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For my fellow women

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For my fellow women
Yeshey Pelzom
Yeshey Pelzom

Lord Shiva was married to Daksha’s daughter Sati. Sati died and was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himalaya and his wife Mena (Menaka). Parvati was married to Shiva. This excerpt is from the Kurma Purana (The Puranas, 12.10). It is chanted in homes and temples as divine words; it is narrated as bedtime stories to young children; it is retold as women gather to cherish the short moment of leisure in the afternoon wintry sun; it is kept alive by the Monday fasting of a young Hindu girl; it is commemorated through annual Hindu observation of Sri Swosthani Vratakatha  or festivals dedicated to Lord Shiva and it is relived on village stage shows and commercial theater screens. And yet, this is a story that is taken for granted by modern society.  The essence seems to be lost either in the complexities of the ritualism involved or in intricacies of ceremonial pomp that pujas are rendered to nowadays.  The Purana continues: In fact, Himalaya and Mena prayed so that they might have the goddess as their daughter. Pleased with their prayers, the goddess arrived before Himalaya and Mena and showed her divine form. She also promised them that she would be born as their daughter. There were a thousand names of the goddess that Himalaya recited in the course of his prayers (The Puranas, 12.10). An inspirational story of determination and devotion, an exemplary true love, the list can go on…

However, I am not here to discuss the moral or the religious implications of the story.  What I am trying to achieve is to coax my readers see what is not obvious in this story and to understand the story not just on the accounts of its divine glamour but also based on the simplicity of its essence (and NO, I am not trying to redefine its conventional meaning).

When was the Puranas written or recorded? 5th Century AD? 500 BC? Accurate time of its origin is not relevant to my understanding of the story. What is significant to me is that this verse of this Purana is a verse written in celebration of women. Celebration of women in the beginning of our existence! It was the times when parents (remember that Himalaya was a king) prayed for a daughter; it was the times when a husband (Lord Shiva) awaited a lifetime for his wife; and most of all, it was the time when a woman exhibited her own free will. Parvati chose to be born as the daughter of Himalaya and Mena (I love the very fact that she had to be prayed to and had to be pleased). While our ancestral mothers enjoyed the glory of their gender, their contemporaries in the neighboring continents did not fare well. This was what the first western woman received from God, “I will multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children;  Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you” (NKJV Holy Bible, Genesis 3.16). Just imagine the lives of these women. Their lives began with a curse.

Now, fast forward hundreds of years and you can already see a dynamic reversal. Women in the east are compelled into the practice of sati and jauhar – their free will is now standardized as social norm.  But in the west, women are now redeemed and can attain the highest form of maternal respect. A woman can mother the Son of God. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus”(NKJV Holy Bible, Luke 1.30-31). In the world that is so strictly patriarchal, churches dedicated to Mother Mary grow in abundance. How did the western women suddenly bring themselves in the good books of the male dominated world? But what caused the downfall of eastern women? These questions haunt me to the core.

The search for these questions led me to my studies in Medieval English and I specialized in gender and culture so that I could study the lives of women (I studied lives of saints, queens, homemakers, and prostitutes). And you might have already guessed that I found no answer. These women that I read were no different than our own Sita, Druapadi, Queen Maha Maya, Ashi Nangsa, etc. The only truth that I found was that the eastern world regressed as the power of its women waned, and the western world just marched forward triumphantly with the empowerment of its women. And here I was with my questions, back to square one.

A few days ago, a seemingly discouraging incident ironically gave me some clues to my search. Some very enthusiastic Bhutanese youth organized a special event to congratulate the recent high school graduates and I was invited to attend the function (my special thanks to the organizers). I went to the event with my excitement running high to meet the young graduates. Guests and graduates trickled in with a typical Bhutanese ease and I kept waiting. My eyes longed to see the female graduates (no offense to the young men, please).  No girls showed up. None. In this 21st century America, do not tell me that no girls graduated in the past year. Do not tell me that their fathers did not allow them to attend the function. Do not tell me that they did not find time to come. Do not tell that they had no means to come. I am witness to the Teej celebration at Clarkston where hundreds of women managed time to dance to the sensuous music of Sindhu Malla. These women, young and old, not only found the means to attend the celebration, but came to the celebration leaving their husbands and children behind. What does this tell? It is women ourselves holding back. Let us stop blaming society. Let us stop whining about cultural restraints. It is we women that spin our own cocoons. Women have not lost their free will, but they have got so tangled up in trying to please others (both men and women). I just hope that they celebrate Teej not because it is what women do, but as a celebration of their womanhood. I hope they dance to the music of self-respect and sing to the glory of their existence. I hope they remember themselves in the prayers they hold for their husbands, realizing that they belong with their husbands and not to their husbands. But I can only hope. How can I forget that the enemy of a tree is not the axe, but another tree – without the wooden handle, an axe is not an axe!

As a little girl growing up, I used to be told that a girl has to be born seven (or nine, I cannot remember correctly) times as a girl in order to be born as a boy. What I remember correctly though, is that I was told of this birth and rebirth by a woman, not by a man. Similarly, guess who suppresses a new bride? Guess who teaches her that she now belongs to her husband? That she will have to iron his clothes and polish his shoes? That she will have to cook and then wait for him to eat first? I do not think it is her newly married husband dear.

Although I am beginning to gain some insights, I write this with a gnawing dread. I know that very few of my readers will be females. For you women, I would like to remind you that Parvati had thousand names. I will list here some of my favorites – Yashasvini. Nandini. Niyantri. Ameya. Triyakshhari. Adrishya. Maya. Ayoni.  We should be aware that these thousand names are not mere calling names, these are the thousand virtues of Parvati, the thousand virtues a woman stands for. Let us come and take pride in our womanhood. Let us take confidence and relive to fulfill who we are as an individual self. The benchmark of our happiness is not just the happiness of our husbands, our in-laws, and our children, but also our self-satisfaction as a woman.   To the men readers, I urge you to do what King Himalaya did. Pray that Sati be born again. Remind the women you meet that the world waits for them. Please go to your mothers, wives, sisters and female relatives and remind them of their thousand names…remind each of them that she is Pranada, the giver of life…Pujya, the Worthy of Worship…and Paramjotih, the Supreme Light!!!

15 COMMENTS

  1. Let me put Yeshey Bainee’s thoughtful article in a simple one sentence expression.

    ‘From women and only women, originates the family’.

    Bainee, very insightful and visionary. A very balanced view from a modern, educated and a liberated women and yet very aware and conscious of the ‘sastras’. The problem in the east is that women have given themselves too much to conservatism and social norms (all of which suppresses them – not to say that men are not trying to suppress them). The problem in the west is that women have often times liberated too far to the extent that even the basic structure of a family is the on the brink of collapse.

    We need a healthy balance and Yeshey Bainee has proved that .

  2. And Yeshey Pelzom for me is truly the Paramjotih, the Supreme Light. Please keep up your mission of spreading the light, far and wide, so that many who are still entrapped in the darkness of ignorance and bigotry could be atoned.

  3. Very insightful masterpiece not only for the fellow women but for the entire readers. An eye-opener, a wake-up call for those in deep slumber,a timely reminder that better be late than never, a very tight reverse slap to women holding back themselves and spinning their own cocoons and cursing their own fate, and a strong round kick at the back for men who still preach and practice the theory of male domination over women.
    Yeshey, keep up your good work and keep feeding us with your powerful articles.

  4. First of all, I would like to thank BNS and especially the editor who seems to have meticulously reviewed my work.

    I also like to thank my readers who have taken time to leave comments and many of who have “liked” my work. Your words are encouraging – what is a writer without readership? Thank you all so much. Yet I still long to see some women readers and their feedback.

    I also take this opportunity to clarify to my readers that the word “coax” in the second paragraph is not mine, but the editor’s. I had used the word “invite”. I am not discrediting the editor nor do I intend to ask him to change. It is just that the word “coax” does not sit well with me. For those who truly know me, I am anything but someone who coaxes. I try to reason out and convince and that is what I would prefer someone else do to me rather than try to coax me. Please excuse me for sounding trivial, but every word is important for me.

    Thank you all.

  5. This was what the first western woman received from God, “I will multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you” (NKJV Holy Bible, Genesis 3.16). Just imagine the lives of these women. Their lives began with a curse. Author Yeshey Pelzom.
    The above quote as said by God was not a curse in the beginning neither is to be regarded so now. That sentence followed the event of hearing and believing the liar, the enemy of God and mankind that came to ruin mankind from the blissful company with God his maker. Instead of being cursed to die after eating the forbidden fruit that brought the knowledge of self consciousness and shame, the mankind received only banishment from the Garden of delights. The woman would struggle with the power of death to bring forth life every time she does. This is contrary to aborting the fetus after conception the democrats support.
    “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” is not subjugation to servitude as many allege. After realizing the vanity of the pursuit of knowledge propagated by the enemy, she should turn back to her husband as a better choice although she first left and went alone, arguably despising him. That simply means she would come to the place of duty and enjoy her safety and security. She would accept the fateful result of wandering alone and remain fended by the decision of her husband all around. That simply means her blissful place is available remaining in the care of her husband, not in wandering in pursuit of knowledge involving the acts of rebellion/disobedience. But that is rampant in modern societies, especially in the Educated West. Eastern women arguably are still closer to the divine in comparison having nothing to regret for wandering away from her precinct…
    Her little pain now brings more lives engaging in the fight against death propagated by false principalities of democratic ideals of liberty that strengthens mankind to stray from the place of security (discipline) straying into the net of the accuser and enemy of human souls.

  6. Congratulation Yeshey Didi!

    A good article always conveys true message and helps to shape the society in concrete and peaceful movement.Most of your reasonings were well balanced depicting good cause followed by satisfactory effect.

    One of the main reasons why eastern women are lacking behind compare to Western women is being the victim of blind faith towards religion and culture. Both have always played a vital role in shaping the society and we ( both men & women ) went on preaching and passing these norms and values to preserve our identities and faiths as time passed on.
    Our community is always in need of good writers like Yeshey Didi, RP Subba and so on.

    I would like to thank the writer and all readers giving mixed comments of this article.I also wish to have such other writings which will give good exercise to our mind that has been stunned hoping to gain the goal of life in the New Land.

    With Regards,

    Gopal Samal
    Atlanta, Georgia (USA)

  7. From a young Bhutanese women to you. I have never let me state that again NEVER found an inspiration/a women to look up to from my own community. It is truly touching in so many levels that a women like you, so inspiring come from my own community. We need more people like you to inspire, lead and direct our ways from the subdue world that we have created.

  8. Some one up here says that “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” is not subjugation to servitude. I wonder what the heck that is if it is not servitude, despotism, oppression. When your desire is, by force of a ‘divine’ decree (crafted by men, of course), is subordinate to someone else’s, that, my friends, is subjugation. And democrats do not want the fetus to be aborted – they want to let the women in question to decide what they want with their bodies. It is the far-right fanatics, who interestingly think that rape is intended by God to happen, who seem to have more respect for unborn “lives” than for the living, breathing, walking women. The same far-right fanatics kill baby girls as son as they are born in some areas of countries like India.

    How funny this person uses the idea of an “enemy” to keep people in the dragnets conveniently created by insecure old men!

    Some people should come out of the caves. The world has moved on from the context that brought about the (un)holy books that bigots and zealots use to justify their oppression of others. You don’t dictate – I choose.