Sharing an email.
Hi. I would like to say that your blog has clarified a lot of things in my life, but the truth is that your blog has thrown me (and I am sure many many others like me) into confusion.. and that is the best part about it. That you make me question about whether I have the right to ask more… about whether what has been seen as my “selfishness” is just a plea to be understood and liked for myself.
I thought of myself as a passive feminist, (if there is something like that) hardly a revolutionary, till I was 24 and married. Till then I took equal work, equal pay as a matter of course, assumed that always regardless of gender stereotypes whoever can do the best job will do it, that merit will always make its own way, and that if you have a career then your skills inside the home are not very important etc. With both parents working, my father buying groceries, clearing the table after dinner, making breakfast early in the morning for us, sharing in a lot of household chores etc was taken for granted.
Then marriage happened(incidentally it was a love marriage) and it was brought home to me that I am a revolutionary. Initially I insisted on maintaining separate accounts for both of us, I expected that my parents and his would be treated on par (not the “now you are part of our family, and your parents are the girl’s parents attitude), then I expected that since I was working and contributing equally financially that we would share all the household chores as well, I insisted on getting a cook rather than cooking myself (I tried for the first 6 months and felt I couldn’t do it any more when I ended up spending all my time in the kitchen on the weekends) with a very demanding career I was unable to keep the house to the spic and span requirement of my husband (please note that it is still neater than a lot of other houses, but not up to the level of my husband’s house where my mother in law, a homemaker prides herself on her cleanliness). When my husband traveled, rather than packing his suitcase for him I assumed that he would do it and let me know if he needed anything, however later I realised that this was taken as a sign of my disinterest in him. I refused to wear the Sindoor, I do not believe in the mangalsutra but after a lot of gibes at me, I agreed to wear it.(I still get to hear from my husband about how”I do not appear to be married”).
Do not get me wrong, my husband is a very very nice person, genuine, friendly and affectionate. I am frequently told that I am lucky to be married to someone like him. However he is also traditional, conservative and has… let me say rock solid old world values which come into frequent conflict with my rock solid new age values as I am sure happens in a lot of marriages today.
Anyway, I realised to my horror sometime ago that I seemed to have a lot of similarities with the villainous daughters in law of India’s favourite serials not so long ago… leading me to have a lot of sympathy for these “villainesses”.
When thinking about the stereotypical villainess in the soap operas that enter (or used to enter) our rooms on a daily basis a few thoughts occurred to me.
I have to confess, back in 2000 or was it 1999 when Tulsi Virani made an entrance into our homes I too was an avid watcher. A few memories of the non sanskaari bahus back then (they usually got what they deserved by having their men have extra marital affairs with sanskaari women)–
The villainess. She enters wearing western clothes, revealing or non revealing. Even after marriage she retains the same clothes, eschewing the sari and the heavy jewellery that the sanskaari bahu wears. Since she is a “career woman”, she does not do seva of the elder members of the family, preferring instead to head to her workplace. There she is the typical ambitious b*****, talking down to men, insisting on getting her own way, being overbearing and bossy to ensure that the job gets done. (In more extreme cases she may even pull down an aged worker to show how un-respectful she is). Of course she is good at her work, another sign of how hopeless a daughter in law she is. She resents strictures on her behavior by the elders of the house frequently arrives late due to pressures of work and tends to treat her husband more as an equal than the holy pati- parmeshwar, sometimes even asking him to set dinner on the table or clear something up!! When her sanskaari jethani/mother in law tries to advise her on the importance of worshipping her husband and serving the family, that for an Indian woman the sindoor on her forehead is something that is more important than her life she is curt to the point of being rude. She may insist on staying apart from her in laws (or at least try to convince her in laws), travel on official trips without her husband and even interacts freely with male colleagues or friends.
The transition of the villainess into the sanskaari bahu is complete (usually after she has received her comeuppance with a slap from her husband or an extra marital affair) when she appears at 6:00 am in the morning in the kitchen, dressed in sari and jewellery, head discreetly covered to take her father in law his first cup of tea. She offers the tea; falls at his feet and her transgressions of daring to have a life outside the home is forgiven! Credits roll!
Bollywood still perpetuates these images with regularity… the movie that comes to mind immediately of course is the abolutely regressive, stereotypical Cocktail.
A couple of years ago, one of the leading stars of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna said in an interview that Rani’s character did not have an excuse for the extra marital affair… meaning that SRK’s character did… since his wife was career oriented, successful, upfront and made no bones about her husband’s failures? Does anything justify an extra marital affair?
Please note, I have stopped watching these serials for the past few years, so I sincerely hope that the above is outdated and obsolete :)
If you do end up putting any of this email on your blog and are including any of the personal information in the first couple of paragraphs, do keep it anonymous, since unfortunately :) I am not that much of a revolutionary.
Thank you for your blog!
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