The 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.
The Laws of Manu, Chapter 5 verse 156 – 161Dharmashastras (Sacred Hindu texts)
This is a story of Chuiya, an 8-year-old girl who is widowed by the untimely death of her husband and Kalyani, a beautiful 20-years old woman who has been a widow since the age of 9.
In accordance with India tradition, Chuiya must be sent to a home – for not to say an ashram for widow – in Varanasi, where Hindu widows live in penitence to atone for their sins. Her feisty presence influences the lives of other widows.
During her stay in that Ashram, she quickly makes friend with Kalyani, who radiates a child-like innocence. The only beautiful widow whose hair is not shorn, as a nod to her profession that was forced upon her at an early age by the powerful head widow Madhumati, as a prostitute.
Kalyani spends her day either playing with her puppy Kaalu, or talking to the small statue of the God Krishna she has in her room. Her nights though are surreal. Gulabi, friends of Madhumati the powerful head of widows, took her across the water to a Brahmin house in Rawalpur. Instead of feel sorry of herself, she accepts this as her karma.
Because of Chuyia’s innocent antics, Kalyani meets Narayana, a young Brahman Gandhian idealist, who has just passed his bar exams for law. Narayana fall in love with Kalyani at the first sight and propose to marry her, even though he knows that Kalyani is a widow.
When Narayana find out his father’s relationship with Kalyani, whom Narayana has just asked to marry, he becomes disgusted with both his traditions and his father, but still he resolves to marry Kalyani. In the meantime, Kalyani, afraid of the fact that Narayana will discover her dark secret, drown herself in the Ganges.
Soon after the death of Kalyani, Madhumati send Chuiya to replace Kalyani as the ashrams’ prostitute. Chuiya, because of her innocence, thought that Madhumati would let her play for a while before sent her back to her parents home. While in fact, Madhumati send her to visit Narayana’s father, who then rapes Chuiya ……
… It’s a beautiful, funny, sadness, ironic movie, I’ve ever seen. I was so speechless for almost 114 minutes. I feel that I was there with no strength to help them.
While at the same time, I’m questioning the reason of that law. Trying to understand of Gandhi speech at the railway station, “….before I thought that God is the truth. But now, I know that the truth is the God…”.
The truth …; The truth is questionable; it depends on the person who get the benefit of it.
Like the conversation between Shakuntala, an elderly brahmana widow, and the Pundit.
Shakuntala : “Punditji, you have studied the Holy Scriptures. Is it written that widows should be treated badly ?
Pundit : “The scriptures say that widows have three options. They can burn with their dead husband, or lead a life of self-denial, or, if the family permits, marry their husband’s younger brother. However, a law was recently passed, which favors widow remarriage.
Shakuntala : “A law ? Why don’t we know about it ?”
Pundit : “We (men) ignore the laws that don’t benefit us.
And I have to agree with Gandhi, the truth is the God. Because we tend to choose, the truth based on the benefit for ourselves and keeps the truth as our belief.
I believe that every human being has their own path of life, has their own destiny. But to take the freedom of someone’s life is something beyond my understanding. To believe that be a widow means that half of their life’s dead and don’t have the right to live as a normal people …. Is something I cannot accept ….