Karyeshu dasi, Karaneshu mantri,Bhojyeshu mata

Kshamaya Dharitri,rupeshu Lakshmi, shayaneshu Rambha

A servant in work, a minister in counselling, a mother in feeding,

Mother Earth in patience, Goddess Lakshmi in looks and the celestial dancer Rambha in bed.

Thus the specifications were enumerated for a ‘Kula dharma patni’-A good housewife, according to aSubhashitha, a ‘wise saying’. This must have been according to the law given out by that most chauvinistic of all MCPs, namely Manu.

Women were just not expected to execute the jobs efficiently, they were to role-play also, which means accepting all the concomitant and collateral responsibilities too.

Anyway in this Subhashitha, the very ultimates like Lakshmi, Rambha etc are taken as the acme of perfection and a ‘good’ lady was expected to aspire for that standard.

This set me thinking about the standards a modern woman has to adopt to  manage  her multifarious activities responsibly  to be called ‘A perfect woman’

If Manu were to define the rules for ‘a perfect woman’ in these modern times, they would perhaps run like these:

Thou shalt cook like a five star chef– Idli, Dosa, vada like a South Indian one, Chole, Batura etc like a Punjabi one, Biryani like a Hyderabi one, Chinese dishes like a schezwan .

(Incidentally, a well cooked home food is complimented as ‘Professional!’ and the restaurant fare is considered to be the ultimate if it is like ‘home food’)!

Sorry I digress.

Manu would have continued,

Thou shalt wash and press like a washerman, polish the shoes like a shoeshine, repair the dresses like a tailor.

Thou shalt not emulate Santhana Lakshmi, but stop having children as and when the State/spouse tells you to.

Thou shalt attend to the children’s homework like a Tuition master.

Thou shalt handle family finances like an Auditor General.

Thou shalt type letters, attend phone calls and look after the Bank work like a trained personal secretary.

Thou shalt maintain a neat, tidy house like a paid housekeeper.

Thou shalt look after and drive the family car to the school and back like a professional driver.

Thou shalt maintain thy looks like a professional model, hold good posts and contribute to the family kitty like Dhana Lakshmi.

Thou shalt have own Medical Insurance and Credit cards like Arogya Lakshmi and Aishwarya Lakshmi.

Thou shalt carry out small repairs and replacements like a grease monkey.

On family car trips outside the town thou shalt navigate like a professional navigator apart taking turns and driving some stretches

Thou shalt be a good wife, mother, daughter- in- law and a sister- in- law like Ekta’s heroines.

And the list goes on and on with small changes, generation to generation. I am sure my friends would be eager to add their own to the list.

After all this, I would be immensely grateful to Mr Manu if he would hold himself from making a stipulation like,

Thou shalt annihilate all the household pests (not pets, though both have similar rights in sharing the house)-like mice, cockroaches, lizards etc. yourself like Goddess Durga.


39 responses »

  1. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    I am going to tweet this for all the femme fatale of gen now for a better look,understanding and appreciation of the roles they are going to play in future or are playing at the moment. Superb!

  2. vimala ramu says:

    Men may be offended if you equate Man with Manu!

  3. Beyniaz says:

    Vimala, you can enumerated the Man(u)-made rules so well!

  4. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you, Eva. Actually my earlier title was ‘The Multiple Roles of a Woman”. But then I thought that since I had started with the definition of an ideal woman, I thought I would name it so.

  5. Eva Bell says:

    You have beautifully summed up the many roles of women. As Ann Morrow Lindberg said, “By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular times off. They are the great vacationless class.”

  6. Vimala Madam,

    A very refreshing read. Thoroughly Enjoyed reading it.

    Apart from the blog, I would like to mention that the laws of Manu and many other laws of the ancient Hindus some of which are wrongly credited to Manu – were originally made, to distinguish Karma (Thou shalt not question how I know! :-)) When a person marries, where will his/her Karma go/ How far would a spouse, carry the other spouse’s karma, etc – Many of the conventions or laws or practices or customs, are based on this factor. For example, when a bride, gets married, the karma that she holds till then, is given away to the groom (this is the essence of the giving away of the bride ceremony in Hindu custom) for him to carry – why this partition of karma ? to answer this, may take not just one blog, but several blogs to reply. This same karma factor decides who cremates whom, etc – ladies not being allowed to do a host of things like cremation, etc, is related to Karma – nothing else – even then, provisio is made for ladies who are single children – and who are not married, to do the last rites for the parents – so, in essence, it is a very complex delegation of powers to carry Karma, that decides many of these things. There is confirmation of this even in the Bible, in the Adam and Eve story. I am not defending Manu, I am only explaining the various factors behind some customs.

    Whatever is the ripple effect of my comment, I will reply AFTER 2nd March pl.

    • vimala ramu says:

      Ok, the customs those days had been dictated by certain theories like Karma. What I was trying to tell was, how it would have been if there had been a modern version of Manu (who was not bound by karma theories). Anyway, thanks for your comments and enlightenment. Looking forward to your further replies.

  7. Smita Luthra says:

    Vimala Ji, a very refreshing and interesting take. I wish Manu could read this… the man, as I gather from some of his text I have read, had some ridiculously atrocious expectations from women.
    Maybe in the next issue we can see another great writeup from you on the “Ideal Man”? 🙂

  8. Sneha says:

    I’d love to ask Manu to shed some light for the duties and responsibilities for men.
    As usual, brilliant piece, Vimala. Wish you’d sent something on these lines for Kali for Women.

  9. sonal shree says:

    Wow. I wish Mr. Manu were here to read this blog. You have really hit the nail on (his) head. 🙂

  10. Rajini Murali says:

    Five-star article!!!

  11. Irene says:

    Enjoyed reading this Vimala! It is amazing what all a woman is supposed to be!

  12. Indrani alukdar says:

    I loved this, Vimala. really very apt 🙂

  13. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    thou shall not do any of these things, but give priority to your needs, and rights.

  14. isabel says:

    I wonder whose the lucky male to deserve a wife like this?!
    Perhaps that man-husband was not born yet up to this day… Who would complement all these attributes of a perfect woman-wife…Like a good wine is a complement to a good meal.

    If a perfect husband-man do exist today, then I— a woman who wishes to have a perfect husband too, will definitely be following all these commandments to become as perfect as him. But if not, I am as happy and perfect as I am right now.
    Follow the same love motto—”Love me for what I am and I shall love you for what you are…Give me the stars in the sky, and I shall offer you the sun and the moon.”

    My final thought…”Love is reciprocal…Not dominion.”

    • vimala ramu says:

      As I mentioned earlier, Manu has not specified the perfect Man. I believe when God made World, he told a woman, “You can find a perfect man in every corner of the world” and he made the world round !

  15. Tanuja Chatterjee says:

    Oh Vimaladi I loved it! The undeclared war on woman not only threatens her rights but sabotages her development also. You seem to have put everything straight from my heart. Look at our laws…they too discriminate. How can we forget where woman is at risk can children be spared of passive neglect!

  16. Sreedharan says:

    And thou shalt not maketh me visit temples of your choice every week ? Wonder if Modern Manu would have gone that far !!!

    • vimala ramu says:

      That reminds me of a request my son had of his wife. ‘If you have to have vows, That way, there will be variety”!!!
      Thank you for your comment.

      • vimala ramu says:

        @Sreedhar, Sorry it should read,” If you have to have vows, make them at different places and different temples. That way, there will be variety.”!!!

  17. Mira Pawar says:

    So true Vimala! Women have so many duties to perform and even after doing all they are expected of, there is always some part you will be reminded that has been overlooked. Loved reading your blog immensely.

  18. Shernaz says:

    Just love this, Vimala. Simply love it! An iron fist in a velvet glove.

  19. rumi says:

    wow!!vimala u’ve put every woman’s plight so aptly!appreciate it!!

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