The Lost Ethos

Swayamvar. Made up of 2 words “swayam” meaning own or by oneself, and “var” meaning groom. Swayamvar was one of the old traditions of India. What it meant was much more than a tradition. It showed the respect that we gave the women in India, the choice and freedom they had, to be able to choose whom to marry, and more importantly whom not to. Draupadi (albeit people argue whether she was right or not), had the right to disqualify Krna from trying to compete in her swayamvar. India, during her best times, lived a way of life that respected women, treated them with both dignity and honour. It did not mean that we lived in a female dominated society, it just meant that the male chauvinism, was a lot lesser, and the men then knew how to earn the respect of women, rather than demand it.

Alas, today all those things lie forgotten in some corner of the history section of the library. The ethics and values that once defined us have disappeared in the sands of time. The Ethos of being what we were is lost. Forget India, the Ethos of being a human, of being humane has been erased off our conscience.

Today, men, have become mere shadows of the animal within. Oh sorry, even animals, dogs for instance, request permission to continue before they mate. Animals are more evolved than these men, who, to satiate the hunger of their carnal desires, for those few minutes of pleasure, completely and utterly obliterate the basic code of humanity, the values that our society tries to live by, and while they’re at it, destroy the lives of not just their victim, but many more people close to her. Do they, for a moment, understand the repercussions of the heinous act? I believe not.

According to the dictionary, terrorism means “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce”. And by extension and extrapolation of this definition, Rape is a form of communal terrorism. When one woman is raped, it strikes fear in the hearts of thousands others. They are forced to alter their lifestyles. And, probably their lives. The freedom to do what they’d like to do, is no longer theirs. And looking good, becomes their bane. I don’t know the numbers or stats, but more people in India are raped than the number of people who die yearly due to terrorist attacks. And it is not just sad, it is shameful. Because of a small group of men – it disgusts me to call them that – the rest of us shall face the consequences. But, then that is what collective responsibility is.

People come up with the ideologies that a woman should be covered properly, and not wear “western” dresses, and a whole lot of tosh about what not to do. With all due respect, I disagree. I understand prevention is better than cure, but in this particular sickness that’s affects the male brain, we need a permanent cure, rather than try and deflect it as much as possible.

People say, that women don’t dress according to tradition. According to the norms laid down by our forefathers, and their fathers. I have 2 notions that are cover this particular argument:

1. If a tradition does not change with time, then I believe that we should go back to the roots, where all that the people of Indus Valley Civilization wore was a dhoti and an “angvastram”. Or have we seen the murals at the temples of Khajrao, and the innumerable caves dotting our country? If you really want tradition, that is what we were. So I believe, that in accordance to our glorious past (we were a superpower then), we need to follow our traditional value system, of providing freedom of expression, be it in speech or dressing (refer to the murals and the literature of our ancient past – it is quite a well known book even internationally).

The more you oppress something, the more alluring it becomes. It then becomes a challenge to achieve it. So the more you ask women to cover up – WITHOUT changing the mentality of the men of this country, the more you endanger them to such acts.

2. If we read the above, and believe that tradition is not static, and should keep changing, and that the transition from the time when the Gopis had a bath in the river, and were teased by Kanha, to the time when we had the purdah system was correct and necessary, we should also accept the fact that in accordance to the same transition, we need to socially progress. And that progress does not mean covering up the women (an alleged prevention – don’t know the stats again of the clothing sense of the victims -, and not a cure), but cleaning up the head of a male human, and instilling some basic values, that he seems to have forgotten.

Every man, has a mother, sister, daughter or friend who’s a woman that they care about. This is a plea to every human male out there, I know what you feel, when you see a good looking female walk down. I know that desire, that moment of amazement, and that need to talk to her, and impress her. But remember, before you do anything, anything at all, that it could be one of those women who you really care about, in the same situation. If you can take, what you’re about to do, happening to them, by an unknown stranger, carry on. If not, then restrain yourself, and act like a Man. Not an animal.

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