lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Other Woman

There was an old fellow of Lyme
Who lived with three wives at one time.
When asked, 'Why the third?'
He replied, 'One’s absurd,
And bigamy, sir, is a crime.'

Polygyny is a male trait
. It is a biological imperative. Males need to spread their seed far and wide. Females need a strong mate to help raise their offspring, so they choose the best possible mate and tend not to stray. This is so for animals and humans.

Kings and noblemen had multiple wives and odalisques. These multiple marriages were mostly political alliances. What better way to ally with another kingdom than by marrying the princess? Even Yudhishtira, my favourite character in Mahabharata, had a second wife, a political expedient.

Now, monogamy is the norm. There is legislation that makes monogamy the only option. Where once it was perfectly acceptable for a man to have many wives if he could support them, it is now illegal to have more than one wife.

But that doesn't mean human nature changes. Men will still indulge in multiple relationships if they have a chance to do so, whether it is a one-night stand or a long-lasting affair. Literature and films have explored this theme of fascination for the forbidden, time and again. Adultery, affairs and eternal triangles are stock themes.

One woman is then, the Other Woman. She is usually called the home-breaker. She is frowned upon.

Whenever I consider the Other Woman, I think of Rangajamma.

She was a courtesan and court poetess. She was accomplished in arts and could compose spontaneous poetry. Her Mannarudasa Vilasam was a blatantly sycophantic deification of her king, Vijayaraghava Nayaka. She caught the fancy of the king, enchanted him with her wit, and he took to spending all his time with her, making her his unofficial wife.

The Queen was miffed, and sent a snippy message. Rangajamma's amused reply was an extempore poem.

"E vanital mamum dalapa nemipano? Tamaaruduvaarugaaro? Valapinchu nerperungaro? Tama kougitilona nundagaa raavademiraa vijayaraaghava yanchiludoori balmiche deevarakattenai penagi deesukuvachitinaa talodari?"

"Why need any woman take my name? Is she not a woman? Does she not know how to beguile? Have I broken into her house and wrested him away from her embrace like a shrew?"



Blogger Manoj said...

hmmm...polygyny... buy how has this become such a special topic??? I personally feel that sexual desires are just like any other desires... You need to taste many before choosing the best that suits you... sorry, I am not speaking any religion, but I feel it this way...

6:01 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

Mannarudasa Vilasam is not all sycophancy. It has some lovely poetry and brilliantly observed descriptions. You do Rangajamma an injustice, Lali.

6:02 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Manoj- Hi. I wasn't talking about desires or appetites as such but the nature of things. And yes, as you pointed out, it has got nothing to do with religious sanctions. Men tend towards polygyny was the statement. Provocative but true nevertheless.

Ash- Ah ha. I did nothing of the sort. I was being kind by omitting to mention her poetry was pathetic. Well-observed documentation of wedding rites doesn't make for brilliant poetry. No matter what she claimed she was capable of and claimed to have accomplished, the extant volumes tell me she was mediocre. I wish they could find the rest of the stuff she claimed she wrote so I can sneer properly at her. Muddupalani she is not.

10:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what are views about polyandry, Lali?


Secret admirer.

12:05 am  
Blogger I said...


11:15 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Secret admirer, please name yourself. I will hold forth about my views on polyandry then.

I- But of course, yes.

11:25 pm  
Blogger I said...

WTH wants marraige. Just sex is good. kingdom or not.

11:29 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

I- That, too.

12:39 pm  
Anonymous Prophet of Doom said...

@ Lalita:

Men will still indulge in multiple relationships if they have a chance to do so, whether it is a one-night stand or a long-lasting affair.

I said this before and I say it again - You may generalize, but don't stereotype ..

10:59 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- Okay. Guilty as charged, I admit it.

12:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your name indicates you are a bengali.How could you read mannarudasu vilasamu by Rangajamma?I agree with your views about monogamy.


10:18 am  

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