A professor in my college had been in a terrible car accident last year and his wife had died on the spot. He has a 10 year old son and a 14 year old daughter. Few days back I came to know that he had remarried after six months. I exclaimed “In just six months??” My colleague who gave the news justified that sir by saying “He has two small kids,madam”. I thought to myself “then he should have got a nanny, not a wife!!”
Is 6 months enough for mourning the loss of one’s partner? Is a woman just a body, a thing to be replaced so quickly? I guess that depends on how much attachment and love was there in the marriage. As I don’t know the family personally, I can’t comment whether the husband even mourned her death or not. I also wondered how would it be for the pre-teen daughter to have lost her mom and to have a new mother so soon. I think if the kids are really young, its easy for them to adjust to a new mother figure in the household. As they grow older, the stories of evil stepmothers becomes hardwired in them mostly due to the stereotype portrayal of stepmothers in Hindi movies. The children are conditioned to feel antagonistic to a stepmother. Add the curious questions of friends and schoolmates, and a child will have a serious problem in acceptance even if the stepmother may be nice and loving. Subjecting children to this new change is not always advisable that too just because the father is unable to take care of them alone.
Why does the society think it is so hard for a father to bring up his kids single – handedly when widowed mothers in India are expected to do the same? Why all the relatives and parents start advising the man to get remarried citing the reason that the kids need a mother? Can a widow cite the reason that “her kids are small, they need a father”; remarry in Indian society and live peacefully in her neighborhood? Is having a mother more important than having a father?
In chapter 5 verse 1560–1611 of the Dharamshastras, the Hindu sacred texts, Manu wrote:
A widow should be long suffering until death, self-restrained and chaste.
A virtuous wife who remains chaste when her husband has died goes to heaven.
A woman who is unfaithful to her husband is reborn in the womb of a jackal.
Due to outrageous beliefs like these, Hindu widows have been subjected to various evil social practices from centuries like Sati (Though the practice has been made illegal, it is still very much alive in rural India) or being sent to lead solitary lives in widow ashrams in places of pilgrimage where they live in pitiable conditions. They are even expected to change their food habits!! Widows are expected to not eat fish, meat, eggs, and even lentils, onion and garlic for their entire lifetime. Are there any such restrictions or customs for men in Hinduism? As far as I know, there isn’t any. Remarriage of widows has been an issue since the days of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Though the Indian society and the Indian woman has come a long way since then; yet still today there exists a prejudice against it. Even now the mere presence of widows at auspicious occasions is avoided.
According to Women and Child Development Ministry, there are 33 million widows in the country. As per the 1991 census, widows account for 9 per cent of the female population and only 40 per cent of them are over 50 years of age. Interestingly widow remarriage is not uncommon in the lower strata of Indian society. The so called upper caste Hindus are the ones who are prejudiced against it. Even educated people are averse to the idea.
What we need is a change in mindset and attitude of people , even the educated ones. We must understand that a woman may desire or need a life partner just like a man does. The parents of the woman also need to support and encourage her to move on and assert her right for companionship. The society must understand that a father figure is equally important for children, that a woman may want to share her financial burdens with a husband and that a woman may have equal sexual needs just like a man.
Remarriage after death of spouse or divorce can actually soothe ruffled feathers and unite love between two hearts that have unfortunately seen more of the seamier side of marriage. It can provide social support and companionship. But I feel it should be done when one is ready to move on mentally, emotionally and physically. If one has kids, their feelings should also be taken into consideration. Remarrying just because you are a man and can not perform “wifely duties” maybe a reason for the Indian society but not for me.
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