There is nothing novel about the wedding that is taking place other than that it is part of the superstition eradication programme, which is one of the policies of the newly founded Self Respect Movement. The single requirement for abolition of untouchability is the change of heart. The same holds good for widow marriage also. It does not call for any sacrifice or privation. A man who has led marital life with one or more wives, or a man who has had many concubines or has had liaison with courtesans is willingly married by a young bride. The custom is very much prevalent today. In the same manner we are trying to create a custom of a man willingly marrying a woman who has had a similar past.
A man has no hesitation in desiring a woman who has already been the companion of another man or who still continues to be so. In such cases, the man concerned feels as though he is on top of the world, and considers it a matter of pride. There is no limit to the man’s happiness if the woman concerned happens to be a popular courtesan. When it comes to the question of widow marriage, we expect only that kind of attitude from a man. When a man who has had connection with a thousand women decides to marry a maiden, no fault is found with him. In that case of what fault can be there in a woman getting married, after having lived with only one husband?
Widowhood is imposed on a woman since she is treated as a slave without any freedom. Once she is given freedom there will be no place for widowhood. There is no word in Tamil to denote a man who has lost his wife. There has been no need for such a word because man enjoys so much of freedom.
In English and other Western languages we have words like ‘widow’ and ‘widower’. They are so much alike the Sanskrit word vidava. But even in our ancient lore there is no word to denote a widower, which proves that widowhood in our country was imposed on women by our menfolk. Hence, widow marriage is in keeping with fairness and rational thinking and there is nothing repulsive about it.
In English and other Western languages we have words like ‘widow’ and ‘widower’. They are so much alike the Sanskrit word vidava. But even in our ancient lore there is no word to denote a widower, which proves that widowhood in our country was imposed on women by our menfolk.
Both the bride and the groom of today have a child each. There is nothing in it that is unacceptable to fairness and rationality. Those who admit the equality of men and women will readily accept it. Following the principle that a woman must have property rights just as a man, the bridegroom has transferred a property worth Rs. 5000/- to the bride, without any restriction. It is a laudable deed.
Such widow marriages are prevalent among a number of communities in some parts of Tamil Nadu. Hence nobody can say such a wedding is totally unknown or against human nature. I will not consider them as human beings. They can never have any self respect.
I am aware of the happenings in the households where there are widows. There are infanticides and mental agony. Also activities which are unnatural. There are murders. Women who run away are caught, brought back and kept in captivity. All these things are resulted by blocking natural emotions. Policies and rules which come in the way of natural feelings can never be implemented. Even if implemented, they cannot be stable. If such a condition continues, there will come a time when four or five women catch hold of a single man, fatten and beautify him and make use of him as object of their pleasure. I will not be surprised if such a thing were to happen. I will take it as a result of man’s present deeds.
Let it be known that there is no room for unnecessary rituals or expenses in the self respect marriage, whose purpose is minimizing the waste of money and time. Marriage is a contract between a man and a woman for living together, in the worldly life and there is nothing spiritual or divine about it. The tendency to forgo natural feelings and freedom for the sake of something divine and make oneself lifeless must be eradicated. In the name of the divine and spiritualism, why should there be different values and codes of conduct for men and women? All this has spoilt the pleasure and the freedom of human beings. A marriage is nothing but a contract for a man and a woman living together and we are all here only as witnesses. The contract must be made by the individuals concerned. Neither of them should have greater or lesser responsibilities or rights. A woman should never be an all-tolerant slave. She should consider her husband as a human being who will respect the woman to give him in return what he gives her and otherwise there is no difference in morality, freedom or emotion between them. Only such a woman be a gem among women. Likewise the man must understand that a woman has the same feelings, freedom and expectations like himself and has a right expect from him what he expects from her. He must, once for all give up the idea of woman being a slave.
If we want morality to prevail and prostitution to be eradicated, woman should be freed from widowhood and man should be freed from the feeling that he is not affected by liaison with courtesans.
Parents must educate the girls till the age of 16. They should not impose any discipline that is unnatural, and is different to boys and girls. Mothers should desist from preparing their daughters for slavery in their in-laws household. No girl must be taught that she is inferior to men and must be submissive.
When there are widows with a child waiting to be married, men demand widows without children. In the past, they used to ask for widows whose marriage was not consummated. Some people want to look for widows in their own community, avoiding other communities. In such matters one must not be afraid of public opinion. If we want reform, we must keep moving in our path, however different our principle might be. Then people are sure to follow us.
(Source: Kudi Arasu, 28th September 1930)
HE WILL NEVER EXPERT PERSONAL HELP FROM OTHERS
In 1971, when he was in his 93rd year, Periyar was admitted in the General Hospital, Chennai. Before being discharged he wanted to get his eyes checked by the renowned Dr. T.T.Ramalingam who was then the Medical Superintendent of the Government Eye Hospital, Chennai.
“Please tell me. What is the problem with your eyes? Then we can conduct the examination accordingly,” he said.
Periyar smiled, “There is no big problem. Only I am unable to read the newspapers, printed in small letters, like ‘The Hindu’.”
Dr. Ramalingam was a gentleman of few words. He was silent for a few seconds, after which he said, “Aren’t you ninety three? Why do you still want to read newspaper in very small print? Stop all these. You may always ask someone to read for you.”
Periyar retorted. “Why should I resort to that practice? I will have to look for someone. Is it always possible? One should always take care of one’s needs. I will continue reading using a lens as advised by Dr. Johnson and Dr. Bhat. For my job, can I desist from reading newspaper every day? Thank you”, he said and took leave.
Till the end Periyar used to write page after page with his own hands. He never dictated so that someone else would write. He used to write notification for ‘Viduthalai’, during his stay at Chennai, and ask for the galley proof for proof-reading, which he did with his own hands without the slightest hesitation.
While speaking of the Movement, he used to say, ‘I took up this task depending on my own self.” He would seldom seek other people’s assistance.
– Excerpts from ‘Life and Happiness’ Volume-2
written by Dr. K.Veeramani