For the first time in my life, today I had an opportunity to witness Durga Puja, the prime festival of the Bengali community. The pujo pandaal was beautifully adorned with intricate craft work and on the one side stood tall, the magnificent idols of Goddess Durga and her family displaying the dexterous abilities of our craftsmen. I found myself lost in admiration of the aura of those idols that completely lived upto the mythological description of the Goddess. However, the religious fervor of the people around also caught my attention. Although heavy downpour had disrupted the whole event but as soon as the rain stopped, people gathered to participate in the sacred ceremonies (pushpanjali and others) that were conducted in a flawless fashion. The priests were men clad in saffron attire, they chanted mantras throughout the pujo and also made several offerings to the idols; the others stood with folded hands and closed eyes perhaps soliciting their well being. On the other side of the pandaal there were a variety of stalls ranging from food to jewelry items and other handicrafts. A stage was also made for orchestra and other live performances. The young section of the mob thronged these stalls and was keen on shopping while the elder ones confined themselves mainly to the puja and some chit-chat.
All of a sudden, a thought hit me hard and I started wondering about the ironical lives we Indians lead. On the one hand, we proclaim ourselves to worshippers of Goddess Durga who is supposed to be an embodiment of womanhood and power; on the other hand, in our society women are ill-treated, harassed and looked down upon. We firmly believe in a patriarchal set up and thus promote subjugation of women. In our country women are tortured and even murdered for raising their voice, seeking their rights and equality with men. It cannot be denied that in India women have made their way into politics, sports, civil services and other such domains but even then a large number of female population is oppressed on a daily basis. Moreover, the road is not easy for these women who have managed to acquire an esteemed position because the deeply rooted patriarchy poses a constant trouble to their choices and decisions.
However, it would be wrong to say that in our society men alone are the stalwarts of patriarchy because ironically, women have a larger role to play! Over the years, Indian women have experienced enormous male domination and subjugation which has resulted in their being evolved as beings adapted to such an environment. At present, most of the Indian women do not have any problem with surrendering themselves to the authority of a man who is their father, brother or husband. Since childhood girls are brought up in such a way that they are comfortable with leading a docile life. In fact, the females who complain or seek a change in the patriarchal mindset of people are looked down upon with contempt even by the women folk. In our society, females have fixed their roles (in allegiance to the men of the house) and those who lack in performance are severely punished. It is due to this that social evils such as dowry, female foeticide, female infanticide, dishonor killings etc. are successfully practised in India. Statistics reveal that almost 99% of the dowry deaths occur when mother in law tortures her daughter in law for getting dowry from her parents. Similarly, in some Indian states (viz. Haryana) female foeticide is a convention that occurs successfully under the supervision of the elderly women of the house.
However, the domination of women is only one filthy aspect of our society. The fact is that our society is a bundle of ironies. I find ourselves to be hypocrites through and through. Perhaps, someday education will enlighten our minds and we will be able to live as mere humans, not as men and women belonging to some caste, religion or category.