Saturday, September 27, 2008

Role Models For Today's Women?

This post began as a comment to phoenixritu's post on some Indian women she admires. Here's how I see all these Indian Women. Do I admire them?

1. Savitri was witty and smart I guess, but she also wanted a hundred sons (not even one daughter!), a bad example and role model today!

2. Draupadi: She did not have five husbands, the five husbands had her as their wife, and they had other wives also! But I must say she made the most of the situation. She is an okay role model, the message she gives is, 'Don't sit and cry, make the best of what you have'? Do read Panchali's Mahabharat to see her point of view.

3. Sita was a victim! A husband who abandoned her in a jungle, in her third trimester, had the audacity to claim the custody of her sons. She should have been stronger. It is very convenient for any MCP (In Bollywood movies or K serials) to use her as an example of a good wife.
Edited to add: Yes to Sita, No to Ram. This awesome article made me see Sita in a different light.

4. Gandhari: Blind folded and a hundred sons, no wonder she couldn't raise them well! We see such blind mothers, in India all the time.
Not a good role model at all. And of course she asked for a hundred sons, no daughters. We are still following her example when we bless newly weds, and wish them many sons.

5. Kunti: The famous mother of five successful sons. Five? What about my favourite Karna? Even if she had to abandon him when she was a helpless and innocent young princess, couldn't she tell her sons, just before the war began, that he was their brother?
I can't admire a mother who lived like a queen while her first born suffered humiliation and ignominy, for no fault of his.
I prefer Priety Zinta of Kya Kehna anyday :)

6. Kaikeyi: I agree with phoenixritu, she got bad press :) Kaikeyi did exactly what Sati Savitri did, snatched her husband back from Yama...but unfortunately she was not an only wife.
Still, she cannot be considered a good role model either. She could have asked for Bharat to be made the king without exiling Ram, OR made them share the Kingdom, Pandavas and Kauravas style.
LOL ...or like Mukesh and Anil Ambani ?

7. Laxmibai was married at the age of 9, to a 45 year old King! She is a symbol of courage, so not a bad role model for today's women. Rani Laxmi Bai also shared her (disputed) birthday with Mrs Indira Gandhi and Sushmita Sen (November 19th).

8. Mrignayni: Need to read up on her...

9. Ahiylyabai Holkar: Amongst other things, she helped widows retain their husbands’ wealth. She made sure that a widow was allowed to adopt a son. Way ahead of her times, and far more admirable than Kunti, Sita and Savitri.

10. Jijabai: Agree with phoenixritu, she is a true example of 'The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the crown. 'She is a great role model for today's women. Her strong influence was behind Shivaji's tolerant attitude towards other religions as well as in his fair and kind treatment of women and non-combatants.
Today's armed forces can learn about human rights from her.

11.Panna Dhai: It was common for nurse maids to grow closer to the baby they nursed, than their own babies who were fed on rice gruel or cow's milk, but Panna Dhai is supposed to have nursed them both, so she must have loved her own child too.
How important was it then, to let her own son be killed, to save a prince's life in those days, when princes were being killed in coups all the time? (The coups remind me of Tintin in various African countries.) We were just a collection of bickering kingdoms, fighting with each other, for some extra jageers for taxes and revenues.
As a kid I remember wondering if she actually let her own child pass off as the Prince?

12. Meera Bai: The biggest thing Krishna did for Meera Bai was that her devotion to Krishna protected her from a death by fire, as sati ! She is admirable in the way she lived by her own rules in those terrible times. Love her bhajans and her courage to follow the path she chose.

My favourites are Ahilyabai Holkar and Jija Bai.


Mampi said...

I loved Ritu's post on it.
I like your take on that too...
Thanks for enlightening on your view about these women.

D said...

I disagree with the bit about Sita. She did what most women in marriages still do - they stand by their husband through thick and thin, will go through a trial by fire to prove their virtuosity and forgive their darling husbands for all wrong. But you miss the most important decision of Sita's life: she refused to return to Ram after she had been turned out by him. That's my feminist! He could throw her out, but he couldn't bring her back. She chose to live alone - and remember, we're talking about thousands and thousands of years ago!

Imp's Mom said...

wow, I'm bad at history, I don't know of all of them. To me Laxmibai, Ahilyabi and Jija bai top the list.

Sita sure did refuse to return, but somewhere I feel that she should not have sought her final refuge in the arms of her mother. I cant help but imagine what would have happened if she had stayed alive and away from Ram...and what would have become of Ram Rajya?

Unmana said...

In 6, don't you mean Kaikeyi? Interesting post! I have been thinking of writing about my favorite feminist fictional characters for a while now.

But what about more modern role models, instead of mythological ones?

Vinod_Sharma said...

Kaikeyi, modified as suggested!

Anonymous said...

Nice one IHM. I used to wonder about Panna too. The winner in my opinion is Jhansi Ki Rani, Holkar, and Jijabai

Aneela Z said...

Have you gone through Mrinal Pande's "Devi"...its my essential *inspirational* bed time reading for ...its also good "counter-argument" material when a problematic "family elder" wants me to emulate the goddesses...yup, it is brand new information for them as well that the Divine can be assertive and werent necessarily cowing down.

my space said...

Interesting...Kudos to women like Holkar and Laxmibai...i quite liked Meerbai too.she left her comfort zone for her love Krishna...Agree with D about Sita..

Indian Home Maker said...

@unmana & Vinod sharma - Kaikeyi modified as suggested :)

Nimmy said...

Thanks for an enlightening post IHM..

Indian Home Maker said...

@Mampi I remember your view on Sita...

@D I agree, actually, what else could she possibly do? I feel angry with the system and the fact that no version of Ramayana does justice to her. Like Panchali's Mahabharata, now we should also have a Sita's Ramayana.

@Imp's Mom That would have been good. And do you think she should have stopped the boys from going to their father? Or better, the young princes should have refused to go with him, who treated their mother so cruelly.

@Unmana LOL yes, corrected the error, didn't realise it was the second Kaikeyi.
Do write! It would be great to read what modern Indian women think of these oft cited examples.
How about starting a tag on some well known modern Indian women...but which ones?

@Vinod Sharma Corrected the error...but missed what you think of them! Or did you mean Kaikeyi- the character, modified?

@phoenixritu Yes, I too like them the best. But the rest of them are not so real, there have been so many versions...and hopefully many more, better ones to come :)

@Aneela Z The last line-'that divine can be assertive and weren't always necessarily cowering down.' is what we need to see happening.
I have not read or heard of this book, but am going to find it now..

@my space And Jijabai? She was also ahead of her times.

@Nimmy Welcome:) But who is your favourite?

Mavin said...

Great take on the ancient names. We relate to the more recent.

My vote also happens to be for Rani Laxmibai, Rani Ahilyabai and Jijabai.

You may be interested in knowing more about Kittur Chennamma and Keladi Chennamma. These two Queens are known for their exceptional courage and precede Rani Laxmibai.

Very inspiring indeed.

Strange we do not seem to have any exceptional lady from the twentieth century, especially post independence.

Aaarti said...

Oooh, interesting post indeed!! me not that great with history, so dint really know any of the woman after No.8 :)

for me, just looking around me brings a whole list of women who inspire me!! family...friends.. colleagues... neighbors... acquaintances... :)

have a fun sunday dearie.. tonite i plan on hitting the bed by 1...:) gonna watch a dvd and crash!!:D

Aaarti said...

btw, i think Kunti's 1st son thru Sun god is Karna... :D U've written Karan!!:)
Thanks to DD[doordarshan] i know Mahabaratha and Ramayana!!:)

Indian Home Maker said...

@mavin Hey Welcome :)
Will read about about Kittur Chennamma and Keladi Chennamma.
Yeah at first, I also couldn't really think of anyone from recent times, but actually there are many, many writers, sports women, politicians, social activists, industrialists, entrepreneurs and our very popular, Kiran Bedi :)
I like Arundhati Roy.

@Aaarti Corrected Karan to Karna:) DD today, Amar Chitra katha in our childhood.

roop said...


is all i can say. your knowledge humbles me. :)

Indian Home Maker said...

@roop No roop these women are legends, most Indians know about them.
Some were a part of our History syllabus in school:))

Anonymous said...

mm..favorite??Lemme see one by one :)

Savitri-No favorite;why ius it that she doesn't want a daughter..Very sexist lady ;-)

Draupadi-Though i disagree with her being wife of five men,maybe she hadn't a way out..Again,not a courageous role model

Sita-NO NO No..She kept her ourity even in hands of Ravana,still she had to walk over fire to prove herslef..Why on earth did she aloow Ram to test her..she should have not walked through fire,inorder to satisfy Ram's ego..Sorry,don't read anything communal..These days,i am afraid of my own words..

Gandhari-Again a sexist woman who doesn't like woman..No wonder she is bling(sorry for being a saddist)

Kunti--mmm,maybe she had no option other than to keep it secret.Well,if she is not courageous enough to stand against the world,why did she give birth to Karna..I ahte women who don't look after their is better to abort if they don't like parenthood..Simply making a poor kid's life hell...Not role model in any way..

Kaikeyi--lol,yeah she could ahve done fifty fifty,instead of exiling one..Err,but maybe then both kids would ahve fought for 'more power'..

Laxmibhai-seems fine,sorry i don't know much about her.

Mrignayni-need to

Ahiylyabai holkar-what a complicated name..Sorry..But she did something great..Indeed worth being a role model..

Jijabai-Seems like a great lady..

Panna Dhai-lol.i loved your conspiracy theory in the end..Hmm,I don't think she should ahve killed her own sone for a prince..What makes a prince's life more worthy than another baby???

Meerabhai-I like her bhajans..Learned few while in school..

Err,i just saw your favourites.. :)I am glad both of us share some likes..

Good day..

Anonymous said...

Good ones... Good examples! :)

Monika said...

great post.... loved reading every bit of it I had done a post on sita too sometime back...

I think each one of them tried to do what they thought right in their capabilities... some were wrong some right but surely all were strong

Indian Home Maker said...

@Nimi :)

@worldthrumyeyes ...but most of them are NOT good role models :)

@Monika Read, liked it and left a long comment:( Hope you don't mind!

Mama - Mia said...

phew! thats quite a list!

i have been itching to read Palace of Illusions which is also Panchaali's PoV se Mahabharat!

Laxmibai, Holkar and Jijabai are indeed strong women who tried to make a genuine difference to the lives of commoner's around them! :)

great post!



Anrosh said...

we need more women who makes the rule (laws) than role models. that would be one less fight for the next generation of women

Indian Home Maker said...

@Mama Mia The Palace Of Illusions is a slightly different version of Mahabharata, would love to know how you like it. It has some saas bahu conflicts too :)

@Anrosh I agree. I think the number of women representatives should be in proportion to the, fast dwindling female population.

1conoclast said...

Nice. Hearing about Rani Laxmibai brought to mind Razia Sultan.
I pointed out to phoenixritu that maybe she deserved a mention too.
What do you think? Shouldn't you have your own list too? I'd be interested in that one.

Indian Home Maker said...

@iconoclast Oh yes, Razia Sultana and I also liked Surdas's wife, can't remember her name...
And Noorjehan who tried her best to make her daughter Ladlee the next queen, and could shoot, ride, make itra and was very talented and brave.
...then also the girl who defended Kalinga against Ashoka...
this has to be a post!

Vinod_Sharma said...

Why forget Aisha, wife of the Prophet who married him when she was six and he 48, if I'm not wrong, because an angel told the Prophet in his dream that she was his wife?

Indian Home Maker said...

@Vinod_Sharma Aisha was not an Indian woman.
And would you consider her a role model if she was? I won't.

1conoclast said...

vinod sharma...?

Ayesha...? Any particular reason you bring that up? Do tell me. I'd like to know.

Joan of Arc by that logic...?


1conoclast said...

Found another brave one: