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> The Plight of India's Widows
wakingdream
post Mar 27 2007, 03:36 PM
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Last year I watched the movie Water by Deepa Mehta. "The film examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi in 1938." The story has really stuck with me.

Hindus frowned on widows who remarried. The women were often shunned by their families, blamed by their in-laws for the deaths of their husbands. Many more fled their homes voluntarily, fearing they'd be abused if they stayed. Many were abused physically, emotionally and sexually and looked at as if they were nothing, usless to the world.

My question is does this still happen as described above? I have read some more recent articles ( but not that recent) that suggest that yes, infact this problem still runs rampant. Have things started getting better for these widows? Perhaps widows have become, or are becoming more and more acceptable in that society?

Or do many widows still live in poverty and shame, cast aside by society?


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wakingdream
post Apr 24 2007, 09:05 AM
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Hey, thanks for the info. I have still been wondering about this. It seems such a shame that these women are still cast aside.

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Most Hindus live in the rural setting, where religion and tradition surpass modern common sense approach to life


That's pretty sad to hear.


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battlemonkey
post Apr 24 2007, 11:52 AM
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In one of William Dalrymple's Indian travelogues (Age of Kali, I think), he encounters the same place, and at least at the time of that writing, it was still sadly going strong.


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wakingdream
post Apr 24 2007, 12:03 PM
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QUOTE(battlemonkey @ Apr 24 2007, 12:52 PM) *

In one of William Dalrymple's Indian travelogues (Age of Kali, I think), he encounters the same place, and at least at the time of that writing, it was still sadly going strong.


Thanks. I'll check outAge of Kali. Sometimes it's frustrating to know that it takes SO long for some things to change.


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sharon1306
post Jun 18 2007, 06:38 AM
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Water is definitely a very haunting and somewhat disturbing film focusing on the plight of widows in India set in the 1930’s. Widows then (and in some places, even now) had three choices when their husbands passed away – to be burned with their husbands, to shave their heads and devote their lives to prayer in an ashram or marry the husband’s younger brother if he was willing. Hinduism is a very complex, ancient religion and this glaring gender discrimination (widowers can remarry as many times as they please) has existed for centuries. Things have improved since then as more and more women are being educated and taught to be more self-reliant and also, child marriages have been banned by law (this still sometimes happens, even to this day). Although you don’t see it much in the cities, widowhood is still considered a curse to some extent.

Two cities in India that house a lot of these ‘widow houses’ are Vrindavan and Varanasi. In fact, Vrindavan is called the city of widows, because of the numbers of widows that flock here. The government is beginning to help them by building shelters, teaching them skills, providing food, etc. There’s a lot more that needs to be done.
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wakingdream
post Jun 18 2007, 09:19 AM
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Thanks for the great information Sharon. I had no idea of the three choices for a widow. I've done a bit of reading on the topic but never came across anything about that. Very interesting yet saddening.

I do respect ancient religion and culture but sometimes I wish that it could move ahead, even somewhat, with modern times. Especially when it comes to leaving people leaving lives of depravity. It seems so unecessary. I don't know too much about Hinduism... It's something I would like to learn alot more about.

Sounds like you have traveled to India?


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sharon1306
post Jun 20 2007, 01:00 AM
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It is very saddening, I agree. I admire Deepa Mehta’s work for bringing some of these issues to light. She wasn’t allowed to shoot the movie in Varansai, India as planned, because of protests from Hindu political parties. It was finally shot in Sri Lanka.

I actually live in Goa, India. I have traveled extensively all over the country, especially the southern region. While I’m not Hindu, I do have a lot of Hindu friends and have some knowledge of Hinduism but maybe not as much as I’d like. I can recommend some of my favorite books on India that might give you some insight into the country, its people and its many religions.

- A Princess Remembers. The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur. I love this autobiography.

- The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye. Story of forbidden love set in the 19th century. I think it was made into a mini-series once, but I still thought the book was much better.

- No Full Stops in India. Mark Tully. He was the BBC correspondence to India and writes about Indian life and culture.

- Chasing the Monsoon. Alexander Frater. Very interesting book that follows the monsoon from its breaking point in Kerala all the way through India.

- Holy Cow. Sarah McDonald. It’s a kind of travelogue with a focus on the different religions in India. It’s a quick read and quite humorous too.

These are all I can think of offhand. I’ll take a look at my bookshelves and come up with more if you’re interested.
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wakingdream
post Jun 21 2007, 12:08 AM
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I saw the water DVD for a deal so I bought it b/c I wanted to see it anyway. There are extra features including an extensive interview with Deepa Mehta. You may have seen it. She talks about all the trouble they had filming. It's a great interview actually. I also do admire her work very much.

Hey Thanks! I really appreciate the list! That's so nice of you. I'll take whatever you're willing to pass on for sure. You would know whats good to read on that topic. Those are on my list now. It's actually one of the only lists I tackle regularly. rolleyes.gif

One of my favorites and a really compelling novel is Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance. I thought the story unwound itself beautifully and portrayed an intimate view of India's extraordinary variety. Have you read it?

Also The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Oh, I love that book. It's set in Kerala in the 1960's. The novel paints picture of how life is in a small rural Indian town, though Roy says it's more a book about human nature, which is true. Still, her vivid descriptions have left me wanting to visit.

The above books just offer a taste of what's there, I know, but they're good reads.

Goa would be an extremely interesting place to live. It must be fascinating. yes.gif How long have you lived there?


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sharon1306
post Jun 22 2007, 12:41 AM
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I have seen one or two interviews with Deepa Mehta but I'm not sure if it's the one on the DVD.

Yes, I've read Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance as well as Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things. Very good books. You might enjoy Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy but you have to be committed, its over 1200 pages long. Interesting read though, set in the 60's about an Indian girl whose mother is hell bent on finding the right husband.

Also, Elisabeth Bumilller's book May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons is a very insightful book focusing on the lives of women and social issues affecting them in modern India. She was a journalist with the Washington Post before spending a couple years in India in the 80's. I also like Eric Newby's books A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush and Slowly Down the Ganges. Humorous books, more like travel writing.

There are so many good books out there its difficult to pick which ones to mention.. sigh.. I like most of Anita Desai's books and finally, The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri (have you seen the movie?) although the last one is more a book about Indian immigrants experiences in the US.
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wakingdream
post Jun 22 2007, 01:26 AM
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Ahh, The Namesake! My cousin lent me the book last year sometime. I really liked it. Alot. I heard there was a movie but if it's something I'm really interested in I'd rather read the book.
If I do opt to see the movie after it's normally disappointing w/out all the details that make the characters so real and the storyline so involved.

Have you read Interpreter of Maladies? That's another of Jhumpa Lahiri's books, won the Pulitzer, NY'ers Best Debut, Hemingway Foundation/PEN award. I haven't got to it yet...it's 8 or 9 short stories.

Sharon's India Books. Thanks! You just made my summer reading list for me. I've saved the list. smile.gif If I can't be in India I can at least read about it. Now the hard part is choosing which one to start with!

Okay, one more I would like to read and wondered if you had is A Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar?
It's set in modern-day India and shows how the lives of the rich and the poor are connected yet removed from each other and involves the division of class and culture. It sounds great. She has been a journalist for 17 years and has written for the Washington Post and contributes to the Boston Globe. She also wrote Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood, which seems like another interesting read.

So many books, so little time.... rolleyes.gif


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sharon1306
post Jun 25 2007, 01:37 AM
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I agree with you about movies made from books. Somehow they never live up to expectations, especially those of overactive imaginations… I feel compelled to watch them anyways though… I thought Memoirs of a Geisha came close…

I’ve read Interpreter of Maladies but I haven’t gotten around to A Space Between Us. It’s on my books-to-read list though, an ever-growing one…

Another author I really like is Dominique Lapierre. Freedom at Midnight is a very interesting book accounting the events that lead up to India’s Independence. City of Joy is a moving true story of the slum dwellers in Calcutta.

Finally, Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide book about the treacherous man-eating tigers, river dolphins and mangrove forests of the Sundarban archipelago in the Bay of Bengal is another of my favorites.

So many books, so little time...
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wakingdream
post Jun 25 2007, 08:45 AM
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QUOTE
I thought Memoirs of a Geisha came close…

Good call. I thought the movie was done very well. A very similar feeling to the book. I really enjoyed the book alot.

We moved some months ago now but I have yet to set up the bookshelves and unpack the books as we've been doing other things 'round here. This summer I'm going to unpack them and it's going to be like Christmas! There are lots of books I haven't read that I've picked up here and there. Should make for a good winter reading list!


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sharon1306
post Jul 2 2007, 06:38 AM
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QUOTE(wakingdream @ Jun 25 2007, 08:45 AM) *

it's going to be like Christmas!


I feel your excitement!!! I'm sure you're all set for the winter...
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post Jul 2 2007, 06:47 AM
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QUOTE(wakingdream @ Jun 25 2007, 02:45 PM) *

QUOTE
I thought Memoirs of a Geisha came close…

Good call. I thought the movie was done very well. A very similar feeling to the book. I really enjoyed the book alot.

We moved some months ago now but I have yet to set up the bookshelves and unpack the books as we've been doing other things 'round here. This summer I'm going to unpack them and it's going to be like Christmas! There are lots of books I haven't read that I've picked up here and there. Should make for a good winter reading list!


I thought the movie of Memoirs was shocking. It missed massive chunks of the book and the only thing that I enjoyed was looking at the gorgeous Chinese women (in a film about Japan.....)! The book was brilliant


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wakingdream
post Jul 2 2007, 03:56 PM
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QUOTE
I thought the movie of Memoirs was shocking. It missed massive chunks of the book and the only thing that I enjoyed was looking at the gorgeous Chinese women (in a film about Japan.....)! The book was brilliant



Yeah, it was missing chunk, but I thought it still retained a very close feel (if not the amazing detail) to the book which I haven't really felt about alot of other adaptations.

It was such a good book! It's been so long since I've read it I might have to pull it again soon, but, Sharon's got me too busy with all the other great reads!


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aimabroad
post Jul 15 2007, 10:19 AM
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QUOTE(wakingdream @ Mar 27 2007, 03:36 PM) *

Last year I watched the movie Water by Deepa Mehta. "The film examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi in 1938." The story has really stuck with me.

Hindus frowned on widows who remarried. The women were often shunned by their families, blamed by their in-laws for the deaths of their husbands. Many more fled their homes voluntarily, fearing they'd be abused if they stayed. Many were abused physically, emotionally and sexually and looked at as if they were nothing, usless to the world.

My question is does this still happen as described above? I have read some more recent articles ( but not that recent) that suggest that yes, infact this problem still runs rampant. Have things started getting better for these widows? Perhaps widows have become, or are becoming more and more acceptable in that society?

Or do many widows still live in poverty and shame, cast aside by society?

now the things have changed and there is hardly such rigid opinions abt widow now in india.
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wakingdream
post Jan 5 2008, 11:18 AM
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QUOTE(girdhar @ Jan 5 2008, 12:12 AM) *

QUOTE(aimabroad @ Jul 15 2007, 10:19 AM) *

QUOTE(wakingdream @ Mar 27 2007, 03:36 PM) *

Last year I watched the movie Water by Deepa Mehta. "The film examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi in 1938." The story has really stuck with me.

Hindus frowned on widows who remarried. The women were often shunned by their families, blamed by their in-laws for the deaths of their husbands. Many more fled their homes voluntarily, fearing they'd be abused if they stayed. Many were abused physically, emotionally and sexually and looked at as if they were nothing, usless to the world.

My question is does this still happen as described above? I have read some more recent articles ( but not that recent) that suggest that yes, infact this problem still runs rampant. Have things started getting better for these widows? Perhaps widows have become, or are becoming more and more acceptable in that society?

Or do many widows still live in poverty and shame, cast aside by society?

now the things have changed and there is hardly such rigid opinions abt widow now in india.

biggrin.gif
Hi,
I am an Indian and have observed the Indian society very closely .
I think that now conditions are changing gradually and such harsh things are not seen any more.But still I have to admit that widows are still consider as a curse to the society and seldom treated as it they are meaningless


Thank-you very much girdhar. It's always great to hear from people of the region. I have read a few news clips about widows and it seems, even though not nearly as bad as it used to be, they are still considered 'unsavory'.


Though really, it takes such a long time for certain things to change in a culture and the fact that this kind of treatment is not nearly as prevalent as it used to be is a great sign toward progress and tolerance.

Actually, I just saw a new show about castes in India. The show I saw illustrated two women (sorry, can't remember exactly where sad.gif) of low caste who had jobs preparing food in a local school. Because of their caste designation, many of the school kids wouldn't eat the lunch food offered at the school. Then it went on to show families of low castes, (many who, as children, were forced to sit on the ground in school when other children sat at desks etc.) and it just went on to talk aout how these families could never progress in society, forced to work in the fields and the generations after them etc.

Can anyone shed some light on how prevalent that is and which regions it casting might be more distinct? Or maybe, girdhar, you might have some more personal insight to share? smile.gif thanks.


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sharon1306
post Jan 17 2008, 12:59 AM
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Hi Susie,

I’ve been away for a while and am just starting to catch up on posts here:) I’m not sure which documentary exactly you are referring to, but caste-based discrimination is still very prevalent in India, more so in the rural areas. The caste system itself is very complicated and has been around for centuries, so to complete eradicate the system in the near future will be close to impossible.

The Indian constitution forbids discrimination based on caste, and has adopted a system of ‘reservations’ (check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reservation_in_India), which is basically positive discrimination in education as well as jobs to counter the ill effects of the caste system over the years. This has lead to many protests and is still controversial. But I believe a step in the right direction.

Having said that, there has been significant positive change since independence, and the rigidity of the system is much less prevalent in urban areas where inter-caste marriages are starting to become quite common.
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wakingdream
post Jan 17 2008, 08:34 AM
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Glad to see you around Sharon smile.gif

Thanks for the information. I'm so glad that you're able to share your insight here. I'm so fascinated by India in so many ways.

Stay well.


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sharon1306
post Jan 18 2008, 01:21 AM
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QUOTE(wakingdream @ Jan 17 2008, 08:34 AM) *

Glad to see you around Sharon smile.gif

Thanks for the information. I'm so glad that you're able to share your insight here. I'm so fascinated by India in so many ways.

Stay well.


Hi Susie,

India sure is a fascinating place... Have you read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts?

Sharon
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