Discussion_Indian serials & Indian values

Bonheur Goldie

Joined: 04 January 2007
Posts: 2009

Posted: 22 December 2007 at 10:39am | IP Logged
This is pushing the envelope a bit but I thought I should provoke some debate. I believe folks like Caryn agree that one of the reasons why serials perpetuate the oppression of women and other sins is that Indian society itself has not kept pace with the changing world, so perhaps we should discuss just what are those cultural values that hold back Indian society.

I'd say one such value is the notion of the sanctity of marriage. Nothing wrong with that notion; marriage is a sacred institution. Except that traditional Indian society often never allowed freedom of choice in marriage -- or in most other matters. Traditional Indian society frowns on any form of individual gratification and elevates respect for one's parents to a value greater than even religious piety. (I use the present tense as a large swathe of Indian society is still traditional in its values). Traditional Indian society puts a premium on family honour and enjoins communal consensus. Marriage is often a family decision and has nothing to do with how the individuals in question -- bride and groom -- feel about one another. This is why our poor Madhan of Anandham could not stand up to RK and profess his love for Rohini but instead found himself forced into a loveless arranged marriage with Abhirami. Hence, his continued affair with Rohini.
(Of course, his re-marriage to Rohini has now soured because of his MCP ways but that is another matter; Indian society doesn't have a monopoly on male chauvinism. And, as I always keep saying, Indian women have had a significant role in conditioning their sons into thinking they were born to be waited upon by women. Anyway, the issue of male chauvinism has been adequately addressed in a separate thread.)

I am not condoning the practice of "second wives" that many of you claim the serials (unwittingly) glorify. But perhaps we need to understand why the phenomenon has arisen. It may not always be due to lechery and disrespect for first wives. (Incidentally, this institution of the second wife seems to be a socially accepted one, judging by the fact that Tamilnadu chief ministers themselves have practised it. And, I am told that it's not always the first wife who suffers in such polygamous marriages; it's often the second wife who suffers in silence.)

Forced marriages may be one reason why men seek gratification outside marriage, as mentioned earlier. A second reason could be that Indian marriages tend to be all about responsibility, and love is a rare ingredient. This again brings me back to traditional Indian values. Indians are taught not to seek individual gratification. Indians consequently aren't demonstrative with their love, even within families. Women in particular are conditioned into viewing marriage as nothing more than a social transaction and sex as purely instrumental, a means to having babies. One perpetual complaint of Indian men is that their wives lose interest in sex after the children arrive.

I can almost hear some of our readers groaning that love is a sublime feeling and has nothing to do with sex. Sex, the physical binding of two bodies, may not be sufficient to sustain a marriage but it is a necessary condition for marriage. And when that physical bond frays, love gradually becomes nothing more than just an obligation to support one another. The magic disappears.

OK, I know I generalize. Many philandering husbands conveniently claim their marriages are lacking in genuine love.

But all said and done, traditional Indian values may be the reason why a sizeable number of marriages fail and men turn monsters.

One final point, and that relates to divorce. The rupture of marriage is no small matter, especially considering the impact it almost always has on children. But loveless marriages are often just as detrimental to children's emotional well-being as is divorce. Quarrelling parents, cold wars between parents, all take their toll on children. And, the psychological scars that loveless marriages leave on husbands and wives themselves can often be deep and damaging indeed. Often, an amicable end to marriage may be healthier than loveless marriages. Unfortunately, Indian society still frowns upon divorce. Hence, many people remain consumed by loveless marriages and seek affairs. I guess this explains the chain of unfortunate events in the life of the Kasthuri character. If only Ram had been allowed to admit that he had made a grievous error in saying yes to marrying an uneducated and appearance-challenged Kasthuri (by looking at the wrong photo) and been free to divorce Kasthuri, he may not have turned into a monster.

To sum up, some of the values that need to be debated are: (i) the emphasis on communitarianism at the expense of the individual, (ii) narrow conceptions of what marriage entails, and (iii) the stigma associated with divorce. Let the values debate begin but let me stress that I am purely making social and psychological observations and not prescribing any form of behaviour or values.


Edited by Bonheur - 24 December 2007 at 7:46am

jagdu IF-Dazzler

Joined: 05 October 2007
Posts: 3135

Posted: 22 December 2007 at 9:18pm | IP Logged
Awesome stat as lways, Bon.

The great ACD meets Jamuna openly in public places. Which engaged cop do you see do it more often? It does not mean if you are a cop and married you have the license to go meet women openly however good your intentions are. Is this what Priya is in for after wedding? If it werre the other way round, Priya the cop and the great ACD just her lover and she kept meeting men witnesses/cops in public places in a suspicious manner what would he have done? Given that she returned the same wierd explanations that he gives her? Why do there have to be so many trials and tribulations in ACD's love story?In anyone's for that matter.
At least in Rohini's case she has a strong boss who advices her well. Rohini is a pretty strong woman too, and takes her decisions well. She's got good killer instinct and affections. There is light at the end of the tunnel for her, she's been promised a transfer. If and when that happens she can make up with Madan if she pleases.
The one with the best sense of humor on the show is Kandu. But they hardly show him and his marraige effort lately.
As for divorce, you can look at SKPD's and Charu's marraige being dragged over the years. Charu has good reasons, but does not go through with it. Somehow in all the stories, there is no trust in the way the law operates and the characters are always going around the law.

jenim Goldie

Joined: 09 September 2006
Posts: 1199

Posted: 24 December 2007 at 2:11am | IP Logged
Hey.. this is an interesting topic!

I'm not sure if what you've summarized is just what the serials are about, but if I may add - in terms of your points with relevance to the society:

4) besides just the stigma associated with divorce, there's something more critical - that the divorced pair hence become single parents and the fear that it is a much harder task to raise the children, singly.

Bonheur Goldie

Joined: 04 January 2007
Posts: 2009

Posted: 24 December 2007 at 7:44am | IP Logged
Jenim, you are absolutely right about the other factors that affect divorce apart from that of social stigma. Many women of little means and little education usually hesitate to seek divorce because they cannot raise children singly. And, often would not get any family support for divorce or for raising children. And divorce settlements -- where the husband* is ordered to pay maintenance -- are not always honoured. Women would need to go through the painful (and expensive) process of dragging men back to court for defaulting on maintenance payments.

* I assume the economic scales are still tipped in men's favour by and large.
jagdu IF-Dazzler

Joined: 05 October 2007
Posts: 3135

Posted: 25 December 2007 at 1:26am | IP Logged
Ok bon. Let get some expert opinions on what constitutes a good reason for divorce. Lets take some practical situations on suntv.
a) Does the woman's career in Anandahm, Rohini v. Madhan, where Rohini chooses career over Madhan constitute a good reason for divorce?
Same serial, can mrs. arjun cite hubby's being a prime suspect in a murder case as a cause?
b) Diwa v. Shakti: where she refuses to have the child. Does that give him a good reason for divorce?
In the same show, Kanmani citing constant physical abuse, can she move a court?
c)Laxmi: Laxmi knows her hubby to be unfaithful. She does not sue for divorce.
Nethra: She is forcefully married without her consent. Is that sufficient grounds for a divorce?
Arvind's mrs. knows that he's commited 4 murders, still has his child. Still enough grounds for divorce?
d)Kolangal: Usha has been told by thols that he is a cheat and a murderer. She already has a child. Enough grounds?
Karpagam knows that her husband has gone and married the 2nd time. She'll get good alimony now that he's rich. Good enough?
e)Arasi: Arasi and KK have been living enough years apart. Enough reason?
Selvi's husband runs into the law, and is spoiling all the children. Way overdue.
Udhaay goes after another woman even after his wife Selvarani is pregnant. Does she have sufficient cause?
Kalai abused constantly, and horribly by Kanna. And he loses their child. Boy too many in this serial.
f) The most logical, sure case: Kasturi. She has been downright exploited by her husband. This is worse than any form of slavery.

Can keep going on and on. Yet it never happens. That is an oldfashioned way of living. Do men have unlimited leverage? Except in Usha's case, and Usha is a total dummy, all the other cases the women have solid reasons. Can the men just continue walking over the doormats the rest of their lives?
Bonheur Goldie

Joined: 04 January 2007
Posts: 2009

Posted: 25 December 2007 at 7:03pm | IP Logged
Good points for discussion, Jagdu. There are ample grounds in most of the above cases for divorce. I am sure one doesn't need a court of law to provide expert opinion. But it's those age-old prejudices (values) that stand in the way of divorce and that's what the serials are showing up. Am pretty sure the situation is magnified several fold in real life in India.
Aahaana Global Moderator

IF General Sections
Joined: 22 October 2005
Posts: 44076

Posted: 25 December 2007 at 7:56pm | IP Logged
Very interesting posts...

each of the serials put the indian values in a bad limelight...but
unfortunately this happens in real life...Ouch

womans are made like a doormates for their husbands, and divorce is a
big tabu in our society. Cause a woman cant live independent, be a single
mom etc

People who are most affected are those with less education, poor
ones..they are very behind cause of the social responsibility. it is woman
who pay a big price, girls are married off before getting proper education.
Even educated and working girls are forced to odd marriages on the name
of family prestige, so no choice to make here or who they are going to
get married too alsoOuch

-I happend to see a serial called for vasantha, the hubby want to divorce
his wife cause she got a better job than him and refuse to compromise

-Kasturi has been treated as a doormate by that Ramu, but still, she
refuse to get remarried...

- Santi was a widower and with a kid, so her in laws refused to accept her
in the beginning.

jagdu IF-Dazzler

Joined: 05 October 2007
Posts: 3135

Posted: 26 December 2007 at 12:02am | IP Logged
Among the serials, I have seen 2 major objections to divorce. One is, what will people think on both sides for the family. We don't want to hurt the pride of the family.
This is nonsense, because the people in the marraige are suffering.
The other is, the person who suggests the break up is asked, will you be responsible then, directly or indirectly.
Sometimes it works out for the best. The couple still manages to stay friends without commitments.

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