Thursday, June 21, 2012

Notes on the ‘Indian Woman’

1. In India, woman is not a cohesive category, but a series of archetypes, a long list of other categories, each of which can function independently without the reference to other categories. On one spectrum of this is the whore and on the other is the goddess. (It is interesting how to make the Durga idol, the archetype of the mother goddess, it is compulsory to use at least a handful of soil collected from the house of a prostitute. This ritual suggests that whore as a category must exist to popularise the goddess as a category.)

2. This is what makes a comprehensive "rights" movement for women in India. Here, women are not just the other of men. Within being the other to man as a category, women in India are sub-divided further and further, to the extent that a woman cannot always come to the aid of another, since their immediate realities are different – a daughter wouldn’t identify with a mother, a wife wouldn’t identify with a “fallen” woman.

3. In Sudraka’s ‘The Little Clay Cart’ (Mricchakatikam), Vasantasena, the courtesan is richer than the Brahman Charudatta. But, Charudatta’s wife Dhuta is given more respect in society than Vasantasena. Vasantasena has riches, but she cannot “consummate” her love; her maid Madanika, on the other hand, cannot marry her lover because she doesn’t have the finances to free herself from servitude, and her mistress cannot help her.

4. There are three stages of Indian womanhood: Mother: Wife: Daughter.

5. Man & Woman: world/ home; field/heath, political/moral…

6. Women from Indian mythology, all categories unto themselves: Sita, Savitri, Draupadi, Gandhari, Kunti, Shakuntala, Gargi, Maytreyee, Urvashi, Menaka, Rambha, Sharvari…

7. The myth of Manu, who wrote the treaties of Manu, and how he lived in the golden age where the women had the rights to choose a man of her choice, and how his mother left him and his father for another man and how, sad and angry, he formulated the rules for the women to have a “master” in various stages of her life – father/daughter, husband/wife, son/mother. A woman is never free, a woman is never on her own.

8. In ‘The Serpent & the Rope’, one of the seminal texts in Indian writing in English, Raja Rao writes how women do not form the part of the family history. (P3)

9. The myth how curiosity is a woman trait and how it brings about the downfall of men: Pandora and her box, Eve and her apple, Sita and her golden deer, Draupadi and her blue lotus.

10. Even the so called mothers of the god-figures cannot escape the fate of being a woman: Marry, Yashoda, Parvati.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said...this thought has been crossing my mind time and again. On one hand when we worship a Goddess as powerful as Durga, on the other, we have to get mud from the house of a prostitute to make her idol!! Is it her power that drives us or that without the mud from the house of the neglected lot, she would not be complete? Which woman is more powerful here then? Be it a prostitute or a goddess, she is still a woman...a woman who has the ability to give birth and suffice you. Talking of women, I came across the ITC Vivel Active Fair Choo Lo Aasmaan that I found very interesting. It is honoring the women who have brought about a change by being a change themselves. It could be anyone, your mother, your wife, your daughter...who has made your head high. Nominate her at