Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A 'Rakhel' by any other name.....

This appeared in 'The Week'....

A ‘rakhel’ by any other name….


In this, the so-called Age of Enlightenment, when the Dalai Lama himself is sending out a powerful message to the world regarding gender equality by declaring, “ I am certainly not the best Dalai Lama of 14, and certainly not the worst…. if a female reincarnation is more useful, why not?” But is anybody listening to this wise soul? It doesn’t seem so, going by the shocking description used by a senior legal luminary while referring to a live-in girl friend as a ‘keep’. What a nauseatingly old-fashioned and archaic term that is… and how obnoxious, the put down! What was the man thinking? I was vastly relieved and proud when my old friend, the feisty senior counsel Indira Jaisingh, spoke up strongly against the usage and asked a few tough questions. ‘Rakhel’ is the Hindi equvivalent of ‘keep’ and sounds nastier still, even though it is merely a literal translation. It has an abusive ring to it and is frequently hurled at women in relationships outside marriage as the worst insult ever.Designed to denigrate and humiliate the shameless hussy who has dared to defy society by sharing a bed with a man not her husband, it is the sort of word that popular television soaps adore since it is bound to evoke a strong response – mainly from other women. The convention- obsessed moralists who feel sanctimonious and smug about their own legally recognised partners ( same dolts who have tied the precious mangalsutra round their necks). All these absurdities were floating around inside my head while watching a Marathi film that deals squarely with the subject. Based on a true story, it narrates the rather sad tale of a young woman who lives with the village school teacher for thirty years but can never win the respect of the community because she is seen as a ‘rakhel’. Worse, when the upright master dies, leaving her behind in their one room tenement, the old landlord resurfaces to throw out the hapless woman insisting she has no locus standi being just a mistress of the tenant and not his wife. She bravely challenges him in court… and wins. One has to understand the happy ending in the context of when the incident takes place (decades earlier) . Given the fragile status of women at the time ,her victory indeed qualified as a progressive landmark judgement.
But the crude comment we are talking about here is less than a month old. And was made by an erudite judge, no less. Was it just the terminology that sent shock waves throughout the country? Yes, of course. Terminology can never be interpreted in isolation - it is an apt indicator of a person’s mindset. Ms. Jaisingh had raised an important counter question when she’d boldly asked what a man is called when the situation is reversed? Is he also disparagingly dubbed a ‘Keep’ in court? If not, then why not? Why the double standards? As I write this, countless ‘virtuous’ women in North India have just finished fasting for their men. ‘Karwa Chauth’ has become one of the most important dates in the calendar of certain ladies, clearly inspired by the over romanticized portrayal of this ritual in popular cinema. From those melodramatic shots of Kaajol fasting for Shah Rukh Khan ( not yet her husband) in the immensely popular ‘Dilwaley Duhaniya Le Jayengey’ many moons ago, millions of misguided wives have taken to observing ‘KC’ in a big way. This involves not just starving in style , waiting for the moon to rise and the husband to return, but also applying mehendi, dolling up in bridal finery, receiving extravagant gifts and generally bonding with like minded girl friends over music and other distractions. Since ‘KC’ has become such a huge annual farce, it is worth asking why there is no known equivalent that requires a husband to fast for the long life of the long suffering wife! I don’t know of a single custom in our culture that makes any such demand on men. The onus of keeping a marriage going, the children and spouse happy, ensuring prosperity, good health and success for all, rests squarely on the woman’s delicate shoulders. She’s the one who starves, fasts, prays, punishes herself in various ways ‘for the sake of the family’. All that is expected from the man of the house is his mighty presence. So long as he feels like Hercules and is treated like Superman, everyone is pleased, especially the Gods. And guess what? Women who are official ‘Rakhels’ and ‘Keeps’ observe Karwa Chauth, too !

******************

We are fooling nobody. Congress 'sacks' Kalmadi .... and seals several mouths. Ashok Chavan steps down as chief minister ( Wow!) and guess who's likely to stroll in?? Vilasrao! Whether it's Deshmukh, Shinde or Wednesday.... they sail in the same boat. If the High Command is serious about tackling corruption , arrest the scamsters.... go the whole hog. Merely asking tainted fellows to resign is nothing but a sham being made out of a mega scam. Sure, they'll step down.... buy time... fix files... and step right in again. Meanwhile the Raja of all scams is still out there.... scot free and shameless.

35 comments:

avidblogger said...

Hi Shobhaa,

Would love to know who this senior legal person is. Very nice post written today. I especially love the KC part. You're so right, it has become a bollywood inspired farce.Just another occasion to show off your new sarees and jewelery.

Manali said...

What is the name of the Marathi movie? I would love to see it..

srinath said...

one of your best posts. I have been a silent reader of all your posts but the injustice that still exists in the society has been penned down beautifully

god bless

r2d2 said...

THank you for summarizing the situation so succintly! You are in an amazing position of having a voice that people hear, a precious platform in indeed.

The only question I have for you and other readers is what do you think it will take for senior political leadership to clean up their act? Are we doomed (genetically, socially) to be "blessed" with such corrupt politicians? What will it take?
A social revolution ala France? Foreign dominence ala British Raj?

Nilu said...

Dear Ms. De,

I loved that you chose to write on the topic of live-in relationships, keep etc. It is a very sensitive topic and many women are struggling for understanding and acceptance in today's modern world where live-in relationships, extra-marital affairs and divorce run rampant. The man usually gets away scot free.

For centuries, women have borne the burden of the being the foundation of all societal goodness. Any non-conformist step taken by her is usually viewed with a jaundiced eye.

I've always felt that the older generations have been very harsh as a society in general, not just to women. Perhaps the reason for this is that when you are struggling to meet your basic needs as in food, shelter and clothing - emotions take a backseat. But in today's sumptuous times, when all these needs have been more or less met, it is time to pay attention to our spiritual growth. This means an enhanced awareness of the impact of our speech and action on others and being sensitive, compassionate and forgiving. For only this will need to peace and contentment in this 'ghor kalyug'. Live and let live is an excellent policy and if only more people embrace this the earth would be a greener and more peaceful place again.

Nilambari

goodluck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cmpershad said...

a live-in girl friend as a ‘keep’.

Then what is the status of `wicket keeper':)

goodluck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
goodluck said...

If marriage does not confer respect, rights and other benefits, then why cant this institution be done away with? Let there be only live in relationships.That seems fine to you. Then why did you undergo two marriages, you enlightened woman?
If women without marriage status are treated with par, then why these foolish parents spend lakhs of rupees on marriages?
Even in advanced and fully liberated countries, marriages are still taking place.
The other woman who knowingly enters into a relationship cannot expect respectability and status whether she is a filmstar, politician, socialite or any other ordinary woman. She has to live with the sting as long as marriage remains a part of society. Do you let off a poor employee off the hook if he indulges in corruption to make ends meet? Do you allow copying in exams and allow it respectability? Do we condone incest even if it is a matter of heart? When other things are discussed so thoroughly, why do we want to hide and close our eyes when the topic of incest is brought about? Why gays and lesbians are still struggling to get rights?
Hindus make fun of muslims being allowed to have four wives. Atleast Islam gives respectability to other woman by allowing four marriages. Most hindus are hypocrites in this respect. We can amend hindu law and allow four wives. And why not four husbands for the women as well? Why not equality of genders in this respect too?

Appu said...

Politics
- better option maybe.

Alka Gurha said...

Unfortunately for Pollies the only punishment is sacking...if at all. Yes, sack them.Put them behind the bars. But going by the involvement of several of them the whole Maharashtra cabinet will be sacked. And Raj will rule...I mean Raj Thackeray.ha ha

Radhika Gupta said...

nice post shobhaa... i liked your thoughts about men not observing something like karva chauth for the well being of their wives or families... n as far as the resignations of ashok chavan and suresh kalmadi are concerned...its just another tactic to misguide people by not doing something serious abt the problem of corruption..

Divya Virmani said...

Ms. De,

I totally agree w/ the fact that there aren't any such fasts which are an obligation for men in our culture. But what more can you and I do? We have been following the karvachauth custom [happily and whole heartedly] from the past thousand years and if lots of people are objecting then why don't they come up with a new fast just for men? There is no harm in trying out such thing??? However, the fact still remains that no one will go against the 'already made customs in our culture'.

kanch said...

Support your stand on equality for women and the right to sex before marriage. But do not support adultery and deceit as depicted in movies such as KANK - not fair to your partner and can destroy him/her emotionally.

Anil Kumar said...

The silence from Mulla news channel NDTV 24X7 and our beloved honest but Gaddar Primeminister on big scams is not a surprise anymore.

Mulla News channel NDTV 24X7 is showing things like Pepsico chairmans interview, gadgets peogram or news about bodo on prime time. The Butt stops here program seems to have evaporated in thin air. The news which hits congress and Muslims below the belt is SHOWN IN FINE PRINTS on the NDTV screen.

Will you take to task some of your friends in MEDIA circus like Barkha Dutt, Prannoy Roy on why are they hiding away by giving a lousy coverage on some of these scandals and on poor chaps who were forced to resign???


Or its little awkward to expose your own buddies in media who present the moulded news to suit the political parties they are associated with???

Sadiya Merchant said...

i really honestlyyyy dont get this live-in ka funda....if ur sooo in louuve den y not just get married? keeping it open- ended means u dont wanna commit n dat by itself is a sign of reserving an easy escape route to backout in future.

moreover subject to all these cheap words that society tags on such relationships---WHYYYY opt for it when there is a far more respectabl way of gettin to the same objective????

also, i think the whole- 'i want to maintain my independenc that's why no marriage' theory is bakwaas!

dat again is my take n dont condemn anyone else fr holding odr views

goodluck said...

As for corruption. Corruption is everywhere. Apart from Congress, there is DMK and its Rajas. Yeddiurappa and his Reddys. BJP and its hide and seek game with corruption. Now Congress is in limelight and red faced. Power corrupts. If Raju can be jailed, why not these bigwigs and IAS and other civil servants? And the High court judge. Army has more corruption but it is all camouflaged because they are fighting wars for us. But they cannot be condoned just because of all those chakras. Corruption is a hydra headed monster and it has no death. Ban private property. It is not about disproportionate assets. It is about disproportionate distribution of wealth by lax tax system which allows wealth to grow to monstrous proportions providing various loopholes. When there is this type of wealth glaring at you, there is bound to be attempts to join the club by hook or crook.

Sumit said...

Think all of us will agree to that. It is all hogwash. Seems the scams have become a way of life for the party in power and they have become quite adept in dealing (read hushing up) with these. Find a scapegoat, give him the sack and order a judicial inquiry and walk with your head held high till another one breaks out taking over from the earlier one which then becomes a thing of the past…...
Sumit

Meghna Mehta Jaising said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AKSHAY SINGH said...

I do not comment on every post of yours ma'am ....but trust me when i say so .. I DEVOUR all of them !
and then savour the taste in my mouth for days ...
we need people like you ma'am .
i still remember your "speedpost" letters . you are so traditional in one way and yet you do not see things like "live-in" as something against our CULTURE .
The same "culture" which exploited devdasis and widows for ages !
way to go ma'am ... I just fall in love with you more and more with every article of yours !
this one is goign on my fb wall :-)

Latha said...

When it comes to husbands cheating on wives, you say men don't do it. Boys do it.
When Shakthi Kapoor was seduced by a women & telecasted the length & breadth of India for the sake of trp ratings, you said he should've thought of his wife at that time before yielding.
Now you glorify the 'other woman' & according to you the wives are "dolts" who have tied the precious mangalsutra round their necks & are fasting for KC.
I wonder which Shobhaa De is the real you !

NAT said...

Shobha,

All these scams, scandals and what our politicians are masters/Aces at, reflects the Society we live in.
While I do not condone these rogues/rascals. The less said the better.
One can give 100s of examples where we as Citizens of this great Nation commit so many scams, cheating and so on every other day in our lives, and we live with it, as if any one protest, then that person has to bear the consequences. I do not have to spell it out.
The loot may not be in such huge figures (it depends on the size and location the society is placed) but none the less it is cheating, robbing others of their hard earned money.

1. Take for instance our very own Co-operative Societies that we live here in Mumbai. Very few Societies can say that they are run without any scams, especially when major repairs are scheduled for the concerned building. The MC members think they are PMs and CMs, Commissioners and care a damn for the members, who they forget also have a stake in the Society.
It is the same scene year in and year out, when the accounts are juggled, but can anyone point this out? God help that person. So what is the difference with the guys running the State/Country and us?
2. There are so many commercial eateries, which use domestic gas cylinders in their kitchens. They cheat the gas companies and deprive actual consumers of their rights.
Likewise taxes. I will will not elaborate.....
3. Staff, workers of big establishments,and even small ones, cheat the company from small change as in making personal phone calls, taking stationary and other things home from the office.
4. Big companies having Staff who draw 5 and 6 figure salaries a month, accept/demand huge sums of money from contractors to hand over contracts. Some even demand Women.......and if these demands are not met with, then...Not every one acceeds to this demand, but persons who have no values do so.

How are we any different from our so called masters?
There are so many others issues that can be brought out in the open, but will there be any change? It is for each and every one of us to change ourselves first.

The only reason I wonder at times is, that we are a Nation of spiritual people, We believe in Karma. How come then do we carry out all these scams, thieving etc. just to fill our coffers and feed our evil ways. Do we not think of what will happen to us in future?
How much of this loot can we carry up. If left behind, there are so many examples of what takes place.

Cheers!

Norman

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Abhinav Zar said...

ARE OUR MOTHERS AND SISTERS REKHEAL AND WE ALL BORN ARE BASTARDS AS PER Shobhaa De
BECAUSE WE ALL ARE RESULT OF LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP CALLED MARRIAGE. SHE SHOULD STUDY THE FUNDAMENTALISM OF HINDUISM WHERE THE IMPORTANCE OF EQUALITY OF MEN AND WOMEN IS GIVEN. FOLLOWING THE CORRUPTED SOURCES AND THEN POSTING SUCH RUBBISH POSTS IS PROOF OF IMMATURITY.ALL THE RITUALS FOR MEN AND WOMEN IN HINDUISM ARE EQUAL IMPORTANT FOR MEN AND WOMEN AND THEIR FRUIT IS ALMOST MAXIMUM FOR WOMENS AS COMPARED TO MEN.THE SOCIAL LAWS OF INDIAN SOCIETY ORIGINALLY DEFENDS MORE THE WOMENS BUT DUE TO IMPACT OF EXTERNAL AGENTS LIKE MUSLIM INVADERS IMPACTED OUR SOCIETY AND OUR SOCIAL STRUCTURE GOT ADULTERATED WITH WRONG CONCEPTIONS AND CONVENTIONS. THE CHALLENGE IS OPEN AT
http://www.facebook.com/abhinavzar
OUR ACTUAL SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS LAWS
PROVIDE SAME PARAMETERS FOR KEAP AND MALE IN THE CATEGORY.. IT IS VERY BAD TO PROMOTE ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE COIN ONE SHOULD IF DARES SHOULD PROMOTE THE TRUTH AND THEN ALLOW PEOPLE TO DECIDE WHAT THEY WANT AND BELIEVE IS GOOD FOR THEM.
THANKYOU

Abhinav Zar said...

ACCORDING TO HINDUISMS AND INDIAN SOCIAL FUNDAMENTALS FOLLOWING THINGS ARE ABIDE TO PEOPLES:-
1) MEN AND WOMEN ARE NOT TWO BUT ONE AFTER MARRIAGE.
2) THEY HAVE EQUAL RIGHT ON EACH OTHER AND SHOULD RESPECT EACH OTHERS MORAL, SOCIAL, SPIRITUAL, ECONOMICAL AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND BELIEFS.
3) NO WORLDLY AND SPIRITUAL DEEDS OF MEN OR WOMEN ARE FRUITFUL WITHOUT EACH OTHERS CONSENT AND SUPPORT AS WELL APPROVAL.
4) THEY CAN NOT DIVORCE EACH OTHER NEITHER THEY ARE ALLOWED TO CREATE SUCH SITUATIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES. THAT WILL BRING THEM ON SUCH FRONT.
5) THEY CAN NOT FORCE EACH OTHER FOR ANY SACRIFICE TO FULFILL THEIR BIASED DESIRES.
6) MENS AND WOMENS ARE FREE AND LIBERAL TO PARTICIPATE IN EACH AND EVERY WORLDLY OR SPIRITUAL JOBS.
7) NO GIRL OR WOMEN CAN BE CONFINED TO RESTRICTIONS TILL THEY VIOLATE THE MORAL LIMITS OF SOCIETY THAT IS TOO APPLICABLE TO MENS.
MORE SOON ON MY POSTS OF FACEBOOK
MORE OVER I AM MEN AND MEN IS ERROR MAY I HAVE SOMTHING FORGOT TO WRTEOR YOU FEEL IS WRONG PLEASE ASSIST OR CORRECT ME
TO ALL SISTERS AND BROTHERS FOR ANY VIEW PLEASE GET ME AT FACEBOOK.
OR MAIL ZARABHINAV@GMAIL.COM

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Seema said...

Ms.Dey,

What fun do you get out of challenging each and everything done without questioning in the past? Even the existence of God as a matter of fact is a debatable subject. It is totally "your" prerogative to believe in God or not, to do a "Karva Chauth" fast or not. Nothing is a farce if you believe in it strongly. It bonds you together. There are certain strong ingredients required for a successful marriage. What is the fun with men doing it?

Don';t you feel you have an edge over your husband while doing a Karva Chauth fast? are you not pampered that day and made to feel special...men can;t do it like women do....they are just not strong enough...how many things do you want to change Ms. Dey??....there will be nothing left to follow eventually...the essence of everything will be lost....

Now you'll say that men should touch the feet of their women(EQUALITY)...older women should get married to younger men...(whats in age?....)

Women should not shun their surnames......(EGO)
women should not leave their parents but men should....after marriage....

Life does not become smoother by questioning everything that existed....you are unknowingly giving rise to a greater problem called"EGO"

As far as live in relationship goes...is it some kind of a litmus test they have to go through before committing to each other? What will they have left to discover of each other later? And even after that...can they guarantee that they'll have a safe & successful married life...he'll soon lose interest in you and find someone more interesting!!

Let us follow the principles moderately by making minor changes but not major ones...life will be much easier...

sushant joshi said...

these so called proponents of modern society "saviours" of modern women have got it all wrong and twisted. Check this statement "Designed (the word rakhel)to denigrate and humiliate the shameless hussy who has dared to defy society by sharing a bed with a man not her husband"....
what does it mean....you mean that women will uplifted when they will commit adultery??? then you imply that men are already uplifted and enlightened if they also sleep with other women and defy social norms.....these "pseudo-thinkers" today have eroded the meaning of upliftment....u think u r defying social norms by allowing ppl to sleep with sm1 other dan their spouse?? u dnt defy a social norms like dis...u defy socual norms like madan mohan malviya...or ishwar chandra vidyasagar....(if u r enlightened enuf Ms. De and know dese ppl).....
dis mangalsutra is nt a dogs collar or a leash whch bounds u to throw away ur individuality and live in sm1 else's shadow all ur lyf...its jst a symbol of some institution or culture......if its dat denigrating then y wud ppl like Maharani Gayatri devi(whom u extol i believe) will wear dem??? isnt she enlightened or educated enough....???
Also ##@Latha## u r confused that who is shobha actually....she is a great writer who knows her words selection perfectly nd can infuse dem jst like in the movie inception...but she is also an ignorant and not-so-knowlegeable author who like other media giants seem to have assigned for themselves a God-given right to assume that their readers are ignorant by default....bt mam its not like that....its u who are ignorant who view religious inclinations and customes frm a very narrow view.....and never dig deep for further and original words...is it a calculated move for the fear of contradcition...or plain ignorance.....but as i judge you (its ur job actually)....its both for you.
you might delete this.....bt i thnk if you support freedom of expression like you did fr eminent ppl....u should not...

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