“If a girl has done MBBS or IAS, I can understand that she did not get time to learn cooking. But it’s strange how you, a mere journalism post graduate, failed to do so.”

Sharing an email.

Dear Indian Homemaker,

Thanks for running this blog. It’s therapeutic. :)

Please find below one of the many incidents after my marriage that began to crush me, until I rebelled (in my own unique way), that I hope you will post on your blog.

I cooked the first meal at my in-laws’ house within the first week of the marriage. My mother-in-law had been well informed by my husband that I had never tried my hand at cooking before the wedding. And the wedding, despite my subdued protests, had been arranged within a month of the hurriedly organised roka ceremony, leaving me no time to learn enough cooking. Not that I considered skill at cooking a per-condition to marriage.

So when I braced myself to cook that first meal, I was definitely expecting help from the MIL. I expected her to stand beside me and give directions. None of that happened. So I called up my mother and quickly asked her how to proceed.

The directions taken, I prepared the dish – French Beans and potato. Thankfully, it did not turn out to be a disaster but, as I got to know in a short while, was left a bit undercooked.

I agree that a half-baked meal spoilt an evening. (But a smarter Mil would have cooked one more dish to survive the meal. She didn’t.)

But how is this statement given by my MIL justified? – “If a girl has done MBBS or IAS, I can understand that she did not get time to learn cooking. But it’s strange how you, a mere journalism post graduate, failed to do so.”

I am working a leading national daily as a staff reporter.

Updated to add:

And an email from ‘a girl who has done MBBS’:

I  make decisions that could result in the life or death of a patient but in my personal life  has little control over my own self and hence little autonomy of my own.”

Related Posts:

New women in old marriages - Careless Chronicles

How to be a Sanskari Bahu – Careless Chronicles
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114 thoughts on ““If a girl has done MBBS or IAS, I can understand that she did not get time to learn cooking. But it’s strange how you, a mere journalism post graduate, failed to do so.”

  1. It isn’t justified. And I have begun to lose sympathy for women who allow other people to decide that they should live in other people’s houses (and also allow other people to decide when their wedding is going to be held) and try to make meals to prove that they are women. Where’s the husband in all this? And frankly, did the husband ever make any food in your parents’ home, undercooked or not?

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    • I can understand your outrage, but one does not allow things, they just happen. In India a girl’s cooking skills are tested the day she moves into her marital home. There are many people who are part of this judgement process. They are all the ones who will taste the food and pronounce judgement. The new bride would be wearing a heavy sari and heavy accessories, often with head covered. Alone she will be cooking the dishes, with or without any facility or help. The husband is always missing from this scene and found mingling with the guests. According to them “athithi devo bhava!” You see he is also part of the crowd who is waiting to judge his wife. He is indifferent and insensitive to everything his bride has to face. Often he is very weak to stand up for himself, leave alone standing up for his new bride. It becomes worse when the girl comes from another community where food habits are different. After everyone eats and burps, one by one the pronouncements start. The bride has to be prepared for the verdict.

      Please don’t judge the woman so harshly. We have to sympathize with her. She has been conditioned to take all this nonsense right from the cradle. It is she vs the whole gang of intimidating elders. To be able to stand up for herself she will need some support. You can be sure the girl is not empowered in anyway. What could she possibly do, given the scenario?

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      • Surely opening your mouth before the wedding helps? Knowing whom you are going to marry and ensuring you marry the person you want to WHEN you want to. I think we ourselves have to rise out of our victim status. If a slave agrees to be a slave, why would an owner willingly free him? It’s much easier to put your foot down with your parents than with strangers (in-laws). I simply do not understand. I understand the pressure, because I faced it too but I put my foot down when it mattered because I knew I’d have no respect for myself left otherwise. Why can’t other well educated women with good jobs do it? I’m an ordinary woman – hardly a spectacular specimen!

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        • The point being this seems to be a woman who knows it’s wrong. She seems to be educated and financially independent. Honestly, putting your foot down is more and more important in the recent days when the younger generation of women are going out, working, getting educated basically demanding to have a say and the older generation of women are still bound by patriarchy and power struggles. I have seen good men, husbands, independent free thinkers who also encourage their wives. But their mothers still see them as little boys and hence try to always dump their opinions on everything single thing from how to carry a bag to what to buy/not buy for the house. So even if the man is a free thinker, encouraging and independent – the mother can be a little stifling. The sooner you stand up and put your foot down the better. It’s nice to make adjustments once in a while. When more than one individual co-exist – be they in-laws or parents – some amount of adjustment might be required. And it’s not bad as long as it doesn’t make you lose sleep over it or become stressed. But it cannot infest itself as a life long practice. Coz if that happens, you’d be the only one losing out. So, there’s a few arguments initially but at least everyone’s aware of how much control one has or does not get to have over the other.

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    • @Fem
      Thank you for saying this. As more women get educated (and hence have a means to learn a living), and also become aware of their rights, the statement “I don’t fight for my rights as I live in such an oppressive environment” becomes less valid and more of a shirking of a responsibility that one owes oneself.
      And every woman knows if she’s using it as a true explanation or if it’s an excuse in her heart.

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    • I have to agree with Fem here. Why do educated, empowered women suddenly become these bovine, passive victims when it comes to their husbands and in-laws? Did it ever occur to the original email writer that she should have just flat- out refused to cook a meal on command?

      I think what Indian women need is a marriage strike. By that, I don’t mean that they should eschew marriage altogether, but they should stop accepting it on humiliating, demeaning terms. The system won’t change until we demand that it change.

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    • While I agree that women should stand firm and hold their ground when it comes to outrageous demands such as these, it is important to take into account that many a “well educated, urban, intelligent Indian woman” have also been duped and taken in by the families they marry into. In-laws and husbands-to-be often say ‘yes’ to a girl’s demands before marriage to appease them, and then after marriage carry on as they see fit with no regard for her feelings or her wishes. Often times, when a woman meets a man, there is little to no communication with the family prior to the wedding, and even after assurances from the husband that he will support his wife, the husband often reveals his own cowardice and subservience. It is one thing to be intelligent and empowered, but it is another when the person you married turns out to not be who you thought at all. Intelligence and empowerment have nothing to do with this particular problem, I am afraid.

      Intelligence, rational thought, and logic are things that go together with, and foster, empowerment. But they often fail in the face of humanity and human behaviour, which is why perfectly smart women find themselves in such terrible situations to start with.

      Furthermore, what the women who are in this predicament need is not “tough love”. I see many people telling such women to “pull themselves together”. There is a large lack of sympathy here, which is quite saddening.

      It is not merely a case of being “smart enough” to escape from bad marriages. If that is all that such situations could be reduced to, we would not have this problem to begin with. Intelligence has nothing to do with emotional distress and the lack of self-esteem that traps so many women in such marriages. You can be the smartest person in the world, but still suffer from those two things as a result of the environment you’re placed in. In the many e-mails that IHM publishes, the common thread that links them is not the situation, but the emotional quandary that the writers are placed under. “I feel depressed and saddened” is a common variation that I see. When you feel such things, it is very very difficult to gather the courage to pull yourself together and simply walk out. The courage to do that can only be fostered by support from other people, and when you exercise “tough love” and blame the victim for their predicament? Well, that will only diminish their self-esteem even further. Not make them see the light.

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      • //Often times, when a woman meets a man, there is little to no communication with the family prior to the wedding,
        This! this is what we’re objecting to. Being a victim of clever marketing is one thing but this? not even spending the time or effort to find out something before making the biggest decision of your life? education is NOT about a degree or job alone. it’s about being able to think and function independently. there’s no excuse for not doing one’s homework.

        I can go on and on but the crux of what i feel is this. educated women who can read blogs and newspapers should know better than to blindly enter an arranged marriage placing full trust in their parents. parents mean well for most part but they’re not infallible. they cannot be held completely responsible for consequences if bad stuff happens.

        I’m speaking of the general case here since i don’t know enough about OP’s situation.

        Agree that after the fact fault finding doesn’t help the OP but hopefully someone else can be cautioned.

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        • “not even spending the time or effort to find out something before making the biggest decision of your life? ”

          I will agree here, I think it’s bad sense to go into something not knowing what you’re fully getting into. This isn’t something that has to do with intelligence at all, but with just common sense. Agreed, when you make such hugely important decisions in life such as marriage, that level of commitment requires serious amounts of research into what you’re getting into.

          “educated women who can read blogs and newspapers should know better than to blindly enter an arranged marriage”

          Rationally speaking, nobody in this world would enter an arranged marriage, blind or otherwise. But human beings and human behaviour is often not rational. Even the most well-informed, well-read person can behave irrationally in the face of certain situations. Given how much psychological pressure is exerted upon men and women of “marriageable” age, I’m not surprised that so many well-educated people make such poor decisions, even as they know better.

          My point is that instead of faulting humans for, well, being human, we should help them to the best of our ability. Even if they are well-educated. Even if they read blogs and newspapers and know the consequences. Even if they forget to do their homework. This does not negate their situation, even if it is of their own doing. They may have entered the situation, but the fault lies with the perpetrators for behaving badly.

          When victims are most vulnerable, what they need is not judgement, but a sympathetic ear, a helping hand, and support. Look at the people who have so far managed to get out of abusive environments and relationships–it was because of the support provided as a community. Now imagine if all of us had said, “It’s your fault for getting into this situation. I have no sympathy for you.” Is this helpful?

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        • In a hurry to rush into marriages because ‘time is running out’, whatever that means, women and sometimes even men, make the wrong decisions. Or have those wrong decisions made for them as if they are little children. Whatever happened to knowing each other well before getting married? Couples who start building a life together before making their relationship legal end up having a more satisfactory relationship because they know what to expect. I think the best way is to totally abandon arranged marriages altogether.

          As for glossy marketing, I understand people can be duped and I sympathise. However, why not stand up for your rights first opportunity and ensure that they know there is nothing they can do to shake you. It just takes one time, you know? After that, no one messes with you. In this case, the OP could simply have flat out refused to make a meal or if she wanted to, could have said that the husband and wife couple would treat the rest of the family members. Did she not see that her slogging alone in the kitchen is an inequality she herself submitted herself to?

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        • “However, why not stand up for your rights first opportunity and ensure that they know there is nothing they can do to shake you.”

          This is very true as well. When people are assertive about the things that make them unhappy, I doubt that people around them will attempt to coerce the person into doing such things. You’re very right–standing up to bullies takes just once. And it doesn’t have to be big, it can be small ways too. Just firm no, for a few little things even, can do a lot to deter a person.

          But sometimes, again, given the emotional state a person is in, when they go to someone for help, it is not because they don’t know what they should be doing. It is because they simply need reassurance, encouragement, and comfort that they are on the right path. And again, simply telling them that, “You should know the consequences”, isn’t enough. It takes both mind and heart to accomplish things. In smart women who are in such predicaments, the mind is definitely there. But the heart isn’t. So, while it’s definitely important that we educate people and make them mindful of the consequences, it’s as equally important to let them know that even if they make mistakes, there will still be support for them. Being unsympathetic helps nobody, least of all the victim.

          Also, nowhere in the e-mail does the writer say that she doesn’t want to cook meals for her family. She only states that her family does not respond well to her attempts. She wanted to cook for her in-laws, it does not seem like this was a forced issue. And I think this is very true in many cases. It’s not that all DILs don’t want to do something their in-laws ask of them. Quite a few are very happy with cooking, cleaning, whatever else. They do these things because they genuinely want to do them. It’s when the issue is forced that the problems arise, as we so often see.

          The problem with the writer’s situation is that her in-laws were disrespectful to her on principle. Just because she was the DIL. It was not a question of, “I don’t want to cook for you.” It was more a question of, “I’m cooking for you, but you are not satisfied.”

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        • @A
          in general terms I agree that finger pointing is not fruitful. however we also need to refrain from displaying excess sympathy that would blind us to the part we ourselves played in bringing about a particular outcome. knowing what we did empowers us because outcomes are now at least partially in our control.
          just taking our eternal victim Sita for example. yes, crossing an electric fence when you have no means of self defense just because a person appears trustworthy is probably not a good idea. just putting aside the patriarchal implications aside for a second here. taking a purity test just to be queen is a choice. thankfully she rejected it the second time around. the point is, we are all victims should we view ourselves thus. we are all empowered should we see ourselves thus.

          if the need ever arose, I’d want to know if I had willingly played victim. I’d want to be able to be more in control of circumstances. I would want to see that i had a choice – even one I was previously unaware of. maybe OP was unaware that she could say no. maybe she was too scared to say no. that’s not my job to judge but in general I do set higher standards for educated women. having overcome all those hurdles, what good is it if you don’t update your thinking? yep. I’m harsh and unsympathetic. even on myself when i succumb to victimhood in my own personal life because dammit I really should know better. only time will tell if this approach strengthens me or leads me to Prozac ;-)

          @OP
          I’m seriously not trying to judge you. please think of my comments as a sort of case study for other women yet to encounter such a situation. I’m more interested in the prevention aspects of any problem. others have suggested excellent corrective measures. :-) I’m not perfect. I do put myself in “desi bahu” situations frequently. I just wouldn’t have the guts to post my problems on a public forum such as this. even if something blows up (touch wood!). kudos to you for that!

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        • “we also need to refrain from displaying excess sympathy that would blind us to the part we ourselves played in bringing about a particular outcome”

          I’m quite sure that women who are victimized in this way are not at all blind to the part they played in bringing about an outcome. They, out of everyone else, are the ones who know what they did to land them in the situation they’re in. And they’re the ones, out of everyone else, who suffers doubly from the guilt of having made those decisions and the consequences they suffer. When they’re in such an emotional situation, there is no such thing as “excess sympathy” which can blind them. They are fully aware, and they do not need other people to remind them of what they could have done differently. What they need is support, and solutions. Not blame and critcism.

          “if the need ever arose, I’d want to know if I had willingly played victim”

          How does one willingly play a victim, exactly? To willingly play a victim, shouldn’t one have to consciously decide that, “Yes, today, I will get married to an abuse husband and an abusive family. I will willingly allow myself to be treated as an indentured servant. I will willingly give up my freedom and dreams.”

          You cannot make the argument that victims are willing, merely because they are compliant. That compliance is often bought through coersion and psychological bullying that even the most intelligent people fail to be immune from. It’s for this reason that confessions made under coercive circumstances are dismissed in court. Because people, when they are under bullying and pressure, do not make rational decisions that they would if they were in full mental capacity. Simply because a woman is intelligent does not mean that she is mentally strong in such situations.

          “I’m harsh and unsympathetic. even on myself”

          So am I, but I do not extend this line of thinking to people I don’t know. I know myself better than anyone else, so yes, when I am harsh on myself, it is with good reason. Being harsh on other people though, is a different can of worms. I do not know their circumstances, I do not know the fullest extent of their suffering.

          But I do know that standing around passing judgement on their situation is unhelpful. In time, victims who are able to put distance between themselves and the relationship are able to analyze the situation on their own. It is not my place to do it for them, and it is definitely not my place to do it for them when they are still in that situation. As an outsider, my only place is to advise and help. Not judge and ask, “Why did you get into the situation to begin with?”

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        • @A:

          “I’m quite sure that women who are victimized in this way are not at all blind to the part they played in bringing about an outcome.” – I beg to differ. I know many women who willingly followed their husband’s orders (whether it was rational or not) in order to please their in-laws and then wondered why they weren’t being treated with respect. I also know women who WANTED a joint family (which is basically catering to patriarchy) and then wonder why the family is being all patriarchal.

          “Yes, today, I will get married to an abuse husband and an abusive family. I will willingly allow myself to be treated as an indentured servant. I will willingly give up my freedom and dreams.” – You are being too simplistic. Simple things like taking over the cooking without expecting the husband to join in is patriarchy-enabling behaviour. No one thinks that they want to marry an abusive man. But here’s an analogy – do you really think a young boy who decides to quit school and instead roam about with friends should blame the family or the school when he ends up with a crap job? I know one from a really good and well to do family who wanted to educate the son, but he wasn’t having any of it. If you are marrying without being comfortable with a man, if your marriage is fixed on a date that is not to your liking, it lies within yourself to change this. Only yourself.

          I agree sympathy is important, but a solid get-out plan is even more important. Giving validation that the OP is right is important, but what is she doing about it?

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        • “I know many women who willingly followed their husband’s orders (whether it was rational or not) in order to please their in-laws and then wondered why they weren’t being treated with respect.”

          What I meant was that women who are victimized are already feeling the brunt of the blame for their perceived inadequacies from all fronts. From their in-laws, from their husbands, sometimes from their own parents. Is it really wise to diminish their self-esteem and their confidence even further by telling them that, “It’s your fault for getting into this mess.”? Do they really need to add yet another inadequacy to their list, especially from a place that is supposed to help them?

          The key for helping any victim get out of their situation is to allow them to gain confidence. In my experience, harping on the victim’s own faults, especially in that crucial stage where they have little to no confidence left, was counter-intuitive. The person in question eventually got out, but not before their depression and self-confidence had taken yet another spiral downwards.

          In time, the victims themselves come to terms with their actions preceding the situation and what they could have done differently. What they need at the moment, however, is sympathy and as you say, “a solid get-out plan”. They do not need blame for their past mistakes, just an idea for what to do in the future. This get-out plan can be formed without blaming the victim.

          “But here’s an analogy – do you really think a young boy who decides to quit school and instead roam about with friends should blame the family or the school when he ends up with a crap job?”

          Your analogy is faulty. The young boy in question is making a choice, free from pressure, free from societal expectations and of his own volition. Men and women trapped in such situations as the e-mail writer’s don’t have that luxury. They make choices under the psychological pressure that patriarchy inflicts. A combination of fear, lack of self-esteem, and the absense of a solid support group are the three things that patriarchy uses to thrive on. In the case of decisions made under the umbrella of patriarchy, while the decision maker did make a choice, it was under coercive circumstances and therefore not equivalent to choices made under complete free will. And seeing as society plays a huge part in reinforcing patriarchy, it is not remiss to assign some of the blame to society and societal pressure. This is not a deflection of responsibility from the victim in anyway. It is still the victim’s responsibility for getting out, but the blame is not just their’s to bear.

          And, I agree with you. When the time comes when enough is enough, the precedent for getting out lies solely upon the victim and the victim herself. Only she can escape from the situation, and if she’s unhappy, she should get out and free herself, instead of asking herself why she’s unhappy and making the situation worse. Allies of the victim should be firm in letting her know that if she continues in this way, it will only go downhill. And yes, they should be firm in letting her know about the get-out plan.

          But I don’t think that, as an ally, taking a hardline stance is going to help. Telling the victim, “You should have done this differently.” or, “I don’t have sympathy for you, because you’re the one who made this decision.”, or “You get yourself into this mess.” is not helpful. Reinforcing negativity at a time when positive thinking is crucial is very unhelpful. Being firm in letting the victim know what their get-out plan should be is one thing, but blaming them for their problems at a time when they don’t need any more blame is another.

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    • I completely agree with this sentiment. People who are able to take personal responsibility because they are educated and have means to support themselves should take a stand. It is much easier said than done, but that still seems to be the most effective method against oppression.

      From what I gathered, the husband is waiting to be fed just like the rest of his family.

      I also agree that making certain things clear before the wedding is the *only* way that these situations may (though not necessarily) be avoided. I think that women need to make their preferences very clear and not hesitate to say that should the husband and his family make a 180 turn after the wedding, she will consider getting a divorce. I think most conservative families pretend to be liberal, thinking that once the marriage is over, the woman will have no choice but to obey what they say. If they hear the d-word before the wedding takes place, they might reconsider the marriage themselves.

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  2. I think, I understand where this comes from

    Medical, and IAS are infamous for the amount of time of preparation that is put whilst pursuing them. This however leads many to believe that other courses (especially non-technical/professional) such as journalism, social studies, and so on require considerably less effort or attention. Since there is time to spare and attention to give it should be used for things like cooking, cleaning etc.

    Similarly , they think that it is ok to be a doctor or so and not do house work (because of the prestige the title brings) while others are less prestigious jobs and house work should be a higher priority.

    However what these people donot understand is that while they may nt be doctors, women as much right to choose their careers with a higher priority than house work. It is a choice she is entitled to.

    For that matter, it must be appreciated that at least she is willing to learn something she doesn’t already know.

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    • This isn’t an Arts vs Science debate. The issue here isn’t really about the DIL choosing a career of her choice over the more sought after options. It is about the bizarre expectations that the other family harbours. The question is: can a girl choose to live as she fancies? Can she choose not to study hard enough for MBBS and not slog it out in the kitchen at the same time?

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      • It’s not about studying hard. You don’t crack an MBBS course with sheer hard work. And when it comes to hard work, cleaning toilets, making a painting, craftwork, even modelling, even blogging is hard work. It’s the aptitude that matters. I may be very intelligent but I may not have the desire to become a doctor. I may not like academics terribly much. Slogging it out in the kitchen is hard work too. Being a foodie, I find it very rewarding as well. I have problems when I feel COMPELLED to do something just because I belong to a particular gender. that needs to go. That’s all. For, going by her MIL, all salesmen, all cleaners, all men who are not IAS/docs/engineers should be excellent cooks – but would it? There’s the difference

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  3. Another response: Not strange at all, because I was doing more important things with my life than learning how to appease judgemental people like you.
    And would never cook at the in-laws ever again.

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  4. Thanks a lot for the replies. Can you please help me with this: I never felt inclined to ‘change’ her or explain things to her or try working out a relationship with her. This is because I simply hate her. Would you suggest otherwise?

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    • You are not obliged to have a relationship with her, nor are you obliged to explain anything to her. It is possible to maintain a distance and have a respectful relationship from afar. But you need to make it clear that this is how things are going to be.

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      • Be diplomatic.
        Be softspoken.
        BE FIRM.
        BE ASSERTIVE.
        Do NOT blame any person. STATE what you can do and STAND by it .
        DO WHAT IS comfortable for you, not because what others will think
        DO. DO .
        The only martial home is YOU and YOUR husband’s. Everything else is BORROWED.
        The moral of the story – Take turns in cooking – Yes, Your husband will have his turn as well. YOU ALL STAY IN THE HOUSE . YOU ALL WILL TAKE TURNS – logical ?

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  5. I would have wanted to say something but I wouldn’t be able to because of all the years of conditioning to be polite and “respect elders”. I think what’s more important than the woman’s reaction to this statement is the husband’s reaction. That would be the deciding factor for a lot of things. But I’m quite sure any price would be a small price to pay to stop having to live in that house.

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  6. Sigh. Not surprised. Expectations of ILs need to be brought up to date. Essentially they need a cook, not a DIL.

    Just as I was finishing my second year at an IIM after my BTech at an IIT, my folks were looking for a match for me. My sister and BIL went to meet the ‘boy’ and his family.

    So my BIL and sister did the initial small talk and then generally started talking about my background and such. The mother of the boy said ‘All that is fine, but can she cook?’ My BIL got up saying he suddenly remembered something urgent and walked out. That was the end of that one.

    And I married a batchmate eventually, someone who cooks better than me by the way, despite being brought up in a conservative family where men/boys were not supposed to enter the kitchen. And by the way, my FIL cooks too now :)

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  7. An acquaintence of mine married a very beautiful girl.It was okay that she did not know how to cook.She had done diploma in fashion designing from a private institute and her sole aim-we got to know of that later-was to live off her husband’s money.The man of course is besotted and the woman manages the finances.The IL’s call her a parasite who refuses to leave aside proper money to the retired in-laws even for household expenses and has her husband’s money to splurge on her whims.She has categorically stated that she does not like to cook.
    The mil today blames the grace period given to a newly wed bride where for a month or so she is not expected to cook as per tradition.This becomes a habit,for cooking is a thankless job like other domestic chores.
    What if a woman does not volunteer to cook and on top of that does no job at all but spends her day socialising? Even if the woman in question has her husband’s unflinching support,is her not sharing the responsibilities in any way justified?is mil not a woman too?

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    • They can tell the couple to move out and manage on their own. Why should one woman have to cook for a whole family? It hardly matters if it is the mother in law or the daughter in law. Another option is that the MIL can tell her son that either he or his wife has to pitch in the cooking or everyone is going without any food from now. Also, she can tell her husband to start helping her.

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      • She does have an option to move out but silently wants her in-laws to babysit in the near future.Modern bahus expect mils to help wholeheartedly in raising her children but shirks from responsibilities in the name of feminism.
        The husband is a corporate slave and as it is slogs hard enough to support the family.
        Women who continue to study post marriage also expect their mils to prepare meals citing work load as the reason to shy away from duties but the sad fact is that it soon becomes a habit.

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        • And that’s why nuclear families are better from the point of view of giving and receiving respect. Frankly, I think the in-laws should refuse to do what they don’t want to do. It’s not their job to babysit their grandchildren. Sitting around helplessly like a victim isn’t going to help. She has to draw the ground rules on what work she will or will not do. And why can’t her husband help? I assume he is not a corporate slave?

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        • The MIL or in laws as a unit, if they are being treated unfairly or abused by their daughter in law, can ask (or frankly order) their son and daughter in law to leave their home and manage on their own in a nuclear set up. The MIL is not required to cook for her daughter in law or take care of the grandchildren. The MIL is entitled to live her life in her home comfortably. The MIL is not entitled to make her daughter in law do anything, including cooking.

          By they way … cooking is not a woman’s “duty”, whether that be the MIL or the DIL. Cooking basic nutritious food is a life skill that all adults should have and members of a family can negotiate between them how they will handle this chore on a day to day basis.

          Besides…the MIL’s biggest problem here seems to be her besotted son…not her daughter in law. Even if I agree with everything you’re saying about the DIL being a terrible person, the person who created this terrible situation is the son. He only looked at his spouse’s beauty without finding out about her character, personality, views on finance (or family, or anything else really). Sounds like a little boy who lacks good judgment and had no business getting married in the first place. Now he seems to have washed his hands of the problem, leaving his poor parents to sort out all of the issues. So basically here you have financially unstable and resentful parents, a negligent son who has washed his hands of all household issues and a gold digger DIL. Sounds like the perfect storm.

          Also, please drop the condescending remarks about the “modern bahu” and “feminism”. What you have given us here is an anecdote about one dysfunctional family, not the objective results of your lifetime of research on the state of the modern indian family.

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        • It is unfair to talk of equal rights , without equal responsibilities.
          If in the laws are pitching in to share the burden of looking after grand kids the COUPLE should pitch in.
          when I am at our in-laws place I am not allowed to cook, because I will NOT cook the correct “regional” food and my food is tasteless because of less oil ! Period. I am out. And I have told them clearly that I will not cook the IN- LAW way . So there it goes

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    • Speaking as someone who is also averse to cooking, can’t the DIL take on other non-cooking responsibilities , in order to contribute to running the home? There’s plenty of other stuff as well that she can do. Failing that, the MIL really should ask them to move out.
      Also, she does have claim to her husband’s money you know. He earned it, and long as HE doesn’t have a problem with what she does with it- as long as necessary contributions are made , no one has the right to make comments about what she/they does/do with the remainder.

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      • My whole point is that the woman in question does not want to work either inside or outside the house.Despite being jobless.
        One doesn’t negotiate on house management duties before marriage.Why would an ‘exploitative’ dil wish to move out when she gets a cook and a babysitter in her own mil?
        All i wish to know is who decides the division of labour? Is it understood that mil will continue to do the household duties and is not meant to ‘expect’ anything of her dil.That when the dil is not working.Is not contributing to house citing feminism and freedom as the reason justified?

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        • “Is not contributing to house citing feminism and freedom as the reason justified?”
          If she feels so strongly about it, what can you do? The situation is unfair to the MIL no doubt.
          If this is such a contentitious issue, isn’t it simpler to hire a cook and maid? Neither the DIL nor MIL nor the men will have to do it then.

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        • I’m sorry but you just sound like you want to whine about feminism because one woman in one house refuses to work. We have already given several solutions that the MIL might try out, some subtle, other drastic. Not wanting to work is not feminism.So please stop talking as if feminism is responsible for your friend’s mother’s problems. If there was feminism in this case, she wouldn’t be in this position because:

          1 – The father in law would have equally pitched in with the household chores without her being made a drudge even before the kids got married.
          2 – The son would not want / be made to live with his parents after marriage and have another woman leave her parents to stay with his parents. The problem would not arise at all.

          You still haven’t explained why the FIL is exempt from working in the house? You keep talking about MIL and DIL, but surely she has a husband too who can understand her predicament better than anyone else since he is supposedly her life partner.

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        • I think you are missing the point here. “Feminism”…has nothing to do with what you’re talking about here. It is the general concept that men and women are equal and their opportunities in life should not be limited by gender. You are also missing the point of the responses to you.

          Even if I completely buy the argument that the DIL is a lazy and evil harridan, that the son is a hapless beaten down boy incapable of managing b

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  8. Don’t worry even if you had pulled a rat from a hat in jiffy and put out a three course meal she would have had something to pick on. If she had kept her mouth shut and made another dish to save the day she would have earned your respect for rest of her life.
    Not knowing how to cook is nothing to take pride in, one should be able to feed themselves in style and taste or else one can just chomp anything but to appease a party of four just because you are a daughter-in-law is very desi, oh our great desi culture, and we ought to keep it up. Be glad she didn’t expect you to wake up at five and wear that white sari with red boarder and in your dripping wet hair sing some bhajan. :)

    DG was asked to not only feed the family on her first cooking event but also make suji ka halwa to distribute to friends in the neighborhood. She did a great job, 2kg halwa and 1kg ghee gone. Never was she ever asked to make halwa again.

    DG is amazed that in this century and times of technology when women are also getting bacon home they are still expected to cook and serve. Did anything really change than us being net savvy and cribbing over the issues that were ripe in 1920?

    Read, Judith E. Walsh, 2004, Domesticity in Colonial India: What Women Learned when Men Gave Them Advice

    Peace,
    Desi Girl

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  9. Trust me people sometimes speaking up before the marriage and all kind of assurances by the In-laws also turn out to be the opposite later.
    somehow everyone including in-laws need to understand the worth of any person even a daughter in law can’t be subject to her cooking, housekeeping or other domestic abilities because families need to learn a bahu isn’t a lifelong committed worker for the family and should be choosing what she can or can’t do and how much?

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    • The love and respect that ILs expect from a bahu are of a very different sort: it’s another name for ‘seva’. in fact, why DILs only, they even question their own son’s affection for them when the son tries to do something independently. what chance have we DILs got in such a world!

      Like

      • A man I recently met (for the first time, an acquaintance of the family) told me he’s getting retired soon. And then, in a voice loud enough to be heard by everyone at the bank where we were, he announces “I am going to be getting nearly a crore on retirement. But I am taking my son’s name off my account. Only my wife’s name and mine will be there. As long as I have money he will take care of me. (In Hindi he said: Jab tak usko pata hain mere paas paisa hain, tab tak seva karega. Nahi to nahi karega.) Not that I needed to know. But I was speechless. So this ‘seva’ thingy is getting beyond annoying now.

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  10. I know a young Doctor, who was good at cooking, was asked to clean the bathrooms everyday (despite maid) and stand alert for the in-laws throughout the day. She was asked to quit her job and look after the cleaning of the house!!. The girl rebelled, it almost went to divorce. Finally the husband relented(sic), and took her away from his parents!

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    • When they cannot find fault in one thing they’ll pick another to torment. In the villages depending on the kind of family dynamics within women a beautiful bahu or a bahu who comes from a relatively better off family will be delegated the task of cleaning the cattle shed because it is one task that no matter you control and make it your forte or territory will not bother anyone coz’ no one wants it. Kitchen, milking cattle are dependent tasks.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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      • What hell will come loose on, if husbands help their wives in kitchen at least occasionally.

        If he helps wife in the kitchen, he’ll become joru ka ghulam and if his father washes his wives saree and packs her tiffin he is being modern and helpful.

        The aim is to not let intimacy and mutual trust sprout in the new marital couple. Small interactions and helpful gestures are more potent than foreplay in building intimacy so nip it in the bud. Also if DIL is helped by her spouse she’ll finish the chores quicker and have more time to relegate to her bed room either to rest or he will follow her, so the goal is to tire her so much that when she crashes on bed she is brain dead for rest of the night to any bonding.

        She did not have to make halwa but rest every thing was on the menu even if you knew the dish she was asked repeatedly what she is adding and how she is going to make it. There were times she wanted to swing that spatula but that confused desi upbringing prevented her. Wish she had swung it or stamped on those toes. If she did not know something them it was so you didn’t learn that or your mother didn’t teach you that. Finally everything came and rested on her parents.

        Peace,
        Desi Girl

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      • To by peace, do you think saying NO is an option for a new DIL in this great desi culture. If a new Desi bahu says NO the great Indian culture will be destroyed and all hell will break lose her parents will be summoned and everyone will be told the tales of her digression.Pile all the shame on her and her natal kin.
        Peace,
        Desi Girl

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  11. I am a daughter in law myself, and not the most satisfied one. But I ask those who suggest that they have no sympathy for girls (urban, educated, independent) who put themselves in such situations voluntarily i.e. agree to live with in-laws after marriage. This is not entirely different from the notion that girls who get raped risk it by stepping out of the house.
    To tackle in law issues, we need a change of mindset / perhaps a few laws / crumbling of the whole social arrangement of marriages. But until that happens, can we blame the girls just for opting to live with the mother-in-law?

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    • I think there is a huge difference. Agreeing to live with the husband’s family, take his name, and become part of his family, taking over cooking and cleaning, while husband doesn’t reciprocate is enabling patriarchy in your own lives. So I am surprised when these women are suddenly surprised that they don’t receive respect. They have themselves just disrespected themselves by actually agreeing that their lives belong in someone else’s home and that their husbands don’t need to make the same sacrifices they do. Stepping out of the house is not enabling patriarchy in any way.

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    • Btw, I am not talking about ‘abla naaris’ here. I am talking about reasonably educated, experienced and financially independent women who don’t want to stand up for themselves. How will society change if women who can don’t stand up for themselves? Or are we expecting mothers in law and husbands to take up the cause? They don’t even understand what the problem is, in many cases!

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    • Well said ! I wonder why people consider nuclear families/living separately as better options. Just like you mentioned in your comparison of blaming rape victims for getting raped, such daughter in-laws are blamed for getting victimized by their in-laws.

      If we expect a crime-free society where females can step out without the fear of being assaulted, why can’t in-laws co-exist with their DIL in the same house, while being respectful and friendly towards her and everyone in the family can chip in to help with whatever work there is in the house ?

      Blaming a DIL who had opted to live in a house having a dominating MIL is like blaming a girl for stepping out of her house because the roads are full of criminals. Just like not every person is physically capable of fighting off an assailant on the road, similarly, not everyone is capable of ‘opening’ their mouths before (or even after) marriage. Doesn’t mean they should be blamed for that.

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      • Putting up with IL tantrums vs rape is two totally different things. In one, you have a choice to walk away whereas in case of rape you are not given the option to walk away. You are held against your will.

        So unless the ILs are physically preventing the DIL from leaving, how can it be compared to rape? Did the parents physically drag their daughter to the marriage mantap even if she said no? Then how can the two things be compared?

        When ILs expect you to clean bathrooms, you can always say NO. If they physically force you to do so, it is called domestic violence and is illegal just like rape is.

        When you agree to a marriage, agree to live with the ILs, agree to follow their gender based roles and then complain without even attempting to say no, how can it be compared to rape?

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      • My question is simple. Why has a woman chosen to live in someone else’s house? Why has she chosen to take someone else’s name? Why has she chosen to undertake to please these people?

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    • Well in this day and age, if any urban , educated , independent girl WANTS to live in a joint family despite the abundance of clear warning signs in our society that it takes an enormous suppression of individuality to successfully negotiate that kind of lifestyle, so be it .
      But these women also have to realise that if and when things go wrong, there may be no knight in shining armour waiting to rescue them. They will have to be their own saviours, and may not even be able to count on their husbands for help.

      As long as women understand this , that they only can and will need to stand up for themselves, it should be fine.

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      • Also, its not at all like the rape analogy. Women usually meet and interact with their future MILs before the wedding. The relationship is pretty defined anyway. If (like the OP) you definitely HATE your MIL, how is it a wise decision to live with her? Or if it was not the OP’s decision, how is it wise to abide by someone else’s decision, that you know beforehand will cause you stress?

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      • You speak of the urban, educated, independent women choosing to stay in a joint-family set-up as a contemporary phenomenon.

        The same existed even a few years back unless we are alluding to 1950s era.

        This is an insult to those yes, well-educated women who made a free ‘choice’ yesterday and continue to do so ‘today’ to stay with/in a joint family.

        Does that make these women as being who don’t value individuality?

        Who are others to impose their ideology of ‘these women must have who done a trade-off’?
        You don’t need to show them a your tainted mirror because they are quite capable of using their own.

        Moreover, no one has the right to insult several ‘men’ and obviously ‘women’ too who have lives of joy and love for countless years under the same roof – you can’t negate the pleasantness of their experiences and hold them to ‘untrue’ just because of their resentments or opinions.

        And, what right do others have to hold their particular ‘nuclear family’ arrangement as superior to those of others just because they haven’t ever lived in it or they themselves are dying to get out of it.

        How would a nuclear-family be any different unless you make an assuming that the husband doesn’t have mind of his own or any member other than the husband add up to unequal power.

        The ‘numbers’ being proportional to the ‘power’ argument doesn’t work.

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        • The problem isn’t that families are living together. The problem is that women are expected to be the ones to make the move to a man’s house every single time. You would not find one single man who is entering his wife’s house after marriage. This is what makes nuclear families superior to joint families. If the choice existed about which set of parents the couple will stay with after marriage, and this decision is made by a couple who knows and understands each other and each other’s families, then I would have no problem with the joint family system. But as it stands, it is patriarchal to the core, and hence unequal.

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      • Even when women do not live with in-laws, they have to visit them on regular basis on occasions, sometimes for few days and other times of may be weeks and few months. In the first few days after marriage a couple usually stays with the in-laws for few days, it then it starts. The cooking drama is a quite elaborate one, sometimes relatives are invited at the occasion of DIL’s first kitchen sojourn, she is even paid a token money or gift on this occasion.

        Picking on very visit is common and keeps increasing. Just imagine traveling all night by khat khat state roadways bus for 12-16hrs reaching the heaven on earth in the morning and you are told rest for few hours and then make a lunch that too in a saree and high heels coz’ you are a new bahu so doll up (we like to see you dolled up). As if you traveled all this way to cook. Carrot in front of your nose is, we were waiting to taste food made by bahu’s hands.Soon you are done with lunch it is tea time and then dinner. Three days are spent serving and serving you ride back the bus reach home and pick your purse and go to work and doze off at your desk.

        Soon every visit becomes a nightmare and gradually a phobia ensues and women are blamed that they don’t like even visiting in-laws or making few adjustments when they have to visit. You don’t have to live permanently with them they’ll give your nightmares permanent scars to rub even when you are not living with them.
        Peace,
        Desi Girl

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    • Are you working , independent, spent some RUPEES to get a house on rent and stay with your husband – YOU Will find peace. YOU ARE BREAKING anybody’s house by staying with your husband , but you are building your own. THE ISSUE IS

      MEN after marriage , continue to behave like boys . Just that they want an additional “servant” in their new wife .
      The MOTHERS in turn have made their “SONNY BOY” to be dependet on them and anything less provided by the newcomer wife is PICKED ON.
      THE SONNYBOY knows his rights to have a clean shirt and a hot food, but does not know his responsibility that these come on the table when you cook in a hot and steamy KITCHEN. Doing it once in a while is a refreshing , but living an unclean mess is WORK DOUBLED. TO COOK FOR 7 days a week is not an easy task .
      I have seen MEN say lets GO OUT when it is their turn to cook. SMART A””., cook. A woman loves ” HOT PHULKAS ” as well.

      My husband did not know to cook nor did I. We refuse to outsource this job because we think it is a basic necessity of a human being and we cook EVERY THING – INCLUDING LOBSTER , skin a fish and cook, Make risotto and pies and cakes , all from scratch, because we cannot eat OUTSIDE FOOD.

      NECESSITY is the mother of invention and more so if you are a parent to little boys TEACH them early , because WOMEN ARE DEFINITELY SMARTER AND WILL TAKE NO CHANCES AND CHOICES.
      slowly women are starting to believe in themselves as “HUMAN BEINGS – good fo them and the society.

      Somebody said this very well – ” A Balanced human being is when the masculanity and the feminity of a human being works together .”

      CHOW

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    • I do not see the connection between victim blaming in rape cases and asking women to be strong n assertive to stop subjugation after marriage..you are saying they need to be social changes..who do you think is going to bring about those changes? The in laws n husbands who are for the most part beneficiaries of the patriarchal system? The corrupt govt? Or the individual who has to put up with bullshit after marriage? The onus to protect your rights and live the way you want is only on you..you may say it is easier said then done etc etc..but I think it is the simplest and obvious thing to do once you set your mind to it..the only thing to do in fact

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      • My rape analogy has been (mis) interpreted in 20 ways. What I meant was that you can never be fully prepared for what’s in store. Surely women today are smarter than their yesteryear counterparts and make informed choices. But what about the cultural shocks and surprises that await her? Trust me, it’s not easy to taunt back a woman triple your age who is also your lover’s mom. I am not talking morals here. Those who have faced an MIL know they would rather deal with a problematic boss at work.

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        • Nobody’s claiming it’s easy! And no one is claiming mothers in law must be taunted. Just refuse to obey. What can she do? If she turns violent (and frankly, most women don’t), it becomes a crime and you can take police help. If they KNOW you are the kind of person who might do that, they’ll not mess with you.

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  12. I would like to think it is sheer ignorance. Cooking or house chores are nothing to do with what you study or what you are or where you come from. Oh well.. if only every MIL has such level of knowledge or what I see is most MIL’s are possessive about their sons and they want to prove themselves that they are important in their life. Simple fact.. and they find different ways to put others down in front of their sons who are dear to them and obviously that happens to be wife.

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    • @ HiddenPassions

      Thanks for your very expert analysis. You seemed to have missed out on observing something here.
      Its not just mothers who love or are possessive about their sons but the it’s the other way around too that works well.
      There are many sons too who are equally love or are possessive about their mothers.
      And, if you think that this is a purely Indian phenomenon, please take a look around.
      I have seen several male Russian friends of mine and others too, young & not-so-young and on VK (the Russian equivalent of Facebook) who every now and then don’t mind beautifully expressing their love for their mothers on their public profile pages with
      Моя самая любимая – мамуля (my most favourite – mother) sealing it off an emoticon ;-*

      This idea must be discomforting to some, mama’s boys. Just learn to get over it.

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      • Yes, I would agree with you on this aspect and I never thought it is purely indian phenomenon. It happens everywhere except that in some western countries it is just not so much prevalent as they tend to be independent from early teens.
        Coming to your point of view, Yes.. there are mamma’s boys who publicly express their love towards their mother and I do not see anything wrong with it. Although, it is hard for a new girl in the home to absorb all these things and it might be hard but one should put their foot down and express how irrational the logic is in the home. It might create initial rift but might solve the problem in the longer run. (My friend personally is a victim of it and it totally seemed to work this way out for by speaking up her mind and sticking to it.) It might not be easy for everyone but it is hopeful specially if one wants the relationship not to end.

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      • “Just learn to get over it.”

        Women don’t love their mothers then? What makes women agree to be parted from their families at marriage even though sons can afford to remain ‘mama’s boys? Answer = patriarchal conditioning. It is that same same conditioning that says men have a higher position in the home then women, that women must do all the adjusting. This conditioning must be broken if equality is to be achieved.. which means that we cannot just ‘get over’ men being mama’s boys, rather we must question why men are allowed to remain ‘boys’.. cooked for and cared for by women.. while women are taught to sever ties with their own family. People who are ‘discomforted’ by the idea of women challenging a system that oppresses them should just get over it.

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    • To begin with, this was a love and an inter-caste marriage that happened after months of struggle. MIL was the least happy with the marriage but, as they say, yielded. The author had convinced her hubby to move out of the city within months but little did she know that verbal promises mean nothing. She has decided to move her herself, but the bloody recession and job-freeze has ensured she is still looking out for a well-paying job.

      This is how she dealt with the MIL who exploits every chance possible to express her disappointment with her son’s choice: The author gives little importance to the MIL so much so that the news of her good appraisal was passed on to her by FIL. MIL receives only vague replies from the author to whatever is asked of her office life. The author splurges on clothes and bags and never cares to show her her purchases to MIL. The author does slog in the kitchen before leaving for office but without a word to the MIL who feels like non-existent around the author. Worst – the DIL has begun to show her MIL down by turning to anyone for help or advice but her. When the MIL gets ill, the DIL cooks all the light meals she needs but without a word of comfort.

      The DIL never answers back as the family takes that very very badly.

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        • @Fem, I’m curious to know why you would say that? To me it looks like a workable solution- do your bit around the house but do not engage with people who disrespect you and put you down. And, she does say she’s working on moving out as well. I’d like to know what the husband is doing in all this.

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        • Oh, I wasn’t referring to the moving out bit. I actually missed that. Sorry, I read it properly now. I thought she let it go because her husband wouldn’t budge. I personally think that living under a roof and behaving this way to another person is paving the way for you to become as bad as them. If she doesn’t remove herself, she is firmly on her way to accepting that this kind of behaviour is acceptable. I know I became a very bad person when I returned to live at home with my parents (it didn’t last long). I preferred to move out altogether and now have a much better relationship with them. Also, nothing can be achieved without actually having a heart to heart talk.

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        • @Fem, I see what you mean. But for a short-term strategy till she moves out, perhaps the ‘ignore MIL’ way is the best? The heart-to-heart talk is obviously the best and ideal thing to do, but if that’s been tried and failed (has it?) then there’s not a lot left to lose. Especially if ‘answering back’ (I assume this means retorting in the same vein) is something that the DIL isn’t prepared to do as it will worsen the situation.
          I honestly don’t know what advice you can give someone who has a spiteful MIL that they currently live with and cannot answer back to, other than the silent treatment.

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        • Cruel?
          MIL: “I hate that you married my son and I hate you and I’m going to be a bitch about it at every opportunity.”
          Husband:
          DIL: “Fine. I’m not giving you emotional energy or time, MIL.”

          Unless you think the daughter in law is supposed to just take MIL’s treatment, I hardly see the problem. As stated, MIL really doesn’t want this woman as a DIL, so why should the DIL keep taking verbal abuse? She’s not finding ways to retaliate, and she’s not putting her on blast (or her husband –why didn’t her husband tell mummy to stop slagging off on his wife?)

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        • I agree. If the MIL is insulting, then refusing to engage with her and going about life pretending she doesn’t exist (for a short time atleast) sounds like a plan. Why should a DIL always be the one handing out olive branches, being malleable, placating people? And it’s not like speaking up would be of direct use no? She is seen as a bad bahu anyway, so might as well live like that. Double jeopardy and all.

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        • Thanks for making me feel better :) I do see the point of @Fem that I could be turning cold and cruel and I think I must check myself at all times if this behaviour is extending to my other circles as well.

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      • I have a suggestion that I’m wondering why people in these situations do not use. I live in Gurgaon, and from INR 3000 to INR 8000 (depending on the meal/ cook’s expertise), you can get a cook to come in the morning and come in the evening to cook freshly prepared meals and a snack that can be refrigerated. If the DIL has money to splurge on bags and clothes, surely, she can independently hire a cook to slog in the kitchen instead of doing it herself? Wouldn’t this cut down on a bit of the resentment as well?

        I think hiring someone to cook is a great idea–it helps the women who work as domestic staff–it gives them an income and some independence in their lives. It helps you out because they’re far more experienced at cooking and can free up much of your valuable time.

        If that’s seen as unacceptable in the house, can’t you say that you’ve got to work extra hours and just leave the house early and come back late to avoid the MIL?

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      • So why is the cooking responsibility always the MILs or the DILs? Why is the husband not cooking? The FIL? Why not ask the husband to pitch in? I can empathise with the letter, it’s extremely annoying to be ‘put to test’ in a new home for one’s cooking skills.. as if that’s what your life is about just because you have a vagina. However, in the letter, the LW mentions and resents the MIL not helping her in the kitchen.. but she doesn’t mention or resent the husband not helping her in the kitchen! Why must it be a woman’s job to cook? If she can pitch in financially by going to work, why can’t he make dinner half the time?

        In this sense, is the DIL that much different to the MIL? The MIL expects the DIL to cook because she is a woman, the DIL expects the MIL to cook because she is a woman. The majority of the comments lament the MIL’s cruelty.. what about the husband’s lack of responsibility? Why does he get a free pass from pitching in? Because he is male? Unless this is part of the author’s protest, isn’t she propagating the same patriarchal attitudes she complained about by slogging in the kitchen before working?

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  13. Just tell your mil cooking was not a priority r you and you don’t enjoy it. As long as you can cook enough o survive healthily you’re ok. Cooking is a grat tough skill any donkey can cook .if they so desire.
    Maybe she will shut up and agree. :-)

    I never moved a spoon till I gt married, my husband was the same, he was used o having a cook mami all the time, after marriage we were both happy to let th status quo continue till mami went on vacation and we were done, it’s horrible to wake up and have to go out fr tea and breakfast, trust me we learnt in a jiffy. We both can cook somewhat decently however we much prefer our mami food but I think cooking is an essential health skill. So I made sure both my sons cook. Thy are far far better cooks than us and actually make very healthy choices thanks to their cooking skill.
    So now if they marry they and the spose won’t starve :-).

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  14. My reply would’ve been, “I didn’t learn cooking because I didn’t want to or liked to” and then would’ve limited myself to helping out in the kitchen, of course by mentioning it beforehand. It is not a rule to be a cook before getting married. And speaking out, before or after marriage helps a lot to build that image in ILs heads. If you don’t talk, they’ll always think they can bully you. So open your mouth and say something. If you really dont like cooking tell them so. Ask them to get help/cook, offer them help in kitchen if you can. And tell them in clear terms not to degrade your job, position or profession. Make things clear first time so there is no second time.

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  15. Your mother-in-law is a snot. I guarantee that if her son had made a half cooked potato and green beans she’d be ecstatic. I wonder if your mother-in-law has ANY secondary education at all. Is she an excellent cook? This is a prime example of how new things are expected without any adjustment to traditional expectations for women. She would not have held back from snottiness if you had cooked a perfect multi-course meal.

    A funny story: My mother’s first meal for my father was supposed to be cabbage puliya. It wasn’t, because when she went to the market, she picked up iceberg lettuce by mistake. My father, however, was thrilled. He had been living on cereal for his meals (because he had never bothered to learn how to cook when he was living by himself — or make other arrangements for food on the run.) My dad is a doctor and my mother is a housewife.

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  16. If you ask me,I don’t like the author saying this : “And the wedding, despite my subdued protests, had been arranged within a month of the hurriedly organised roka ceremony, leaving me no time to learn enough cooking” .. I wonder why even in your own eyes you are expected to learn cooking. You don’t know simple !! And that’s it !

    Just like many other things you may or may not know, you don’t know this or didn’t are about it, period. And you again, may or may not pursue it as well !

    The other view I have is that (and it is my favorite in many places).. remember what you are ! And if you have high self-esteem and you don’t care about other’s approval you don’t give a damn about such comments ! It’s like I’m a giraffe and I have a long neck…etc.. anyone’s any amount of commenting / remarks cannot make me a tiger and I’m proud of it ! It is you who should have decided whether you wanted a Tiger or a giraffe !

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    • And why were her protests disregarded? If her parents were so in a hurry to get rid of her, then they should come and listen to these taunts instead of the OP. The OP had the right to make the decision on when her marriage would take place.

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    • I agree! The author expects herself to cook, or her MIL.. but never her husband. Why? So what if you were getting married? Your husband was getting married to and cooking doesn’t seem to feature in his pre-marital activities. The LW’s own attitude is not that different to the MIL’s in this situation regarding gender roles, it’s just that she happened to be at the receiving end. Unless the gender roles are challenged, this will simply go on and next it will be the LW’s DIL at the receiving end.

      Like

  17. “If a girl has done MBBS or IAS, I can understand that she did not get time to learn cooking. But it’s strange how you, a mere journalism post graduate, failed to do so.”

    I doubt that even if you HAD done an MBBS or IAS, they would have been any more sympathetic to your “short comings”. Instead, their line of choice would have been, “If you are smart enough for an MBBS or IAS, how come you aren’t smart enough to learn how to cook/learn time management?” Such people can never be pleased, and it is impossible to try.

    I do remember a family friend who was asked this question by one of the boys she met. She works as a chemist, so her reply was, “Yes, I can cook meth. Is that acceptable?” Obviously, this was a both a lie and a joke (seeing as it’s a highly dangerous, and illegal, drug). Luckily for her, the boy and his family turned out to be quite enlightened. :) He got the joke, and they didn’t ask questions like that ever again, and they actually got married. Thankfully, for the both of them, she doesn’t do the cooking.

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    • //I doubt that even if you HAD done an MBBS or IAS, they would have been any more sympathetic to your “short comings”. Instead, their line of choice would have been, “If you are smart enough for an MBBS or IAS, how come you aren’t smart enough to learn how to cook/learn time management?” Such people can never be pleased, and it is impossible to try.//

      I agree, take a look:

      http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/an-email-my-in-laws-want-me-to-stay-here-with-them-while-my-husband-works-in-another-city/

      “What I find the most frustrating and painful is that at my work place I make decisions that could result in the life or death of a patient but in my personal life has little control over my own self and hence little autonomy of my own. I am psychologically under pressure
      My husband is otherwise ok to me but does not respect my family. So far the past 3 years there has been zero interaction between my in laws and my family.”

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      • Yup. There’s no reprieve. As long as you try to exert autonomy over your life, you’ll be damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s only when you fall strictly into line with your in-laws (and be a doormat), that you’ll ever get any acceptance.

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  18. This made me smile for I am a former journalist. And my chapati, the way I chop my ginger (grate it and pound it, don’t just grate it) before adding that 1 little tsp of it to the dal, the way i cook my veggies came under attack when I got married. I was always told how lucky I am that they GAVE ME such a well-educated, super intelligent husband!
    Although such a lovely comment wasn’t made in presence, here’s what I would have said: Mummy, as you see I am NOT so intelligent as an IAS or a doctor. I am only a journalist. and this veggie is the best I can manage given my limited intelligence and capability. What can I do? ;-) If you want I can order whatever food you like, with my own money, geddit?
    Apart from that, you know what I did when I realised my new family had not the decency to accept food on their plates? I passed on the entire duty to my maid. Now if they want to have tea and snacks even, they must wait. I request them to wait for the maid to turn up because of course, I don’t make tea very well. I care two hoots about proving my capabilities to them.

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  19. I am not a journalist (nor married). Per in the same situation. I cook when it is needed, but I don’t enjoy cooking. It is not a rule to be a cook before getting married. why does MIL forgets ki saas bhi kabhee bahu thi?

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  20. Pingback: “If a girl has done MBBS or IAS, I can understand that she did not get time to learn cooking. But it’s strange how you, a mere journalism post graduate, failed to do so.” | bhartiyabahu

  21. High qualifications and even being the daughter of well placed parents can buy a new bahu some brownie points, certainly. It’s hilarious. Though my in-laws are liberal and supportive, the larger family on my husband’s side constantly justified the leniency with which I was treated citing my education and that my parents were doctors! They meant no harm, they are too ingrained in the patriarchal construct to even perceive how bizarre the situation is.
    On this particular instance, it seems like the bahu for being set up to fail, so that people could have the opportunity to criticize. Sadly, this is a common mindset. Why do families forget that it is in their larger interest that the new member family blends in and lived with harmony rather than create friction and hurt early in the relationship between the family and the bahu?

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  22. So now the women will be excused from making round chapatis ONLY if they are doctors or IAS officers?

    All other professions have no chance??

    Wow. Just wow.

    This MIL is not just sexist and cruel and unjust (and a lot of things I want to say but can’t say on public forum like this), but also very limited in her approval of careers.

    Like

    • You got it quite right. This is a trait that I came to know disturbed my hubby’s school life as well. Doctor or IAS was the final thing. Desires to become a lawyer, soldier, athlete, engineer were brushes aside as useless. We all have biases and strong opinions. But one should never belittle other’s opinions and choices

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  23. Ha Ha Ha… Saasu Ma has left her brain in her old chulha …. ;-) I think we have to start saying straight that this is ridiculous , until we start saying straight on face at that moment nothing will change.I know it is tough in initial marriage but I think there is where we women are missing the whole point , These nonsense enter inch by inch the moment we give a loose area without respondinf .We have to Start this , There are risks but at what cost.We are not at War but any nonsense should be stopped at the bud.Basically No Nonsense Never.3N.

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    • BTW I fall in one of the Elite Categories of Saasu Maa…But I still think we all should learn to cook (of course men too) not only some non elite women..My Husband cooks breakfast everyday , dinner and lunch too if he is not in office or I cook breakfast and all or nothing …..It is a survival skill ..Comeon Indian Men are not cooking not finding their own mate …is there any basic skills left as a living being …India is a PagalKhaana as I said…

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  24. Guys, i have read all the above comments carefully and most of them are very serious. I agree that cooking good nutritious food is an important skill most people shud possess. But i wud like to share an incident here with all of you. It happened with my best friend, and she went through a terrible trauma on the very first morning at her in-laws’place in the metro city of mumbai.

    Her name is misha walia. She is the daughter of an industrialist, an only child so was pampered by the whole joint family. Even all her male cousins loved her very much because she is the single girl. She got married to a boy who came from a family as rich and wealthy as her dad, his dad was her dad’s best friend. The proposal came from the boy’s side initially. Both got married within a couple of months, the girl was still studying in college. She was about to begin her final year of M.B.A. On the wedding night, her husband got to know that his biwi was a total kid, very cute, little bit spoilt but a generous and lovely girl. He made the first night a beautiful and memorable one for her. She was so happy that she was resembling a decorated doll the next morning. She was really happy and excited. But there were some relatives who were constantly bickering that the girl was not ‘layak’ for their son. This mainly came from the boy’s bua, his maternal aunt. But as Papa in-law loved his little doll bahu very much, and so did sasuma, they did not bother. Even the husband’s dadi ma loved her poti bahu a lot. They had two sons and were craving for a daughter.
    After the morning aarti, the bride was led to the kitchen for her first ‘rasoi ki puja’. She did the puja without any mistake. Then buaji declared it was time for a sweet dish. Poor girl became worried as she did not even know how to light up the gas cooktop. But her in-laws loved her and thought of her as the perfect bahu in-law, so she kept quite. Then the whole family went to sit in the large drawing area, but not before buaji’s order that she wanted to eat ‘suji ka halwa’. Now just think guys, ki jis bichari bachi ne kabi pani tak boil nai kiya tha, wo halwa kaise banati? The girl was so scared that she wept a little, but then dailled rest. number on her mobile and got halwa by home delivery. Then she went out to serve everyone. Buaji was surprised that laadli bahu did it so quickly. But unconvinced, she went to the kitchen while misha got shagun from elders and fished out the plastic halwa box of the hotel. Believe me people, that bua threw the halwa box on misha and insulted her very badly. But as misha’s husband and entire family only sided with the new bride, and dadi ma blamed her daughter to protect the kulvadhu, misha was saved that day. Sadly the incident traumatised her so much that she became very quiet and subdued. Once she tried to prepare payassam in microwave but only succeeded in burning her hand, so her mother-in-law and dadi saas along with father-in-law and patidev do not let her near the kitchen any more. Till this day, even after a whole year, they look after and pamper her in every way, but she is still in a terrible state of shock, although she truly loves her sasuraal.

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  25. Pingback: “Now I just think of marriage as contract to go serve some stranger family. He made it clear that I could have ended in a much worse situation.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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