On and off I tend to tune into various Indian shows, though a lot of the time I can expect to see the usual melodrama and over the top acting. A story which has no logic and the females actresses are continuously crying every episode.
But this idea of writing about widows came to me after I saw my younger sister watching a daily Indian drama called Na Bole Tum…Na Maine Kuch Kaha – which is translated into “Neither you spoke…nor did I say anything” in English. The show is based in the city of Indore (India). It is a love story about Mrs Megha Vyas – a single widowed mother (Akanksha Singh) with two kids, and how her life changes when she meets Mohan Bhatnagar – a bachelor (Kunal Karan Kapoor), in his early twenties who is a crime reporter in a leading newspaper.
So initially two points got me interested:
The guy was playing the character of a journalist, and
The woman being portrayed as strong even though she is a widow – this is rarely shown on Indian television.
After some research I discovered that India has been found to be the worst G20 country to be a woman, according to a new survey, polling 370 gender specialists by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The G20 (group of 20 countries) includes 19 country members and the European Union, it is the premier forum for international cooperation on the most important aspects of the international economic and financial agenda. Canada came in first with Britain coming in third in the top 19 economies of the world.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of the world’s leading provider of news and information and is committed to empowering people in need around the world. From all the different issues, I’ll be focusing more on widows.
The issue of widowhood is a sensitive one which I have not heard or seen being discussed much in the media. Living in the UK, generally the Asian society here is more open-minded than their counterparts in India meaning widows are able to live their lives more freely.
Widowhood is defined as the state or period of being a widow or widower. Losing a spouse is difficult for any individual whether you are the husband or wife, however mainly women are mostly effected. Losing her husband is devastating enough but compounded with cruelty and injustice; it is a life not worth living for some.
According to Hindu customs, widows have three options: to marry their husband’s younger brother; throw themselves on their dead husband’s funeral pyre; or lead a life of self-denial. Generally in India, the women are respected up until their husbands are alive, but when the husbands die they lose their social status and importance in their families. Some widows are then dictated what they can or cannot do. They are subjected to degrading ‘cleansing’ rituals; ejected from her home; her wealth taken by the deceased husband’s relatives; banned from wearing jewellery or coloured clothing; and left without any means of supporting herself or her children. Furthermore they are unable to work or remarry.
Widows in Vrindavan
Numerous homeless widows (both young and old) only hope is go to the city Vrindavan, India when they are abandoned or shunned by their society and families. Vrindavan is known as the place where all widows go to die. It is believed that death will bring them salvation. They live in ashrams (monasteries), awaiting their turn to die. Many young widows face a threat to their safety, due to sexual abuse and human trafficking. In the case of the show, Mrs Megha Vyas is shown to be working to help her family make ends meet and in this she is supported by her in-laws. This is something new as not many widows receive this sort of love and support from their family members.
Remarriage is still a no-no situation for widows in some places in India, this is another topic being tackled in the drama, Na Bole Tum…Na Maine Kuch Kaha (Neither you spoke…nor did I say anything). The current high point is where the female protagonist Megha has decided to get married again due to her in-laws wishes. Forgetting the fact that she in love with the male protagonist Mohan, the society she lives in will not accept a widow to marry a bachelor. Under the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act 1856, widows are legally permitted to remarry but not all agree with it. In many villages, some are not even given the option of remarriage.
In a study done on remarriages in 1991, stating that generally men had a higher probability of remarriage, according to a Demography journal (1991) published by JSTOR. Whilst females were found to have a lower probability of ever remarrying at all ages, and the probability of remarriage declined more substantially with increasing age. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that enables discovery, access, and preservation of scholarly content.
Today India is a country which is gaining influence at the global level due to its economic strength, however seeing the plight of widows will come as a eye-opener for many. The show Na Bole Tum…Na Maine Kuch Kaha (Neither you spoke…nor did I say anything) has become a hit amongst young and mature audiences and I would like to commend the makers of this show as they are bringing awareness to a issue which is still not considered a major problem in India.