In the aftermath of the sorry “Nirbhaya” episode, many politicians, celebrities and even so-called religious leaders are developing the practice of putting their “foot in their mouth” into a fine art!! From the suited-booted Todd Akins in the US to the saffron-clad Asaram Bapus in India – this notion of blaming the women for men’s weaknesses seem embedded in the psyche.
It reinforces the challenge I face as a mother narrating puranic stories to my children (ages 10 and 8). While it is so heart-warming to see them absorb the stories, accept them at face values and even be influenced in their actions by these stories, I stumble when faced with stories that deal with the world’s “oldest profession” as it is called.
I stumbled when we watched the episode of Satyakama Jabala on “Upanishad Ganga”.
Me: Nobody would teach Satyakama since his mother Jabala was considered an evil woman
Son: Did she do something bad?
Me: Well, she was a prostitute
Me: Well, she didn’t have a husband like other women with children. Many men came and stayed with her. (me trying to avoid going further)
Daughter (who is a little more aware): Then, who was Satyakama’s dad?
Me: Well, since we lived with many men, she didn’t know.
Daughter: But why? Could she not have married one of them?
Me: She could have. She was forced to be with many men.. maybe she was too poor or helpless. But once you do that, the whole town thought you were bad and nobody would marry you.
Son: But that’s not fair.. if she is poor, then they should help her.
Well, children do see things in black and white – maybe that’s the way to see it. Long story short, all our puranic stories as well as stories across the world, while acknowledging these women were pushed into it, at the same time, turn around and point to women as sinners, evil and temptresses. Same with Jabala, Mary Magdalene as with Nirbhaya.
One runs into this everywhere.. vedantic texts (Bhaja Govindam), Carnatic compositions (para dhana nari in dhyaname, para himsa para bhama in ente nerchina).
It used to puzzle me why great saints like Adi Shankar and Tyagaraja focused so much on this as though this were an everyday occurrence. Atleast in the circles we move in, it is so rare to hear of explicit violations. However, even while not widespread, they probably mention it only because it is the oldest vice.. a vice that predated drugs, alcoholism, cheating for money, etc.
Let’s never forget – It is only because men had this oldest vice that the oldest profession was created.