Dr Gopa Nayak is a writer and an academician. She has a DPhil from the University of Oxford and her first Master’s degree is in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She writes in both Odia and English and her poems have been included in anthologies of poetry of women. She can be contacted at gopanayak[at]gmail.com.
While the whole nation was celebrating Modi’s victory my thoughts were centred on the pleasant face that appeared in one of the newspapers. She has supposed to have vowed not to take rice or rice products until her husband becomes the prime minister. The question that keeps creeping is not if at all the news is true but why is she brought into the picture? After a span of leaving her for 45 years which is reported in the same piece of news did she really think of Modi as her husband and if so what does husband really mean. I looked up in the dictionary and it says a husband is a woman’s partner in marriage and then on to the elaboration of the word originally getting its meaning from the male head of a household. So here it seems the household is important and partnership is important. From these two perspectives Modi was definitely not a husband because he was neither a partner to her nor did he provide her a house.
However, now in Modi’s India perhaps Hindutva is more important than the English word ‘marriage’. Indeed, what does marriage entail for a Hindu? Once you have entered into matrimony from the stand point of a Hindu there is no way out of it. Hindus are not entitled to separation and divorce. Hence, if we follow the scriptures in the strict sense once married you remain so for the rest of your life, if not, for seven lives. The system hypocritical to the core means both partners having the privilege to exploit each other in every way possible. Both married men and women are known to have affairs with many and yet remain married to one. Thanks to biological testing men cannot at least deny fatherhood but that has given them the added privilege to marry even at the ripe old age of 88, the evidence recently found in the case of an influential politician.
All these just leave me perplexed as a Hindu and also a woman. A partner in marriage can claim his or her rights just because some sacred hymns were uttered which one did not understand anyway. Once married a wife is always a wife and a husband always one. As it appears to me for Modi also it was once a husband always a husband. This had made him which may seem reluctantly but truly accept his wife in his nomination paper for the prime ministerial candidate. It remains to be seen how he will take up the responsibility of a husband as a prime minister.
I wish for once that the prime minister of this nation truly stand up a rational cause – the cause that human beings change and so do their decisions in life. Partnering with someone in a marriage is a huge responsibility and it cannot be made just once in a life span reaching now almost to eighty years. People must have the freedom to call quits to a partnership that has stopped working. And worst of all go on exploiting someone physically, emotionally and socially for a rotten or nonexistent partnership. Yes, we have made the legal changes in our Hindu Marriage Act but it is still a religious sacrilege to be divorced or separated. Above all, divorce or separation even today in 21st century India has to be fought legally against all moral, social and ethical odds.
The Prime Minister appears to be a victim like many men and women in our huge Hindu nation. Will he fight a personal battle to free Hindus from this baggage? That will be a great service to the people who have voted for him, awaiting solutions for the many problems they feel he and only he could understand. Will he be man enough to accept the challenges of a married Hindu householder and provide solutions or will he also embrace hypocrisy as has been the practice in this Hindu nation for centuries gone by? As he goes on to take his vow as the Prime Minister of India I cannot but help expect that finally we have got someone who can feel where the shoe pinches and be bold enough to be a role model for us to be morally and ethically right not just legally.