A society steeped in tradition, superstitions and age-old customs and rituals; that is how we have been known, and although voices have been raised, people have protested, tried to bring change, things have primarily moved at a slow pace.
When I talk about traditions here, I refer to the restrictive, constraining, and quite obsolete ones.
Although we have a rich and culturally vibrant heritage, some practices have clearly outlived their time and utility and so need to be discarded. I believe anything that holds us back should be given up, and some of our rituals and customs or maybe the version that we practice today, fall into this category.
It is not as though we as a society have never felt the need to break the shackles of tradition, but something has always managed to come in the way to stall the process. For starters going against a tradition is considered a taboo, an unacceptable transgression from religion which is the mainstay for most of us. So, people are wary of questioning customs and rituals and follow them howsoever archaic they may be.
Fortunately for us, things have started looking up in recent times, especially with regard to several myths, customs and practices related to women.
In the last few days, a couple of ads have revealed the change in the mindsets that is slowly making its presence felt. They show how a different perspective of the age-old traditions and customs concerning women is being considered. The traditional roles and positions of women are being relooked and revamped. The result is a new perspective, a fresh viewpoint.
The first of these ads is the old Cadbury ad which has been revamped to make it contemporary and modern. It depicts a pleasant and welcome role reversal. The older version had a female fan showering her adulation over a male cricketer, an ad with beautiful aesthetics and a musical jingle that had been quite a hit all those years ago.
In the current version, the roles have been reversed. Instead of the girl expressing her delight and admiration, it is a boy in the role of the besotted fan and a girl playing the part of the famous cricketer. I, like many others, just love the ad and the fact that someone out there felt it was time for some gender parity.
The other one is a bridal ad with Alia Bhat questioning the age-old tradition of kanyadaan, the practice of a father giving his daughter’s hand to the groom at the time of marriage. The ad questions this ritual and suggests an alternative, a contemporary and progressive modification. It talks about kanyamaan instead of kanyadaan.
A girl, as per this, should not be viewed as an object that is supposed to change hands with time but as an equal partner in the institution of marriage. The transition from one home to the other should not be viewed as an act of charity but as a coming together of two people, two families on an equal footing.
Though criticized by the traditionalists, I find the ad very modern and apt. In today’s day and age, where a woman is equally qualified, equally accomplished as the man, why should she be treated as some form of charity to be passed on from one family to the other? In an age where a woman can hold her own no matter what, how/ why should she be considered an object of pity/ burden?
And for the traditionalists, they must know the history and the truth behind this custom. The concept in its original form signified the groom publicly accepting the girl as his wife and promising to respect her and treat her equally in all aspects of his life.
But with time and change in social conditions somewhere, the concept got watered down and came to be perceived in a manner that made women appear as objects of pity, as a burden on their family.
As a result, girls in India are made to believe that their parental home is not their real home. Their stay there is in preparation for life in their husband’s home. And the ceremony of kanyadaan signifies her being given away as charity to her husband and helping the father relieve himself of his burden.
It, first of all, signifies that for a woman, male guardianship is a prerequisite to live life. She cannot exist on her own. Therefore, on getting married, the father hands her over to her husband.
But my question is, Is a girl really a burden in today’s day and age? Is a modern, educated, empowered woman a burden or a boon?
Don’t we see numerous examples of girls being there for their family no matter what, taking care of their parents in their old age?
Women are empowered today; they are independent, bold, and therefore not objects to be pitied upon and passed on from one male guardian to another. They need to be respected and treated on an equal footing as men. This needs to be understood and accepted.
And when that begins to happen, the attempt should be appreciated and applauded. I feel we should follow traditions but have the freedom to question them and then modify them according to the changing times.
And when you see media taking the lead in doing this, we need to appreciate it and encourage it. It is a sign of progress, of our coming of age.