Sonal Motla writes about different roles of a woman and artist Shakuntala Kulkarni's exhibition in her column Circling The Square

Sonal Motla writes about different roles of a woman and artist Shakuntala Kulkarni's exhibition in her column Circling The Square

The equilibrium and the balance of a society is in a woman’s hand. She instills the values, the vision, the depth of a society

Sonal MotlaUpdated: Monday, March 13, 2023, 06:32 PM IST
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The world celebrated Women’s Day on March 8, and I found myself looking at the kaleidoscope of perceptions and realities of a woman. 

The equilibrium and the balance of a society is in a woman’s hand. She instills the values, the vision, the depth of a society. The hand that rocks the cradle, rocks the world. The male maybe the head of a family, but the woman is the neck that turns the head. 

The woman has many facets and attributes to her — she is Devaki, she is Yashoda, she is Radha, she is Rukmani, she is Meera she is Kaali, she is Durga, she is Sita she is Sati she is Parvati. The kaleidoscope of a woman’s aspect can turn even the God’s in a turmoil, so respect her and love her.  

Like my friend and artist Shakuntala Kulkarni who has been working on gender equality in her work since decades is showing her solo show ‘Quieter than Silence: Compilation of Short Stories’ (March 10 to 29) after five years at Chemould Art Gallery. 

Shakuntala Kulkarni’s focus on the life of women has been a constant investigation, the forms she has explored to express these themes have been varied. Her practice has included sculpture, installation, video and performance, in addition to painting and drawing. 

Drawing has, however, taken center stage in Kulkarni’s practice: entering her studio is like entering a cave with drawings all around you. There are drawings on walls, on boards, and on pieces of paper pinned on doors.

It is apparent that all the ideas for her cane armour sculptures and dresses, installations and videos have taken shape through countless drawings. Drawing being so pervasively at the heart of her varied practice, it is befitting that she is here presenting a full exhibition of only drawings.

While coming back from the exhibition, thoughts raced through my mind. A memory kept flashing — something that happened 15 years ago. A childhood friend, a mother of two, was going through a rough patch. I suggested we go on a trip and visit another friend out of town leaving her nine-year-old son and seven year old daughter with her parents for a week. Two days later, I got a call from my friends’ dad saying his daughter was neglecting her duty by enjoying with friends leaving her young children behind.

I was amazed. Since a decade, every day, each morning, each afternoon, every night, she had not left her children’s side. Forget as a mother, or as a woman, but as a human being, doesn’t she deserve a week’s break? 

Why is it that in our society, we stop looking at a mother as a human being? The moment she bears a child she is never ‘not a mother’ till her dying day. The best is that she does not act out of duty but intense love. Does she not deserve a break from her routine? Whether she is working or not it’s a mothers duty to look after her children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Most of it comes naturally to her but as a society can we all look at her and respect and support her in getting her downtime with herself? 

A wife, no matter how educated and empowered a woman may be, a woman tends to don the role of a mother after a few years of matrimony. Just the way she looks after her children, she starts to treat her husband almost similarly, nurturing comes naturally to her. The issue is not why women nurture but why is that nurturing taken for granted? Why is she made feel guilty, if she needs nurturing? 

The gender bias starts there. A woman is a human being first, a special being with a capacity to give more than the other gender. And all she requires is being acknowledged and respected for it.

There is a definition of dharma patni (ideal wife) in our scriptures; it says: 

Karyeshu dasi, Karaneshu manthri;

Bhojeshu mata, Shayaneshu rambha;

Kshamayeshu dharithri, Roopeshu lakshmi

Satkarma yukta, Kuladharma pathni.

The rough translation of the Sanskrit shlok is: A homemaker (wife) must be a good loyal worker; a good adviser like a minister of king’s court; a caretaker like a mother; romantic like apsara Rambha in the bedroom; a pardoner just like the goddess of earth; beautiful like goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and perfect duty minded one.

I still don’t know if there is a similar definition in the scripture of ‘a good husband’! 

The woman’s quality to be nurturing is so synonymous to her gender — be it human beings, animals or any species, hence we call all creation, mother nature. Nurturing, protecting, nursing and the ability to put the other before themselves is the beauty of being a woman.

And yet there have been exemplary cases like Rani Laxmibai who instead of performing ‘sati’ after her husbands death, tied her child on her back and climbed on a horseback and raised her sword ! Time and time again few women have made choices other than the roles dictated by the society to be who she wanted to be. But there are these examples far and few but a majority of the women over centuries have been manipulated by being worshipped as ideal wife’s and mothers. 

One cannot give what one does not possess, hence to raise a healthy balanced society, the women of the society have to be empowered and celebrated.

(Sonal Motla has curated Kala Ghoda 2020 with development and art as a theme and is currently working towards the issues on education on art, craft and design with a few educational institutions. Send your feedback to: sonal25fpj@gmail.com)

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