Maswood Alam Khan
Imagine a situation: “Only about a month after your father had died your mother married your uncle who had killed your father”. How would you feel? How tragic would be the situation for you? Yes, that was the tragedy William Shakespeare penned in Hamlet, one of his greatest plays of all time and perhaps among the most powerful and influential tragedies penned in the English language. The compelling tragedy of a tormented young prince continues to capture the imaginations of audiences worldwide. Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, was angry that his mother, Gertrude, had married his uncle Claudius within a month of his father’s death. One can imagine how Hamlet had felt when he learned that his uncle Claudius, who his mother married, was responsible for his father’s death.
In the drama, at the end of a passage, Hamlet in his soliloquy utters: “Let me not think on’—Frailty, thy name is woman!” Hamlet’s attitude towards his mom, we notice, spilled over to include all women, who, Hamlet assumes, are frail or morally weak. Hamlet’s utterance has thus become a catchphrase, rather a tool to offend the womenfolk, for all men of all ages to use against women whenever they find a woman not behaving in accordance with men’s fancies.
Yes, women are frail and delicate as they are the mothers. A mother’s sacrifice for her child cannot be compared with any sacrifice in the world. A woman is also a sister and a sister’s unalloyed love for her siblings cannot be compared with that of a brother. A woman is also a daughter and a daughter remains a daughter till she breathes her last. A woman is a wife too and a wife knows how to take care of her husband, especially in the Orient and particularly in the Indian Subcontinent. There are instances in our subcontinent where a bride, not many years back, used to throw herself on to her husband’s funeral pyre.
And a woman is a lover. Her love makes a man go mad. Her touch alleviates his pains. Her companionship makes a man lose his sense of time. Her encouragement drives a man to conquer the world. Her memory makes a man build a Tajmahal. Her inspiration motivates a man to be a poet or an inventor or a discoverer.
This morning I found myself round-eyed as I was reading a front-page news item reported by Reuters on the biggest mystery in the universe. A reporter of “New Scientist” magazine asked the wheelchair-bound Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge University professor and the author of “Brief History of Time” what he thinks about most. The great scientist who unraveled some of the most complex questions in modern physics answered: “Women. They are a complete mystery.” Stephen Hawking, who only recently retired from a post once held by Isaac Newton, was talking to the magazine about his biggest scientific blunders and his hopes for modern science on the eve of his birthday. A great physicist and a cosmologist who has been obsessed with black holes, Hawking, despite a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease that doctors said would kill him almost five decades ago, will be celebrating his 70th birthday on Sunday next.
We do not know why Stephen Hawking felt so impelled to term women as complete mystery! Maybe, he got confused with some women he knows from a close distance. Thank God, Hawking, like Hamlet, did not term the womenfolk frail and morally weak!
The character of women has been an unsolved mystery not only to Stephen Hawking but to the whole of mankind. Women may behave a bit mysteriously with men depending on the situation. But, when it comes to the upbringing of a child, a woman is a mysterious mother, the best caretaker of children. In fact, all females—humans or animals—are like that. Even if we look at wildlife we find it is always the females who take the greater brunt of responsibility of their wards.
Among the attempts made to explain the mystery of women’s beauty and character, the best, however, I find was the one made by our national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, who in his attempt to unfurl the mystery of women said: “Woman as created by God is a human being—such a description gives only half of her image because man’s fancy and imagination conjure up the other half”.
The author is based in Maryland. He may be reached at