|Amitabh and Aishwarya: Right message'
Calcutta, Dec. 3: If men are from Mars, Angry Young Men are more so. Till the rebel grows older and learns to be afraid of the Red Planet.
Especially when it casts an evil eye on a woman he insists is not about to become his daughter-in-law.
Life was tough enough for India’s manglik women even before Amitabh Bachchan, entire family in tow, accompanied Aishwarya Rai to Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple.
The Mars jinx in their horoscope seen as a threat to their future husband, these women lived under a stigma as their families struggled to get them married.
Many fear that in a country where the Big B is an icon for unquestioning millions, last week’s yagna in Varanasi to “rectify” manglik Aishwarya’s horoscope will be seen as an endorsement of the Mars superstition.
Sanjay Chaddha, an MBA working for a textile firm in Calcutta, was cooing over his hero’s latest action. “He (Amitabh) is so big and yet so religious! That’s why he is what he is.”
But Purba Sengupta, an Indologist researching at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, warned against equating religion with ritual and astrology.
“There has always been a distinction between religion which deals with spirituality and astrology and Vaastu, which are utility-based,” Sengupta said.
“In Puranic times, dharma was the bigger concern. But there are references to kings performing yagnas for specific purposes like the Putreshthi Yagna to beget a son or Rajsuya Yagna to gain a kingdom.”
Nilanjana Gupta, who teaches English at Jadavpur University and has researched popular culture, pointed out the irony.
Amitabh’s son Abhishek – who may or may not be Aishwarya’s future husband -- had in his cameo in Lage Raho Munnabhai backed love, if not science, over astrology by accepting a manglik as his wife. On Monday, he was at the temple with the rest of the clan.
“A manglik,” astrologer Amrit Lal explained, “is so called because of the positions of Mangal (Mars) on his or her horoscope. Mangal can adversely affect the marital life of a man or woman.”
In practice, it affects women more. In a conservative society where the birth of a girl is often bemoaned rather than celebrated, parents consider a manglik daughter especially unlucky and a huge source of worry.
A north Indian woman in the city who wouldn’t be identified said she had to struggle for six years to find a husband for her manglik daughter.
“Finally I married her off to a man I wasn’t keen on. But my daughter knew I was getting worried and perhaps did it for my sake. I could only marry her to another manglik.”
In India’s heartland, brides and grooms come in two varieties: manglik and sadi (or sada if it’s a man), which means “neutral”. If two mangliks marry, they cancel out each other’s doshas (faults). But a manglik bride could bring disaster on a sada groom.
A manglik man need not be so worried -- after all, how much more bad luck could he bring to someone already born a woman' The husband of a manglik has cause to be afraid: being a man, he has more to lose.
“The man is the head of the family. His life and prospects can be affected by a manglik wife. But a woman doesn’t do much; so how’s her life to be affected'” reasoned the woman with the manglik daughter.
The fear of Mars unites India, from Punjab to Kerala to Gujarat. In Kerala, it’s known as chovva dossham, the worst flaw in a horoscope.
Acharya Marriage Bureau proprietor Mohan Nair said at least a tenth of the horoscopes he handles carry the Mars curse. “Many girls’ parents want us to suppress the defect, but we don’t do this because it will put couples’ lives at risk.”
Many mangliks advertise for manglik spouses on newspapers or web sites. One web site is devoted to manglik marriages alone.
Will “rectifying” the manglik dosha become the rage after Amitabh’s Varanasi adventure'
Some feel it’s unfair to criticise the star. “Going to a temple is his personal belief,” said Akhila Sivadas, head of the New Delhi-based media research organisation, Centre for Advocacy and Research. But many are outraged.
Probir Ghosh, general secretary of the Science and Rationalists’ Association, felt the actor’s action was “stupid” and set a wrong example.
Others only see the Angry Young Man’s surrender, not only to his advancing years but also to changed social trends.
“He was always a conservative, religious person. But when I came to know him in December 1990, Amitabh did not believe in astrology,” said Susmita Dasgupta, whose recent book Amitabh, The Making of a Superstar is a sociological study of Bachchan’s films.
The rebels and atheists the actor portrayed in the seventies and eighties would challenge any symbol of authority, including God, Dasgupta said. But rebellion became passe after liberalisation and the ageing Amitabh, wounded by the failure of his entertainment company ABCL, saw his fire go out.
“Especially after Kaun Banega Crorepati, he became a conformist,” Dasgupta said. “Instead of challenging God, he now seeks His blessings.”