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n delhi India
Pit of Acheron : The Hell Yonder
Apr 15, 2009 08:04 PM 1750 Views





I have closely seen domestic violence. I have seen men turn into frothing brutes and breaking the bones of their wives or kids. I have seen shattered women and kids seek shelter in stranger’s homes to escape murdering and raping husbands and fathers. I have seen venomous and plotting sister in laws, mom in laws and father in laws conspiring to wreak years of cruelty upon hapless, simple souls over money, sex and worse still, sometimes for no reason at all other than the simple pleasure it gives to the perpetrators. I have seen women lose their minds with years of abuse and being ground into the dust. I have seen men take away a woman’s pride, dignity and self respect, leaving a lurking shadow of a former living being. I have seen proud souls being reduced to pitiable wrecks begging all and sundry for mercy, and a little help. I have seen such women being deserted by their fathers, brothers, mothers and friends leaving them to live out their miseries in solitary despair.

The only saving grace I find in such incidents is when the husband is a drunkard. He becomes a normal man when in his senses and feels sorry for what he has done . There is some chance of redemption and salvaging one’s regret in his dulled conscience. It is however unforgivable and downright inhuman and criminal, if the attackers are doing it all in their senses!

There are a few women however that manage to salvage some dignity and courage from the ashes of their despondency and find solace in faith. They are commoners, have learnt to put up with a great deal of duress from their family values and faith, but at some point before breaking down manage to escape their destiny.

I have seen many crazy maniacs in a family bedeviling the bride, but then there is every chance that someone feels sorry in the house and balances the evil. Never before, have I seen such institutionalized and syndicated perpetration of barbarism upon the bride. Well, this story is of one such family.

We Indians haven’t gotten over our snob factor of ‘phoren returned’ tags. We lap up our NRI visitors as if they were the last spoken word on royalty. The NRIs in turn treat all things Indian with a well deserved accent, and do not blink before comparing our third- worldness with ‘ hamara amrika’ refrain. We, especially Punjabis, do not bother to check where we are marrying our daughters and sisters, and do believe it to be a natural progression and a ticket to prosperity and better life as long as they are married off to grooms settled in the west. Well, that’s where the trouble begins. And that’s what this flick is all about. You are certain to double check next time you decide to send your girl to a phoren NRI groom.

A most touching movie by deepa Mehta, indeed. My wife cried and sobbed her way through the movie. The plot is simple. A simple, educated Punjabi girl, preity zinta is packed off to Canada to a waiting NRI groom. The two families have never met. The NRIs have their own version of the Canadian squalor and poverty. Though they live in a big house and drive cars, they are extremely poor. Every member of the family must earn. During day the elder parents must leave the house and spend the day in the mall coz the house is rented out in daytime to tenants. Priety is put on the job immediately and her entire income is pocketed by the family. She Is not give a penny nor allowed to call home. Her mother in law takes an immediate dislike to her and gets her bashed up by her son in no time at all, just to quickly put her in her place. Thereafter the wife beating continues, and deepa doesn’t camouflage the cruelty or the pain of the bride. Worse still, the guy never drinks! And he never even wants to make love to her. Nor does he ever show any compassion or regret the next day! the silence and inaction of the joint family who are mute spectators during the beatings makes them culpable and equally blameworthy. It is one hell of a collection of backward thinking, sadist morons put together as one unit in a single family in remote, cold, heartless Canada.

Well, at this point enter the cobra! Punjabi folklore and mumbo jumbo rush to the girl’s rescue. She was told in her childhood of the tale of the ‘shish nag’ who could assume any shape and come to the help of a person. So she conjures him up, and he assumes the form of her husband and enters her life. She gets confused initially, wondering how her husband gets so cruel and then compassionate alternately. Later she realizes that it is her real husband or the shish nag with whom she consorts. Well the nag brings more troubles for her since the family suspects her of having an affair with another man. Priety chooses to swear by the nag to prove her innocence by holding him. She proves her innocence and decides to call it a day and return home to india, ending her torture.

The tale reaffirms our faith in religion, folklore and mysticism, which have provided Indians with moral strength through eras of invading plunderers and rapists, plagues, misfortunes, disease, poverty and the british. However it seems difficult to digest such a strange, dysfunctional family sitting in the middle of a developed nation. It is hard to believe that the sons in the family, who are born and brought up in Canada have not been emancipated. It is hard to believe that an educated girl can put up with all this cruelty in this day. The lesson learnt is that every nation has its own private hell, whether its india or abroad; the hell of our own very making.

Go watch the movie with your ladies and plenty of tissues – an entire month’s supplies.

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