ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bengali Widows of Varanasi

The pattern of marginalisation of widows in Bengal and their deportation to holy places like Varanasi and Mathura was probably a response to the crisis of patriarchy typical to Bengal in the 19th century. But while the crisis may have passed, these women continue to eke out precarious lives.

What exactly did the custodians of Hindu morality object to in the film ‘Water’? It was not a film about widow prostitution, neither a screen play on widow remarriage. Rather, it was supposed to be a love story, a cryptic one, with a cultural rem(a)inder upon human relationship shaped by modernity. The crux of the film was about the confrontation: a social reformer of the last century delving into a relationship with a Hindu widow against a backdrop of the primeval city of Varanasi, the religious capital of Hindu India. Varanasi had also been the shooting site of the film that is yet to be made.

The guardians of India’s societal moral values were prompt to react when Indian women were depicted as treading unconventional terrain seeking comfort in each other and evolving a new feminine vocabulary that dared to exclude men. We would not question if they had slackened their monitoring instinct and had forgotten to be on their guard when ‘1947 Earth’ was released. Maybe they had diverted their strict vigil elsewhere. Or perhaps they did not consider it a cause enough when communalism was shown to have reduced a lover to a rapist in another love story by the same director framed in visual. Probably the male sense of victory of the Hindu hero was overwhelming.

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