Indian TV embraces real-life soap opera of wife, two husbands and unborn baby

Talk show television Oprah Winfrey-style has arrived in India with a vengeance. A sick, eight-months pregnant woman was cajoled in front of the cameras and forced to endure a seven-hour ordeal of public humiliation, as the studio audience combed every facet of the terrible dilemma she is facing with ill-restrained glee.

Even before Tuesday night, Gudiya's story was sad enough. Through no fault of her own, she faces an impossible choice between the husband she thought was dead, and the new husband whose child she is carrying. Her first husband went missing on active duty in the Indian army five years ago, and was presumed dead. After waiting years for him, Gudiya remarried.

It transpires that the missing husband was a prisoner-of-war in Pakistan. He has been released and wants her back. The trouble is he does not want the second husband's unborn child.

For the private Zee network, it was a dilemma made for television. Gudiya and both husbands were roped in to sit while a mock village council made up of studio audience members questioned them and then voted on what she should do. And all this in a country where only five years ago there were just three state-run television stations that produced a worthy mix of news, drama and Indian classical music. In fact, it emerged that one of Gudiya's relatives who took part in the Zee broadcast doesn't even own a television.

Indian society is changing extraordinarily fast. Oprah-isation is just the latest development. Long gone are the days when all that was on television was a lengthy broadcast of Ravi Shankar playing the sitar.

With the vast potential revenues to be made from advertising in a country of more than a billion people, have come networks only too eager to pander to the prurience of viewers. Gudiya's case has been seized on by a competitive market. Before Zee got hold of Gudiya, her sister had already been dragged from her bed at 3am by a camera crew from a rival network.

Because it is all so new, many Indians are naive about the potential that appearing on television in front of a mass audience has to damage their lives. By the end of the show, Gudiya was in despair, live on television. "I don't even know whether I will live or die," she said. Indian women's groups were already incensed at her treatment before the cameras got to her. She has said she wants to stay with her second husband, Taufiq. But Muslim clerics - she is a Muslim - had announced her second marriage was null, and told her to go back to her first husband, Mohammed Arif.

A real village council, a panchayat in Hindi, was held, and village elders ordered Gudiya to go back to Arif against her wishes. She was given no choice. Mr Arif said he did not want Taufiq's child, and she would have to give up the baby after it was born.

Gudiya fell ill from stress. "There is no love now," she said of her relationship with Mr Arif in an interview with The Indian Express. Taufiq told her he would accept her decision, whether she decided to stick with him or go back to Mr Arif. But in traditional Indian village society, she has little say in the matter.

Her story has shone light on the treatment women endure in a village society. From the moment Mr Arif returned, Gudiya's views were not taken into account. It was a dispute between Mr Arif, Taufiq and the men of Gudiya's family. She was a piece of property. When the dispute could not be resolved, it was put to thepanchayat to decide, and its rulings are usually considered final.

One of the few good things to come out of Zee's gruesome television spectacle was that Mr Arif said on air that he would allow Gudiya to keep her baby, but that when the child was "grown up", Taufiq would have to take him or her.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits