Does the right to say ‘no’ belong only to the fair sex? Does the man not have the right to say no? If and when he says ‘no’, does he not mean ‘no’? Why do I ask, you say? Well let me narrate to you this incident.

There was this little cottage in a serene forest, by the river, where lived a tall, dark and handsome young man. He lived there happily with his wife and younger brother. One day, a young widow* came that way. On seeing this good looking man, she fell in love him! She was a pot-bellied lady with protruding eyes and had long nails. She approached him and said, “My name is Shurpanakha. I have highly placed powerful brothers and they have mighty armies.” Then she went on to confess her love for him and proposed to marry him.

The young man said,

“कृत दारो अस्मि भवति भार्या इयम् दयिता मम |
त्वत् विधानाम् तु नारीणाम् सुदुःखा ससपत्नता || ३-१८-२
“I am happily married to my dear wife Seeta. Oh honorable one, I don’t think you will be happy to be a co-wife.

“Since I cannot marry you, why don’t you rather marry my younger brother?”

The lady trotted over to the younger brother, Lakshamana and proposed to marry him instead. Amused by her quick change of heart, Lakshamana said, “I am after all the the servant of Rama. If you marry me you too shall be a servant. Why don’t you better go back to him with your proposal?”

Shurpankha, with wavering feelings for both men, finally decided to settle for the elder one. Since Rama wouldn’t marry her as long as his wife was alive, she said,

“अद्य इमाम् भक्षयिष्यामि पश्यतः तव मानुषीम् |
त्वया सह चरिष्यामि निःसपत्ना यथा सुखम् || ३-१८-१६
Let me eat this wife of yours, right in front of your eyes. Once she is gone, you will become free from her. Then we both can make merry without the botheration of a co-wife.”

So saying she rushed towards the wide eyed terrified Seeta. Seeing that Shurpanakha was a cannibal, Lakshamana, stopped her from harming Seeta and punished Shurpanakha by cutting off her nose.

Wailing loudly, she who refused to take ‘no’ for answer, ran to her brothers Khara and Dushana for help. They along with their army attacked the duo Rama and Lakshmana. So much for saying ‘No’ to unwanted advances of a woman.

As it happened, they were no match for Rama and Lakshmana. Khara and Dushana were killed in the ensuing battle.

Shurpanakha went to seek help from another brother – Ravana. Though he heard her woes, he didn’t really give in to her call for a revenge. So Shurpankha said, “Brother, you should seek Rama’s beautiful doe eyed wife. She is fit only for a king like you. You must abduct her, and have her as your wife.”

The rest is Ramayana for you.

Feminists today try to paint Shurpankha as a damsel in distress! How hard they try to paint the perpetrator as a victim.

So here is Shurpankha, a lady who cannot make up her mind as to whom she should marry. Like a pendulum her heart goes out to Rama, then to Lakshmana and then back to Rama. She, who is a cannibal, is ready to devour Seeta. She not only threatens Rama, but also sends her brothers to attack him. And when everything fails she entices Ravana to abduct Rama’s wife. (What kind of woman is Shurpankha, who unleashes such terror against another woman? )

Yet, today’s feminist lament at Shurpankha being punished. Change the gender of the people involved in this event, and you will have feminists clapping their hands for punishing a man who would not take ‘no’ for an answer.

*BTW, did you know that Shurpankha’s husband Vidyut Jihva was killed by Ravana? More about his ‘brotherly’ love at another time.

– Deepali Patwadkar

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