MIDWAY: Another Sita

Santanu Mitra:

Some time ago I was at the banks of the Kali Gandaki where it meets the Trishuli with my colleagues on a day out. Idyllic to say the least, we wandered around the hillocks on the far side of Devghat. Among the ‘spots’ to see was the place where Sita had allegedly entered mother earth after her test by fire. A small shrine under a minor cliff, decorated with vermilion powder and red pieces of cloth. “This is the spot,” I thought, maybe mythical more than historical, but nevertheless, a revered place. My thoughts went back to so many Sitas that I met since I came to the kingdom of Nepal. Hardworking mothers, young and stolid, their youth banished under the yoke of an ever demanding sansara.

Why is it that in the only Hindu state in the world the women still have to find their rightful place in society? In Hinduism all power is attributed to the feminine form. Ya devi sharbabhuteshu shaktirupena sansthita...! Shiva is incomplete without Shakti, Purush without Prakriti. Why then are the popular icons of the feminine always embodied in the subservient and ‘husband’ oriented pativrata Savitri, or Sati?

Cut to reality. Dance bars in the capital, cabin restaurants, casinos and massage parlours where impoverished girls, some of them not even adults have to eke out a living dancing in front of lecherous men and prostituting their bodies for a paltry sum. Most of these girls are from the underdeveloped areas of Nepal, a majority of them tribals with almost no education and certainly no options of any gainful employment. With the Report on Human Trafficking hitting the news, debate and arguments notwithstanding, the fact remains that a huge number of Nepali girls are transported to the squalid flesh spots of Calcutta, Bombay, Agra and Delhi. A considerable number of them minors.

Is money the only criteria? Is it simply a demand-and-supply scenario? How can a people who celebrate Dashain and Dipawali with fervour, queue up with prayers in their minds in front of the Guheshwari Devi temple allow their women to be fodder in the world of men?

The imbalance is appalling. Sita has to really enter mother earth now. And a new improved Sita has to emerge from the ashes of her test by fire. For surely she has been tested for much too long.

A Sita who has to break new ground and take her rightful place in society. A Sita who does not have to be pativrata anymore At least that should not be the criteria to judge her merits as an equal in the world of men.