|Jashodaben goes to vote|
I hear you are in Tirupati to offer thanksgiving. Your prayers have been answered. Your husband has been rewarded, and may well head the next government.
You will, therefore, become the First Lady. There will be SPG guards protecting you. This can be extremely intrusive for somebody who led an ‘invisible’ existence for decades.
Do excuse my intrusion into this space, but now you are public property too. I desisted joining the chorus when you were flashed before the public on April 9. It was unnecessary to drag your name in, even though your name legitimised your husband in ways you may never imagine.
After 40 years, he publicly accepted you for the first time by adding your name in the spouse column in the affidavit when he filed his nomination papers. Clearly, he was aware that this time there would be more questions. You appeared as silently as you had probably disappeared. Your brother said you had gone off on a pilgrimage, as you promised you would the moment he accepted you:
“Jashodaben never stayed with Narendrakumar (Modi) after marriage and has led a life alone dedicated to spiritualism. But by heart she still considers Narendrakumar (Modi) as her husband. She had taken a pledge of not eating rice or any preparation made out of it till he (Modi) becomes a prime minister. She still considers committed to Narendrakumar (Modi) and is ready to go with him only if he calls her back.”
Why were you rejected? We tend to romanticise abstinence and asceticism. He was joining the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), where familial relationships are not encouraged. But, is not abstinence also about being above the perks of power? If anybody followed the vows, it was you.
|Modi with his mother: isn't this family ties?|
Your need for acceptance has been well-expressed by mythological figures and saints like Sita and Meera. But you were on banwaas and you had to give agni pariksha. Is this fair? You committed yourself to an idol, but what did the idol do?
Meera was strong. She said to those who taunted her, “Family honour, words of scorn? /I care not for these one jot, /For my Krishna’s bewitching form/Is etched forever on my heart.”
What did Lord Krishna do? He intervened in her dream to advise her, “If the gopikas could do their duty to their husbands, tend their families and above all be totally devoted to me all the time, you can do the same thing. Do your duty. I shall not leave you any time”?
For you he was both husband and deity, it would seem. You deserve more than a namesake relationship.
As the First Lady, will you have any influence? I am not suggesting that you should be doing the ribbon-cutting at inauguration for ‘ladies’ type projects. Your husband has promised many things to the women of India. It would make a lot of difference if you helped initiate schemes for ‘women’s empowerment’. Your husband keeps mentioning 'Nirbhaya'. There are many victims of sexual abuse who will never get media attention. They might not even want it. There are the widows of Vrindavan; they need more than an opportunity to spray colours during Holi. There is abuse at the workplace. There is domestic violence – a subject that causes a great deal of anguish and anger, because few want to go into what is considered a ‘private matter’, and a question of rights.
Do you believe in ownership in a relationship? Given your example, you gave up any claims not only to property or possessions, but also to the man you married at a young age. You made peace with your situation, but what about the many who lead lives of utter despair because they have been abandoned by some uncouth man in a fit of rage or for a higher purpose? Does the fact that the woman may not share that purpose count for nothing? Not everybody has the backing of a family they can return to. It is to the credit of your parents and siblings that you were not considered any less, which as you know happens often even among the urbanised, supposedly modern lot. You got an education, started earning, and became self-sufficient. You did not sell tea, and perhaps that will not bring a gleam to the eyes of people who get pleasure from hype.
Many women are illiterate and poor, and are often sold off into brothels. You are already aware of all this, and I am merely emphasising the points that are ignored when empowering women.
Now, I wish to touch upon a subject that is sensitive. You might have read about Snoopgate. A woman was being trailed and stalked by what a sting operation revealed to be the Gujarat government. The then Home Minister has been exonerated for keeping tabs for some ‘Saheb’. If we let this pass for the purpose of this note, then we still have the statement of the young architect’s father saying that the government had his permission to do so. It was to protect them. The woman is an adult. Is a father permitted to get in touch with the chief minister or other senior persons in the government to spy on his daughter? Is the state machinery meant for such purposes? Why has the father sought to quash a probe?
I was not and am not interested in salacious details, so I ask these queries because they can have serious implications. Women are stalked, and anybody can come forward to be a protector. With so many communication channels this can prove to be a means for blackmail, not to speak of an end to their reputation and future.
You have a right to a future, too. A future where you get the respect due to a partner. It may be difficult for you to transform from a Meera to a Radha, but no one worships Meera as a consort. Or will you stay in the background again – a name on a nomination paper, a prayer at a temple, footprints on a pilgrimage?
Your silence will be reflective of the silence of many women in a society where machismo takes different forms, sometimes even as abstinence.
Uth meri jaan...
© Farzana Versey