Voices of Janaki and Parvati

    Dr. Nupur Lahiri
    Dr. Nupur Lahiri is a Psychiatrist by profession and poet and singer by passion

    Janaki:  Hi Parvati, Why are you rushing so fast? Is something wrong?

    Parvati:  Yes, Janaki. Something is very wrong. It got settled today. The stupid lawyer Mr. Rao told me what the wretched judge decided.I got a peanut of a settlement.

    Janaki: Why did you want to divorce your husband ?

    Parvati: Because he is a drunkard and a pervert.

    Janaki: But you know Parvati, our priest will say quoting ManuSamhita, men may be lacking virtue, be immoral, be alcoholic and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must constantly worship and serve their husbands. Any woman who disobeys the orders of her lethargic and diseased husband shall be deserted for three months and be deprived of her ornaments and all belongings.

    Parvati:  Janaki, it is 2013, not the ancient times of Vedas and Puranas. Why do we still follow these antiquated scriptures? I have the right to become independent. Don’t I?

    Janaki:No Parvati, you don’t. Women must be controlled by men.

    Parvati: Really?

    Janaki:  Yes,Manu said, by a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.You know, he also said in childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when the husband is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.

    Parvati: But I don’t have to follow that rule. I should have the right to equal distribution of our joint assets, like our house and our bank account. I have worked and earned for years now.

    Janaki: But Parvati, you know what Manu said about that? He said,Women are not allowed to inherit nor own property. A wife, a son, and a slave, these three aredeclared to have no property; the wealth which they earn is acquired for the man to whom they belong.Yajur Veda said, women are powerless, have no inheritance, and should speak more humbly than even a bad man.

    Parvati: I better sit down. That judge must be following the Laws of Manu.    2 Janaki I don’t know why you still believe in these horrible quotes. Don’t you want to change the system?

    Janaki:Yes, I do Parvati.  But we cannot change the conditioning of men and women, conditioning of the society that happened over centuries. Don’t you know in Manu Smriti it is clear, any woman violating her duty andcode of conduct towards her husband, is disgraced and becomes a patient of leprosy and after death, she enters womb of a Jackal.

    Parvati: I don’t care Janaki, even if I have to enter into some hyena’s womb.I don’t care.Anyway, our Rig Veda declared a woman’s nature is like that of the hyena.

    Janaki: Now calm down, you are too upset Parvati.

    Parvati : I am upset and you think you are doing so fine. Are you blind?Do you know that your husband has been having an affair with Menka?

    Janaki: Yes I know. He lied to me when he was gone for three nights. He came back with some ugly sores on him. I was afraid to ask. I also know that, it is also not a sin for a man to deceive women.

    Parvati: What do you mean Janaki?

    Janaki: Yes,it is true Parvati. It is said in Mahabharata , a falsehood spoken in jest is not sinful; norone that is spoken to a woman.

    Parvati:  Janaki, what do you do all day? Do you believe in these commandments from such ancient times?

    Janaki : What can I do Parvati?  My husband can be vicious and violent. He believes in them. He told me, Manu said, slaying women is a minor offence. Slaying women, Sudras, Vaisyas, or Kshatriyas, and atheists, are all minor offences, causing only loss of cast. He may do that to me one of these days.

    He says, Adharvana Veda declares that a wife is given by God to a husband to serve him and to bear him children and her husband is supposed to treat her as his subordinate and a slave.

    Parvati: I give up.  Janaki, I feel sorry for you.   3You will remain a slave all your life unless you stand up for yourself.

    Janaki:  I cannot, Parvati I cannot. I cannot do that because of Savitri.

    Parvati: What are you saying? You mean your daughter?

    Janaki: Yes, my beautiful Savitri.She is only 11 years old. I think something is going on with them. He keeps saying,“Yudhishthira said, Women are the root of all evil.

    Parvati: Did you say something is going on between them?

    Janaki: Yes Parvati. ( crying) Savitri goes to sleep crying every night. She afraid to sleep alone. She gets scared and hides in the closet when her father comes home from work.

    Parvati: Am I thinking what you are thinking? Take her to a doctor, right now. I know that this horrible act is sanctioned in some mythical stories in our culture. You know about Brahma, right? He quoted from Puran and said to his daughter Saraswasti, ” For the sake of a child a man can enjoy his own sister or daughter, without any sin attached to it. ” And Saraswati had to give in.

    Janaki: Yes I know Parvati. I shudder at the thought that the scoundrel is practicing this on his own daughter.

    Parvati: I must ask you a question Janaki. Was your husband unhappy to have a girl instead of a boy?

    Janaki: How did you guess Parvati? He forced me to get rid of my second baby because she was a girl.  You know these days, how you can find out with the ultrasound . He says all the time, and quotes Atharva Veda.”Let a female child be born somewhere else; here, let a male child be born. No birth is worse than the birth of a woman.

    Parvati: Janaki, why don’t you start reading the Vedas and Purans yourself?  You may learn that there were many examples of respect and kindness to women.


    Janaki: How can I do that Parvati? 4When I asked the priest in our temple to teach me,      he got angry and quoted from Bhagabat Purana, Women, Sudras and the inferior members of the twice-borne classes are unfit for hearing the Vedas and reading the holy scriptures. I could not argue with the Brahmin priest.

    Parvati: Janaki, we must do something. Did you hear about the incident in Delhi last year?

    Janaki: Yes I did. It was awful. Such a beastly violent act!Men have done it through centuries.  But what can we women do?

    Parvati: We can join the crowd. Sign the petition for violence and injustice towards women.

    Janaki: I cannot do that Parvati. My husband will be furious if I join anything like that.                                      He will feed me to the dogs.According to Manu Samhita,if a wife violates the duty which she owes to her lord, and her husband, he shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a public place.

    Parvati: I pity you Janaki, but I must leave. I will join the world of free women. I want to be free, I will be free, and I must be free!