(Freedom for women)
On the morning of the festive day of mASi Magam, women, men and children of our families went to the beach to take a holy dip in the sea when PerumAL Himself--the utsava mUrthi idol from the VishNu temple was at the beach to have a bath in the sea. It is a beautiful sight to see in Puducheri.
That evening we were playing at the beach and Bharathiyar came around with little Shakunthala in tow who is the same age as my sister Ranganayaki. They both loved to play together.
Shakunthala: What did you have for lunch?
Ranganayaki: kottavaraikkAi (cluster beans) kaRiyamudu (vegetable), coconut and curd pachchaDi and paruppup pAyasam (dessert).
Shakunthala: What's so special today?
Ranganayaki: We bathed in the sea, worshipped PerumAL and ate dessert.
Shakunthala: What festival, you think?
Ranganayaki: I don't know!
Shakunthala: Silly you! It's mAsi Magam today! MAsi Magam!
Listening to all this, Bharathi burst out laughing. Then he said: Come here, little ones! You both speak like sweet parrots. One a golden parrot and the other an iron parrot! Who will be which?
Shakunthala: I'm the golden parrot! RangA is the iron parrot.
RangA: I'm the golden parrot, she's the iron one!
Shakunthala: No, it can't be! It was ' my' father who asked us to choose!
Ranga: Let's not fight over this. Both of us can be thangak kiLis (golden parrots)!
Bharathi was exultant. He picked RangA up and went to my father. "I spoke mindlessly, hurting the children's feelings and this little one of yours set everything straight!"
From that day on, Bharathi called RangA thangak kiLi.
Ranga said to my father, "I was right. We both are fair of complexion." Then she turned to Bharathi and asked him: Why don't you pick Shakunthala up too?"
"Come, Shakunthala!" said Bharathi, beckoning to her. "Ranga has turned you into a golden parrot!"
Shakunthala said, "I won't come. If you want, you can come and pick me up!" Bharthi hoisted her up and then put her down so that the children could continue their play.
I finished doing my homework. Then Bharathi asked: Do you want to hear about this hilarious incident which happened this morning? After the festival, I thought lunch was going to be late and thought it was a good idea to take the children to an eatery (hOTTal) when we left the beach. Shakunthala ate like a good girl. Thangamma made a big fuss. "I just had a holy dip in the sea and will not drink at this echcil (polluted) table! I asked the waiter to bring a maNai (plank) for her to sit on the floor and to bring some iDlis. The waiter brought water in a glass and Thangamma refused it saying, too many others have sipped from it. The waiter brought water again in a bell metal tumbler (from which one can drink without the utensil touching one's lips). By this time, the idlis were cold. He brought fresh iDlis again. The eyes of the customers were all on Thangamma. When we came out of the hOTTal, I asked her: ennamma? Why all that drama? I don't want to take you out to an eatery again. Are you an old lady to observe all this maDi (sticking to strict religious codes)? Thangamma replied: Do I have to be an old woman to say I won't drink from a glass which so many others have sipped from? I felt sick in my stomach when I saw the man put all the dirty glasses into a tub to rinse them. I would have happily gone hungry, waited an hour for the meal. I wouldn't have died! He even dropped a glass in it which a leper drank from. These eating places are very dirty. My periamma (aunt) shuns even a piece of jack fruit sold in the bazaar. The fruit has to be cut at home. She would not have approved of this place at all! What Chellamma cooks is fine by me. I think that's the healthy way to be.
Yadugiri: Thangam is not used to hOTTals. Our mother says we can't even buy the cashew and cardomom candy from the hOTTal.
Bharathi: Let grownups be the way they want to be. Children needn't follow such restrictions!
Yadugiri: Isn't it good to cultivate good habits when you are young?
Bharathi: I shouldn't take Thangam to eateries anymore.
Yadugiri: I think what she said was sensible. We needn't drink from a glass contaminated by a leper, those with sores or a man with tuberculosis.
Bharathi: I can't win. You are Thangam's advocate!
Yadugiri: Then, explain it to me. I won't argue.
Bharathi. It was all very well, their laying down the rules in ancient days. It's wrong when you do it on the basis of caste. A brahmin could be afflicted with tuberculosis and that's fine by them. A SUdrA--he's strong and healthy--and it's a taboo to eat with him?
Here's something that happened on the train the other day. It was a small compartment and we were only three of us in it. Myself and a young couple. The husband and I were conversing.The young woman didn't say a word. The man got down at a station to get some coffee. The woman tuned to me and started asking me about my whereabouts, family and so on, and the moment the husband appeared, she turned mute. Then I got down to get some betel leaves and when I got into the train, I found them chatting away merrily. Seeing me, she was silent again! What kind of tradition is this? It all seemed so stupid. I felt like giving them a lecture on it but I restrained myself.
Yadugiri: Yes, it's like being a slave. She does not have the freedom to talk to others when the master is around. She could not contain herself when he went away. So she spoke to you.
Bharathi: Some slave! I would have said something, but didn't want to stir things up.
Yadugiri: Once this changes, women can interact with others without fear. Now they walk in the streets with their heads bent down, not being able to look up even at cattle and carts which come from the opposite direction!
Bharathi: I'm going to write a long article about freedom for women. I will write poems about it.
Yadugiri. Will that mean that freedom will come to women?
Bharathi: Listen, the old rules are of no use now. Other nations have marched ahead of us now. We have stayed behind because women have been enslaved.
Yadugiri: I would say that this nation has been stable because of women. Men wear vESHTis manufactured by mills while women wear saris woven by hand. Habits, traditions, festivals, poetry, history, purAnams and ethical works have all been preserved only because of women. Where is there the time for you English pundits, to take care of all this?
Bharathi: BhalE! You have swallowed every word of what Iyer said in his speech! As for me, I don't mind losing an argument to a child. It's a matter of pride for a guru to lose an argument to his student. There are many instances of it in our history.
Yadugiri: Please don't forget to make up a song for us in a new tune for our shObhanam dance!
Bharathi: Thangamma asked for a song for kummi today. You ask for one now. You both will have it tomorrow.
The song he brought to us the next day was: peNgaL viDudalai peTRa magizhchchigaL( The joys of women attaining freedom)
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Last edited by arasi
on 10 Jul 2011 23:49, edited 2 times in total.