Say a prayer

August 15th's paper had one of the best news items ever because it was such a perfect crazy-mirror reflection of India on its independence day. A group of disgruntled men showed up at Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi yesterday to conduct the last rites of feminism and "marital relations". It's the kind of thing you expect to see in The Onion, but turns out to be honest-to-goodness fact in 21st century India.  

According to legend, when Vishnu's sudarshan chakra was chopping up Sati's dead body, one of Sati's earrings fell on the spot that is today Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi. Another story says that Vishnu dug out a well for Parvati and Shiva to bathe a deux -- basically the ancient equivalent of a voucher for a couples' day at the spa; only more personalised. Also, hand-crafted #PeakHipster -- and while the couple were engaged in their, ahem, ablutions, Shiva's earring fell off his ear. The bottom line is that Hindu legends would have you know that an earring and a love story went into the making of Manikarnika Ghat.  It is also considered one of the holiest ghats in Varanasi. If you're fortunate enough to be cremated there, they say you're guaranteed moksha. 

How fortunate, then, that some 150 or 300 men gathered at Manikarnika Ghat to perform the "last rites of their marital relations." 

 From yesterday's "last rights" at Manikarnika Ghat. I hate to sound judgey, but these sights are unlikely to evoke much regret in the average straight woman at the matrimonial chances on which she's missing out because of Save Indian Family's pujas.

From yesterday's "last rights" at Manikarnika Ghat. I hate to sound judgey, but these sights are unlikely to evoke much regret in the average straight woman at the matrimonial chances on which she's missing out because of Save Indian Family's pujas.

There seems to be a lack of consensus regarding whose death they were commemorating. For some, it appears to be their own marriage while others were doing this to convince us all that feminism is dead. Leaving aside the irony of conducting the last rites for a marriage at a spot associated with one of Hinduism's most legendary monogamous relationships, it seems a little wonky that these chaps chose Manikarnika Ghat. After all, it's a sacred spot. Wouldn't it mean good things for those getting their last rites done there? I'm not sure what is moksha or the ultimate goal for a failed marriage (an amicable and quick divorce? Gender neutral alimony schemes?). However, it seems a little self-defeating for male chauvinists to offer prayers that effectively say, "Dear gods, please let feminists achieve ultimate emancipation." Thanks though. 

Of course, if you ask the men responsible for this stunt, they probably wouldn't call themselves chauvinists. Downtrodden, perhaps. Victimised, definitely. Poor dears. 

According to Amit Deshpande, who describes himself as a social activist, the event was organised to raise awareness of how men are oppressed by their wives and feminism. "The last rites of the corrupted form of feminism, as it prevails in the society at present, was performed," he told Hindustan Times. Despande is a modern kinda guy who doesn't subscribe to the idea that men are protectors and women should stay at home. This is why you should trust him when he says men are the ones who are crushed under feminine bigfeet in today's India. Deshpande also said, "The last rites of the bias and discrimination against men were also performed." Phew. Maybe now these men will be able to see just how discriminated women are and the gender bias they encounter at every turn. 

Helpfully, Deshpande also tossed in a little mansplaining for good measure: "Feminism in today’s form has deviated from its core values of equality and is trying to create a gynocentric society." Gynocentric means to be focused on women or taking a feminine point of view and I am thoroughly impressed Deshpande knows both the word and its meaning. I didn't and had to look it up (and couldn't get the image of a gyro out of head the whole time. I could absolutely live in a gyro-centric world, but preferably one that comes with the white sauce from the halal carts).      

Another gent told The Asian Age that he was here to perform the puja because his wife has been "harassing" him since they got married four years ago. "She spends all my salary on buying things for herself and whenever I object, she threatens to register a dowry harassment case against me. She has also refused to divorce me. I have tried talking to her parents but they seem to agree with her. My parents are also afraid that I may end up in the lock-up if my wife lodges a complaint," he told the reporter. 

Incidentally, as of 2017, cases under Section 498A (cruelty by husband or his relatives; covers dowry) have the lowest conviction rate among all cases of crimes against women. Also, only 10% of the cases under Section 498A are found to be false, and that's a lower percentage than for crimes like cheating and forgery.  

Since this gent's attempts at divorce have been thwarted thusly, he performed "pind-daan" (last rites) for his marriage and sent a video of this to his family. It's a lot more effort than changing your status to "single" from "married" on Facebook, but he might be in for a rude shock if he thinks this is an alternative to a divorce. 

These last rites were organised by Save Indian Family, an "NGO". Its members are men who claim they were falsely accused by their wives in dowry and domestic violence cases. They also claim to have more than 10,000 members across 20 states. Secretary of Save Indian Family, Anupam Dubey, said, "Our society has a huge bias in favour of women and whenever a case related to marital dispute comes up, it is the husband who is billed as an accused even before investigations are held."

I'm not sure what I love more: that Dubeyji and his brethren can say with a straight face that Indian society has a "huge bias" towards women or that they decided to pull this stunt and draw hashtags on their bare chests. Also, how fabulous is it that right-wing dudes are the ones making a mockery of Hindu rituals.