Reclaim the churail, the dhandhewali, and all the vile and reviled women!
Loved Pakistani writer Moni Mohsin’s blog, where she presents the churail or the witch as a symbol of defiance, power and in-your-face sexuality.
Note that a woman is always a witch, while a man is generally a wizard or a magician, and seldom a sorcerer.
Reclaiming the churail is a powerful idea, and needs to be extended to all women reviled by history and society, which viewed them from a rigid male-perspective lens.
This includes the dhandewalis and nachnewalis – they may have been forced into the trade of the body, or the business of display, by their circumstances. But many rose above them to control their lives. Some even scorned the misery they were born into, and acquired talents like poetry, literature, music, and dance, through learning and riyaz. Unlike the respectable housewives of their times, they didn’t have the husband of a patriarchal structure to provide for them and keep them molly-coddled within the ramparts of a home. By default, they had to secure their own financial independence. Thousands of years before women’s liberation was even coined.
And at a time when the options available to the female class were severely circumscribed – writing or purses for the privileged and talented, teaching or governess work for the genteel and middle-class, and servant-ship for the most economically deprived.
Don’t let dhandhewali be a bad term, finally it also means any woman with a business of her own. She was never an unqualified villain, or merely a ‘fallen woman’, and neither was the witch