The husband is dead. The woman is a widow. These days, she is not told to wipe off her sindoor or break bangles- she does them on her own thanks to the numerous television series and movies. She does not need to be told to keep away from auspicious events or gatherings; she does not even think of visiting such a place, lest her misfortune rub on the unsuspecting others. People blame her luck and stars even if it was her husband who drank the alcohol and smoked away his life.
Her life becomes a never-ending routine of duty, self-pity, sorrows and perhaps endless tears in the dark because she has no one to share these problems with. She not only has to look after her children but also think of earning her own bread and butter if she does not want to hear the taunts of other relatives. Often, the widow has to fight off or maybe submit to the advances of her brother-in-law or other male relatives.
The wife is dead. The husband is a widower. He is not told to wipe off his sindoor or break his bangles because he does not wear any. His clothes are not bleached to a dull or white colour and he is not stopped from going anywhere. His presence is not considered inauspicious; on the contrary he is given the seat of honour in every function.
Moreover, after the customary grief period, people get busy in trying to find him a new wife. His life does not change much because people don’t expect him to take over his children’s responsibilities. After all, he has to work and its a woman’s job to look after the children.
The most interesting thing is that when I tried to find pictures of widowers in India, all I got were pictures of widowed women! Does that mean widowers don’t exist in our country? Or may be they are married off in such a hurry that they are not even registered as widowers!
Why is it this way? Why are women widows and men not widowers? What does losing one’s spouse have anything to do with luck?
If it does have to do with luck then why aren’t the widowers ostracized for their bad luck? Why don’t people rush to get a widow remarried? And even if she does not want to marry, why don’t people stop regarding her as source of misfortune or bad luck?
It is strange, isn’t it? Or maybe it is a tad paradoxical that where on one hand we say that death and life are all in the hands of God, we blame a widow for taking away the life of her husband! How did a widow grow so powerful? And if she is so powerful, how could she not prevent her own misfortune? Paradoxical again, isn’t it?
Women celebrate the presence of men in their lives in so many ways. Wives show their gratitude by fasting on Karva Chauth, Teej while mothers fast for their sons on Ahoi and other such festivals. Sisters celebrate by tying Rakhi to their brothers in Rakshabandhan.
The question is how do the men express their gratitude for their mothers or sisters or wives?
I am not a feminist but I do believe in equality. Aren’t women important to men? Can men survive without women?
Can any man answer this question?