I have selected the story of Bopoluchi, a folktale from Indian region of Punjab. The story is from a collection of folktales from Tales of Punjab: Folklore of India by Flora Annie Webster Steel. You can read the story here.
It is the story of a brave young woman named Bopoluchi, who saves herself from the clutches of a thief who forcefully wanted to marry her.
The story begins with the usual chit-chat of young girls who have come to draw water from the village well. They discuss their impending wedding and elaborate wedding arrangements. They go on to discuss the dowry arranged by their respective uncles.
It shows the significance of the of marriage for women in the Indian society for centuries. The giving of dowry (gifts or money) to the groom on behalf of the bride’s family is an ancient practice in India. Giving and receiving dowry is prohibited in modern India, but it is still practiced widely with often tragic consequences for women.
Often women commit suicide because their family could not arrange dowry payments or have been burnt alive by the groom and his family as their dowry demands were not adequately met.
Bopoluchi is an orphan and has no one who can arrange the marriage for her. She lies that her uncle will arrange wedding gifts for her. A thief overhears this conversation and comes disguised as the uncle of Bopoluchi. He asks her to pack her belongings as he wants her to get married to one of his sons.
The story shows the power of the male masculinity over the females. Males can have their way and influence women to follow them. The young girl being an orphan also aggravates her plight where she needs the support of the man to survive and provide legitimacy to her existence.
The poor and innocent girl packs her meager belongings and goes away with the thief.
On the way, she meets a crow, a peacock and a jackal who warn Bopoluchi about the real intentions of the thief disguised as her uncle.
The crow, peacock, and jackal represent her inner consciousness and intuition that all is not well and she is being trapped. Bopoluchi ignores those voices as women we are conditioned to distrust and suppress our internal judgment skill and steered towards the masculine way of thinking based on rationality and logic.
After reaching home, the robber asks his old mother to keep an eye on the young Bopoluchi so she can not run away. This again reflects our patriarchal society which is based on control and repression. Men and women are both conditioned by the patriarchal structures, and both perpetuate it in their ways.
Bopoluchi manages to kill the old women and comes back to her village. This is in itself symbolic of the disregard for old and the inevitability of death.
She stays with her friends place for a month but eventually decides to sleep at her own house. The thief manages to find her and abducts her with the help of three other men in the middle of the night. She manages to kill all four men alone and goes back to the thief’s house and collects all his wealth so that she can marry anyone she pleases.
The story beautifully depicts the tale of personal courage, bravery and individual risk-taking by a lone woman in the man’s world. The young girl also decides to live life on her terms and marry by her own choice.
She says ‘no’ to a relationship she doesn’t want rather than being forced by the circumstances she is entrapped into.
“And one day she discovered that she was fierce and strong, and full of fire and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.” – Mark Anthony