Usha


This is a regular scene at certain vantage points in our layout in the afternoons. Maids who have finished work at the respective houses drift towards these points where they exchange betel leaves and areca and plenty of gossip. This is perhaps their equivalent of blogsphere, where they recount,share,counsel and of course, gossip. Nothing is sacred, no privacy restrictions - whether it is about their private lives or that of the people in the houses they work. Their network is a source of more detailed and authentic news than the ladies' club or the men's network where information is shared in bits, implied rather than explicitly stated and where everyone likes to gossip while seeming to be least interested in the private business of others. I do not know if it is because I am not part of any of these networks that my maid feels the need to relay local news to me every now and then. Most of them I switch off after the headlines except when it is about a birth or a death or illness. But it is never just the news as it is always padded with their views and opinions and I am fascinated by the simple set of rules they have for everything to decide if it is good, bad or awful.

This morning she told me about another maid who was working in the next lane. She worked all day in their house and very often a person calling himself her brother used to visit her. Last night she went away with him leaving her family. She called her employers to inform them that she had resigned from work! She is married to a person with one dysfunctional leg and has three kids. My maid was furious and peppered the whole narration with many curse words and finally pronounced "With this kind of behaviour does she really think she is going to be able to live happily? she will starve without anything to eat and she will die of a horrible disease for doing this to her husband and children."

I asked her if she knew if that woman was in an abusive marriage and if she was very unhappy. My maid did not know but said that all this was irrelevant after 3 kids and the woman should have stayed back for the kids and thrown out the husband if he was abusive. 'Why did she need another man?' was her question.
My maid herself was abandoned by her husband a few years after their marriage and has had to bring up her 3 children all alone. She never had another man in her life for the past 20 years. She accepts it as her fate and the correct way of life. So I totally understand where she is coming from. And having grown up in a milieu with similar values and norms, I cannot pretend to be shocked or surprised by her take on the woman.

"why does she need another man?" - the implication was that she was after sex. It is sad that it is still not considered ok for a woman to want sex. It has always been accepted that men needed sex and so even if their wife died, they were encouraged to marry as soon as the grieving period was over. One of the arguments handed out for legalising prostitution is that a lot of men do not have the opportunity to marry or stay with their wives and they need outlet for their sexual desires. A woman's sexual needs are still frowned upon and they are quickly dubbed as nymphomaniac if they are open about their desires or needs.It is even considered something to be ashamed of. The number of children that a couple has had is hardly an indicator of a sexually fulfilling life. Today we know that even without proper intercourse, conception is possible if the sperm manages to reach the egg. A drunken husband using her to satisfy his needs is hardly fulfilling for a woman. Many women still marry early and hardly know their husbands before marriage. It takes a few years for them even to be comfortable about sex and realise whether they are actually compatible at all. By the time they are sexually aware and awake most women have already been married for a few years and mothered a few children. I am not talking about the urban elite here but this is true in most rural and semi-urban settings and lower economic strata and even in the urban areas among conservative families.

Many years ago an incident happened in our extended family. This was a family of three brothers. The youngest died a couple of years after his marriage leaving his beautiful wife and a one year old child. As was the custom in those days, she stayed in the house of her parents in law along with the other brothers and their wives. One of the brothers was attracted to her and she was young too and they ended up in a relationship. When the boy was old enough to go to high school the uncle shifted them to the neighbouring city where he 'visited' them frequently. One afternoon the thirteen year old boy returned home early and found the mother and uncle in bed. That night the boy hanged himself.

This story has haunted me from my teens. I have always tried to justify the woman on the grounds of her vulnerable position and her dependence on the brothers-in-law for financial and moral support. She was not college educated and did not possess qualifications required for an employment. She needed them and hence she could not antagonise the brother in law's advances. This seemed a good version as it justified her behaviour in my moral framework. A helpless woman, a predatory man - that was ok. A woman whose sexuality was waking up and who needed a man to satisfy her desires? NO, that would have been terrible, preposterous. In my books then, "Good women" didn't do such things. And certainly not when they had a child to think of. "Why does she need another man?" that would have been my question too then. But now I know better.
A Tamil writer (perhaps Thi janakiraman) said in a story that there must be a strong reason for a woman to go astray. Is her sexual need strong enough reason, I wonder?

added after 4 comments:
I am not passing any value judgements on the two women as I do not know why they were motivated to act in the way they did.
In the first case, it could have been forced marriage and the children happened because she did not have access to protection and perhaps her husband was forcing her into sex which she never enjoyed. Obviously there was a strong motive that encouraged her to take such a step even while being aware of burning all her boats.
In the second case it happened about 50 years ago. She was in her early twenties in a house where two other young couple lived. She could not even have dreamt of remarriage even without a child. Was it wrong that she had the normal desires of flesh?
If anyone had a business to object, it was the man's wife and she did not. Remember this was a time when men were openly flaunting their affairs with concubines and mistresses as a mark of their virility?
This was also a time when young widows living in Benares were sent to rich zamindars houses in the night. So what exactly are we objecting to? The fact of a widow having sex or wanting it?
Even today if you were to pose the question 'why does a woman need a man?' the answers would be 'for emotional and moral support' , 'to have children', 'for financial support', 'for love' etc but the fact of a woman needing man for sex is never mentioned. Try asking the same about why a man needs a woman and no prizes for guessing the top answer!
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57 Responses
  1. maami Says:

    'A woman needs strong reason to go astray'. And the man?
    The woman may give valid reasons/ justifications for her behaviour-ut then a man is excused for being just a man-'What else do you expect? Men are like that only, Oh, they want it all the time , they are rascals etc.'
    I think no woman is easily 'excused' her indiscretions.She is condemned rightaway.The repurcussions are hers and hers alone to hang around her neck like a noose.
    Women don't receive forgiveness easily-because they are expected of nobler behaviour.It's such a cross to bear. My rendu paise!


  2. Swati Says:

    I understand what you are saying ..its true that society still believe that sex is need by man. But even if we say that sex is equally needed by woman , does that justify what the two woman in your post did ? If man is irresponsible , is it okay for woman to become irresponsible as well ? The maid left the kids on the mercy on a bad (perhaps!) husband. Was it okay for the other woman to allow the BIL take advantage, considering that he was responsible for his own family ?


  3. risenphoenix Says:

    I personally am very open about my sexual needs and I have been rebuked by some men! I really pity them because they would always be closeted porn-addicts whereas I would have more of realtime fun and be less hypocritical.

    I strongly believe that the human lifespan is short and youth is even shorter. Therefore, carpe diem! The chauvinists/patriarchs can go to hell.

    BTW, how come you've not written about John Beatie yet? Or have I missed it?
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/article3864461.ece


  4. Mama - Mia Says:

    sigh! the ternal question! someone famous said feminism isnt about trying to be a man!

    but that apart the fact is that onus of running the ghar still lies on the woman! most women revel in that role while few rebel from it...

    its easy to sit in our comfortable lives and judge some woman being "immoral" and leaving her kids behind.

    maybe she never wanted to have any! maybe they were concieved over drunken marital rape. maybe all women ARE NOT naturally maternal snd she didnt care enough to let go of what she though was her chance at happiness finally!

    as for the extended family bit, it was just horribly horribly unfortunate. i have always wondered how difficult it is for single parents of grown up children to even remarry. Kids cannot imagine having someone new taking the place of person they have known and are too young and immature to know that their parents need companionship too.

    its all becomes just a vicious circle to which there are no easy answers...sigh!

    this has triggered tad too much thinking that cant be put in words now!

    brilliant post as always Usha.

    Cheers!

    abha


  5. ahumanbean Says:

    re: your tragic story from your extended family, from ~50 years ago

    I am very curious about the young widow's feelings - darn, I wish she had a blog/wrote a book! Yes, I suspect, being young, beautiful and very vulnerable I guess she may have succumbed to sleeping with a b-i-l that she nether cared for nor desired sexually. Or did she make the moves on him? Knowing that that would ease her financial/economic/social future in a system of predatory neighbourhood priests/leches?

    I'd be very curious to hear her tale!

    And after the terrible suicide of her young son, directly caused by her + the uncle, did she shun society? become a 'nun'? remarry ever?

    b) I really want to know if the uncle felt any guilt. Did he continue to look after her, at least economically? Did his wife beat him up? Did he simply slink away into the bad night, with naught a knuckle rap?

    c) What about the 3 brothers' parents/extended family - did they support the widow after all this?

    Just very curious! There are so many points of view in this terrible tragedy


  6. Anonymous Says:

    If you want to know what I really think:

    I want to start India's first franchise of sex toys - for men AND for women. There is an excellent mens sex toy called the Fleshlight that gets rave reviews ( can guess how many people reading this will google it and try to buy it rightaway!)

    If the young widow had the ability to satisfy herself, she may never have got into the uncle-son suicide/social repercussions situation.

    I feel for her, really I do


  7. Mama - Mia Says:

    usha - least i didnt think you were passing any value judgements! :)

    you have an opinion but you arent judgemental!

    and i think more and more women are opening about their sexual needs! me, for one, it was a big highlight og post hsaadi life!! :p

    cheers!

    abha


  8. WhatsInAName Says:

    I agree with Swati.
    There can be no excuse or reason to justify what the women did. For one, I do believe in the sanctity of the institution called marriage. Ofcourse, things would have been different had they and their beloveds been singles.
    I agree that men can get away more easily under the same circumstances, but that does not make it all "right". But yes, we should not be judgemental.

    However I do agree to your point that woman wanting sex seems to be looked down upon, even in todays world. And this happens to be more prominent in our Indian society. But yes, situation is surely improving (or so I feel) and I look fwd to the day when all of us who make up our society become more tolerant.


  9. Usha Says:

    Maami:People pass judgement about Islamic society where the punishment for this is stoning to death. Here we slay them with sharp words and judgements. Much different?

    Swati:I edited my post after your comment. I do not know enough of the woman's side of the story yet to give my opinion on her justification but I certainly believe her reasons were strong.
    B I L taking advantage? perhaps he was doing her a favour in a way?

    Risenphoenix:I notice that there is a degree of openness among certain women to the fact that they too actually have such needs. way to go girl!
    heheheh man delivering baby? I am a bit confused about how the actual transmission of sperms and the fertilisation happened.

    Mama-mia: I don't see anything about competing with a man here. It is a natural instinct girl, as valid for a woman as for a man! And that apart I agree with all you have said.

    ahumanbean: OK, my aunt has more details.
    Apparently the man was very handsome too and a very good singer to boot.
    They were the richest landowners in the village so her child had inherited quite a large property too which was in the custody of the uncles until his majority.
    It is likely that it was a case of physical attraction from both sides.

    I do not believe the uncle and mom 'caused' the child's death. It was more social thought and inherited values.
    Let us do a role reversal for a minute. If the boy was a little older and in a sexual relationship that the mother objected to his response would have been 'my sexual life is not my mother's business.' But a mother has no business to be wanting sex, right? RIGHT?

    It seems that the relationship too died with the boy. I am sure the burden of assumed guilt would have been too much to bear. And society would have completed it by pointing fingers too.

    No the uncle's wife did not beat him up. She was a very sweet lady. They continued to support her. I think she is still alive in the village.

    anon: Perhaps.
    When you start the franchise, er, psst, could I have some samples please...Jut to have a LOOK, you know...

    mama-mia: :) Good, good, good.

    WIAN:As I said, I do not have enough facts to give an opinion. I can only repeat 'There must be a strong reason for a woman to go astray'!


  10. Thought Room Says:

    Perhaps a man and a woman can never be at the same page in regards to sex. What drives their sexual nature are totally different. At least behavior studies indicate that man’s need for sex is driven by the need to propagate their genes quantitavely to the next generation, and despite the road blocks provided by, culture religion, and intelligence, some men, listen to the basic urge. Woman’s drive for sex is driven by not only the need to propagate the gene, but also the nurture of the progeny, which involves security, and comfort and emotions. So just because she wants sex does not make her just like a man. That a woman should not think of sex, is the road block of culture that is inculcated in us since childhood. What I am trying to get at is that even if the society were free of this prejudice, woman would tend to be more mono andrus, at least for the sake of the progeny, up to a certain period of time, since she would not perhaps place her pleasure at ahead of the security of her progeny. As for the boy it is unfortunate that he committed suicide, but it is perhaps the upbringing that is to blame, that forced the boy to grow up with certain moral attitudes, and empowered him to judge. That he committed suicide, how ever indicates that he had a lot more going than his mothers morality.


  11. Anonymous Says:

    lol!
    This is Anon from above. All my friends seem to also want samples, just to "see", you know!


  12. Paul Says:

    The odd thing is, when you recognize that women have a right to their sexuality, you sooner or later must recognize their right to social, political, and economic equality. I don't know why that is so, but it certainly seems to work that way.

    The struggle for women's rights seems to necessarily involve sexual liberalization, and I think those feminists who believe they can combine women's political, economic, and social rights with Victorian attitudes towards sex are sadly mistaken.

    Just my 6 in the morning thoughts on this.

    Thank you for a great post, Usha!


  13. S.Praveen Says:

    It was only natural for the lady to get attracted to the nearest man esp in a conservative age. Her The 13 year old son committed suicide ages ago, u bet it could even happen at this time and age under similar situations, nothing much as changed.

    "If the boy was a little older and in a sexual relationship that the mother objected to his response would have been 'my sexual life is not my mother's business.' But a mother has no business to be wanting sex, right? RIGHT?".....very true, ask this question to people and u will get a "gup chip" for an answer.

    Good to see a post after looooong time :).
    Thoughtful post as usual but the last line left me laughing :) agree with u.

    Ammaam Dasavatharam poliyo????


  14. Anonymous Says:

    Very good post!

    Whatever the reason that the women have gone "astray", I think you make a very relevant point about women suppressing their desires. Without a fairly sensitive partner, women may not even be aware of their needs since it is never discussed openly.

    As Paul mentions, these are all issues related to treating a woman as a human being and not as property.

    ano


  15. rambodoc Says:

    I believe that modern scientific and rational thought and the awakening of female sexuality go hand in hand. Wherever you find superstition and blind faith dominant forces, you will find a subjugated woman.


  16. @lankr1ta Says:

    I think you were just rationalizing on the basis of what you think could be reason enough. I think it is wrong that we do not allow women to be human enough. We women are as human as a man is and that somehow we are not allowed.
    And compound tat with the woman being a mother... oh Gosh, that makes her even less human or allowed to have human impulses.
    Strange how in the guise of calling our women"strong and noble" we make them live subhumanly, denying them basics.


  17. Jane Turley Says:

    Once again Usha, a post that has really got me thinking. Unfortunately everything I've got to say is X rated!( And involves Pierce Brosnan.)

    We women have needs too!


  18. Whether its a men or women, this extra marital thing is somehow very non-digestable thing to me..
    I always wonder why do they do all these in dark, can't they get married and live happily instead of troubling so many people around? Huh!!
    The two incidents you wrote stopped my breath for a second... Am I in the 20th century still? I wonder!!


  19. Anu Says:

    hi , bloghopping and came to your post. I agree that sex is neve considered the reason for a woman to cross that black line, but in think in most times its security. Your absolutely right that soceity maligns a woman for leaving her family , when a man does so, its perfectly ok.But I think Indian society has some moral codes, which keep sanity in this otherwise crazy world, thoses codes however are not favorable to women,


  20. maami Says:

    Mr/Ms Bean:
    My thoughts exactly. Infact I wrote a story on that long time ago, consumed by dust and lost in shifting homes.


  21. Anon Says:

    Hi Usha,

    I came here through blog hopping.


    I have a point to make. The problem is not with men or women. It is not that all men are crazy or sex maniacs. There are few good men as well. These men had mothers who did not correct them when they were young. They are the ones that encouraged them to do so. Fawning over them, giving them undue attention, while neglecting their own daughters is something that is very common in traditional families. What I am trying to say here is that, the problem is not with men alone.

    It is the power play between men and women. Which is everywhere; homes are no exception to it.

    If you consider sexual liberation, sleeping as many people is not something that is advisable. Let me illustrate my example. I know girls who are not half as capable as other people (both men and women) but ending up in higher posts because of performing sexual favors to higher authorities. All the girl needs to believe is that she is dating the person, how convenient? On the other hand, there are other women, who have handsome tall, good looking, and hardworking individuals, but still sleep with other men, just for fun. If both the husband and wife belong to this category and their marriage is just for the sake of convenience, there is no problem with that. But when there is party who is innocent and gets hurt, there is a problem. It hurts to know that your spouse is sleeping with someone else and he/she is lying about it. Are we not considering the hurt the wife of the BIL who slept with the lady under consideration, would have passed through? She is another woman too, isn’t she? What about her emotions? What if she was forced to keep her mouth shut and not say a word against her husband, this is where liberation has to step in, right?

    I don’t think there is anybody who can tolerate that their spouse is sleeping with someone else and still continue the relationship. Maybe I am wrong, if there are people like that, please show me, I will touch the ground under their feet and also see if they are of the same composition as mine.

    It is a problem even the educated would pass through.

    Just because your husband went and slept with someone else, you also don’t go and sleep with else, do you? Or are you trying to advocate the western attitude where a twenty nine year old girl gets an abortion for the ninth time after all the sex education, she has had.

    About the Movie, WATER, the person who sent Lisa roy to the zamindar was also a woman, wasn’t she? She is the evil one also, ain’t she?

    What I am trying to tell here is to merely point out that, we need women to be stronger, tougher, and talk openly about their emotions. The problem lies with men and women. We need to educate both of them; simply justifying sexual liberation does not do any good. We need to teach to remain faithful to their partners, learn a little modesty (which is always good), curb their needs to see what is right and wrong, trying to maintain composure and dignity until the time is perfect and not to head rush into relationships ending up hurting each other and others around them without intending to do so.

    Also, with sexual liberation comes the liberty wherein extramarital affairs become the norm, no problem up to this point. But will that justify incest and pedophiles, (more and more of which are coming to light everyday)?

    Sex is just one part of the whole issue. But everything has to be taken into view, isn’t it? The good and the bad.


  22. ahumanbean Says:

    I should have pointed this out at the very beginning: my TOTM reaction was: Where is the sentiment? The, if you like sensuality?

    I differ from you, AgelessBonda ( sorry that word is now stuck in my mind :) :) :) ! ) and also from a few other commentators.

    It's *not* about sex.

    The women in these two stories ( post) may well have longed for a sensual /caring/nurturing relationship. They may well have wanted to just talk to a male friend!

    I could recite Andrew Marvell's very beautiful poem by heart when I was a wee lass - you know, the one that gave us the well known "The grave's a fine and private place" kadhai.

    Sensuality, good conversation also play a huge part in relationships; somehow I feel extended family widow may well have wanted a companion out of the Uncle guy, and what he wanted was sex with as many women he could bed.

    Just a feeling!

    OK all you Mommies reading this: for heaven's sake, imbibe a sense of respectful sensuality in your kids forthwith. You know: good manners, being genuinely kind to ALL women - esp. your maid servants, opening doors for them etc. It pays off, trust me, and bollocks to anyone who challenges me on this :).
    ------------
    Maami: huh? Which post, please? Would be nice to read it! Please post!
    ---


  23. Usha Says:

    Thoughtroom: Interesting. But it seems to me that the kind of behaviour you are talking about is more an acquired one and not the basic instinctual difference between men and women. It seems prudent for a woman to practice monoandry based on evidence that it is good for the nurturing of progeny and their security. This is why monogamy and monoandry has gained popularity in most societies. And it would be wonderful if we can all choose the mate we want to spend our lives with. But in many societies marriages are still made for considerations other than love and compatibility and it is inevitable that in this imperfect arrangement extreme unhappiness can drive a person to the kind of behaviour like the maid in the post.

    anon: ahem...I see...mmm

    Paul:I agree Paul. You seem to wake up shiny and bright indeed - so much clarity at 6 a.m...:)

    S.Praveen: I am sure it holds good in today's time too. Having been brought up to believe sex was a sin, I could not digest the fact that my parents actually indulged in it other than for procreation. aiyo looks like dasavataram is never going to happen until kalki comes...son fell sick and hence had to cancel.

    ano: I do know for a fact that many of my contemporaries say they go through it only because their husbands want it. They don't believe they would want it otherwise.

    Doc: so true, so sad!

    @lankr1ta: ya we trap them in these stereotypes and pigeonholes and judge them if they want to break free.

    Jane:send me a private mail and let us settle this brosnon issue once and for ever. hehehehe

    Veena:I am not making a case for extra marital affairs at all. When I talk about a woman's sexual needs being dormant and neglected I mean it even within a married relationship. After kids, most women think it is unnecessary and claim they have it only because their husbands want it. Isnt repression the reason for this?

    anu: Yes, prudence dictates that a woman is safer in a monogamous relationship and that is why perhaps the author said that there must be a strong reason for a woman to go astray burning all her safety nets. While we may accept other reasons as strong enough we still cannot accept her need for sex as reason enough.

    Maami:This is very irresponsible of you. We die to read every word you write and you go and lose your stories. Go and find it by this evening I say...

    Anon: Thanks for the nice comment.
    I am sorry if I seemed to advocate 'sleeping around' indiscriminately trampling on feelings and using it as a means for corporate advancement. Not at all.
    I meant to point out how insensitive we are when it comes to a basic need as sex when it is a woman while we acknowledge it as a basic need for a man.
    In the case of the young widow, I think the BIL's wife forgave the sis in law because there was no power games here. She also knew the sad life that the girl had as a widow at 18. It was n't as if she had a chance to remarry anyone and she chose to take away another man's wife. The husband did not ill treat his wife because of this relationship. And it was a time when a man taking 2 wives wasn't rare. In fact many men lost all their money by visiting concubines and making over a lot of property to them.
    I am not justifying the relationship but I am saying nobody was wrong in this case considering the circumstances.

    Re: water, don't blame the woman who sent her to the zamindar. How else was she to feed all the widows who were there and who had nowhere to go. Blame the system that left them without succour and allowed this to happen.

    As I said in response to another comment above, this isn't about letting your sexual drives rule your brain. I meant to highlght the insensitivity to a woman's basic need and our value judgements even when a woman walks out of an unfulfilling relationship or a widow's need for it.


  24. Usha Says:

    Bean: Oh yes, sensuality, platonic relationship all that require a little more culture and mind. I was talking about the very basic thing before all this - and yes, it isn't bad to feel it.
    Apparently the man in this case was a very refined person and not one looking for women to bed. There may have been genuine love and care.
    Maami, someone made a vazhakku statement : annan pondatti arai pondaati; thambi pondaati than pondaati." Any insights on this?


  25. @Usha to your response. True, may be I looked at the sexual liberation giving rise to this EM affair.
    I think its a very personal matter of an individual, so I don't want to generalise it here. and In these days, does any female tolerate that Man-wanting-but-she-having-no-interest concept. I guess she can always say NO!

    Anyway these days, it has become a weekend affair is what many newspaper and journals report :-)


  26. Usha Says:

    Veena: we all tend to see the top 5% - a small group of educated/ enlightened/ liberated/ free individuals around us and begin to generalise that the Indian woman has broken free of all that has hitherto constrained her.
    Yes even today they exist, and in large numbers. Married to a stranger the woman gets used to participating even without actively desiring it. In some cases the chemistry develops ;in many, it does not. But still penetration happens and the woman allows it. Why? It is a sacred duty. It is needed to keep the marriage together. And just how often can she say pretend a head ache or find other excuses? So one out of so many times she decides to comply rather than jeopardise the marriage.


  27. maami Says:

    Well I've found that some of camaraderie, companionship, appreciation, encouragement, sensuality and other bits and pieces- that are coming through the many observations that often young lonely women (single, married, widowed or whatever else is the social status) could have yearned for -have been examined in some of tagore's stories (choker bali); ghare bhaire (younger romantic bro in law's romanticism and affection winning the boudi's heart -ami chinigo chinogo ....);an adoor gopalakrishnan movie starring smita patil married to gopi ( marandu pochu).

    Usha:Thapu thapu, I just can't seem to find it, it's been so many years, i seem to even have forgotten bits and pieces of it. Aww, you are making me feeling bashful.
    Er, yes, in Hindi heartland also peoples and all are saying, "Din mein bhaiya, raath mein saiyan"!


  28. Thought Room Says:

    Hi Usha,

    Let me explain, I perhaps saw the article and the comments section as a whole when I made the comment. It was directing the comment to the idea that when a women desires sex she is like a man. I was pointing out the fundamental difference, which is not acquired. I did not mean that women would like to mate for life, but like the others animals, in the world, they would prefer security and monoandry, until the progeny can fend for themselves. (In case of humans, we stretch the age, beyond the real one). Still it intrudes me that the maid, or the young widow went off the beaten path for sexual happiness alone. And if the nature of the female was polyandry, will she stop there? You see after all a persons perception of love(a rosy eyed perception of another gender, along with sexual desire) can change, that causes many a divorces even in love marriages


  29. S.Praveen Says:

    Hi Usha, I suddenly recollect this incident which my mom told me long ago, in the 50s again.

    This relative of my dad, a girl of 23 with 3 kids and her husband, a paranoid scizophrenic patient, whose problem was neither identified not treated by his family. He was living in the far away Calcutta working and religiously following a Kerala tantrik who told him to avoid his family if he wanted his wellness in life. Totally abandoning his wife and 3 kids, he settles down in Calcutta along with his fears. He never visits his family and over the years his wife has a relationship with a fisherman who later duped her ran away with her money and jewels. Her family and relatives abandoned her or she ran away somewhere with guilt, not sure. The kids were brought up by their grandfather (her father) and they had to endure a lot of difficulties esp the son who was hightly protective of his 2 sisters after all this. He gets them married, makes a family for himself in a distant land and never visted his hometown for ages until a recent college reunion. No one heard of his mother after that and shes supposed to have died in a temple after a lonely old age sometime in mid 1980s. He unwillingly gave his father's name to his son just bcoz the grandson has to carry the grandfather's name, but his daughter carried his mother-in laws' name and not his mother', do I need to say why!!

    Blame it all on the unhealthy social system.


  30. James Mylaporean Says:

    Maami : Adoor movie you refer to - was it Kodiyettam (1977) ?
    The balding middle aged Gopi played the village vagabond,with a young wife right ?


  31. Preethi Says:

    You have got me thinking.... but I agree with Swati... do you need sex to the point of being irresponsible? When you have kids, you have some kind of responsibility towards them .. and I think both women failed on that front!


  32. hillgrandmom Says:

    Usha,incidentally, here in Kerala, when I talk to women from a lower social strata, a man is a must in a woman's life,not least as protection. I find that most of the people around, men and women have been married more than once. Of course nowadays, they may not have more children because of these different liaisons.
    From the point of view of the women mentioned here, I think we shouldn't make judgements, when we cannot really know their compulsions; but from the point of view of the children, being abandoned by one's own mother is one of the worst things that can happen. So from the children's point of view, the lady with 3 children may have been irresponsible.
    But then again, in patriarchal societies, the children are supposed to be the property of the father's family! I know a case in our family, where a cousin died of cancer leaving his foreign wife and small child. His mother refused to send the little girl to her mother, because she was a foreigner and the mother was helpless to take her because the law at that time was in favour of the husband's family. Hence the mother was never able to have her daughter to stay with her for a single holiday even, until the daughter grew to be 16, when she had a major fight with her grandmother and so was sent for a holiday to her mother!


  33. JP Says:

    I always wanted women to open up and speak. Understanding them in order to give them a better life has been one of my recent goals and of late a very important action point in my life where I've lived until now as a guy who accepted and blindly believed in certain systems enforced by the society for the safety of women. I should thank Usha for the wonderful blog she has been writing.

    Now talkin about the post,
    1) I've seen in many cases MEN have been cornered by women for every damn thing that has made woman what she is now. This should change!

    2) MEN think about SEX more, yes, it is because of the harmones. Blame god! For women having lesser sex drive, again, society has to be blamed and that includes both men and women. People had this mentality that women who enjoy sexual intercourse were not pure. Sex was considered to be part of duties of a marriage. putting it plainly, to get a kid. Nothing else. For men, again blame it on the harmones. Women get mood swings, we do understand it is her harmone. :| This attitude really shows men as cheap creatures. This attitude should change.

    3) I really don't know under what situation those two women went after such men. After you get a kid, the kid's life has to be more important that anything else. Atleast thats how we were brought up in our society. I don't wanna add more to the sin tally of those women without knowing what exactly happened. If they are no more, let them rest in peace else god bless them.

    4) Women have to speak out and should make themselves heard. This is the only way forward. If they need more sex, it should be openly discussed with their beloved husbands. If she doesn't like it, she has to tell. The concept of FAKE IT shoudl die. People should learn to live simple, plain and truthful lives.

    Thanks again!

    - Jude Prakash


  34. Mahadevan Says:

    The Institution of marriage is a rational evolution in Civilization, for both the sexes to find outlet and also to ensure continuity of the specie. Male being dominating force in society, could convenietly site excuses for wayward behaviour. Under no circumstances should this be accepted and permitted.

    As for a woman going out of wedlock to satisfy her urges, there could be two possible reasons

    1) To assert that the feminine specie is not inferior and that it has the same right the male one has.

    2) Her emotional and physical needs are not adequately met in the marriage.

    The second one can be accepted at the same time ensuring that it is not exploited by men.

    The former cannot be accepted as it cannot be accepted in men too.

    By the way, my understanding of a woman's psyche is that her emotional and physical needs go together where as in the case of men, they try to satisfy mere physical needs without emotional support.

    Unfortunately, men can have outside relationship without any visibility. A woman with such relationship may have to suffer the consequences like bearing a child. Perhaps that could have been the reason for the women to be more watchful.


  35. eve's lungs Says:

    Usha - why just the economically deprived strata - it is a rare woman who comes to terms with her own needs be they sexual or otherwise , which is what I have also written about in my latest post .

    One reason why a woman needs a man ,in the Indian context, is social security. My mother as a widow had to go htorugh three houses before the 4th landlord said "Ok, you can rentmy premises".
    The other reason os that most women are homemakers and have to be provided for - thus economic dependence .
    It is a rare woman who breaks out of these bonds , again, as I have discussed in my post .
    A close friend walked out on her husband and left her daughter behind because he used to beat her regularly and abuse her . She had a degree but no job. Now she is working, has relocated to Chennai , lives with a man ( and yes she is comfortable, so are we )
    This man- woman thing is an eternal issue and is likely to continue until we women empower the weaker members of our sorority . Its not about men empowering us , at all
    Damn this is bigger than any of my posts


  36. Usha Says:

    Maami:I am reminded of two such couples here where there was a deeper understanding transcending any sexual attraction:
    karna and bhanumathy and the characters played by shivaji and Radha in the film mudal mariyadai.
    Ada kashtame, tholaine pocha..ok, don't do it again now that you have a blog where you can save it all for posterity. :)

    Thoughtroom: Ok, I get your point. I am sure the widow may have acquiesced initially to please the B I L who was supporting her and her child. But it is equally possible that it filled a void in her life - it could have been sex or just the close companionship of a man or just a warm body to hug to make her feel wanted. In today's time she could have remarried. In her days, she did not have that choice and hence it was another woman's husband.

    praveen: What a story! Life is indeed spicier and stranger than fiction. Thanks for sharing.

    James: maami, james kekarar illai, Badil sollunga. anda phillum dane?

    Preethi: May be it wasn't only sex. As ahumanbean said perhaps it was the need for companionship, someone to talk to, to be understood, to feel wanted, to be treated as a human being rather than an object.
    How can we generalise and say that after 3 kids why does a woman need a man? or after being widowed, why does a woman need a man? or after mothering a child why does she need a man?
    In the case of the young widow, how did she neglect being a good mother?

    Hillgrandmom: Yes, it is very likely that the father threw her out casting aspersions on her relationship with this man and she went to him as a refuge. I did not think of this angle.
    The kind of things people stoop to out of ego - thanks for sharing that story!

    Jude prakash: Thank you for you thoughts. yes there needs to be more openness and awareness re sex among partners.

    Mahadevan: Neatly summed up. I think in both cases the reason was the second.
    I agree that a woman's emotional and physical needs go together. It is possible that in the case of these women these men fulfilled both the needs.
    I was also trying to point out that we still do not recognise that a woman's sexual needs are as basic as a man's. We expect her to be above this need and pass judgements in cases like the ones in my post.

    mrs.G: Yes, on all counts and am rushing to read your post. :)


  37. ahumanbean Says:

    jp:

    your blog is not open to public viewing, but your comments are interesting.

    Why interesting? Becuase I would categorize you as the 'Indian male attempting to understand why he feels uncomfortable with the socialising of most Indian women". That is very important from many p's o v.

    ***
    I have to comment on your statement that the onus lies on women speaking up. Maybe men need to notice that we have been speaking, but are drowned out by the sheer volume of the male egoistic, bombastic, pompous noise.

    It's a different p o v and it would be nice to know that most Indian men can (one day!) acknowledge this...

    -------------------
    I wish you wouldn't harp on the "hormones" bit ( it's hormones, not harmones please!). Men have hormones as well you know! And *all* hormones work 24/7/365, for men and women.

    Men are egotistic 24/7/365.

    Women are carers/nurturers/burden bearers 24/7/365. So no harping on "hormones" please - it's grating!
    -


  38. JP Says:

    @Usha: Thanks
    My friend who read this blog told me, why women have to venture into things which they know is immoral. But instead of women doing immoral things which men are known for why can’t they teach their kids(sons and daughters) it isn’t right to do. Of course they are equal and have all the rights to do things they want. But we are talking of the gender who is known to have more responsibilities in building the family.

    @ahumanbean: Thanks for correcting me on the misspelt word. Not all men are egotists and not all women are what you call them to be. Your generalized statements on Men and Women are enuf to suggest there is no point in discussing with you further. I reject wholeheartedly your comments.
    My blog is made visible to the selected few whose comments I regard and value. It is away from strangers who have prejudiced opinions about men and strangers who might have a pathetic attitude of harping on certain things for eg. Misspelt words, grammar, word usage etc.

    I really don’t want to spoil usha’s post by having a stooopid flame war with you. Peace.


  39. Nita Says:

    I read your post, wanted to say something and then started reading the comments and got confused.
    So I just decided to give my take on the man-woman relationship.
    Man needs woman and woman needs man. That's it. They need each other equally in all respects. Yes, sexually and emotionally. In fact a man I think needs a woman more as if he wants jsut sex he can go to a prostitute. He doesn't want just sex. He wants companionship. So with women. Every human being wants a partner.
    This opinion is not related to the examples in your post as I don't know them.


  40. maami Says:

    james /usha maami:
    nyabagan illai.james sonna serithan.
    karna-bhanumathy? Oh yes.
    Also Duryodhana:"Muthukalai ennavo?korkavo?" I'm keen on knowing more on Duryodhana- avaricious prince, ruthless royal,insulted by proud Draupadi for his guilelessness, vengeful of women who heckled him, adoring husband, noble friend, wily political negotiator, but challenged caste order. And they say women are a basket of contradictions?


  41. S.Praveen Says:

    Karna Banumathi????? Andhu enna Kadhai, never heard of it. Have read The Palace of Illusions but even in that there was no such mention.


  42. Marie Says:

    Usha, I just discovered your wonderful blog and I am so glad!!

    This is indeed a very thought provoking post. I completely agree with Paul. Acknowledging a woman's sexuality is the beginning of that slippery slope of acknowledging them as fully integrated human beings with rights.

    That is a terrifying concept in many cultures.

    Marie

    P.S. I wonder how that poor child who hung himself had been socialized and if there were other issues involved in his desperate act?


  43. maami Says:

    @Praveen:Bhanumati, from the Khambhoja clan, was a wife of Duryodhana. She shared a rarest of friendships, camaraderie, and bond with Karna, the destitute friend of her husband, Duryodhana. She would play games of dice with Karna, offer him words of solace and comfort when he would often dip into depression over his origins and social insults.
    Duryodhana, for his part, trusted his wife and friend, that he was above all suspicions that were won't to arise when a male friend was chin wagging in the queen's zenana.

    The Bengali poet Jatindra Baghchi wrote a rare piece of verse on Duryodhana's last dying moments that sees the war from the vanquished side. Interesting.
    Usha, seridhane? Romba pesiteno?


  44. S.Praveen Says:

    @ maami: Thats interesting. Thanks for enlightening me on that maami :). I am sure Usha won't mind ;).

    BTW, nice to see your active participation on Usha's space, we would love to see more frequent posts on ur blog as well ;), romba naalachu, blog update pannugolen, what say Usha?? :D


  45. maami Says:

    @praveen:just located a translation; if you can send me your e-mail handle i can post it in there. too long for here.
    i'm bored.so keeping quite quiet!


  46. Usha Says:

    Nita: Thanks for sharing your perspective.Love, companionship, camaraderie are things that we look for in a marriage. And what about those who do not find it in a marriage or have no way of getting it like the two cases in my post? Is it immoral to want them?

    Maami: I was quite impressed with the characterisation of Duryodhan in that tamil film "karnan". Even an Asokan managed to carry it very well. wasn't that a beautiful scene?
    Yes he is an intriguing character - I sometimes find it difficult to totally hate him.

    Maami: Thank you. You are welcome to say all you want here. I am loving it. :) and I want the translation too. Please mail
    Usha.vaidyanathan@gmail.com

    Marie; Thanks for the kind words. 13 is a difficult age. May be his uncle was his idol and it was too much to handle finding out his feet of clay. May be he worshipped his mother and felt let down. We will never know, will we?

    Praveen: You are right. of course I don't mind.

    Maami: Bored a? Write about boredom no? I am sure there will be a delightful post on that too from you. :)


  47. Yaz Says:

    Well, I agree with the Author but we are all helpless as this is rooted in our culture.. Anyways do read my blog too.. My blog is nothing related but a fun blog about 3 college friends
    http://rdgunsyaz.blogspot.com


  48. varali Says:

    You said in response to one comment: After kids, most women think it is unnecessary and claim they have it only because their husbands want it. Isnt repression the reason for this?

    Not sure it is repression. Very often sex within marriage (of the arranged sort) is a wham-bam version without even a thank you, so I'm not sure women in these relationships even find out that it can be pleasurable. Especially if you get married young and this is your only experience of it, I suspect it may kill or at least hugely dampen your own sexual desires.

    I do wonder though - how did we become a society that is so messed up abut sex? The idea that we weren't always so repressed/conservative/hypocritical about it keeps getting bandied about with references to temple sculptures and Sangam poetry etc thrown in, but is that true? Were we once liberated? Was that liberation restricted to some castes/classes? Whether or not that was the case, I am still left wondering about how we came to view sex the way we do. Any thoughts?

    (I think about this a lot because I have a feeling it may lead to some answers about the widespread sexual harassment of women in India. Also - sorry to have rambled on like this!)


  49. maami Says:

    thanks for your cheerful words usha.


  50. dipali Says:

    I've read this post a few times now and still have not clarified my thoughts on all that it encompasses.
    So often all that a woman wants/needs is to feel cherished and appreciated.
    Sometimes sex is what she gives in order to meet those needs, sometimes sexually is how she is needed in return. Its rather too complicated, no? Still not making much sense, so please excuse this muddled comment.


  51. Usha Says:

    Varali: I do believe that Indians are sexually repressed. We still have not come to accept it as a normal biological function. We tie it up so much with the concept of marriage that in many cases marriage becomes a licence for indulging in sex.
    Young adults are discouraged from looking upon it as an act of pleasure for fear of seeking such pleasures even before marriage. So they grow up thinking of it as something to be shunned and it is not possible to suddenly develop an openness about one's sexuality. For many women it takes a long time before they can understand it and become open enough to articulate their needs.
    Men seem to have the societal approval to seek it outside marriage or remarry if they have been divorced or lost their spouse. There are still a lot of limitations/ restrictions for a woman. hence cases like the one I have cited are difficult to understand or approve of.
    And when we take a sympathetic view of a woman's needs too, there are people like JP's friend ( see comment above) who think of it as a brief for IMMORAL behaviour from women. The basic problem still seems to be that a woman's need for sex is still circumscribed by the roles she has to play while a man's need for it is accepted as a natural instinct.
    As for how we became such a repressed society, there is always that standard explanation about the imposition of Victorian morals under the British. But my own thoughts are that the society must have tried to insulate women from all these invaders and hence tried to impose stricter behavioural codes for them as a protection from attracting their attention and attacks. And slowly this has become the accepted code of conduct for a Bharatiya Nari?

    Maami:Not just words, deeply felt sentiments akum!

    Dipali:I think you have actually hit the bull's eye while claiming to be confused. yes, they must have both gone after wanting to feel wanted and if sex is one way of feeling that, they went for that too.


  52. i havent been through all the comments so i might be repeating something..

    that very often its the intimacy that comes with sex that women seek. the afterplay that no one talks about. the cuddling.

    they're big enough reasons to go astray i believe. specially in this day of perfect bodies and career-focussed people...


  53. Shilpa Says:

    Hi,

    I chanced upon your blog the other day and I am hooked! You are my mom's age and speak/write exactly like her...though she doesnt blog. I love it when women dont act like they are being weighed down by age even though they are quite young! I admire your style and your writing.


  54. Joyee Says:

    Hi,

    I am new to your blog. Its very nice. Can't help but post a comment...

    If we take God's creation to be flawless and balanced, then isn't it natural that for a man God has created a woman and vice versa?

    A woman needs a man just as a man needs a woman...the reasons are universal, no exceptions!

    We think ourselves to be just body, but the moment we realise we are more than that...we are souls, spirit, an extension of GOD, then all social obligations, physical limitations (hunger, sex drive, pain, sickness, misery) and all boundaries of time and space cease to exist!

    None of us can possibly know why those two ladies did what they did...and none of us have the right to judge their actions, 'coz and only 'coz we did not live their lives...didn't go through their experiences.
    The only time we are allowed to judge is when we suffer an exact amount of pain, humiliation, misery that they suffered...and that in itself will be possible only when mankind will learn how to measure pain OR pleasure!

    Ethics, morality is a creation of man...and like everything else they are full of flaws. Social sanctions are going through innumerous amendments every moment of our lives. Ideals set by one should not be imposed upon another because each of us are unique and perfect in our own ways...and are only here to realise the purpose of our existence.

    As long as we are true to our own selves, our inner beings...I guess we serve ethics and morality very well! For God resides within all of us...:)


  55. Monika Says:

    why and for how long will we need a reason for justifying the sexual urge in us... we are humans too the first sin was a act performed by both adam and eve and it was for the satisfaction of both... i wonder when will the modern men and women accept that


  56. Anonymous Says:

    The title of this article caught my eye while browsing this evening, and coincidentally is a question I have been struggling with for three years now! I am female, 47, and have been married to three men. I have been single for three years and am completing my bachelors degree. An unexpected thing has happened at this point in my life where I'm seriously questioning, "Why do I need a man?" The only answer I came up with was sex and companionship, with the caveat that I have my own place, my own bank account, and when I need my space, go away! wow! Not in a million years as a woman did I think I would ever feel this way. Quite frankly, I'm wondering if at this point in my life, I'm the female version of a man? lol! Are there other women who feel this way? I'm not sure what to make of it. I do know this. I truly and honestly am at peace in life and happy with who I am, moreso than ever. Looking back, I was incredibly miserable as a wife as opposed to being single. Now, it's almost frightening to bring a man into the mix and mess everything up! Having said that, the question remains, one that I haven't quite resolved within myself yet. Anyway, just wanted to comment and thanks for a great topic! :)


  57. Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of 'Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards - 2011' (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).