The Society has changed
This incident dates back a couple of months from now. It was a not very pleasant summer
evening. I was waiting at the park near my house for a friend, when I heard two women having
a very raunchy discussion; happily criticizing someone very harshly. They were talking about
a woman, measuring her vices very carefully, and by their tone it felt that they were very close
to holding that woman responsible for the eternal damnation that humanity was about to
face! I was and am well aware of the fact that eavesdropping is discourteous, still out of sheer
curiosity I couldn’t hold myself back from doing so. And it proved to be quite a revelation.
This concerned woman that they were talking about was married to a man who served in
the Army and was posted away from home. So, she had a very meagre nuptial life with her
husband. The woman was very friendly with the younger brother of her husband, primarily
because both of them were almost of the same age. Apart from that, since her husband had
to remain out of town for long stretches, her brother-in-law was there to look after the family
The woman and her brother-in-law always had each other’s backs. They shared a warm
relationship with each other - going out together for shopping or movies – all within the
knowhow of her husband, who took it very sportingly, and appreciated their maturity and
trusted their bonhomie. He also knew that they would never deceive him in any way. But
not everyone had the same opinion. Her parents-in-law aggressively defied this friendship
and closeness between their younger son and elder daughter-in-law and never abstained from
speaking their minds out in front of their elder son. The elder son would do away with all their
gibberish taunts with a smile paying no serious heed to their complaints. Her parents-in-law
even tried to restrain their younger son from interacting with his sister-in-law, but needless to
say they failed in their ploy. In the absence of her husband, the woman was also subjected to
rude comments, accused of infidelity and her characters were questioned brazenly; the woman
never protested. These theatrics, which till a particular point of time were staged within the
closed door of the family, were soon joined in by kins, neighbours and well-wishers of the
parents-in-law. These outsiders soon added enough salt and spice to the private life of the
woman and started ridiculing her in public with support from her parents-in-laws.
As they say, “no one knows where one’s destiny will take him to.” One day, the family received
the news of the elder son’s sudden demise, while on a special operation against a group of
terrorists. The family was suddenly sucked in immense grief and desolation, unable to come in
terms with the sudden loss. But the lord above probably had some other plot ready for them.
The widow of the elder son, our protagonist, soon confirmed that she was pregnant. The news
helped to douse the grief of the family temporarily. The parents-in-law took it as the lord’s
blessing and looked forward to welcome the child, who, they felt would be their son’s rebirth.
The parents-in-law became extra cautious towards the well-being of their daughter-in-law and
somewhere in all these activities, peace and happiness were gradually settling in the family.
But this happiness was to be short-lived. There are people around us, who, instead of basking
in the happiness of others, would always attempt to drive a peg through the smooth wheeling
of life. So this family also had such ‘well-wishers’, who in an attempt to quench their curiosity,
openly asked the parents-in-law of the woman, whether they were sure that the child in her
womb was actually that of their elder son or someone else’s. Our minds are like a hot tea pot.
The moment you try to touch it with your bare hands, you will get burnt. When faced with
such a question from an outsider, instead of confidently quashing his authority to raise such
a damning question, we tend to fall prey to the hideous mindset of the world outside. So did
the parents-in-law, and how could they not have? They were one of the biggest critics of their
daughter-in-law’s closeness to their younger son and they were the ones to have provided the
world outside a poisoned conscience. Now the same poison was returned to them and there
was no turning back for them.
While a new act to this drama was unfolding, both the woman and the younger son placed a
proposition in front of the family – that of marriage! The younger son volunteered to father
the child shaping up in the womb of the woman. The proposition couldnot have come at a
worse time but now and it convinced one and all including the woman’s parents even that the unborn child rearing in her
actually belonged to the younger son of the family. The log-jam got stretched a little too far now. There were more and more
of embarrasments waiting to get piled on to the woman from every corner. Some family members (including her mother-in-
law) even went to the extent of blaming the woman to use black magic in ensuring her husband’s untimely death. According to
them the woman and the younger brother were already having an affair and this child was the result of such heinous act. Her
husband must have known the fact. And since he loved both his wife and his brother too much, he could not take any decisive
action. It must have pained him a lot and distracted him in the battlefield, resulting in his death.
Both the woman and her brother-in-law tried to make others understand their point of view but to no avail. They even tried to
make them understand that their family would lose its only heir but the results were futile. The woman was turned out of her
in-law’s house and was also branded a whore by her parents, before showing her the door. She lives all by herself these days.
She gave birth to a baby boy, who is around 8 months old and she is trying to get two ends meet while raising the boy. Her
in-laws have not maintained any contact with her, although they suspect their younger son to support that woman till date,
The way one of the women blabbered out the story to the other, I guessed her to be the mother-in-law of the woman – our
protagonist, sharing her ‘misfortune’ to have such a daughter-in-law to some friend, relative or whoever. I could actually
guess it based on her body language, the pitch of her voice and ofcourse by her age – around 55 years. And what better way to
bring solace to your heart than to spew out as much venom as possible against anyone you hate the most! Her younger son, I
collected from their discussion, hasn’t married yet, and to add to their dismay is intent on continuing with his celibacy.
This discussion did open up a new avenue in my mind where I started contemplating a chain of thoughts that took me back
to the age of “Ramayana”. Such trauma was faced by Tara, who was the wife of Bali, the King of the “Vanaras”. After the death
of her husband in the hands of Lord Rama, she was quick to realize the gravity of the situation and managed certain things to
suit her interest to later become the wife of Bali’s brother Sugriva on the condition that her son Angad becomes the heir to the
throne. She was very brave to take this decision of marrying her brother-in-law just for the sake of her son who was the heir
to the throne and could have lost his right if she hadn’t done so. We find ourselves facing another similar situation if we go
through the life of Mandodari, the wife of Ravana. Vibishana, Ravana’s brother offered to marry her in order to save her from
committing self immolation after Ravana’s death at the hands of Lord Rama. And the society didn’t resist them at that time.
They did marry each other.
Today’s Tara and Mandodari, in the form of our nameless woman of the above incident, also wanted to do the same but
people in the “Treta Yuga” were probably far more wise, mature and understanding than those of our current era. A woman,
who is still fresh in memory of the loss of her husband, soon finds herself being pitted as a whore, as a wretched, an immoral,
characterless woman, just because she had maintained a cosy, friendly and warm relationship with her brother-in-law. And
even if that woman had desired him, what mistake did she do? She did carry out the role of a wife and a daughter-in-law, but it
was just her desire to satiate her inner urge which otherwise was left unattended by her husband, who spent months and even
years outside the home at the borders or at the warfront. With no one to apply any balm on her wounds that she was inflicted
for such a long time, salt was rubbed on to her wounds by blaming her for her husband’s death!
As I have said earlier that our society is like some old wine in a new bottle but unlike wine the taste doesn’t get sweeter, but
sours and even gets bitter. Our perspective gets a strong ground in this incident as we find our society, mainly the way we think
and our outlook to life and relationships, are still light years away from “true” progress. Who is going to answer all the questions
that the woman would like to pose? Who is going to shoulder the blame of the servitude that the woman was subjected to? And
the questions just continue to build up…
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