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Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9 2014 Jodha Akbar | The Miasmatic (Step)Mother

Hi Friends,

I was a bit surprised by the shock expressed over Ruqaiyya's initiation of Salim to opium. The incident in itself is shocking and deplorable, especially as it is being shown in excruciating detail at prime time. True, no adult, least of all, a "mother" figure should ever abuse a child's trust or harm a child for his/her own benefit. But, Ruqaiyya is NOT Salim's biological mother. She is, as good as, a stepmother to him. And stepmothers have been known to be evil since ages in literature, mythology, folklore and cultural traditions.

It was a motherly figure Kaikeyi who got Sri Rama banished for 14 long years so that her son could become the heir. Devavrata took the terrible oath of lifelong celibacy to become Bheeshma so that the children born to his stepmother Satyawati could become Kuru heirs. Snow White's stepmother sought to kill her out of sheer jealousy of her beauty. Cindrella's stepmother used her as a maid. 

In Jodha Akbar itself, the mother figure, Mahamanga, (a foster mother, not even a stepmother) emotionally brainwashed a young Jalal and kept him under her control by making him feel eternally grateful to her for her services. Mahamanga was astute enough to NOT require any drugs to control Jalal. She achieved her mission covertly without anyone being able to point any fingers at her.

Ruqaiyya, who was never in the same league as Mahamanga, has been unable to emotionally "control" Salim, tied as he is strongly to his own mother. She has therefore recoursed to the use of opium. This act is condemnable but not shocking if one considers the character of the reel Ruqaiyya and the level of imagination of the CVs. 

Just as most evil stepmothers are usually never punished but, at most, meet their nemesis in a natural manner or are left unaccounted for at the end of the story, this reel Ruqaiyya too shall probably be left unaccounted for her sins at the end of the show. 

The fact that the real Ruqaiyya never actually did this and that Salim became a victim of alcohol and drug abuse much later in life as a result of his own folly has enabled me to grit my teeth and bear this natakiya rupantar too. Personally I like to think that Salim being the first surviving child of Akbar must have been much pampered by all the women in the harem, especially the chief queens. 

Actually, when we look at the character of the reel Ruqaiyya last year, she would never ever do anything to jeopardise the safety of the Mughal emperor or the empire. Why would such a woman endanger the future of the empire by making the wali-ahad a drug addict? The CVs clearly do not bother about such trivial logical details.

Last Post:  November 7 2014 Jodha Akbar | Meandering Musings on Mughal Relations

You all are welcome to share your views, and discuss the episode... 
This article has been posted under the  Jodha-Akbar section of  history_geek's BLOG.

history_geek has updated the historical information related to children of Akbar and Mariam-Uz-Zamani here.>
Children of Akbar and Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum     

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  1. Great post dear.....

  2. I don't say that all the stepmothers can be bad all the time.....

    But for Ruqaiyya's case....I have this thing-------

    Better a serpent than a stepmother!

  3. Nice post Radhika and completely agree with you. Personally for me the shock was not on ruq administering opium or she being an addict herself as she has always been shown truly heartless .But it was more on terms of how could a show in primetime show a child being drugged in all possible ways and as you said she is definitely going to get off with this too. so what purpose does it serves by bringing in such deplorable acts when as a nation we are already battling against so many crimes perpetrated on innocent children.

  4. Radhika, I am a big fan of your write-ups that are simply brilliant. This particular one beautifully elucidates your logical, sensitive and pragmatic views on the mindset and attitude of a malicious step mother. It also indirectly deals with the social menace of drug abuse that has been openly and casually incorporated into the historical story-line.

    Yes, I fully agree that Rukaiyya, the step mother is the embodiment of evil, and has no motherly feelings whatsoever towards Salim. She is jealous of Jodha and has no qualms about drugging Salim, with 'afeem' or opium, just to be able to bring him under her control and also cause Jodha unhappiness. However, I also believe that not all step-mothers are as wicked, sinful, scary and detestable as Rukaiyya. There are loving stepmothers in this world, who love and emotionally bond with another woman's child as their own.

    My concern is not about the person responsible in drugging, as much as the act in itself. I saw no need for the Creatives, to incorporate such a distasteful and horrendous scene in a popular historical show. Even if this abominable incident had indeed really occurred four hundred and fifty years ago, still there was no need for the makers to explicitly show opium being mixed with milk and sweets and being fed to a little prince, by a queen, who is seen gloating over her triumph. Definitely there are several other less disgusting and impactful methods of displaying villainy.

    Don't the makers of the serial, BT and the channel telecasting the show ZEE TV have a moral and social responsibility towards their viewers? Television has a powerful visual impact on its viewers, especially the youth. There are thousands in India and across the world, watching this popular show, some of who, may understand the dangerous repercussions of drug use, yet there are several others who may get influenced by the content seen on TV. Why give unnecessary ideas to the younger generation?

    It surprises me that the Film Censor Board has strict rules pertaining to showcasing smoking, use of alcohol and drugs for filmmakers. They are compulsorily required to flash "statutory warning" signs while displaying such scenes. Why is it that television that has a much wider audience reach, is getting away scot-free with a blatant display of drug abuse?


  5. Loved Your Post Radhika.

  6. awesome writeup Charu. Agree with u.

  7. Thanks, Abhay!

    Mithridates again! I remember you mentioned him during the vishkanya posts days...I think he was immune to poison and later he tried to commit suicide by drinking poison but was unable to do so? Something like that? Or was it something else altogether? You know I have an awful memory. Pls refresh it. :)

  8. I agree with Abhay and everyone here. There are 2 issues here:

    1. Can a stepmother do such a horrendous act?
    We all agree, yes, she can.

    2. Should such an act be shown on prime time TV?
    We all agree, NO, such acts of making a child a drug addict shouldn't be shown so casually on TV, esp when the person responsible for making the child an addict will in all probability go scot-free. This will send a wrong message to both children, who may want to do such experiments, and adults, who may want to imitate such acts on kids in real life.

    I am not sure if Ruq herself takes opium. If she does and is shown to have no side effects, then that is also a wrong signal.

    Btw, it's not an offshoot of the show but hookah clubs are becoming popular in cities like Delhi and even in US, I heard.

  9. One thing is that these CVs skip thru happy occasions like Jodha's return to Agra, her pregnancy and Salim's birth, etc. But they stretch the negative tracks like the twins' demise and this opium addiction for weeks.

    Speaks volumes about the insensitivity of the CVs and their penchant for the ugly side of life.

    The best thing is to stop watching the show so that TRPs fall and the show is shut down.

  10. Charu,

    You know Japanese cartoon shows are also censored by Indians. Whenever the adults are shown drinking or smoking, the drink is called "juice" and the cigarette is stamped out by a band.

    When we can censor foreign cartoons, why not Indian TV shows?

    At the end of the day, it's also important to have self-censorship by a responsible production house. They should not have to be told by a censor board what NOT to portray to a family audience.

    I fully agree with your post. See my responses above.

  11. Priya,

    I agree. This show earlier specialized in showing degrading treatment of women and has now started showing criminal acts against children.

    Pls see my responses above.

  12. Lasya and Charu,

    I agree, not all stepmothers are bad. Most are good too or at least, not bad.

    I spoke about how stepmothers are viewed. This is also sad how the cliche of stepmothers being evil is presented ad nauseum in popular culture and stories.

    You may be aware. My mother used to say that stepmothers and mothers-in-law are always considered bad. Even if they try to be good, their intentions are suspected.

  13. Radhika,
    Plz check the draft asap. Thanks.

  14. I totally second you....

  15. It's not just a post Radhika, u r pouring ur heart. I completely agree with u. n Charu. I just cannot believe a childless mother shown to be loving Salim can do such a thing to him. The poison is not in Ruqaiyya, it is in the mind of writers. its disgusting, deplorable that such a thing is shown on prime time on a reputed channel, where there is certainly a risk of children immitating it. We already hv so much drug menance in our country, where dons use new ideas to lure small children into doing drugs, this one is certainly uncalled fr shud hv been censored.We certainly need to raise our voice against showing such scenes fr the sake of tTRP or whatever reason.
    The thing that we r sure Ruqs won't be punished, it's certainly going to send wrong signals.Also, it will rob the children with good step mother, off the trust they have in their mother.

  16. I completely agree with you, Geeta.


    Abhay please feel free to correct me. I'll share what I remember. 

    Mithridates VI   Eupator of Pontus was a brilliant toxicologist. At the time if his father's assassination (poisoning) , he was very young and was forced to go into hiding. His stepmother Laodice VI retained the power as a regent and preferred the younger son to become the king. While in hiding, he worked on his skills that later  helped him become Mithtidates the great, one of the  most feared rival of the mighty Roman Empire. He could speak more than 25 languages ( the Ptolemy Pharoah Cleopetra could master only 9) . Methirates learnt toxicology and started taking increasing sub lethal doses poison    ( friends, don't try this at home) until he felt he could tolerate lethal doses. He constructed a universal antidote Antidotum Mithridatacum which was used extensively for hundreds of yrs, under the name Theriac. He eventually removed his stepmother from power. She died in prison. He fought several wars with Rome and was finally defeated by the famous Roman General Pompey. Following the defeat, he attempted to kill himself with poison but could not because of his body's immunity to poisons( Personally, I don't think that he was immune to all poisons.... Maybe just the ones that were commonly available in Asia minor..this is just a theory based on my understanding of immunology). He then requested a loyal servant to kill him with a sword. 

    Speaking about step mothers, here are  my views  on the relationship between the most beautiful  Egyptian Queen, Nefertiti and the most famous Pharoah  Tutankhamen ( his popularity has nothing to do with his achievements as a Pharoah but with the moolah found next to his mummy) . There is a small group of Egytologists who claim that Nefertiti was King Tuts real mother. But recent DNA evidence seems to indicate that she was most likely his step mother. Of course, when it comes to ancient Egypt we can't consider DNA conclusive because of interbreeding. Most likely Tuts mother was  Kiya ( her mummy is called "the younger lady"), pharaoh Ankenaten's first wife( also his real sister). To me this makes sense and explains why the shrewd and power obsessed queen Nefertiti got her daughter married to this weak child with multiple congenital deformities ( thanks to interbreeding), after the death of Ankenaten. Most texts claim that she had six daughters and no male child. She herself tried to rule as a pharoah. Some say that Pharoah Neferneferuaten is actually Nefertiti. Though, there are other examples of female Pharoahs ( Hatshepsut and the last Pharoah Cleopetra ), but females were not always acceptable as Pharoahs. More so if the priests ( very powerful in Ancient Egypt politics) strongly opposed her. Nefertiti's times were turbulent and she faced a lot of opposition from Amun priests because her role in the very unpopular religious revolution started by her husband, the heretic king Ankenaten. Tut was probably more acceptable and now as  her son-in-law, she had more access and influence on this 9yr old frail child who died at a young age of 19. All this fits better with Nefertiti's personality. 

    But not all step mothers are evil. The famous ones are mostly ambitious royal ladies who were no different from the men in their families or part of folk tales and disney movies. Can't help but mention the name of Hanna, an old testament biblical character and mother of Prophet Samual, who was taunted and ostracized for being barren by the second wife Pininnah and her children. Though Hanna was the chief wife loved by her husband, she always took the higher road and never treated them poorly. 

  18. Great post Radhika. I tried answering your question on Mithridates.
    Couldn't help writing abt Nefertiti....a very complex and fascinating character.
    Agree with your views here. I vented a lot on the forum. Don't hv the energy to write more on this disgusting track.

  19. Hi Cleo,

    Nice to see you here. :D

    Thank you for these details. I wanted to reply to Radhika but let me tell that, in my mind i thought of you as this topic was discussed by all of us about this king on IF during the Vishkanya track. It revived the memories, when we could freely discuss history there.

    Yes, you are completely correct in explaining Mithridates VI Eupator..

    He developed resistance to poison during his childhood "himself" , and when he decided to commit suicide in the end to escape the enemies, that time he did not die. Bad for him.!!.

    But Laodice VI was his mother only. She was a traitor as she favored the Romans and Pontus became quite weak under her, due to corruption which had her safe sanctuary, as she herself was used to accepting costly presents from Romans, their enemy. His husband left the kingdom to be ruled by her with help from Mithridates VI and Chresthus. But, she preferred Chresthus. So much that, Mithridates VI had to run away and went into hiding in jungles.

    On returning later, Mithridates VI had to imprison his mother, and she died later. He executed his brother Chresthus, though he gave a state funeral to them with respect.

    Especially, his antidote is worth mentioning. English call it with his name only - Mithridate.
    I was very interested in his wars with the Mighty Romans. He is reffered to as the "Enemy of Roman Empire".

  20. I remember discussing this during vishkanya track. Good old days when history discussions were allowed on that site.
    Do u know why she preferred the younger son? Roman empire was very powerful even in those days . And they were ruthless. I read that crucification was the punishment of choice is such a painful way to die. Sometimes takes days. No wonder their enemies preferred other means. It is ironic that this brilliant toxicologist couldn't find the right toxin when he needed it the most.

  21. Cleo,

    You are completely right abour this. And why this King still strikes me a lot, is because of his "invention" and also fighting the mighty Romans after Pontus was weakened a lot, due to his mother's hand in glove nature with the Romans. No, i have not been able to figure out why she wanted Chresthus to be the heir, though Mihtridates VI was elder.

    Though, Mihtridates still comes across a good son, as he gave state funeral to his mother. He was a visionary ruler, and ensured that, the reigns of the kingdom remains in his own DIRECT family, so he even married his own sister.!!

    It seems, for him, his STATE was before anything. :)

  22. Hey Radhika!
    As usual, amazing write up!

  23. Thanks Abhay and Cleo! I didn't expect such a detailed answer :) Wonderful discussion between you two :)

  24. Awesome post Radhika.
    Completely agree with you.

    You have listed all points quite plausibly. I would add the case of the gretest Pontus King, Mithridates VI, who was running away from his OWN mother for his life..!!!!. The reason was the THRONE of Pontus.!!.
    Though, he came our successfully and rose to become the greatest king of Pontus and also, his struggle with the Romans is worth mentioning.

    So, we see, nothing is a writing on the wall.

    Only thing is, they should have shown it as a Voiceover, rather showing it with minute details. :)