Maverick: The goddesses of small links
By Farzana Versey
Covert, November 1-15
India’s first woman saint. Jain women take diksha. Muslim woman leads prayers. Impressed? Does it mean that women are breaking through the male preserve? Are we hypocrites when we applaud those who reach the top in careers because of their commitment to their calling and smirk when it comes to the call of god?
No. As a woman I find this sainthood business designed to keep women in their places; it isn’t a simple ladder they have climbed. They are transformed into puppets of a god that is clearly male. What message do we get from Saint Alphonsa’s statement that she put her foot on burning embers when there was a marriage proposal because, “If my body were a little disfigured no one would want me! I offered all for my great intention’’?
The great intention was that at age seven she had declared, “Jesus is my only spouse, and none other.’’
This sentiment echoes in Meera’s bold assertion to her husband, “I am no more Queen than you are King. There is only one King and my life belongs to him.”
Does upholding the existence of only one man-god convey an assertion of choice? She married Rana Bhojraj because he understood her piety. She had developed an instant loving attachment to the idol and began spending most of her time in bathing, dressing and worshipping the image as though it were real. She danced about the image in ecstasy. She sang beautiful songs to it. She talked to the idol. She slept with it.
She was using one patriarchal structure against another. Although trained in warfare, as was the royal custom, and adept at archery, fencing, horseback riding and driving chariots, she chose the protection of the male. Would she have been able to go it alone without the name of Krishna attached to her?
Lord Krishna once 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.”
It is true there are male saints and men who abjure worldly desires, but the dynamics differ. Even where worldlier aspects are concerned that have to do with religion there is a toeing of the line that women wilfully adhere to. What is there to applaud about a mother doing the kanyadaan of her daughter when it means ‘giving away the girl’? How progressive is it? How progressive is it that a woman leads a bunch of men to a public namaaz when she is the mere medium? Would a Muslim woman be able to assert her rights in matters of divorce or property, rights that are in fact enshrined in the Quran?
Pope Benedict XVI said, “Sister Alphonsa’s heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial.’’ That is not why she was sainted. The Vatican canonises only those who have performed miracles, and a committee is set up to ascertain these. Patience and fortitude are experienced by ordinary people too. The Indian government plans to bring out a coin to commemorate the saint. It would do well to visit the refugee camps in Orissa; the miracle is that many are surviving there.
Ordinary people are not on ordinary people’s agenda. It surprises me that liberals get excited about religious gimmicks. Kerala was known as a matriarchal society; today it has given us a female saint.
This keeps men happy because they are seeking a higher cause like god. Every woman outside this fold reveals their basic instincts. To avoid guilt that comes as a package deal with all belief systems they want to feel ‘desexualised’ and for those few minutes be ‘connected’. I find this dangerous. The male, having experienced saintly unobtrusiveness, would expect the living woman in his life to be as sublime.
Television soaps work on this. The best-selling woman is called Tulsi, imprisoned in a metaphorical planter-pedestal. The lords of the house make occasional trips to the courtyard to court the goddesses of small links.
It is a great pleasure to visit your nice and interesting blog for the first time.
Best wishes from Brazil:
Reminds me a of an incident, in Brisbane, i had a friend Naila from Faislabad, Naila took up teaching in an islamic school to support herself ...she figured out that she was sent on compulsory leaves while she had her periods ...reason ..she isnt "pure" to teach ( we partied hard with tequila and VB beer in that time)...same applies in hinduism ...females dont go to temple ...dont fast during periods.......all religions are selective about how they use women ....they are great ...but ...they have to kill their hormones .....dont u find that strange ...ReplyDelete
I am yet to see a Godman say , I saw an extremely pretty woman and i fell in love with her ....may god bless us ....he will say no .....love and sex are anti god ......
This babajee on TV the other day was advising women on how to seduce men after marriage ...his trick ...ration your sexual activity ....
why cant we just accept men as men and women as women ....why do we make simple things difficult ...there is this 18-19 yr old sadhvi on TV teaching moksha ....what wud she know ....
unless we accept ground realities we will have this doublespeak ....Manish
I do agree with you manish , let nature have its way & ones objectives should not be forced on anyone,your freedom ends where my nose begins ,dont give me reasons ,let me find them myself-- victorReplyDelete
When I first read about the first female saint as they called her I had same thoughts.All epics show how women are taken advantage with this.You should have written more on customs and Aparna Sen did kanyadan of her first daughter.Big feminist whatReplyDelete
Hello and welcome...as you know we Indians are very hospitable! We can smother people...
- - -
Don't know why but I was smiling while reading your comment...
Why are you watching babjees and babyjis on TV teaching you moksha?
Btw, I don't think moksha is about ground realities...it is about climbing Himalayan heghts, and you are already there;)
- - -
Did not know freedom was a nosey thing...
- - -
Thanks for jogging my memory...yes, Aparna Sen did indeed perform the kanyadan of her daughter.
I do see them sometimes, alternative career you see, first I realise how easy is it make someone insecure and mentally numb...two .. Babas are indians good exports from Osho to Mahesh Yogi , we have served coffee table spirituality....I am presentable, can manage a decent talk , speak grammatically incorrect english (needed for US)..have a grey french beard .....just need to build an apetite for western "spiritual" women ....I am still stuck with the desis you see ...
you are also helping me build baba "ideas" ...so you can be a future shareholder :) ...see being a God is best business....good networking ...assured income ..plush communes ....no income tax, free political connections ...can not be arrested ...no cases on defamation ...baba can say anything ...the only messy part is the clothes ....I need to be a Baba in a T shirt and jeans ...best I can Manage is a Kurta and jeans ...and extra Milds.....
Feel free to laugh ....wait till i become prime time rocker ...baba with business acumen better than ekta kapoor ..i will discuss nirvana in over 900 episodes
You got me started ....Babas live in hillstations ....I like Hills ...Babas work till 8 PM ....have chardonnay post that and I can blog ...Babas take holidays in US ...I will be in Vegas watching Cabarets ..Infidetely does not apply to them ...they can dump non performing "shishyas" ....Babas get UN prizes ....see u are unneccesarily chasing a Booker ...there are so many other ways ...you could be giving away awards ....LOL ...ManishReplyDelete
I am a true sattvik...never had to chase things; they fall from the skies.
I am afraid I cannot be a shareholder because long ago on these very pages I had floated the ashram idea and already found devotees:)
Good luck on your venture. As a true sattvik I do not think of anything as competition!