When Anushka Sharma was fried over Virat Kohli’s dismissal and India’s ouster from the world cup, I was not surprised. After all, this is hardly an aberration. Back in 1996, when India crashed out of the world cup semis losing to Sri Lanka, Sangeeta Bijlani, the Indian captain Azharuddin’s girl friend was similarly roasted. Bijlani was charged with much more unsavoury stuff: breaking Azhar’s home, corrupting the good man and subsequently getting him involved in betting. As for all the centuries that Virat scored or the political gains that Azharuddin made while the jinxed women have been in their lives; Come on! Our men are talented.
To be fair to our current breed of country men (and women who echo their voices) , the rhetoric has always been stacked against women. Our scriptures present sufficient proof of women waylaying the good men. Menoka ‘trapped’ an unsuspecting Vishwamitra, Kaikeyi felled the good king Dasarath, Ram had to banish his wife Seeta to validate himself as a king. The common refrain has been men are the supreme human beings; they go about achieving their super-ordinate goals and are generally successful unless a woman comes along distracting him and messing up with the lofty aims. So cultures around the world have placed a high premium on celibacy for men, making overt references to the corrupting influence of women. Any remote evidence of the existence of a wife of Jesus has been systematically wiped out. Islam decreed that women be covered so that they do not distract men going about winning the world. Our own sages have generally stayed away from women unless they were sent to impregnate one on the will of God or were seduced by the Apsaras.
Of course we were wise enough to realize that a man does need a wife or two or more to service his more fundamental instincts. He cannot go about winning the world on empty stomach, spend his nights with inflatable dolls or die without leaving a male heir. A woman is therefore needed. The veiled, inconspicuous character in the background. So marriage takes two human beings and grinds one of them, the woman to nothingness unless she is all but the shadow of a man. Her own identity gets tied to that of the husband or the male partner. She is the invisible half of the relationship who does not get much credit for the man’s success but is hauled over fire for the man’s shortcomings. The converse has not been true. Nobody blames Krishna for seducing a much-married Radha before leaving her for good. Nobody imagines blaming Virat Kohli if Anushka’s movie flops. Or Amitabh Bacchan for an immensely talented Jaya Bhaduri going off the screen.
Yet the paradox is that relationships and marriages have always worked much better for men than from women. Statistics show that married men live longer, suffer less depression and alcoholism and are more successful than their single counterparts. Exactly the opposite is true for women: more depression, less career success and hence less earning potential and reduced life span. Trends that the American journalist and author, Elizabeth Gilbert, summed up as the “Marriage Benefit Imbalance” in her book Committed. The imbalance gets multiplied many times in our overtly macho and misogynistic culture. A culture which refuses to recognize marital rape as a cognizable offence is hardly expected to acknowledge the distinct identity of the wife or the girl friend. And the more strongly they try to assert their identity; the sharper will be the backlash. Anushka is no veiled wallflower who lives in the shadow of her man. She is smart, independent and cerebral and is as comfortable holding her boy friend’s hands as doing unconventional movies. Little surprising that she becomes the favourite roast of a nation which still sings its odes to celibacy and non-romantic love. While expecting warm food on the table, crisply ironed shirts laid out on the bed and the all-consenting breeding machines to ensure the perpetuity of an imperfect race. You brazenly break the stereotype? Then live with the abuse. It was your choice, you see!