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Woman on Top!


Bronze-winged Jacana, Coorg


If some of our male readers had the chance to become someone else and live that person’s life, we wouldn’t be surprised if they chose to bypass obvious culprits like ‘the world’s richest man’, and instead chose an Arab sheikh or emir with a harem of wives at his beck and call. Now if we were to give our women readers the same offer (and suggest the harem idea), chances are that they would balk…after all who has heard of women with harems? They’ve obviously not heard of the Bronze-winged Jacana, who takes women’s empowerment to the next level by keeping a retinue of husbands in her harem. But she’s not alone in her peccadillo! Among humans, Polyandry, or the practice of women having multiple husbands, was prevalent in some parts of the world, most notably in Tibet. In mythology too, there have been instances, the most celebrated of which was Draupadi, in the Indian Hindu epic Mahabharata, who took five husbands, albeit unwittingly. Coming back to the female Jacana, she’s much larger than the male, and, in her role-reversed, territorial social structure, competes with other females for harems of males to incubate their clutches of eggs. Much like the relationship between an emperor and his vassals, each female’s territory comprises up to four males and their territories. The males have absolutely no control over when they’ll be called to the conjugal bed, and in true harem style, try to draw attention to themselves in rather unsubtle ways that include loud ‘yells’. Advertising seems to work here as the male with the highest rate of yells usually gets the most ‘quality time’ with the female, and a chance to be selected as the ‘receiver’ of the clutch. While one wonders if this is what is meant by ‘animal husbandry’, one can’t help but applaud the female for turning the tables and living the adage that ‘variety is the spouse of life’!


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