The Old..…. The new, The Rhetoric…. The Reality…
“ If you ask me, I know not …… if not asked, I know”
In lonesome and contemplative moments, when I close my eyes and utter the word ‘woman’ to my silent self, trying to gather the vastness in her constitution, the essence of her existence, this seems to be the only phrase lingering within me which with all its skilfulness and witty articulation rightfully describes the paradox called ‘Woman’.
According to Greek mythology, the lord of all gods Zeus, created man first. Initially all was well and Zeus was very pleased with his earthly beings, then one day they did something gravely wrong and defied his laws. Enraged Zeus greatly detested the turn of events and decided to condemn and curse mankind. A curse so powerful that it in one hand was empowered to nourish evolution and one the other, possessed the ability to cause wholesome destruction. And that was when, in order to punish mankind, he created Woman. She was like an elusive dream, like the ever-widening horizon, the closer one got to it, the farther it seemed. Her form was impeccable, her beauty…unparalled, Her eyes had the precision and the accuracy of an archer. Her words were charming, capricious and treacherous; they spoke of the thrills that lied in the perilous world of the unknown. But most enigmatic of all was her age old, Spartan heart which hid within its veil of anonymity, numerous tales, accounts, and experiences of grief, happiness and desire.
And from then on began the journey of man through eras that marked the various stages of his evolution: From the age of barbarianism to the dawn of civilizations.
His has been an eventful journey marked by numerous encounters with the forces of nature, toiling for the purpose of food, self exploration for the attain enlightenment, dealing with the hopes and despairs of life and most essentially unravelling the mysteries of woman, the woman who was his companion in all tasks, someone who enabled him to attain material, spiritual, physical and emotional totality, The companion who was an integral part of all his activities, his household and his society. Her presence was as definite and commonplace as other natural aspects that governed his life yet there was this sense of mysticism in her that intrigued one and all. An invisible yet invincible force seemed to constitute her being and her soul seemed to be an undiminished and undisputable source of power and creation.
From time immemorial, several attempts have been made to explore, experience and express the obscure world inside a woman. She has been the object of deep curiosity,
admiration and study. Collecting the bits and pieces of her entirety in numerous poems, parodies, portraits and musings, The ideal woman of our imagination yet seems to be in an insatiable pursuit of fulfilment which still remains unattained. And then there is this constant conflict between the Ideal and the Real. Where the ideal woman seemingly lives in eulogised mounts of philosophical and cultural utopia, and the real woman toils amidst the tragedies of life making difficult choices between virtues and vials.
Such an observation is in all terms very superficial and one-dimensional.
The ideals that existed in the historical and religious texts and the epics do not stifle reality within the confines of stereotypes and clichés…. When carefully observed and rightly understood they stretch far beyond and depict a picture more contemporary in thought.
One such influential character in the Indian mythology is Sita who has played a significant role in modelling the ideal woman character in the Indian society.
Sita – Wife of Shri Ram, who followed him selflessly through fourteen years of exile and is supposed to be the epitome of righteousness, chastity and virtue. A character like Sita would seem extremely fictitious and as a phenomenon that happened only in myths with very little realistic relevance. But if observed carefully, the characterisation of Sita alone speaks much more of the real Indian woman than the modern woman herself. From, being demure, diligent and assertive to standing up and vehemently and fighting for her rights, Sita is reflected in every aspect of an Indian woman’s personality, she is in every choice a woman makes, be it personal or professional. Sita was some one who by birth was of high decree, she was found by king Janak, while he was ploughing in the fields, as is said to have been born from the earth. She left her life of comfort, extravagance and hierarchal respect to observe and safeguard the resolution of her husband and lived the life of a forest hermit. She honoured her Gods, respected her Father and her husband, saw Lakshman as a brother, and followed a life of humility and chastity. She was a woman who had very little expectations and demands and lended out unconditional love and support to her husband. She in turn was honoured and respected by all, She was held at high regard not only because she Shri Ram’s wife but also because of her principles. She was a role model for women in her time as well. She was a perfect woman, blended in her were the brilliant hues of beauty, wisdom, endurance, love and loyalty. But that one instance of her crossing the forbidden line better known as the Lakshman Rekha changed her life forever. Sita represented that aspect of the Indian society, which still now remains highly impressionistic and speculative. Which believes that a woman is virtuous and holy as long as she does what she is told. As soon as she over steps the line to seek the unknown she is bound to make mistakes and commit sins. Post the incident of the lakshman Rekha. Sita got abducted by Ravana, and from then on had to face various difficulties and accusations which finally led to the agni pariksha, where a woman like sita had to prove her chastity by passing through the fire.
In real life ancient or contemporary, every woman passes through phases where she has to compromise and sacrifice. Even today, it is the woman who leaves her family and follows her husband to a new life. Today’s confident, educated, bold, industrious, and fearless Indian woman has somewhere deep within…a sita, which no matter how much she argues to be fictitious, impractical and an outcome of man imposed pseudo morality, she strives hard to compete with. Deep within her lies her enigmatic soul, which remains, unchanged from the time that it was created.
We then realise that the concept of Ideal and the concept of the Real are two forms of the same soul. Within the real the ideals exist and within the ideal exist the real.
So in Sita as well there existed the instances of a modern self respecting woman that led to her resolution of not returning to lord Ram even after he apologised for putting her loyalty and her love for him to test, and also waiting for her forever. She foregoes her duties as a wife, which was and still remains to be the quintessential obligation of a woman only to protect and safeguard her honour and pride of womanhood.
A woman therefore would fundamentally always contain the unabashed desire for freedom of the present and the reticence of the past. Such is her genius and such is her folly.