Sairat and a forwarded message

I was cleaning up old drafts and found this. I wonder why I never posted it. Maybe I wanted to clear my thoughts a bit and then post and never got around to doing it. I think I do that quite a bit! Anyway, this is years old and I have forgotten what the whatsapp post I mention below was exactly but I get the drift. Posting it finally then!


My boys go to a christian missionary school and I love the emphasis on values and prayer. But the side effect I don’t like is that the mommies’ whatsapp group is occasionally hijacked for sermonising owing to the skewed demographics. A few days back there was a post about harlots and the contrast between good women and bed women (not a typo) and how good women should take care to distance themselves very visibly from prostitutes in how they choose to dress. I hit delete almost instantly and can therefore not quote verbatim but these key words were used.

I chose to ignore it then but I thought of it on my way home from watching the movie Sairat yesterday. I was thinking about a lot of things and not all my thoughts have been distilled yet, but here are a few.

A woman’s body is not the receptacle of a family’s honour. It does not stand for the respect or dignity of her community or caste or anything. Not even herself. Her body is just a person’s body. The gender is immaterial. And this is so important to underline in a country where we understand such a phrase as honour killing. These are words that do not belong together and have no business being in a phrase. Much less one with such instant identification.

Sairat is about such a killing. It’s a lovely movie by the way. It starts off all dreamy with a swashbuckling schoolboy-sports-icon hero, our heroine on a Bullet putting everyone in their place and the sort of love story most commercial movie makers need to sit down and take notes to. When the family finds out, all hell breaks loose of course, but we are still in movie zone. Post interval, reality bites. Our lovers must learn a bit about themselves. The school hero is not so much in real life. Generations of oppression show in his unquestioning servility. He will never fight back. He simply cannot. So she must. He knows how to live in a slum, share a dirty bathroom and cook food. This is his life. But she must evaluate her love and face the repercussions of chasing this new life she is so unprepared for. The actors especially the young girl playing Archie do this beautifully. And then when they have matured and grown and settled down and found peace and made peace with the past we find that their past has not made peace with them.

But how could it? The rules that have been broken are not trivial ones. Our urban minds could hardly comprehend the gravity of what has happened. Parshya’s sister may never be able to marry. His family will certainly never see him again. Who knows what his supportive friends had to go through? They all would have paid for his crime in daring to marry a girl from a higher caste. And Archie’s family? You can see their financial setbacks in their newly bare house. Her father loses face and then power in the political party he belongs to. A man who cannot control a mere daughter is no longer a force to reckon with. He can hardly raise his eyes and look people in the face – such is his shame. And of course, these are violent people who find their redemption only through violence. It is not enough for them that their daughter is gone. They must destroy her completely to get back their honour. Save some face. Because this girl stands for the family’s, the community’s respect, honour and dignity, she must comply or die.

What a terrible burden to carry! And how easily we increase the load every time we forward those harlot type messages.


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