Women on sale
My blissful sleep was suddenly interrupted today morning by the loud, gruffly
voice of our maid. She was probably arguing with my wife over any of her probable
agendas – overwork, low wage or lack of holidays. I grudgingly rolled down from
my bed, went to the balcony and let the clear morning refresh my whole being. It
was a Sunday and I had hoped to sleep late. But my maid had other intentions. I
called out to my wife for my tea, freshened up and sat on the easy-chair, relaxed,
and started enjoying the morning. But a single similar incident came up from the
deep abyss of my mind and flashed before my eyes as if it were yesterday.
I was very young then (maybe around ten). My Sunday slumber was rudely affected
because of our maid who was crying remorsefully in front of my mother. My room
was just beside the kitchen and I could hear their voices, my mother trying to
console our maid, who was sobbing noisily and trying to explain something to
my mom. With much anger because of being robbed of my sleep, I sat up on
the bed and tried to devise the best possible way to idle away my time until I was
to “officially” wake up. Nothing came to my mind and somewhat inattentively I
started to take in their conversation.
But I heard our maid use a strange, new word repetitively during her conversation,
which made me seat up attentively in an attempt to eves drop on the ongoing
commotion. She kept on using the word “Prostitute” again and again, quoting
what her husband told her. It seemed to me that she was actually not putting up
a fight infront of my mother, but instead, was complaining about something she
really felt bad about in her personal life, back home. From the bits and pieces I
could collect from her conversation, what I made out was that her husband was an
alcoholic and never had any knack of getting a job or doing something respectable
to sustain their family. She is the only bread winner for the 4 member family and
her wages supported the education of her two children and the eccentricities of
her husband. Recently, her husband’s demands have been rising and he wanted
more and more money from her. She has been denyin outrightly to give any more
money to him and they have been having a very hot argument over the last few
days. Things worsened by now and her husband has started bringing some of his
friends and acquaintances to their house when their children go to school. And the
wicked, selfish man has now gone to the extent of letting his friends, ravish her in
return for money. If she protested, he told that he would let out this “dirty secret” to
their children. But she couldn’t let that happen. She often thought of running away
from her husband with her children, but is unable because her children love their
father very much and they would be devastated if separated from him. So, she has
to go through this intolerable torture every day, and it has been over a year since
all these had started, and is still going on. She had been turned into a “prostitute”.
I could not grasp the whole meaning of the conversation and all these heavy words
were already putting me back to sleep. But I did remember the word “prostitute”
because it was said with such contempt that the word got etched forever in my
brain. Later, when I grew up, I did understand the meaning of that word, and could
feel in my heart the contempt, and my ears rang with the pitiful sobs of our maid.
Maybe for the first time in my life I felt real hatred against a fellow human being.
Prostitution obviously is just like any other profession; but only for them who
are in it by choice; though I do feel that most women would never take up this
profession willingly. Is it correct to force someone into something? Are women some commodity which can
be traded for money, or any other gains? This brings us face to face with the Indian epic “Mahabharata” where
Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandavas, was put at stake in a game of dice, and when the game was lost she was
disrobed in front of all in the court of Hastinapur. Their husband watched the heinous act without any protest.
I was faced with the same question which Draupadi asked the whole court, did her husbands have any right
to put her at stake? Or rather, does any husband possess the right to put his wife at stake? During marriage, a
husband takes the divine vow of protecting her wife and upholding her honour at any cost. Did it happen then?
Is it happening now? Are we better than our forefathers? Some questions don’t have answers, because we do not
possess the courage to find them.
I do not know what had happened to our maid. Was there some Krishna too who came to the aid of our maid ?
Or he was present just in the “satya yug” and not in this “Kaliyug”?? She just stopped coming to our house after
about a year of that Sunday. None had any news of her. “Here is your tea”. My wandering mind was brought at
the bay of reality by the sweet voice of my wife. I looked at her face and wondered how can anyone desecrate
such a sacred relationship? I thanked her twice for the extra liquor she had put into the tea and turned my mind
towards the day’s newspaper.
My tea was finished and I was still benevolently absorbed in the newspaper when suddenly an advertisement
caught my eye. The details of a massage parlour was given along with a phone number in the personal column.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Maybe it was sarcastic. Or maybe the laugh was intended for our helplessness. We all
know the truth behind such “massage parlours”. They are nothing but a front for “sophisticated prostitution”.
But do we care? Have we ever wondered about the cruel fate faced by countless women who are lured here, or
have to take up this profession due to some pang of desperation? And the society says nothing. It does nothing
but watch; in the same way the whole court of Hastinapur watched the disrobing of Draupadi, maybe with
shocked but silent faces. They did nothing to stop such a sin. That day, only the great warrior Bhishma offered
any kind of explanation for her ill fate to Draupadi. He said, “The course of morality is subtle and even the
illustrious wise in this world fail to always understand it.”
Has that era passed? Has anything changed? How long will we wait for the subtle course of morality to take
its proper course? Husbands themselves still put their wives at stake, while the society watches their disrobing
silently. Even the birds chirping outside my window couldn’t make me happy anymore as they always did. I
felt cold, naked. Something was gnawing inside my heart, the same bug that is gnawing at the very roots of our
civilization and destroying every single seed of ethics that it ought to have.
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