Behind the veil
Why some men are too foolish, stubborn, arrogant and egoistic to acknowledge women as their equal. And why some are afraid to do so. Why India is still very behind from freedom, and how it all started.
Our story unfolds in a small village of West Bengal. It opens up in the life of Saraswati. Today is a special day. From the very morning the grihinis or women of the house have started making preparations for the puja, someone is clothing ma saraswati in her queenly attire. The male priest is reading the slokas, and strutis time and again. The boys have gone to market, someone to buy kites, some to buy the essentials. Saraswati is with 2 of her cousin with the old lady. As the young lads are out in the garden of the neighbour to steal kools and flowers, the neighbour is shouting in the usual manner, never does he pluck and eat a single fruit, his teeths are all fake now yet he has to shout, what a miser! Even on puja day. The old lady, whom everyone lovingly calls boro Dimma, is woken up, close to 90, she now remembers close to nothing and always keeps agitated and scold every single member of the family, no one tries to understand her, though everyone sees her as an extra weight on the earth and a box load of trouble and many wish her to die soon, Saraswati is an exception. She is just like her great grandmother, she loves her very dearly. Brave and intelligent was Binodini Karmakar in her early 20s, unlike others at that time, she went against all prejudices and gained complete education, married at the right age, and most important of all, actively took part in protests against the partion of Bengal. This partion of Bengal was a tragic event that followed a political campaign by Shyma Prasad Mukherjee, known to people as The all Bengal Hindu Homeland Movement. Rabindranath was absolutely against this, he opposed it as he could see the dark days that loomed heavy, he could foresee the deaths of many, how people would be homeless, how much was gonna be thrown into the dungeons of darkness, so he very aptly aroused the feeling of fraternity and common brotherhood to end a hatred the was being sown, by making the people tie rakhi on each other’s hands, but even this lovely initiative was not successful. This was about the same time when as the partition of Pakistan from India, in its early days Bangladesh was known to be East Pakistan, though after many protests and support from India, and after the death of 4 students, Bangladesh was named Bangladesh and Bangla became its official and national language. During partition of Bengal, thousands left everything they had, they lost all they deemed their own, those who lived and loved their sonar bangla, now were without anything not even clothes, thousands were killed in riots, and then people from epar Bengal (or Bengal of this side, Bangladesh) had to migrate to opar Bengal. The history is written in blood shed and red tears, the Bangladesh flag was designed, the red spot of blood on the green betel leaf. Binodini remembers the journey as she embarked on the roof of the train, as far as her eyes went, she scouted people running and people killing, though she managed to save a few families, she couldn’t save her own family. All she had she the train landed was the company of an orphaned child, from then on she became his mother. The government did not provide these people with shelter, not even the basic amenities nor any means of livelihood, soon famine hit the place, many more died. Thought the countries were independent, the people still fought on for their independence and freedom. Then on the fine evening of 30th January 1949, a news struck by, Gandhi was shot and assassinated. The whole country felt the feeling of fatherlessness. Slowly Binodini was able to find the job of accountant at a sweet shop, she had to cut her hair and appear like a boy to continue work. A lot to struggle she had to do to reach a point in life, where she could rest for the whole day. Saraswati seeked all her inspiration from Binodini, saraswati as 7, she was not yet enrolled to school. She gained her knowledge from the world, the trees, the flowers, the wind taught her swiftness, the stream taught her to flow in a rough course, the birds taught her to sing and fly, the tree taught her to be kind, the sky taught her to be open, be free, be boundless and be observing. Saraswati was very witty and often first in finding solutions where her elder brothers failed to. Today was a special day for her because today there was no difference between her and her brothers, like she did not have any books, nor were her brothers having any too. Manoj is just 5, younger to Saraswati yet he has the opportunity to go to school, it sad but true.
Saraswati is sitting at the foot of Boro Dimma, and massaging her feets with oil, as she patted her head and narrated to her the story of ma Saraswati.
Ma saraswati often always seen with the Vedas in one hand and Veena in another, on a white lotus, is the consort of Brahma, the creator and one of the three powerful gods of the Hindu trilogy. Concept of Ma Saraswati has far reached to Japan and China, were she is worshipped in the form of Benzaiten. Ma shakti incarnated into this form on the day of Bansanta, or spring, hence this is celebrated as Basanta Panchami. Ma saraswati is the goddess of learning and art, Saraswati pujo marks the coming of spring. The whole atmosphere changes, as if the trees are singing a different melody. As if children are smiling a different innocent laughter. The cool breeze that kisses the face as it refreshes the soul and cleanses the mind. People wearing yellow sarees and panjabis or kurtas.
Today even Saraswati is dressing in yellow saree, though only 7, her mother’s saree is fitting her kind of fine, it is a little airy, but not more than the joy on her face, that is a million times pricier than a saree.
Though Ma Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and learning. Indians, Japanese, Tibetan Buddhist and Chinese, worship the goddess. Girls in rural regions don’t receive proper education, the biggest reasons are gender inequality, gender biasness, social prejudices and lack of will. Girls are taught to excel in house chores since childhood. Let me take you far back in time to the Indus valley civilization’s very end.
At the peak of its glory, Indus valley manuscripts and study of sociological structure led us to the discovery that though their was classicism were slaves, manual labourers, traders, priests and kings or rajans were divided, there was negligible inequality between women and men, both were seen in equal eyes, got to do equal jobs and women were deemed especially important and sign of luck. But as they say, women are the greater enemies of themselves. Slowly it happened that women started to forget their position and powers and often lacked the knowledge to use them. This was also a conspiracy to subdue intelligent and powerful generations of women who challenged a few men and had potential to change courses of history. Women resorted to more homely matters than matters of courts and hunting, they started taking care of families and communities. Men of the other hand started taking care of business and administration, won’t more men in administration and the work force, the rules were no doubt pro masculine because women were under represented. When the nomadic tribes of Aryans came to this land of Dravidians(indigenous people of India and the oldest inhabitants of the land, who are currently found in southern India), they found it inhabitable and settled here, and waged wars against the tribes and forced them towards the south. They first settled inthe Hindu Kush region and named it Brahmavarta(land of Brahma), they were most probably the people of Syria. Their facial complexion was white and they were taller than the Dravidians. The first part of their existence is written in the Rig Veda, hence this period is called the Rig Vedic era or Early Vedic era. During this time, women were regarded very important, a co Ed system was prevalent, women could choose when and whom to marry. And again webs of conspiracy was spun, and the same happened to women of this period what had happened to the Indus called civilization women, men started regarding women as precious objects and soon as objects that were taken for granted. Slowly they migrated into the gangetic valley, which they called Aryavarta(land of the Aryans) and again wrote down 3 more Vedas, Atharva veda, Yagur veda, and Sama Veda. With the coming of the later Vedic period, men started depriving women of the right of education and other rights, slowly misogyny and patriarchy creeped into the society.
Since then women are still fighting for 3000 years for their freedom and independence. Are they free? Are they independent? Classification is a invention of man, the nature formed us all the same, we started dividing, we divided territories, communities, property, and then we went so low as to classifying people. We clasified them on basis of appearance, their skin color, and looks, heights. Then on basis of potential of work, like who could do which work and the caste system was made, people were divided according to what work or career they could choose and succeed in it, but hereditary features were another curse, slowly this caste system became corrupted, one who should have been vaishya became bramhan and the bramhan became kshatriya and the bramhan became sudra. Then we invented hierarchy, we all these divisions and ranks was born a new hatred that is still prevalent. Then we started dividing and discriminating based on gender.
This is the result of that 3000 year old conspiracy and practice. Though we worship power, knowledge and wealth as Ma or mother, we still look down on girls and we still look down at people of lower castes. The hatred and imbalances that was sown 3000 years ago is still tormenting present day lives and economies like India, and this time changes need to be made from the grass root level, from each and every individual. Even today lakhs and lakhs of small girls like Saraswati lack access to education though it is her fundamental right, and an exploitation against her.
Thank you for reading, stay safe, stay healthy and keep learning.