We, the people of this country take pride in our civilization and heritage. However, India may also be bigoted, archaic and immensely patriarchal. Salma’s story epitomizes the pitfalls of our values. A young woman, who grew up in a conservative Muslim family had to fetter her goals, yet she never gave up her dreams. Islam happens to be a conservative religion, where change is difficult, evolution frosty.
Salma wanted to break the barriers of bigotry and fanaticism. She stood for the change, we all want to see, but never want to be. She didn’t wish to get married as education was her topmost priority. However, her family especially her mother thought otherwise. Salma’s mother wanted her to follow the convention, conform to filial and familial duties and live an orthodox life. Salma did not budge, and was too stubborn to change her stance. Hence she was duped into marriage by her mother, who emotionally blackmailed her to achieve her purpose.
Salma was incarcerated for a long time in her own house for not listening to her family. Post marriage, again for a long period of time, she was treated in a similar manner by her in laws. Her husband threatened to commit suicide if Salma failed to cripple her artistic pursuits. Salma was a lover of literature, who found creative solace in poetry. She was a talented poet in Tamil, and even before marriage her work had found traction among the literary minds in Tamil Nadu.
However, our society speaks with a forked-tongue. Hence tradition is revered as long as it suits our purpose. Hence the same Salma, who once was kept under perennial house detention was encouraged by her husband to take a plunge into politics. He wanted to acquire power, and his wife became a means of achieving his coveted purpose. Salma seized the opportunity with both hands and participated in politics, another patriarchal backyard of our constitutional democracy. She won the Panchayat elections and successfully represented the local self government.
Her talent did not go unnoticed and soon she was given an important responsibility by the DMK Government of the state. Today, she happens to be a source of inspiration for the womenfolk of her state and the country. She has epitomized the emancipation of women like no other. Salma gets invited to conferences from different parts of the world and her linguistic limitation hasn’t dettered her from attending them. She is today a women rights activist with a vision for herself and her compatriots.
Her family may appear villainous, but it is important to understand the layers and sub layers of Indian society. Seeing Salma from the prism of cosmopolitanism is erroneous. The bigotry of our society is deep-rooted and there is no panacea to this archaic mindset. Things are changing slowly. And we will require irreverent rebels like Salma to accelerate the change. Salma’s family today has caved in and though not fully repentant, respects her choices. King Longinotto’s documentary ‘Salma’ emboldens the narrative of a changing India. David has truly overwhelmed Goliath.