By Avantika Debnath:
In the 30 years of my life, I have come across many real women and have witnessed their real challenges. In fact, I have been scrutinized for being what I am. I have been condemned for what I am not. I know women who were denied any assistance from government authorities because of the prejudice running against these ‘modern’ women in ‘heels’. They scan our behavior through those judgmental eyes and abhor us for our non-traditional Indian ways that do not comply with the standards put forward by the moral police.
I am just another corporate professional working in an Indian metro city. As a woman, I often feel that to pave way for the modern, independent woman, the society suspects that a skeleton will pop out any moment from their closet. And this feeling has been brought home by the very mentality of an average Indian man and in many cases even the average Indian woman. We breathe in a country where the thought process of the population gets shaped, to a great extent, by what the television presents us with. And flinches the blunder. These never ending, immortal daily soaps telecast on Indian television paints a messed up image of the modern day woman. They portray the ‘good girl’ as the one who is always draped in yards of cloth, home-bound, innocent to the point of dumbness, running to the temple and crying out her troubles in front of the idol of a deity. The clutter gets solemn when all their vamps are English speaking women in western attire. Why do these channels propagate the today-woman as the antagonist? Why can’t the pub going careerist woman be presented as the benevolent one? Let’s get candid out here, how many of us are a Parvati or Tulsi or Anandi in real lives? None. But that is what is expected out of us. The society, relatives and the in-laws want the 21st-century real woman to be a fictional character from their daily soaps. And here is where things get topsy-turvy for the real woman.
An average Indian woman, in fact, every woman is indeed the epitome of patience and tenacity. I have witnessed this numerous times in numerous ways. But her patience knows a limit too. And when the bounds of her patience are disturbed, only heaven knows what hell she can break. She doesn’t have to be a protagonist of a war, she can be just you and me. But she can do things beyond people’s perception of hers.
After testifying to such courageous souls’ struggle, I penned down the story of Meera in ‘The Bridal Pyre – Nainam Dahati Pawakah’. People often ask me, why did I choose Meera’s story for my first book? Why not a love story like most of the authors of my age. They ask me, is Meera someone I know? Someone close to me? I laugh. Meera is indeed very close to me, I know her like I know myself. Meera, is you, me and every other woman I see around myself. Meera is not one woman, she is a compound of all the women I have come across in my life. Meera’s life, her personality, her sufferings, have something that every woman, Indian or otherwise, has faced, at least once in her lifetime. I wanted to put an end to this suffering. I know writing a book is not a step strong enough to end the plight of the average Indian woman, but my power is limited. All I could do is write a story. But Meera is not a weak soul like me.
“I have seen such strong men cry like babies while getting a broken bone fixed. How are you bearing with this pain so tranquilly?” asked the doctor. “Maybe I am not a man, but what made you think that I am not strong?” Meera thought. She is strong indeed.
Meera’s challenges are real, the kind every woman born and raised in a third world country has to put up with. Her mistreatment at the hands of her husband, her in-laws, police departments, lawyers, judges, political leaders, goons, social workers, media houses, and every bit is real. All these were incidents that I had read in papers, seen in the news, heard from near and dear ones. And then I weaved them into the texture of Meera’s life, in ‘The Bridal Pyre: Nainam Dahati Pawakah’.
Grab your copy of ‘The Bridal Pyre: Nainam Dahati Pawakah’ today to know how Meera fought back, how she strived to bring justice to her side, or whether she got it at all. This is not a Bollywood movie where the end is always happy, this is not a Shakespearean play where the end is always tragic. ‘The Bridal Pyre’ is life, and what turns life will take, we can only guess.
‘The Bridal Pyre’ is available here.