“She is water!”, the only cue he gave me on call, expecting me to build up the character and call him back the very next week.
Creative people are really weird at times! It is so difficult to understand what is going on in their brain that at times you want to put your brain aside and take a walk.
For all I knew, it was a true life story of a couple based in Karnataka in the very early years post independence. The male protagonist was a staunch supporter of women’s education and gave up his all to help his wife fulfill her dreams. A journey very much celebrated by not his family then but by the generations that would follow in and outside his family.
I was fascinated by the outline of the story. To find a man in the conservative time and land who would go to unprecedented lengths to watch his wife surpass him in all aspects is inspirational and amazing, isn’t it?
We were sent some personal letters written by the man and the wife to each other (and the translations from Kannada to English, of course!) and were allowed to have discussions within ourselves to understand it. We were highly influenced by a similar true story which has already been shot as a full length feature film and widely distributed prominently in Maharashtra. We decided to find a common thread between the two stories anticipating a better vision of what the relationship must have been like but we were not able to identify anything common in their lifestyle, behaviour or outlook towards life.
We then started with the letters the man wrote to his wife as his character was very well established for us. However, his letters to her did not provide any insight on her thoughts about life or love for him.
Every letter that he wrote to her would be a set of loving and caring instructions where he would motivate her and make sure she was doing well in terms of health and school as he was not there to care for her. There was no response to her in any of those papers.
Intrigued, we then proceeded to read the very first letter she wrote to him. She enquired about the family, their neighbours, the cattle and the new temple that was going to be constructed in the village. She told him how happy she was at school and there was nothing to worry about her.
In the following letters, the content did not change even though her handwriting had become much more legible. She would question about everyone in the family and village and the cattle and would sen her love to all.
I could not tell how great her grammar was in any of those letters as we were reading the translated copy of the letter along with the photos of the letters written in Kannada.
In the last five letters, she sounded much more mature, realizing the harsh reality of the world around her while her only protector was miles away from her fulfilling her duties as the daughter-in-law of the house. However, her questions were still the same. Her timid nature and yet resilient bent towards the difficulties she was enduring is a complex I am yet to experience. Not once in any of her letters, did she question his decisions or reacted to what he wrote. It is a puzzle I shall soon solve as I get to know her more.
She was a river whose course was designed by him. All she did was flow freely in the direction he showed her. She had become one with the school just like she had become one with him and his family. She was one with the cattle she owned back home and one with her parents in Kolhapur. She was one with everyone and everything that had entered her life except herself.
This raised a lot of questions of self-awareness, self-esteem and self-love in everyone’s minds just like it did in ours.
“Shouldn’t she have an opinion of her own?”, my teammate asked.
For all I understood, like water she had found her identity in the world she was immersed in.
Indian culture has had as many heroic women as men just like any other culture. Some of them are celebrated and some of them remain unsung. However, there is one common outlook they had towards the world around them that was considered a factor determining their femininity in the society and that was what the female protagonist of the story was.
Rebel and compliant, strong and vulnerable, rich and poor, all daughters of the land in the past were taught to be like water, to absorb every element of life that would come in contact or be associated with her and make it her own. They are and will be taught so in the coming future. This female protagonist was no different.
Flexible, resilient, timid, and accommodating, she had flown straight from those letters on to the paper in front of me – a life I shall be reliving in the coming few months !