Monday, April 12, 2010

The Daughter who HAD to be Prodigal

Yesterday, my parents went out to see a Gujrati play called Dikri No. 1 (loose translation: The Best Daughter) and they narrated the story to me today. They absolutely loved the play!! Because apparently the actors and the dialogues were great! However, when you only listen to the story, it seems a fairly normal subject from the 80's and a very patriarchal story. Basically, there is this girl, whose parents love her to bits and when they recieve a marriage proposal for her from their best friend for his son, they agree and she gets married even though she wanted to study more and get a Masters degree. Not the parents' fault as even the girl did not object to the match. However, as soon as the couple returns from the honeymoon, the father-in-law starts treating this girl, whom he has know since childhood, as a "daughter-in-law" rather than a "daughter". She has now become the honour of the family and has to completely change her life style to suit her new family and their household. Yet, she doesn't complain! She goes from wearing jeans to wearing saris, from being non-jain and eating potatoes to being jain and from being a college student to being a house wife in ONE day. And by one day, I mean one day, like overnight! And that's what the play is all about - how the daughter proves herself to be adept at Buisness, finishes her education, handles the father-in-law's illness and his traditions, encourages her husband to fulfil his dreams AND NEVER letting any of these "extra" things get in the way of her "real" duty: managing the household responsibilities. She does all of this without complaining. So, finally the father-in-law realises how unfair he was to both, his son and his daughter-in-law and lets them govern their own lives. So, the daughter goes on to finish her education and handle the buisness and the son goes on to become a musician, not participating in the family buisness. The only difference between the two: the daughter has to look after the household responsibilities first and only then, attend to buisness responsibilities! I don't want to take anything away from the play since it is supposed to be very good. But, in my opinion, the inherent ideology is so wrong!!

I'm not going to state the obvious problems in the plot and rally the feminist cause here. But I am simply amazed that a play in 2010 can be based on such a theme. I thought we have pretty much come to a time when it is taken for granted that girls have a decent education and they have a right to put it to use. I was quite disturbed by the thought that people feel the need to make such plays, for whatever reason! Do we still consider that a woman's "real" place is in the kitchen, managing the household and looking after the family? And what was the play trying to do? As most people would percieve it, was it really trying to promote the rights of the women to an education and a life of their choice? Wasn't it simply trying to re-confirm the patriarchal ideology?

There are such examples EVERYWHERE around us!! I can't help but notice how much everything stresses on women's place being in the house, a "good" girl is the one who doesn't open her mouth, doesn't express her wishes and instead puts her family's wishes before her own, most importantly, doesn't have any sexual desires apart from those that will fulfil her husband's wishes etc etc etc! Popular Culture is ripe with examples of chauvinist ideas! There is this gujrati gazal, (which I really like but not for it's content), sung by Manhar Udhas, Juvo Lila College Ma Jayi Rahi Che. One of the stazas say:

ના સુરમો ના કાજળ ના પાઉડર ના લાલી
છતાં એની રંગત છે સૌ માં નિરાળી 
બધી ફેશનેબલ સખીઓ ની વચ્ચે 
છે સાદાઈ માં એની જાહોજલાલી 
Loose Translation: She doesn't have any make-up on but still she is the most beautiful one from amongst all her "fashionable" friends. 

Obviously the "simple" one is placed above the "fashionable" ones as the implication is that if she is simple, she will be "traditional", thus, accomplying with the patriarchal norms. It has such beautiful music and lyrics but the ideology spoils it for me again! The society still has these structures, which even after the feminists have been rallying their cause for about a 100 years, have not changed! I keep feeling that I will one day cave in to the pressure as well, simply because I'm surrounded by it, all the time! I am so tired of flagging up this cause all the time and explaining everyone why I believe in it, coz they can simply not wrap their heads around the idea! Some people I know, my close friends, shake off the responsibility by saying "Yea, we are orthodox and this is how we think." They accept that women have the right to make their choices but refuse to acknowledge that they are the ones who form the society, the same society that accepts only those women who give in to its pressures. In this case, how will "equality" be established? People will keep excusing it by saying, "We don't think women are inferior or not equal to men. We just think they are different and have different roles in life." Give the woman the choice to decide what she wants to do, for God's sake! I am tired now! People, please understand, as a human being, I have the right to wear what I want, eat and drink what I want, do what I want in my life, choose my friends and my partner(s) in my life and so, stop making me feel guilty for doing any of this!!


  1. totally agree with you honey... i so believe that 'equality' is a sham in our families... but its the pressure... the point is that this system has been running well...(infact very well!!)... now with women claiming a role equal to that of men, the time has come for a change... but ppl of the previous generation don't know how will this work out... all the customs and traditions might just have to be turned upside down... its this fear to change thats letting today's society from change... but gradually it will shift... its started in the metros... it'll spread to other parts of India too!!

  2. yeah... i know these artistes... they're famous for non-gujjus too... and popular culture should be making efforts to change the perception... but what i believe what is stopping them is the ppl themselves and ofcourse the fact that they have to be commercially sustainable... so they have to give to the audience what the audience likes!! even if it is something which is so 'obsolete'!!

  3. I certainly hope so!! What really shocked me was that this play was directed and produced by a very well-known director from Mumbai - Rasik Dave and the actors are all famous and leading actors from Mumbai - Ketki Dave and her daughter, Riddhi Dave, for instance.

    So, the other problem is also that popular culture, which is SUCH a powerful medium to bring about change, doesn't want to perpetuate change and rather, just capitalise on existing ideologies. It is people like these, who are not conscientious enough to produce what they believe in and would rather go with the flow, who are most to be blamed!