70. Water (2005) — Finally got to watch this film, my first from Deepa Mehta’s controversial oeuvre. It was less piercing than I thought it would be, but exceeded my expectations in its beauty, sharpness and hope. Ah, a gem. For the uninitiated, Water tells the tale of a colony of Indian widows. They have been tossed out of hearth and home and left to their own devices in an ashram in order to lead a “life” of bitter self-denial. Shunned by society as unclean and forbidden from honest labour or remarriage (unless to a younger brother of the departed), they are forced into beggary and even prostitution — at whatever age — to make ends meet. Note that since child brides are not uncommon, an outcast widow need not have hit puberty to be shunted into an ashram. The practice still exists in some parts of the country.
I sometimes indulge in the clichéd thought that we live in “modern times”, so certain ways of thought are hopelessly outdated and completely abandoned, for better or worse. But the reality for one (is one) too many women, children and fools is dastardly archaic and brutal. A hundred miles can make all the difference. Since no one can really know what the widows have “done” to deserve their fate, why are they bothered? I have to agree that economics must be the reason, a practicality that distorts religion for gain or just one fewer mouth to feed.
To have your wings clipped before you even know how to dream, when you only know of simple pleasures — and even those will be denied for a disappointing lifetime … How did all this begin? Face the truth and set the living shrouded free, gorramit. “I used to think that god is truth. Now I know that truth is god.” Instead of blind devotion, devote yourself to the voice of conscience. “… and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”