Bitter half of the better half

Crime against women seems passe. The in thing looks to be crime ‘by’ women, if the murder of two Chennai-based men by their own wives is any pointer. Of course, the likes of Sivakasi Jayalakshmi and Serina have been hogging the limelight for quite some time now, but the two murders top the femme fatale charts on account of the utter recklessness of thought and intent, their diabolical killer instincts, the audacity of the conspiracy, the brutality of the act and the sheer nonchalance with which the two women put up a mock show of mourning, that almost deceived the cops. Thankfully, they are in the dock now,but, that such murderous schemes could be conceived and carried through by ordinary ‘family’ women is indeed unnerving.

Even Shakespeare had only a wronged woman in mind when he talked of hell’s fury coming a poor second to her scorn. Annadurai came a little close to current happenings when he said ‘Kolayum seival paththini’(a chaste wife can kill), despite the typical dravidian perversion. While even law has evolved to acquit a woman who killed in self defence, society often goes one step further to sympathise with and even justify if a woman kills a wayward or torturous husband, though such defence is not legally tenable. But here, the two life partners who took the life of their partners were neither wronged women nor pathnis, by common parlance. So, is there a trend in the making or at the least, a sinister signal for society?

Police sources neither confirm nor deny that crime by women is on the rise, but they concede that such a perception is gaining ground. Women activists are understandably angry that while crime by women is blown up by the media, crime by men against women is underplayed. Ironically, the mediamen are not apt to contradict this, and would instead justify their acts with the cliched ‘man bites dog is news’ argument. In any case, not just the press, but the people too sit up only when wives bump off their husbands, and not vice versa, which though equally distasteful is not uncommon. (Getting a bit too morbid? Read no further! Still there? Then here I go …)

So what is it in the social genetics that assumes that women are incapable of some such acts which therefore become unacceptable when they happen? But forget the puritans or the orthodox, even scientists and rationalists share some similar views on the don’ts for a woman that arise due to the feminine biological construction and some roles imparted by nature on them such as motherhood. When a media survey, of which there are scores these days, talked of the rise of alcholism and smoking, besides promiscuity among unwed women, I was aghast that an urban aberration is made to look like a national trend. And when I did see a couple of college girls smoking outside a theatre, I was apalled, but I still remain with the aberration school of thought. But irrespective of the moral prism on the one side and the gender liberation talk of the other, studies have proved clearly and conclusively that nicotine and alcohol in a woman’s system not just affects her fertility and general health as in men, but also her pregnancy, childbirth and the child itself due to mother-feeding, roles unique to a woman. Indeed, the lifestyle magazines and some misguided women’s lib groups that glorify such habits as the true signs of a modern women are actually diluting the worth of womanhood. In any case, be it Khushboo or Kannagi, it is not the orthodox but the rationalists who are most vociferous about the qualities of a woman. That being so it is no surprise that murder by mothers, wives et al should shock the senses of all.

But are we shocked? I have an uneasy fleeting feeling that the public is more steered by the sensation of the crimes than by the monstrosity of them. The murders were a direct fallout of adulterous affairs. But what’s the big deal? Are not such amorous escapades by saree-clad housewives our daily diet dished out by the TV channels? Adultery? We see it in Roja; we see it in Kanavarukkaga. And murder? If you prefer bombs, there is Selvi. But if it has to be poison, there are a host of other serials. Actually our resourceful and innovative domestic women who fill the idiot box –a pandora’s box really –can give professional criminals a run for their money. Indeed, the quantum of domestic violence and crime imported into our drawing rooms and bedrooms, almost always perpetrated by very domestic, homely women can put to shade even the mafias of the world. So what impact can a real time crime by women have on an audience so benumbed, so softened and so conditioned by such 24/7 addictive doses of female crimes via satellite?

It would be dangerous to belittle the social and psychological impact of such unfettered criminal stuff on the tube. Impressionable minds reside in every human being, adult or child. In any case, these serials have completely erased the generation gap; from grandpa, to papa to our chella papu, all are hooked. Indeed, the first victim of those ‘serial-killers’ is the human psyche, age no bar. And there need not be any active incitement of a crime; vulnerable or idle minds can pick up criminal intent just like that. Then there is the immunity to crime that the TV soaps foster which is worse. Now, are there no good things at all, one may ask. May be, but unfortunately, it is vice and villainy that come out most convincingly than virtue, if any. Also, the appeal and allure of the criminal and the carnal to humans may be because animal senses enjoy a five-sixth majority and in any case, would anyone with an operative sixth sense be watching those serials, in the first place?

And what a wholly distorted picture of family and society that is being paraded? From mothers-in-law, to sisters-in-law to daughters-in-law all behave like outlaws, out to finish off the other! And such acts are made out to be perfectly normal, to be accepted quite casually and even eminently fit for emulation if a similar situation arises in life. Is this the reality in Indian homes? Or is this the character of the average Indian housewife? Strangely, women’s organisations that are quick on their feet whenever women are obscenely depicted or ill-treated, somehow do not find such vile portrayal of women, particularly household women, objectionable! Infectious immunity indeed!

Sure, the scheming women who killed their husbands recently were a rarity. But those on the tube are a daily virtual reality. One fervently hopes they do not come alive! The other half, the unfair sex, is already rattled to its roots, scared stiff of the real remote control at home!

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Jawahar T R