The last year of the century has been terribly bewildering. First it was the sight of all those mothers and widows of soldiers killed in Kargil saying how proud they were of their men's martyrdom. Then the fisherwomen of Orissa filled the TV screens, clueless about what they were going to do after the cyclone. And now it is a woman called Charan Shah who burned alive on her husband's funeral pyre in Mahoba.
The police says she committed suicide, the family says she committed sati, the media says the family drove her to it. And the report of a fact-finding group of women says it is all a creation of the media.
All one knows is that destruction stalks our women as though there is no tomorrow. It is not the dwindling numbers of women in India (down to 929 women to 1,000 men at last count) that make you feel a little less real each day. We seem to belong to a country, a language, a culture that does not really give a damn for its poor and helpless.
How does one, sitting in New Delhi, speak authoritatively about and analyse her death at the...