‘lucky’ enough to have domestic help she needs to handle/supervise all domestic chores: laundry, ironing cooking, housekeeping, watering plants, shopping for groceries, greens, milk and whatnot. As if this is not backbreaking enough she must freshen up and look smart and clean before her ‘lord & master’ comes home after work. Yes, most husbands detest sloppy dishevelled wives.

Next, she must wait hands and foot till the gentleman finishes his meal. Does the man care if the wife has eaten? Generally no. On the contrary, she ought to thank her stars that she has food on her plate instead of starving.

And yet, when finally, having dined and everything is cleared up and she needs to go to bed, her spouse must mandatorily grab her to gratify his libido. For it’s his conjugal right, isn’t it? Nobody would care two hoots whether or not she is tired, indisposed, in period or facing any other discomfort. Whether or not she enjoys the sexual experience is immaterial, irrelevant. If the man gets a live mannequin in bed he will love her for her services.

Over and above she must beget children (preferably boys) prolifically which will further enhance e the man’s love for her. Summing up, this is what a woman’s “good fortune” is all about! What else can a seedhi-sadhi sanskaari Indian woman ask for?

This is no figment of my imagination

It’s everywhere in our movies. Especially those you who might have seen the (Hindi) movie Ek Chadar Maili Si (starring Hema Malini, Kulbhushan Kharbanda Rishi Kapoor) will understand what am talking about.

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A real-life instance is that of a former neighbour of mine and mother of two boys, whose husband also called her Bhagyawaan. She would gleefully observe Karwa Chauth vrat every year (fast for her husband’s longevity). On that occasion, her ‘Man’ would load her with expensive gifts and love her frenziedly, in bed. (We knew since she made no bones about it!)

Now a twist in the tale: When Deepavali came up soon after, the husband would invite his buddies (including his paramour) over, as house guests. Together they indulged in rave parties, till the wee hours. All this while, the demure, docile wife busied herself in replenishing eatables and beverages for the revellers. Wasn’t she Bhagyawan as her husband too nicknamed her? 

Image source: a still from the film Baghban

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Am a trained and experienced features writer with 25 plus years of experience .My favourite subjects are women's issues, food travel, art,culture ,literature et all.Am a true feminist at heart. An iconoclast read more...

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