Last night, on Jaya TV, I was watching Actor Sarangapani in the v.v.old movie "Penn" sing "Pennai nambaadhe" rather loudly. The song was pretty funny and Sarangapani even did a Vadivelu-esque dance step that had me howling with laughter. It was only when he got to the line, "இந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே, சந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே" that all my feminist instincts were roused. I've heard this saying many times and absorbed it without question. I never had paused to actually contemplate the meaning behind it until yesterday night.
When Parimalam of Big Street woefully reported that her elder brother had eloped with a mechanic's daughter and her father was up to his neck in gambling debts, people were quick to point fingers at her mom and her supposed ineptitude in holding the house together. After all, they said, "இந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே, சந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே." When my father's cousins drove out their parents, frittered away all their wealth on movies/racing and were reduced to penury, everyone in my father's family blamed the extravagance of their cousins' wives. My father shook his head and said you-know-what.
Now, onto the actual saying itself. In mythology, Chandiran (the moon god) and Indiran (God of the devas) are notorious for often falling into stupid escapades, getting cursed by an irate rishi/powerful demi-god and spending centuries waiting for redemption. In fact, without these two characters, Indian mythology would have a dearth of colorful stories. But the kicker is this. If Indiran decides to fall in love with an innocent rishi patni (Rishi's wife) who happened to be minding her own business, how, pray, is it the fault of the woman?! Note that Indiran is supposed to have a harem of thousands and thousands of women. Similarly, if Chandiran can't keep his roving eye under control and gets cursed by some irate husband, how fair is it to blame the woman? It seems to me that Indiran and Chandiran brought about their own downfall.
The reason it irked me so much is that even today, we see cases where a woman gets blamed for dressing "provocatively" and thereby inviting harassment. The offender gets away with a slap on the wrist whereas the woman gets a big lecture on being a "bharatiya naari". I've heard of similar dispensations in cases of eve-teasing in Chennai. Colleges advise that women shouldn't wear salwar kameez or churidhars lest they "provoke" lust in men. I am sure those rishi patnis and other virtuous women of yore wore extremely modest clothing but that didn't prevent Indiran/Chandiran from indulging their libido, did it?
I think its funny how the "blame-it-on-the-woman" game has been on-going since god-knows-when. From families falling into financial ruin to dysfunctional families to men having affairs, everything gets blamed on the woman. And we continue to propagate it with all these seemingly innocuous sayings like, "இந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே, சந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே." Maybe, we should encourage men to take responsibility for their own actions by saying,
இந்திரன் கெட்டதும் தன்னாலே, சந்திரன் கெட்டதும் தன்னாலே.