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Living dead

The beauty about fine cinema is that it forces you to introspect. I had the good fortune of seeing both Water and Dor on the same day, writes Swapan Seth.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2007 15:55 IST

The beauty about fine cinema is that it forces you to introspect. I had the good fortune of seeing both Water and Dor on the same day. Ironically, both films dealt with how we, as a society, deal with widows. What was hugely upsetting was the fact that while Water was based in 1938, Dor is perhaps based in today’s world. Nearly 70 years later, little has changed. The ostracisation and the atrocities are similar.

Consider a shocking statistic that makes me conclude that in spite of our boasts of being a knowledge economy, we are nothing but a society of illiterates. There are, according to the 2001 Census, over 34 million widows who lead their lives as Manu had deemed it for them. That is plain pathetic. In Water, a widow asks the priest why they must follow this practice when the law does not force it on them. He says: “Jo hamare liye accha hai, hum usey jaantey nahi. Aur agar jaantey hain, usey pehchantey nahi.”

At that point, I lost it. This had to stop. Why should women have to die every day, even while living, just because their husbands had died? This is Stone Age sensibility.

We cannot be celebrating Indra Nooyi while forcing 7-year olds to tonsure their heads because of child-marriages. “It’s too deep,” my wife told me. “Don’t go there.”

But that is my point: we don’t go there. No one visits these absurd customs. No one says hello to these horrible situations. We are all a bunch of under-the-carpet cowards.

The issues we grapple with are absurd: politics, civic amenities. Our priorities are out of place. Equality of gender is the most basic human cause to embrace and rectify. Women are no longer anyone’s handmaidens. Let’s face it.

Each time one sees movies like Water and Dor, one likes to excuse it with the thought that maybe illiteracy was responsible for all of this in the past. But what about now?

I am sure there could be stringent legislation against this. Perhaps, it’s not a fashionable cause for many. But I think, someone somewhere can put an end to this nonsense. When you see films like Dor and Water, you feel ashamed of being a man.