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All in a Gamble Camelliasuman A few days back I was at a high-profile party along with a friend of mine. It was a Friday night, and all the ‘who’s who’ of town had come to enjoy and meet up with friends as well as make new friends. As I sauntered towards the bar (my only solace in such gatherings), I overheard a group of five men as they placed their wagers on a game of cards. Gambling is not something new to our society. Right from the age of the Mahabharata, we have seen the Pandavas gamble to win over land and territories. But what struck me was that at the end of the game, each of these men exchanged their super-expensive cars and their wives (yes, you heard me right!) and drive off to enjoy the rest of the weekend. I was shocked! I had heard of the practice of wife-swapping that has become a growing trend in today’s society, but to see it occur in front of my own eyes was dumbfounding. As I stood there in one corner of the room seeing the whole scene unfold in front of me, some of the waiters near me were talking avidly. Usually, I am not the kind of person who eavesdrops on other’s conversations, but this time I couldn’t refrain myself. After all these are the ones who know about this ‘wife-swapping’ in detail as they have seen it happen every week in front of their eyes. So, what happens is that every Friday night these elite and high-class people(mainly high-ranking corporate officials)* go partying at various reputed five-star hotels and indulge themselves in a bit of gambling; after all, they are the ones with all the money in the world. But what they put up as wager is where the twist in the story comes. Instead of betting money (which they have enough to waste), they bet their wives and expensive cars! Can you believe it? Wives and cars together act as wagers for the gamble. The winner gets to take the loser’s wife home (as well as the car) and do as he pleases for the night. What was more shocking for me was that there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the woman and the car in the eyes of the husband – have wives become only a commodity for these ‘stinking rich’ husbands? What right do they have to put up their wives as a wager? If you look in to the Mahabharata, Draupadi was also put up as a wager by her husbands, the Pandavas, and then they lost the game. What happened next is something very appalling – she was disrobed in front of the entire court while her husbands sat and watched quietly. Do we still live in the same era? Has there been no progress made as far as out treatment of women is concerned? We boast that we have changed and evolved from what we were a few hundred years ago to something that is completely different and better in many ways. But has the change necessarily been a positive one? When Draupadi was disrobed, she vehemently protested against it and pleaded to her husbands to call off the bet. But in today’s modern day and age, the wives willingly participate in such degrading bets. They are not even forced into the act – they give up their morality as if it were an extra shawl that they had put around their shoulders. As we advance and enter into ‘Kalyug’, we shed our ‘purdah’ of morality and many such virtues willingly to get tanned in the sunshine of advancement. And the last question that I would like to raise here is that why is it always women who have been used as wagers and bets? Why do we not hear men being used as wagers in the same way as women? Even in the 21st century where women are treated as prized possessions, men still seem to think that they have authority over them. Is this the kind of liberation that we envisioned for the women of our society? Today I implore you – take a few moments and think about what we, as a society, want to become in the future. Let us join together and bring about change that we all will proud of for the rest of our lives.

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All in a Gamble: