I have had a few requests to write about women respecting one another and not adding woes to ourselves and to our sisters. Actually, this theme has been very much in my thoughts for quite a few years now. More so, since TV soaps were started in our country, especially, Balaji Telefilms' saas-bahu tales, copied into all languages. The earlier, 13-episode serials were interesting and full of humour and pathos. No venom and revenge. The worst feature would be that the so-called heroine was mostly blind to the happenings around her and remained an absolute fool! When women's groups protested and asked the producer why she was projecting women in such a bad light, she said she was just depicting ordinary family happenings! But now the TV serials are far worse in female villainy!

The big screen has had its share of promoting these themes, but the part played by the villains, male or female, was short-lived and we could forget about them once we were out of the cinema, the only exception being Gabbar Singh from Sholay. But the small screen serials are invading our homes and staying there permanently. Even the positive-minded women are eagerly waiting to see what evil happens next. Worse still are the length of time focussed on the villain's face from all angles and the music and drums leading the viewer into frenzy!

I was forced to watch an episode on a Telugu channel once, in which a little girl was given an oilbath, and the lady villain mixed some blinding chemical into shikakai applied on her. There was a 15-minute non-stop screaming by the girl, the music rising to a crescendo, and smug enjoyment on the villain's face. I was totally blinded with rage myself and had a huge fight with my highly educated sister, who was following that serial. This is one way that negative acts influence most of us — negatively.

I have asked many relatives and friends why they, educated and thinking human beings, watch such serials. But I now know why, since it has happened to me too. The bug has bitten me too! The stories start in a very interesting and innocent manner to hook the viewer and the evil is gradually presented and increased in intensity, causing suspense, till you want to know what happened to the idiot heroine, which naturally will not be revealed till she is arrested and beaten up, and she loses everything including her “izzat.” All this, while the serial celebrates a few years! What about the sponsors and ads, they also promote these demeaning acts.

The ‘in-law' mania is strong world over, and more so in our country. The evils of the dowry system could be the main cause. Personally, I am very proud that my family has been freed of this, as my grandfather, the late Nemali Pattabhi Rama Rao, an erstwhile Dewan of Cochin, at the turn of the last century, used to walk out of the wedding hall if he came to know that dowry was being exchanged. (Today, will anyone care about anyone walking away?) Sorry, grandpa, this won't work in this age and time as our society has slipped further backwards.

The mother-in-law and the sister-in-law are also women and mothers in their own right. Please respect them and help them respect themselves. The same goes for daughters-in-law. A ‘mother' knows no feeling other than love, most of the time. So please bring forth love and not negative feelings like hatred, deceit, envy and anger towards others, more so towards women. I know that it is easy to write and mouth these lofty thoughts, but it is definitely possible to overcome the negatives with education, guidance and a spiritual outlook.

(The writer's email is: malathimohan00@ yahoo.com)

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