“Although my in laws maintain a facade of being content with what they have and never asking the girl’s side for anything…”

Sharing an email.

Hi. I read the email you published about eating without showering [link]. I thought of sharing my own experience with you and asking you and your readers for some advice regarding the same. 

I have been married into a joint family for a year and a half. The family includes my mother and father in law, my husband’s elder brother and his wife and kid and a daadi saas.

Something has been pinching me for a while.  Although my in laws maintain a facade of being very content with what they have and never asking the girl’s side for anything, but they are constantly criticising their elder son’s wife and her family for never sending anything. ‘Beti wale kam se kam mithai ka dibba toh bhej hi sakte hain.’ is a line hear all the time. I’m from a well to do family and my parents do give them tokens, no matter how much I tell them not to. I honestly believe that my in laws do not talk crap about my family because they get these gifts, which they accept readily.

Things are getting worse though. The other day, my jethani was talking about a girl whose parents had given the boy’s parents 101 gold ginnis for a function. So my FIL, with his sad sense of humour, said something about asking his bahus’ families for the same.

All of this has really started irritating me. I spoke to my husband about it and he started his same old pravachan about me not understanding how wonderful his family is.

How should I deal with this?

I would really appreciate the feedback of your readers too. As for my parents, they refuse to listen. They tell me that they need to fulfil their duties, regardless of what anyone does.

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Can dowry ensure happiness and security for a girl?

Can Dowry be compared to Inheritance?

Indian women and their Easy Wealth.

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84 thoughts on ““Although my in laws maintain a facade of being content with what they have and never asking the girl’s side for anything…”

  1. This is really sad. Even if someone can afford, isn’t giving your piece of heart to someone, the best parents can ever do. I am lucky, my in-laws refuse to take any money from my parents, even after lot of convincing they will take a rupee or so. And they never send my parents empty handed…*Touchwood*

    • It’s good that your inlaws do not take anything from your parents. However, saying that they have given you to them is ridiculous. I do not think human beings can be given or taken! You are married to their son and that’s that.

        • It is the same thought process put another way..how do you change your family? Is it some sort of tangible process or social conditioning? Does the husband change his family? What does ‘becoming part of another family’ mean? Isn’t it a more sophisticated way of saying girls are transferable commodities

  2. Usually, I would advocate a somewhat thoughtful approach. But, being someone who would never allow anyone to mess with my family, I have only a couple suggestions for you that I would do:

    1) Tell them to stuff it. Other words you can use for more panache as it were, would be, “get lost”, “shut the hell up” and the ever popular “f*** off”.

    2) Tell your husband that while he may think his family is wonderful, he is blinded by his own biases. He grew up with them. He was raised by them. Of course he is obliged to think that they are wonderful. But that does not mean that they do not have faults, this being a serious one.

    3) Tell your parents to stop giving them things. Period. This needs to stop. It is only by enabling them that you’re making them bolder. Stop taxing your family. They shouldn’t have to bribe your in-laws into liking them or you. Your in-laws should love you of their own accord. This grudging respect that has been bought through gifts and gold, while monetarily costly, is ultimately the cheapest kind of respect and means nothing. This is not the kind of respect you should be getting.

    Remember though, that by getting your parents to stop these gifts, you WILL be making things worse for yourself in the eyes of your in-laws. Probably on par with your elder sister-in-law. But your parents don’t deserve to have their hard-earned savings drain away because of selfish idiots.

    Explaining this last bit to your parents will be hard, because they know as well as you do the true colours of your in-laws. I suspect perhaps they may be trying to protect you by giving in to their outrageous demands. Ask them if this is the case. If it is, tell them that you’re strong enough to handle it. Let them know how this kind of duty is not a duty, but a burden. Remind them that their real duty is to do right by YOUR wishes, and not your in-laws blackmail. You are their daughter. It is you whose voice should count. Not theirs.

  3. As I see it, you have a few options:

    - Be upfront and tell your in-laws that this kind of talk makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t feel up to directly telling them off about their beliefs about ladkiwales, at least tell them that you feel this kind of talk will create unhappiness/resentment in the family. Walk off when you hear such talk. Make it clear that you don’t want to listen. Maybe that will make them stop. If your husband won’t speak up, at least tell him you will not stay quiet.

    - Sit tight, so long as its not about you. Clearly, not a great option, but if you’re uncomfortable with conflict….

    - Ask your SIL what she feels about it, maybe speak up as a team? Not sure how open you can be with her.

    - If its important enough to you, tell your parents to stop. Don’t ask them.

  4. May be you should start throwing hints –
    What are the boys family giving my parents ? I f they say that is not “traditional”. Tell them how new traditions and rules can be started in a matter of time and convenience.

    Honestly I feel it is the girls family whom I will blame, because they are the ones who feel obligatory and guilty of giving birth to a girl and constantly in order to do “prayeschit ” they will constantly give to apease ! But receiving hands never get tired, but just ask for more – PAVLOV”S DOG .

    Let me tell you my story. My father was asked , How much dowry will he give for me . I over heard teh conversation , because my parents knew that I would get P****** off and was trying to give without my knowledge !!!!!!! So I told my father , why dont you give me the money, instead of the dowry . He said that is my share – exactly than give it to me !!! But NOPE .

    The society is made up of such people like my father . Since I married on my own ( OUT of religion / caste / class / age ) barrier nothing is still given . And that is the way I Wanted it . But that does not mean I will give it all UP for my brother . I will get my share , until a will is written !!

    Women have to get smarter and shrewder . And since we manage to do our own ( including funding our own education in the US ( scraping after living and leave withing our means ) they might feel that we dont need the share any more . So what do I do ?

    Make new GOALS, BELIEVE in oneself SOME MORE and the universe conspires that I grow better, brighter and bigger ( relative subject ) but NOT BITTER.
    We become LIKE the cocreator , humbler , NOT nobler . The real wealth is our thoughts and keep changing to become like co-creators . The rest is ALL MAYA.

    I AM

    Chow !

  5. How sad an unfair all this is. I can relate to all this because once upon a time i was the ‘elder bahu’. I feel moral and emotional support from you would mean a lot to your Jethani. Please be vocal about your support to her and let her know that whats happening is grossly unfair…its not your doing and infact just like her you are also stuggling to find a solution.

  6. When parents of girls give gifts to her In-laws they do not realise that they are participating in a game with no finish line.the kind of competition mentioned here within the family and outside about which boy and his parents got how much is disastrous and a major motivation to seek dowry and gifts.
    An elderly colleague once was under a pressure because not the in-laws of her daughter but her daughter wanted them to buy a particular model of a car for her so that she could outshine the gifts brought by her co-sister.

    So if we see deeply all of us for our own short-term gratification are promoting a hugely exploitative system. If a new couple needs some kind of financial or other help and only if any of the set of parents are willingly ready to help they should but this cannot be made into a norm.

    After almost 9 years of my marriage and convincing I have finally driven the point home to my parents that small occasional gifts for me ,my husband or our kid( for birthdays or festivals are okay) but they are under no obligation to send any gifts to anyone in HIS family even if they can easily afford it and I am their only child.

    Sometimes WOMEN need to take these calls and not let others decide because in the long run we, women like us and the future generation of girls will suffer the side effects.

    • Even though she does not own that wealth but her association with the wealth owner bestows her preferential treatment and higher social status. Your colleagues daughter doesn’t own the wealth to procure the much coveted car but she is associated with the wealth owner (father and natal kin) and that bestows higher social status on her, she’ll milk every word of it.

      Creating competition between the co-sisters is not based on their personal worth but on that of their relationship with men in their lives.
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/401/

      It is important the young woman here, voices her concerns clearly and extend her support to her co-sister. Often in such cases the extension of support is misunderstood as exhibitionism and exerting superiority but this link explains how one can word the support, why it is important for women to have each others’ back.
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/633/

      She can ask her parents to bring a token gift for her co-sister and treat her like their own. She can snub snide remarks made by her in-laws directly even if they are making it subtly because subtlety over subtlety will lead no where but impasse and an endless dance of politeness. Once you put your foot down and hold your ground only then you can put an end to this nonsense there is no other way.

      Talking to your parents firmly can work only if they are reasonable enough to see how it creating a chasm between you and your co-sister who is going to be your family and her children will be only cousins to your children on that side of the family once the in-laws are gone.

      Most of all if you feel it is not right then you should take steps towards correcting the wrong and congratulations you just took one by writing this email.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

  7. I think you should give all of this talk what is called a “royal ignore”.

    Don’t react at all. As if you didn’t hear.

    If FIL demands subtly, you deny subtly! Give examples of parents in law who have gifted so and so to their daughter in law. Or give them quotes which imply “copying others is not good”

    Don’t drag husband into this if he is not giving any thought to this matter. If you drag him, he will form an opinion about this too, which has a higher probability of being in sync with his parents rather than you. So let him be out of this.

    Continue your stand with your parents of doing nothing extravagant for the in-laws. They gave their daughter, its more than enough. If it doesn’t suit them, well its not your problem, is it? :)

    • “Don’t drag husband into this if he is not giving any thought to this matter. If you drag him, he will form an opinion about this too, which has a higher probability of being in sync with his parents rather than you”

      He HAS to form an opinion on this and now! What if/when the husband becomes a father of a girl? Will he follow the same pattern of his own father? That has to be clear and NOW, not in some distant future.
      Besides, any man who is silent on these issues is as much a culprit as the parents. The question of ‘dragging’ him into it does not arise. He is up to his nose in it already.

      • Ok. I should have clarified properly why I think so.

        From my own experience with my husband, I find that he generally has no opinion on matters like these. He is fine with gift / no gift at all. I mean his thoughts never go in the direction at all.

        Even if his parents say something like “no gift” bla bla, he just ignores the comment as a general one because my in laws also dont clearly ask for anything. They too put up a show of leaving these gifting business behind them but subtle hints / comments make me understand that they actually want more.

        Once or twice I tried to bring it to the husbands notice and found that without even giving a thought to it, he started thinking that his parents were right.

        Hence I figured that keeping him out of this is best for us. Because he doesn’t think on these lines at all. If made to chose between wifes view and parents view, even then, without giving much thought, he is likely to choose the parents view and then, stick to it for a lifetime.

        • I can understand why you would want to keep the husband out of this Smriti.But ask yourself this – Given that he leans towards his parents opinions, imagine you have a girl child and her in-laws love taking gifts.What then? Will your husband give? I think he will.He will give gifts as per your daughter’s in-laws demands.Is that good? Is that acceptable to you?

        • No he does have an opinion. His opinion is this. “I dislike what my parents are doing and I know this is cheap, but getting a free AC during summer and money for winter vacation is so welcome. Besides my wife sleeps in the same AC room and it was a nice vacation for her. Besides if I object, Ma will call me hen-pecked. I will avoid conflict and keep my mouth shut. I hope my wife believes that I am too innocent for plotting. All these serials imply that only women can plot and men are just pawns. Let me keep the facase up

        • ” I find that he generally has no opinion on matters like these. He is fine with gift / no gift at all. I mean his thoughts never go in the direction at all.”

          This is because he has the privilege of choosing to be completely ignorant on these matters. Personally, I’d be very worried about being married to someone who was so blissfully ignorant to the injustices going on in the household.

          I’m also a bit troubled that simply because you’ve chosen to allow your husband to be ignorant, that you give other people the advice to do the same. Most people (men and women) want an equal partner–not someone who’s not going to do anything because he doesn’t have an opinion.

        • These men who don’t believe in don’t ask don’t tell when actually become father of daughters express their surprise like, “why do we have to give her every time, we all ready spent so much on her education and the wedding.” They choose to totally forget all their lives they accepted gifts they did not ask for but just to oblige the giver, their wife’s family. It is also a case where there are no sisters in the family.
          http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/desi-sex-ratio-and-marriage-nirmala-1925-to-2011/

          Peace,
          Desi Girl

      • So instead of dealing with a husband with misogynistic tendencies and calling him out on it, it’s better to live in denial and never bring up the topic. Is this any different to the usual advice of adjusting?

    • “They gave their daughter, its more than enough.” — sad that women think this way. marriage is 2 adults in partnership not one adult given to another , what is she a loaf of bread?
      I have 2 sons, i don’t want anyone’s child , especially their adult child thank you.
      I’m hoping my sons are wise to find an equal partner for their future and together they build their joys and sorrows. we certainly hope they don’t pick simpering misses whose custody is transferred from dad to husband. they can remain precious to their families just like my sons will remain precious in our eyes .
      We dont want anyone’s Dhaan than you kanya or otherwise.

    • @Smriti
      Although other people have raised objections to your ‘don’t drag your husband into this’ , my objection is different.
      It is with “they gave their daughter,its more than enough”.

      A one way transfer of cash and goods is continually occurring in the family while the woman looks haplessly on, unable to change this situation in the slightest. Her parents don’t listen to her, neither do her in-laws. Husband sides with in-laws. The same story is repeated all over the nation.

      It does seem like EVERYONE (excepting her) thinks and acts like she was “given away ” no?

      Seems like the answer lies in putting up a defiant front and telling the in-laws AND her parents that they have got it terribly wrong. She hasn’t been given away, and she won’t allow anymore ‘giving’ in her name to go on.

      My suggestion: Host a big dinner with delicious food and then make the dramatic announcement that enough is enough and you will seriously consider legal proceedings under the Dowry Prohibition Act if this goes on any longer.
      While everybody’s jaws drop, serve dessert, tell them you were kidding-for now, but won’t be kidding about it much longer.

      • “You are so very disgusting and evil minded and your venom even trickles down to the desserts you serve.”
        Actual comment on my blog in response to my words here.

        If the FIL can joke about asking for gold, I think a DIL can also make jokes about how that’s illegal:)

        • I am aghast that somebody wrote that comment on your blog, desidaaru12.The commenter is filled with bitterness and that is showing in his/her comment.I wonder how badly such a person treats family and friends with feminist views.
          True what you say, that if the FIL can joke, so can the DIL.Afterall, both are humans.

        • @desidaaru12,
          When someone makes uncalled for personal attacks, it shows an inability to discuss the problem rationally and defend their viewpoint logically. If someone cannot simply say, “I disagree with you because of xyz reasons ….” and instead resorts to “YOU ARE AN xyz ….”, I feel sorry for them.

        • There is a bunch of trolls on full time tirade and personal attacks on DG and IHM so now it is extended to more of you. The nature of some comments and emails sent is not only sexual in nature but violent too.
          Ladies please band together and see what can together we do about these haters.
          Peace,
          Desi Girl

    • ” They GAVE their daughter” – since this is the BUSINESS of indian marriage, the SIDE EFFECTS ( borrowed expression from some one who rightly said above ) BEGINS and there is NO touch down ever !

  8. Its petty to ask, isn’t it? Next time they make a joke about expecting the bahu’s family to ply them with stuff, tell them they are comfortably placed in life and don’t need to cheapen themselves by spreading their palms in front of others for their needs or desires. :P

  9. This whole gift system should be stopped ..All it can create is differences among people .. You can see the real attitude of people when you stop giving gifts to them…
    I think you should tell your parents not to give them gifts…after all there is no point in getting love from your in-laws in such a manner by giving things…

  10. These are the ‘privileges’ that a male child brings, that eventually leads to parents hoping against hope they don’t get a daughter. If not a plush car, parents of the boy will still ask for a ‘mithai ka dabba’ and think they are the God’s gifts to the girl’s family for asking so little.

  11. Hey, I am also in the same boat. My jethani’s family keeps on sending something or other thing on each occasion. My in-laws never say anything but don’t say no to those gifts. Because of this my dad has to take some gifts or sweets everytime he visits. My dad is ok with it. But I don’t like it. My another devrani has also problem with this as her family is not so well off . And as she and my jethani stays with in-laws, everytime her family gets compared. I have spoken to my hubby to ask his parents to stop accepting the gift. He once tried to speak with in laws. In laws are like we are not asking . We cant say no and hurt them. I sometime feel bad for my devrani. I have already asked dad not to go with gifts everytime.
    Being in a family with devrani and jethani, i have seen many comparisons like this. I work and my jethani always feels that my in laws are always partial to me.
    I am not sure how to make her understand that act some of her action creating problem for others.

    • We are in the 21st century and people think and believe that they live in the 8th century, but you know what in the 8th century was the vedas – the book of all education , encoded and encrypted.

      So NOPE , those who cannot be AWARE, who COMPARE belong to “RED World”, because even animals do not compare and are aware than some human beings.

      On a side note – I have never lived with the inlaws really only on visits , but I have always had my fill after the 3rd day. The daughter stays with the MIL and give hints and I brush it of once / twice and then tell my husband . SPEAK up and the moment he says something the sister becomes like a cat for 2 days and then starts again.

      I am starting to believe that HINDU families are “LIKE THAT ONLY” for no apt expression. EVEN SILS behaving like MILs ! Good god

  12. As Saru mentioned, giving away the most precious part of their lives itself is a biggest gift they could ever give. Parents have to understand that they have done their best in providing us with the right amount of education and independence and must not at any cost, offer anything else in order to please. Similarly, it is the in-laws who must save their self-respect by refusing politely and requesting not to repeat the same. If these things are not stopped, how can two families become one?

  13. I would challenge this right when they say stuff like “‘Beti wale kam se kam mithai ka dibba toh bhej hi sakte hain.’ “. Just ask them, why just ‘beti’ ke ghar wale? Say ‘aajkal beta beti mein koi fark nahi hai, fark karna acchi baat nahi hai’. Tell them if they want to exchange mithai, beta-beti is not important and all children all equal, so maybe they should send mithai first.

    Say this not in anger or dramatically but matter of factly, even pleasantly. Since they pretend to not want dowry etc, no need to be defensive, after all they should agree with you. Shame them right when they say such things. One of two things will happen, (1) they take a hint and stop saying such stuff, since they seem to want to ‘appear’ content, (2) they react with anger and drama in which case you expose their hypocrisy and the issue is out in the open and you can openly take a stand against dowry and for equality.. also mention dowry/ financial gifts are illegal.

  14. This frequently ,casually used phrase of giving away the daughter makes my blood boil..these are the gems I have heard from educated girls who mind you are talking about themselves being given away
    -girl’s mothers are greater, they sacrifice more..made me study so much n then gave me off to someone else.
    -a colleague knowing me to be a feminist says this to get my approval- my father says girl’s side is superior coz humne beti de hai..kuch liya nahi hai tumse
    What horse crap is this? Can one human own another? Do the girl’s parents own her in the first place to give her off to someone? Do we own our domestic help even though they clean up after us? These thoughts also promote the idea that parents have children and invest on them only so that dividends are paid to them later. Since as per them daughters are to be given off like cattle, sweets, they are a poor investment
    .
    -

    • Buying and selling humans used to be called slavery and is universally agreed as one of the most cruel things humans did. To deny a person their autonomy and rather use them as chattel that can be bought or sold. No one would dare publicly defend this today. Taking the master’s name also applied to slaves in some places and times.

      However, ‘giving’ away humans (women) is seen as an acceptable duty of their parents. Women do not possess full autonomy in our system. At the very least, they are ‘donated’ without having a say in it because of ‘tradition’.. and at most, they are literally treated as slaves by their new ‘owners’ – who dictate exactly how their lives are to be. No laws against this and people openly circulate senti messages about how women are great because they are ‘given away’ to strangers and them make their house happy.

      It’s amazing how things that are not ok to say or do because of race anymore are still ok to say and do because of gender.

  15. I would applaud the LW’s jethani’s parents for not sending mithai ka dabba on every festival/happy occasion.
    LW,
    I wonder, does your husband have a sister? I am guessing not.Else, your in-laws would be faced with the pressure of sending mithai boxes to her in-laws and would understand not to make such comments about beti-wale and their unwritten obligation to keep sending mithai.Anyways, the next time such a comment is passed, inform them that beta and beti are equal in this day and age.

  16. Nobody denies that the family is wonderful, but to whom and how is the Matter of discussion.

    As many pointed out here – AS LONG AS THE HUSBAND is SILENT about the discussion he IS PARTY TO HIS PARENTS HINTS as well. When the husband says NO, and when the parents want the gifts , then there is going to be a strife at home – between the husband and HIS parents and then YOU will be blamed. Because the husband cannot OWN It up.

    Isnt there some where within ritual that says that the husband and the wife will be a unit as well. The husband is still with his mother’s pallu – tell this to your husband ,and he will be WORSE off. ( please dont tell us – go nice on the matter – but sometimes calling a spade a spade.

    Teh girl is supposed to LIVE the mothers home and THE BOY CONTINUES TO REMAIN A BOY WITH additional maid in a wife.

    SPEAK UP NOW or forever hold your peace BECAUSE THEY WILL HOW TEAR TO YOU PIECES ( now that is an extrmeem – but subtle torture is not good

    - I can give you my long story. When my husband started TALKING To his ssister and parents they backed off. Why did I ask him to tell, because If I tell directly they will ssay I am fighting with them, but when their son/brother talk , they over look it !!! !!! And the main case in point – We are married to the boys and in their house , let them start speaking – LEVERAGE teh obvious situation.

    They will not like us , but they any way dont like us for “STEALING” their son.

  17. Taking and asking for gifts ( aka dowry) – asked for or implicitly thru unasked for pressure is a CRIME. I would also remind the LW that GIVING dowry is also equally a Crime.
    If one doesnt give they cannot take. First tell your parents to stop giving in to society and culture and buying love for you and the rest will fall in place. ( or not ) but you’re an adult and can deal with that.

  18. If I were in your position, I’d firstly ask my parents to stop giving gifts. If they’re coming over for dinner, than bringing over a bottle of wine would be fine, but gold coins? boxes of sweets? that’s ridiculous.

    Also, if I were in this kind of a joint family set up, than I’d clearly have to play my own passive aggressive cards right to keep myself from being trampled over. So if your FIL made a comment like ‘so and so’s family sent 10 boxes of sweets on diwali,’ I’d say ‘South Asians have an insanely high rate of diabetes and heart disease, you shouldn’t be eating 10 boxes of sweets!’ But seriously though, I’d leave this kind of a joint family setting immediately. I’d hate to turn into someone who fights passive aggression with passive aggression and plays innocent when caught (because that’s essentially what you’ll have to do).

      • Thanks small town feminist! The impression that I’ve gotten from reading these kinds of things online is that you have to be slightly more abusive than your abuser to stay and thrive in that kind of setting. It turns into an unpleasant cycle that seems to be repeated every generation.

  19. Tell your parents to stop needlessly spending money on gifts or mithai ( bad for the body to eat so much sweets anyway). yes there will be fallout , people used to gifts miss it when it stops suddenly .

    Your in-laws claim they don’t ask right, then have your parents stop, or if they bring it in-spite of your refusal ( some parents are like that, fear of society rules their life), refuse in-front of in-laws, take the gift , eat it right away of course share with everyone and tell them not to waste money again in front of everyone …it might just work.

    human nature – if someone keeps gifting me stuff, i might initially find it awkward and try compensate them , after a while I’ll simply give up, and enjoy it i guess… what else could i do. :-) he he he
    when you rin-laws joke about asking for stuff or mithai then you can joke back that mithai is quite cheap and you’ll buy it yourself, this way they’ll get to eat just the mithai they want ..

  20. You can do this: before going to your parents place, tell your husband/in-laws that you would like to buy equal number of gifts as you got from them last time. Make it clear to your parents too that it’s gonna happen. Tell them that’s how equal relations work. We can’t force anyone not to give presents, but we can definitely stop the one way flow of gifts.

  21. How you should deal with this really depends on what work you are willing to put in, in order to be treated as an adult. When you live in a joint family, the odds are already stacked against you. If you are going to continue to live in such an arrangement, you need to figure out how you can continue to be in charge of your own life.

    The gift giving for instance – the gifts are coming from your parents. You could ask your parents to stop doing so, saying it is against your values. Will your parents listen and respect your views, now that you are an adult? If not, that’s something you need to make clear to them. You need to work on your relationship with your parents with the goal of being treated as an independent adult.

    If they do stop giving gifts, you may face the disapproval of your husband. You and your husband need to be aligned on this issue. For this, you need to have mutual respect and must basically share the same values. So, there is work to be done in the husband wife relationship area.

    When you and your husband are aligned, chances are your in-laws may not complain as much. On the other hand, it is also likely that there will be friction with your in-laws in spite of your husband’s stand. This is where you will need to establish boundaries with your in-laws – making it clear that while you live with them, you are also an individual who will be in charge of your own life.

    The gift giving is jus the beginning. Throughout your life, other people (parents, husband, in-laws) may try to fit into their respective roles dictated by society, which in turn pushes you into a certain role, one that requires you to give up your values, which may not be desirable to you. It is up to you to do the work to ensure that you remain the adult in all of these relationships.

  22. My colleague had got married and everyone in my team was pressing him for a treat.There were about 10-15 of us in the team
    and usually team treats are given in fancy places.I felt sympathetic because marriage expense ,the furniture/appliance purchase/rental advance etc after
    marriage had used up a major portion of our savings.I hinted this to other team mates when they were suggesting an expensive restaurant.
    That’s when I came to know that all the furniture, TV,refrigerator and washing machine were to be gifts from the girls parents.They had traveled from Andhra to make the
    purchase and it seems that is the custom there. I felt bad and told him it was sad that an educated guy like him with a decent job let this happen to which he shrugged and replied
    that that’s how it worked in his place

    In my case my husbands family had not asked for anything(I would have not agreed to the marriage if they did), in spite of which my parents had bought me around 50-60 sovereigns
    of gold.Gold price was not so high as it is today, but it was expensive and it must have cost my parents a fortune.
    I protested, refused to go to make the purchase (none of my jewelry was purchased in my presence) and even refused to wear it for the wedding initially ;but had to give in to their emotional blackmail in the end.
    In Kerala, I think the false pride of the girls family in draping their daughters in gold for the wedding is one of the greatest evil.It breaks the financial back
    bone of a middle class family and people continue doing this even if the groom himself admits he doesn’t want it.

    • I’m from Andhra and it’s not universal to furnish a couple’s new home. yes, parents do it because they feel it would help their daughter but that’s such a mistake. it sets the precedent that the couple arr not a self sufficient unit.

      the point of marriage is to be together for good or for bad. to fend for themselves. an Andhra marriage has a ritual where the couple is compared to the two cows/ bullocks that pull a plough. who must together pull through life. nit an elegant metaphor but fairly accurate. what happens to all that when taking money to furnish homes?

      my dad tried to explain the religious significance of kanyadaan once. he said the bride and groom are considered manifestations of lakshmi and vishnu and so the father of the bride washes the groom’s feet. if I’m a manifestation of goddess lakshmi, why didn’t anyone wash my feet? no answer there.

      it’s disgusting how many things go on in the name of culture in our country. horrible treatment of women tops the list.

    • The parents always ALWAYS seem to know that their kids will give in to emotional blackmail in the end.How do they know? What power do they have over their children!!!
      Friends of mine who swore they will never marry, never marry a guy chosen by the parents, never have kids, have ended up doing the exact opposite, all due to emotional blackmail.Sad.

      • And those who dont sccumb to enomotional blackmail are called “WITCHES” by their own parent. I have been there and heard that . YOUR heart breaks so that your parents are saved, but the parents are Trying to pROVE harder that they have kept their end of the TRADITIONAL bargain BIGGER. it is SHAME to the humanE society, but then nobody is willing to make this news and make it as part of the society…that is where the folly lies in

  23. Exchange of gifts between in laws and parents….. story of my life!!

    Though my MIL is in a slightly different category who sends suitcases full of gifts for my family, despite all my protests. My FIL smiles, obeys her and obliges her by taking her to shopping every time she needs.

    But that means that better and costlier gifts should be sent back when I go back. However it is not said but remains implied. when I go back, all the neighbours and tenants join my MIL and dadi saas in looking at gifts and reviewing them like one would open their shopping bags after a day of shopping at the sale. My mother once told me “Khali haath to muh me nahi jata” (Empty hand does not go to mouth). Being good parents of ‘Beti’, they follow the lead of my MIL. I seethe within.

    I am visiting my parents now. MIL sent gifts with me, though minimized due to my efforts. A few days ago, my FIL called me and told me that MIL was insisting that he visits me here and brings ‘TEEJ’ ( gifts for a festival like karvachauth). I told him ‘These are age old customs. Dont you think we should change them?’ He laughed and told about how MIL wont listen. I told him ‘Apka ashirwad kaafi hai. Ye sab rehne dijiye.’ (Your blessings are enough. Please do not do any of this.)

    I keep on dropping subtle hints as well as talking directly and emphatically about changing some of them including this practice of gifts which does nothing better than burdening both sides, mostly my parents. Even if they are well off and can afford it, it is still a bad custom which sends wrong signals in the society.

    I do not expect things to change overnight. These people follow their ‘traditions’ like anything and are neck deep into them. But I hope my small efforts are going to show some difference some day. I also pray to God for a ‘devrani’ whose thinking pattern is similar. :)

    As for including husband in this matter, my husband is mostly out of the scene due to work. I do not trouble him on phone but do keep him in the loop when he is around.

    • @Gunjan,
      If the current generation feels the way you do, I am guessing few years down, exchange of gifts wii be obsolete.Because we abhor the age old customs of exchanging gifts, we will not teach it to our kids for sure.Nor will we encourage it ever in their time.So , here is keeping fingers crossed that you get a like minded devrani.

  24. In India still there are crores of nonsense stuff going on as if it is normal infact people scorn u for opposing nonsense as if logic has some other meaning and we just got disaligned….Indians hence stay in state of Mad…As I always say until we start behaving normal ..India is a Pagalkhaana..

  25. “my jethani was talking about a girl whose parents had given the boy’s parents 101 gold ginnis for a function. ”

    Is this jethani the same elder son’s wife who is criticized?

    I think that traditional arranged marriages come with these patriarchial overtones – dowry, ladkiwale, ladkewale. Women need to know what an arranged marriage means, just they need to understand the implications of marrying into a joint family setup, and be able to refuse them right in the beginning. It is not just the girl marrying a guy, it is marrying into a whole setup with expectations from the “bahu” and her family.

  26. About the ‘giving’ of daughters: my husband used the term once to tell the relation between 2 sets of parents he knew. He said, ‘These folks have given their daughter to those folks’. And I cringed. I explained to him how saying ‘their daughter married their son’ makes more sense and gives more power to the daughter. He thought for a second or two and said I was right.

    A couple years later, a friend of ours was explaining how smart/sympathetic his religious leader was who said,’ladkiwale ladki dete hain. Denewala chhota kaise hua?’ To which my husband replied, ‘there is so much gender bias in this statement itself. It’s 2 people getting married. There is no question of give or take’.

    This shows how changing your language can change your thoughts. It’s very important to use the right words.

    • I completely agree to this language change. This language is so deep rooted in our lifestyle that we even fail to notice the implicit gender bias in it. I have adopted this approach of complete role reversal of taking about the boy and the girl in front of my inlaws. In India you always come to ‘see’ the bride or the the bride’s parents come to ‘show’ their daughter. Its never meet, its always ‘show’ or ‘see’ . In a daily conversation with my inlaws I once referred, when you came to ‘show’ your son , so and so happened. Or when we came to your house to ‘see’ your son, so and so happened. Jaws dropped. Eyesballs became bigger . FIL tried to correct me, its not we came to ‘show’ him, but we came rather to ‘see’ you. I then said, oh so you were seeing me but hiding(not showing!) him?
      Whole scene got rather comical . Now my inlaws bite their tongue before using such phrases, and its my small victory towards equality.

      • Also when we talk about savings we talk, about kids like, we need money for the boy’s education and girl’s wedding, I say we need money for the boy’s wedding and the girl’s education , ppl look at me like I am an insane alien, but eventually I manage to drive the point home, atleast they are careful before me and think twice before being gender biased before me.

  27. The husband has to be ‘dragged’ in, sadly. They are his bleddy parents no?

    In our case, we (my husband and I) refused to let our parents splurge on our wedding. This is our budget – our joint savings so far, you want a wedding while we are okay with a civil ceremony, so please manage within this is what we said. And we absolutely put our foot down – there were protests but we were adamant we did not want to waste their hard-earned money.

    After this, neither set of parents worry about our finances. They occasionally do give us advice about what seems like a good investment to them, but that’s it. They have no idea how much we earn and they don’t ask us. My parents visit us as much as my folks-in-law. They also visit my folks-in-law when we aren’t around (we all live in different cities) and vice versa. No gifts business. If anything my MIL sometimes picks up things (sarees etc) for my mom because they are like pals now and my MIL is more into shopping. They plan their visits to our house so that they all land up together.

    When we first announced we wanted to get married, they weren’t terribly happy. From there it has come to this point where everyone is really comfortable with each other and everybody’s money is their own business (though if they ever need it we’ll obviously help out and vice versa).

    I really think it all started right in the beginning – where my husband and I TOGETHER drew the lines.

  28. If the man and woman are living with the man’s parents, and the main reason for the living together is a nod to the Indian joint-family system, how wrong is it if other Indian practices like gifts from the woman’s side are also followed? Can we cherry pick which customs to follow and which to not?

    • Why should anybody follow any customs at all? Why not just do what is ethical and what makes them happy without invading other people’s happiness. So what if it is custom to expect gifts from the bride’s parents? No one is holding a gun to anyone’s head here.

      And following one custom because it works for you does not mean you have to follow everything. It is not an all or nothing game.

    • When you buy a basket of apples and find a few of them are bad, do you throw the whole basket of apples out?
      Personally I don’t favor joint family, but if someone wants to live with their parents and are okay with it, why should giving gifts be part of it?! Baffling logic. Some years back a widow was burnt at the pyre. A “custom” that was “cherry-picked” out with some real effort. in later years. So yes, this too CAN be “cherry-picked” out if we put our minds to it. But it needs people who *think* it is an unnecessary and wrong custom, in the first place.

    • Nowhere has the LW said that she loves being in a joint family setup. You can be sure that she has not cherry-picked to live with her in-laws. And just because she ended up living in a joint family, why should you expect that she also put up with every single crappy custom and ritual?

    • you have a point. What i understand from your statement is that it’s all subjective, right? and that’s true. but cherry picking is the essence of evolution. nature didn’t morph bacteria into elephants overnight and neither can we morph into a new society in a single leap. societies evolve just as species do. in small steps and tiny increments through natural selection.

      this doesn’t mean individuals must change at a similar glacial pace. far from it. in fact we need to change as rapidly as we can to trigger the smaller changes in society. for good or bad, most of us who identify ourselves as feminists have decided to reject all that is wrong in our society all at once. and we do pay a steep social price for it. tiny example, the kind of comments desidaru’s blog received. however, not everyone who agrees with us can change at the drop of a hat. we can only encourage them to reject what’s wrong one change at a time depending on context. hopefully there will be a tipping point and the individual will “convert”. even if not, it’s still a tiny drop. in essence, what IHM does with this blog

    • ” Can we cherry pick which customs to follow and which to not?

      Of course we can and we do, ALL the time! Women still wear sarees but add a blouse underneath, by your logic they should either not wear a saree or go topless in it. The point of critical and rational thought is to not have to follow all customs blindly. Do you think it’s feasible to make no change until everyone agrees to change absolutely everything? We would still be living in caves if the world worked like that! Change happens in steps. Besides, the reason for living in a joint family could well be economical.

    • Cherry-picking things that work and dropping those that do not is called evolution.
      It is not a nice-to-have feature, is it crucial for survival.

        • This is a collective response to many responses to my previous comment.

          What I am trying to say with the “cherry picking” is that women marry knowing they are going to live in a joint-family. Note that I mentioned “when the main reason for living in a joint-family is a nod to the Indian joint-family system”. If the main reason is following tradition, then how fair is it for these women to enter the joint family but after that not follow some of the customs associated with that.

          Women marry into families knowing the family is traditional, and then complain about customs unfair to women and her parents. I think that if a woman marries a man knowing they are going to live with his family as that is the “tradition”, then, she should be prepared for following some more “traditions.”

        • @ Ek ladki, I’m not sure your explanation adds anything new. This was the very point that everyone responded to. ‘Traditional’ means different things to different people. It’s not a package deal defined on some paper that you sign when you marry. You say if people follow the joint family system, they should be prepared to follow the dowry system. So why not also follow the sati system? Where do you draw the line? Sati is illegal, as is dowry. Do you think agreeing to a joint family is de-facto agreement to burn alive on your husband’s pyre too?

          Also, what if an 18 year old marries into a joint family not giving it much thought and then realises that some of the ‘customs’ being forced upon her are unacceptable. Would you say that instead of defining boundaries, she should never have recourse to fixing these customs because she accepted one custom when she married? Should’ve people have the second, third, millionth chance to improve their personal circumstances if and when they realise that something is wrong?

  29. Your parents need to stop giving gifts.. Put an end to it sternly, without accepting any kind of explanations for it. I am unable to think of a way you can stop your in-laws jaunting their first DIL, But, it is only you who can stop your parents from encouraging and contributing to the dowry or gift system in anyway. first out an end to the gifts they send to your in-laws.

  30. Carvaka, where did I say: ” if people follow the joint family system, they should be prepared to follow the dowry system. ”
    The discussion is about very intangible and subjective things. If we start putting words in people’s comments, and I have to point that out, it gets tiresome and confusing to read.
    Dowry, sati, female infanticide are extremes and illegal. We are talking here about joint-family living and customs associated with that.

    One last try:
    When a woman, who is educated, working, independent marries a man and moves into the house where he is living with his parents (and siblings), and she is doing it since it is the tradition – she is also unwittingly signing up for some other customs. Her parents will be visiting her more than she and her husband/in-laws visiting them. The gift giving will be more from her parents’ side. Can the woman choose to live in joint-family but when it comes to gift-exchange, she wants to be all modern and all things should be equal? I am not saying the woman’s parents should gift for every festival and guy’s parents should get away with demanding gifts. But, traces of the old custom of woman’s side gifting her in-laws will remain. This, in my opinion, is part of the joint-family thing.

    One more example – if a woman willingly moves in with husband’s family after marriage, can she realistically expect her parents will stay as easily in the house as her in-laws do? I am not saying they shouldn’t drink water in her house, but, it is natural that they will be guests in her house and in-laws are residents. Why do modern working independent women move into a joint-family and then complain that their parents don’t feel welcome in her house?

    women who live in joint-family but expect things to be like they would be in a nuclear family setting are trying to have their cake and eat it too. if j,x,y,z are customs and traditions, the woman cannot unilaterally decide that she will be traditional about agreeing to (j) joint-family living but modern about x, y, z things.

  31. So, you realized that your family, in laws & spouse are all conservative people! Awareness is the first step.

    How to deal -
    1- Shut up & ignore as long as nobody tells nothing to you – This bothers you, so this is out
    2 – Tell your parents to stop gifting
    3- Support you SIL?
    4 – Argue/explain/discuss with your in laws/husband that you believe in gender equality. This will be darning. What if you discover that your husband is very conservative? Or he has not really grown up?
    5 – Move out of the house and break the system. Can you talk to your sil & both of you move out?

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