Women through the centuries have found themselves in situations where we must rely on family for protection, support and even sustenance. While we are called the Lakshmi or Annapurna of the family, in truth for all practical purposes a housewife finds herself reliant on the husband.
Today I find myself pondering the nature of this reliance and its effect on the human psyche that happens to be feminine. As a society Indians often take pride in our low divorce rates. We talk about how older generations knew how to make relationships work. Yet, if you spend 2 hrs with most women of that generation you can tell they do not feel valued or respected by their partners. Many tolerated behavior close to abuse in their marriages. Ask them why they stayed and they will say
“In our times no one thought about walking out from a marriage. I didn’t have a choice so I learnt to make things work.”
Ask them if they will tolerate such behavior from their son in laws and the Chandika within them will rise in defense of their daughters.
How must it feel to not love but tolerate a husband simply because there is no choice? How devalued must a human feel to be forced to live with someone simply for economic survival. And what about the man? He must know at some level that his wife is with him because she has no other recourse. Behind the puffed chest must his heart not break to know he is unloved? All this because she relies on him for basic sustenance.
Yet it’s not possible for every woman to work. Our institutions and societies are not built for that.
Now let’s look at women in the West. These women are financially independent and comparatively quick to divorce. Yet, they are as disenfranchised as Indian housewives trapped in unhappy marriages.
It is to be noted that while financial independence has given physical security to women in general, it hasn’t increased the happiness index. We shifted our reliance from husband to money when we should have shifted it from husband to Devi.
Education, Qualifications, Career these ought to be tools for self expression. These ought to be tools in our arsenal to be utilized during rough times. Our reliance however should forever be on Bhagwati and Bhagwati alone. To rely on her does not mean putting your head in the sand and waiting for the storm to pass over. To believe in her is to see marriage as “Karma Bhoomi”. There are 4 types of Purushaarth:
Marriage is an institution where we practice Dharma, Artha and Kaam. It is also an institution that prepares us for Moksha either through gratitude or sheer disillusionment. Either way, if one remembers to see it as a means to an end life becomes rather amusing.