“My husband would tell me to stay with my in laws for some more time and that he didn’t want any discussions.”

Here is a heart breaking example of how Patriarchy enables abuse.

What made it possible for this husband to demand that the wife lives with his parents and helps them with their business – against her wishes? How common are such expectations? 

What do you think should the email writer do?

Also – shouldn’t there be legal assurance of financial support for every child, whether or not the parents live together? 

Hi..

I am sharing my story here. I am really distressed and I wish you could post my story in your blog.

so here it is..

So I stay with my husband in South India and my in laws ( ILs) stay in Haryana. When I was pregnant, my husband forced me to stay with ILs. I was treated very badly by them, specially by my MIL. They were never very nice to me in the past, but I never, in my worst dreams, imagined the things I had to go through. I used to tell my husband everything on phone and he would just say that he’d talk to his parents and that I should also adjust. I cried/ pleaded/begged him lots of times to let me come back to him but he was like a stone. He told me once that if I only complain all the time then he would stop calling me or picking up my calls.

He promised me that when the baby is 2-3 months old I’d move back with him. But he betrayed me even then. He is doing a course which is 3 years long. Now he asked me to stay with ILs for all these years. For the sake of baby’s care and that his father needed me for family business.

All these plans and decisions were taken after discussions between my husband and my fil. I wasn’t even asked. Only when I used to ask if I could come back he would tell me to stay for some more time and that he didn’t want any discussions. Finally one evening my ILs crossed the line and my patience ran off. I couldn’t take their constant abuse so I left and went to my parents’ place in Delhi. My husband told me that this meant separation. that now I can never come back to him. I said okay. I was prepared. although I messaged him after a week or so asking if we could find a middle way.. that I would never live with his parents but may be we can live in the same building on different floors… and that he also has some responsibility towards his own 3 month old son and wife, his reply was cold and he just said that he wished I knew what I was doing while leaving his parents’ house.

We didn’t speak for one month. And I was taking all this very well. After a month he started calling. Then he and his family came to get me back and apologised.

As a fool I agreed but asked him to make a few promises. He made me resign from the job I had got in Delhi without even serving the notice period as he said that he had suffered a lot in the previous one month and now he can’t even stay away from me for one more day.

We came back to South India and started living normally. However his behaviour started changing again. He started breaking all the promises that he made. He again started taking me and my feelings for granted.

His family again started interfering and bothering us by complaining on small silly things. By bad mouthing me about me to him on phone and making issues about every small thing.

After 3 months we went back to ILs place for some function. I was again treated very badly by my MIL and just one night before we were supposed to come back my FIL said that all the things that they said when they came to get me back and their apologies etc was all a drama. They didn’t mean a thing. It was all just to get me back. and that now I should apologise for doing this bad deed of leaving the family. My husband was there when all this was going on and his dad kept on abusing me. How I wasn’t brought up properly and I had no values or I don’t know the way to be a good dil. etc etc.

I went into depression and had to take therapy after coming back. That too without letting my husband know.

Now I have developed serious trust issues with my husband. We are supposed to go back to stay with ILs coz of family business after 2 years and I feel my husband is again going to throw me under the bus when the time comes. I am scared to go back to that place. I have been harassed there very badly. Everyone gets on one side and attack me. That’s the kind of emotional abuse that I just have no tolerance for anymore. And I used to be very strong before.

I don’t know what to do.

Should I leave him right now?

Should I wait for 2 years and see what happens.. In this case my baby will become emotionally attached to his father and it’ll be difficult for me to separate them then. Also, I’ll have no savings of my own as I am spending every penny of what I am earning right now on us. My husband is still studying and it’ll be another betrayal..  I am not sure how I’ll take it then.

How foolish is it to trust a person who has always betrayed me?
He gets emotional about our relation only when he wants to. The times when I need him he is always cold and unavailable.

I feel lonely most of the time even in his presence. He hardly ever wants to spend time with me. He calls someone or the other everytime he is free.
We have a very sad sex life and I know for sure that he watches porn to satisfy himself.

He never helps out with the baby. only plays with him for sometime but doesn’t help me out for anything.
He is extremely selfish.
He says he loves me but it doesn’t show in his actions.
Should I consider divorce? Are all men like this? Are my expectations too high if I want a partner who truly is a partner and not just a person living with you without any real feelings?

I want to live my life happily. Is it possible with this person? We had a love marriage and now I can’t find the person I loved. it was all fake.

Related email:

An email: “My in laws want me to stay here with them while my husband works in another city.”

Other related posts:

Marriages are sold to Indian women in a glossy cover…?

A detailed check list of conditions from modern young women of marriageable age.

Indian women and their Easy Wealth.

‘Last month, my sister’s husband picked a fight with her as he felt she was not doing enough for his parents.’

“I thought it would indeed be wonderful to live with my in-laws.”

“I will never live in a joint family, it has its roots in patriarchy and benefits only men.”

Friendships between men and women

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

I ran into an old college friend here recently. We went out for coffee and caught up with who’s doing what. He’s married now with kids. We talked about our respective families and updated each other on our other friends from the same graduating class. We talked about our interests and I realized he also read “ All the Light We Cannot See” recently and liked it. He also told me he liked adventure sports now, whereas when he was younger, he was “quite the wimp” in his own words.

As I was driving home, a strange thought occurred to me. I had found out more about this guy’s likes and dislikes over coffee today than I did in the entire 2 years I had been in the same class with him and had known him. That’s because I (and many other girls I knew back then) did not have any close guy friends. We knew some guys in our college and we talked to them but we weren’t really ‘friends’ in any true sense of the word.

When I was a kid, (since my sister was much older), I mostly played with three boys – my brother and my 2 cousins who lived down the street. I was not taught to “play like a girl” nor was I bought “girl toys” (did they even exist then?); so playing with the other gender did not pose problems. We played ‘land and water’, ‘hide and go seek’ when we felt like running around. When it was too hot to play outside, we played Scrabble, Chess, and Chutes and Ladders.

It was only when I got older (entered high school) that I began to have less interaction with boys. My brother continued to be my friend, of course, and so did one of my cousins. But he and my cousins now had their own friends and they were a group of boys. I had my own friends, a group of girls. Some of my girl friends had friends who were boys, while others were strictly forbidden from male-female friendships.

My parents didn’t have strong opinions on the matter. They didn’t mind if a boy from my school called about something or dropped by. My aunts and uncles (who lived in the same house) highly disapproved but my parents mostly ignored them. However, I did not form any deep or remarkable friendships (or even casual ones) with boys my age. I found that many of them (if not all) behaved or thought in ways that made me uncomfortable –

  • they stared at girls in an obvious way
  • they made fun of girls’ skills and abilities
  • they made remarks on the appearance and physical attributes of girls
  • they assumed that they are smarter than most girls
  • they wanted to keep their interaction with girls secret from their parents
  • they considered aloof girls “good” and friendly girls “bad”

A few boys did not fit the above description. They did not make girls feel uncomfortable. But the environment of girl-boy friendship was so uncomfortable. There were my aunts and uncles who would be walking around in the background when a boy came over to my house – as if he’s some kind of a convict. Where exactly were we supposed to interact then? Every other public place is equally disapproving and hostile to high school age boy-girl interaction.

And that was high school. The college years exaggerated these differences. Women as a group were made to even feel more self-conscious.

Our female instructors would caution us, “‘Oh watch out your chunni is slipping!!” as they passed us by in corridors.

Another instruction in the labs was: “Be careful how you sit when you wear skirts, your panties are showing!’

We were made self-conscious about what we wore, how we sat, how we walked, and whom we talked to. It was all so exhausting. It was easier to hang out with women. Friendship with men, although not forbidden to me by my family, simply did not seem worth it to me.

I’m not saying this is the case for everyone in India – I’ve known a few of my friends who did have men as good friends – but this has been my experience, and I believe what I’m describing here is the experience of the majority in small town India.

It was only after I came to the US to go to grad school that I finally breathed around men. The men in my classes and labs did not stare in awkward places. They looked at my face and listened to what I had to say. They either agreed or disagreed. They did not try hard to impress me nor did they look down on me. It was so casual, easy, relaxed. I stopped paying attention to how I sat or how I walked. I saw men and women wearing shorts and no one spent the entire class time staring at each other’s their legs. I began to wear what I wanted. For the first time in my life, I began to make friends that were both women and men.

There was this guy in our group who loved his beer, Shakespeare, and bungee jumping. Another guy was super smart and super lazy. He would often be caught napping on his keyboard by our professor. There was an Iranian guy who joked, “I ran from Iran.” He could make wonderful gourmet pizza and he often brought us leftovers of his amazing cooking. We would go to the university theater, which aired old B&W films including some Hitchcock classics. Then we would discuss them the next day in the lab instead of getting work done. One of our favorite hangouts was a coffee shop downtown called Second Cup. We would sit there discussing politics, books, and movies, while having a second or third cup of coffee :) For the first time in my life, I began to see men as people.

Some friendships were just friendships. Others became more involved. If a guy liked a girl in a romantic way or vice versa, they would simply take the friendship to the next level. If not, they would just remain friends. There was no automatic assumption that every girl who talks to or is friendly with a guy must have something more on her mind or owes him something.

I think it’s very important to have these friendships between boys and girls, men and women. By forbidding these friendships or creating an environment that makes platonic friendships sinister, an artificial separation is created in childhood and this gap only grows wider with age and takes on unpleasant forms:

  • Girls are objectified from a very young age because boys are only allowed to ogle at girls, not get to know them as people.
  • Girls and women begin appearing “mysterious”. They develop their own way of communicating. Their language is often not understood and thought to have hidden meanings. When a girl’s behavior can’t be explained, it can be interpreted as “whimsical” or “illogical”.
  • Men give up on trying to understand women.
  • Women start thinking “men just don’t get it”.
  • Men stop seeing women as human beings. Human beings can be good or bad, kind or mean, generous or selfish. Men tend to stereotype women as good/kind/generous, which can also in their minds mean weak/unassertive/accepting of unfairness.
  • Women begin to stereotype men as selfish, which they come to associate with assertiveness and aggression, which are seen as “masculine”.

Thus, not allowing/encouraging, or enabling these friendships has a cost to individual members of the society, as well as society as a whole:

  • It becomes harder for men and women to work together and effectively in teams. Workplaces are full of gender stereotyping situations for women. This places severe limitations on productivity, by not tapping into the talents and potential of half the work force.
  • For those who wish to get married, how exactly are they supposed to find a life partner and not settle for a stranger? In India, this separation makes it almost impossible to meet people of the other gender, get to know them, date, or find a life partner on one’s own. Many people are left with little choice but to follow the arranged marriage route; they are thus deprived of the opportunity to make a sound decision regarding their primary relationship.
  • Most of all, this gender gap of understanding results in a lot of unfairness in the treatment of women.
  • Women get objectified in the extreme by men raised in conservative settings – they’ve never been given an opportunity to get to know any real women – therefore they don’t see women as people first, they see them as caricatures – the sexy secretary, the motherly teacher, the shrewish boss, the sisterly neighbor, etc.
  • The male gaze (both literally and figuratively speaking) makes many environments (colleges, workplaces, streets, public transportation) uncomfortable, intimidating, negative, or even hostile for women.

But even for people belonging to families that are open minded, there are obstacles to male-female friendships. It is not as simple as not having anything against it.

  • Indian schools actively discourage and even punish interaction between boys and girls. By the time they reach college, they have more freedom – although they’re not punished for platonic friendships, these friendships have less chance of occurring or being successful. Men and women in the college environment already bring with them the baggage of their conditioning. If men can view women in their college only through stereotypes (the outgoing “loose character”, the traditional “nice girl”), women feel uncomfortable and tend to avoid these interactions with men.
  • Boys and girls are conditioned and socialized differently. In some societies like India, boys are raised with a sense of entitlement and privilege. They are often not required to help out with chores. Girls are expected to adjust and accept unfair and unequal relationships. This inequality mars adult male-female friendships as well.
  • In almost all societies, boys are raised to be assertive and girls are encouraged to be docile. The resulting differences in thought patterns and communication styles also pose a problem for male-female interactions. Boys’ jokes may sound ‘rude’ to girls and girls’ interactions may appear ‘mysterious’ to boys.

How can we change this? Some thoughts and ideas that might help break this mindset:

  • The first step is to raise your son or daughter free of stereotypes. If you have a son, assign him household chores. Encourage him to express himself and offer him emotional support when he needs it. If you have a daughter, buy her toys that allow her to explore, design, build, create, imagine, analyze, and solve (rather than dress up, feed, and care for). Examples of great toys for both boys and girls are any type of building blocks (Legos, Bionicles, etc.), pretend spy gear, fossil kits, ant hill kits and other science experiment kits, puzzles, board games, and art supplies. Giving them a journal to write in or a camera to take pictures keeps their minds busy in healthy ways – also writing and recording through pictures can be very empowering to children.  Fun/healthy activities for both boys and girls include reading, hiking, biking, swimming, engaging in sports of any kind, singing or dancing to music together, and visiting aquariums, museums, and historical monuments.
  • If you have a son, emphasize the importance of relationships and working in teams. Teach him to listen more and be responsive. If you have a daughter, encourage her to be assertive and instill the value of physical fitness.  Teach her to be vocal about her preferences and to speak up and object even when the smallest things are assumed or taken for granted. (When someone says to her, You’ll absolutely LOVE the iced latte, teach her to say, Actually I haven’t decided what I want and I’ll let you know when I’m ready.)
  • I’m not trying to imply that sons shouldn’t be taught to be assertive or daughters shouldn’t be taught to value relationships. I think those things are going to happen to some extent naturally. The environment most of us live in encourages those traits already. So, as parents, we can work on teaching them things that the environment doesn’t encourage, or in some cases, actively discourages (assertiveness for girls, listening skills for boys).
  • Send your child to a co-educational school that embraces diversity, if possible. In my son’s school, when kids work on team projects, they must sort through differing ideas and viewpoints. They must learn the process of consensus. They learn to work with kids of all races and both genders. There is also a committee at my son’s school for the protection of gay students from being bullied. This is an ideal environment to focus on people’s minds and ideas, instead of stereotyping/objectifying them. (If this is not possible or such a school is unavailable, home is always a great place to teach inclusiveness.)
  • Allow friendships (for your child) with the other gender. Encourage your child to see his other gender friends as human beings, as individuals. If they start interpreting their friend’s actions based on gender, (she did that because she’s a girl), gently correct them and illustrate how you would’ve done something different even though you share the same gender.
  • Lead by example. Keep in touch with your own other gender friends. I go out for lunch with my colleagues from work that are obviously both male and female. This is the most common type of interaction between adult men and women. Last weekend, I invited some people from work, both men and women, single and attached, with or without kids to hang out with my family on Memorial Day, for a backyard barbeque. Children watch and learn from their parents’ behavior much more than they listen to their parents’ lectures. If you interact with adults of the other gender and from varied backgrounds, if you treat them as individuals and focus on their minds and their ideas instead of their bodies, their skin color, or their gender, your child will likely do the same.

Please share your experiences and thoughts on platonic relationships. How did they happen? Or if they didn’t, what were the obstacles? Do you think it’s important for men and women to interact and be comfortable around each other? Do you encourage your children to have other gender friends?  Why do our elders reject male-female interaction and friendship? What is it that they fear? What happens in societies that forbid such interaction? Who benefits from such rules? Who loses?

Related Posts:

An email: I am 18 year old male from a traditional (read:backward) Indian family Inter sex mingling in coed schools – permitted or not?

“According to my mom, friendship with guys should always be limited to academics, nothing personal.”

“She was warned several times and was used to unethical practices like friendship with boys.”

By an Indian Teenager – “Sometimes it seems like every single thing I do has the potential to be something ‘provocative’.”

Sexual abuse victim thrown out of school for being a bad influence on other students.

‘The liberties that are guaranteed to our citizens, cannot be stretched beyond limits nor can such freedom be made weapons to destroy our fundamental values or social establishments like families’

Love Marriages spoil the Family System of our Nation.

How illegal bans on Valentine’s day and birthday parties are connected with dowry deaths and sex selection.

Boys and girls holding hands.

Are schools right in enforcing such strict boundaries between interactions between girl and boy students?

Please watch ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ :)

The movie passes Bechdel Test with flying colours. The Kanpur accent and Kangana Ranaut’s Haryana accent, the music, the story, the way it ends, and everything else about the movie are absolutely delightful.

And while we are laughing hysterically, the movie conveys –

A woman smiling, laughing, talking, taking a ride or drinking or dancing with a man – may or may not be in love with him.

That self reliance gives confidence.

That courage, confidence, maturity and just plain common sense are not dependent on the language ones speaks or the accent or grammar (etc).

That men grow up and old too.

Men have ‘marital status’ too – even if it not talked about in Indian movies, and is not socially required to be displayed.

Men don’t hate getting married – despite all the shaadi ke laddu jokes one hears about. Men even have ‘marriageable age’ – though one doesn’t hear much about such social pressures. The movie makes references to men’s ages, like the ’35 and desperate to get married’ and 40th birthday shirt.

Men are also advised to Get Married and Stay Married. But instead of praying or fasting, men are offered the option of trying violence as an outlet if the situation gets unbearable – like breaking tube lights in their living rooms.

That the Khaps are fools.

It’s a problem that men’s manliness depends on their Sperm Count.

Men gain weight too.

Tanu does many things that generally only men are permitted to do

1. Complains that she finds her spouse boring and demands that she be pleased.

2. Goes out and has fun with old friends although she is married and loves her husband. She also calls her best friend her soulmate.

3. Meets visitors wearing a towel.

4. Drinks.

5. Gets away with being unreasonable. [Disagree?]

Lastly I think Kangana Ranaut is the Amitabh Bhachchan or Madhuri Dixit of today – only better.

Do’t believe me? Take a look :)

Many of us are going to watch this movie more than once.

Four other recent movies that passed Bechdel Test. 

Margarita with a straw.

Piku

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Queen

I am optimistic that the success of these movies means that we will continue to see more such works of art.

Related Posts:

Piku in Patriarchy.

Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha – where a man is asked to Please adjust and save his marriage.

Please watch Queen. Feels like our country is finally changing.

“Practically, what can an introvert DIL do to communicate that she means no disrespect by wanting her own time?”

Patriarchy can’t survive without hierarchy and rigid but complex rules that ensure everybody knows their place. So Indian daughters in law in traditional and patriarchal families may not give their opinion but they are expected to be gregarious extroverts in some situations. 

Reading or quietly listening to music, spending time with their own social circle or not wishing to interact with (and seek approval of) the social circle of those who are higher in the family hierarchy is considered disrespectful and non-sanskaari. 

They are expected to be Sanskaari Extroverts who know how to win the approval of the third cousins, friends and acquaintances of those who are higher in the family hierarchy. 

‘Letter from another Indian woman’ asks  how to deal with this and more. 

Dear IHM,

I have been following some of your recent guest posts about dealing with abuse[link] and manipulation [link], as well as the letters that are often published in your blog. I am 28 years old, and I have been married for about 6 months now. From what I have observed around me, and in my relations with my husband’s family, I have a few questions that I would like to use as topics of discussion.

As background, I married my long-term boyfriend, whom I have known for some years. We met while we were at grad school . I have met and interacted with his parents several times before we got married, and during that period, they seemed fairly normal. My mother-in-law has an advanced degree and was a working professional all her life. His parents often lived in different cities, owing to transfers. My husband was primarily raised by his grandmother, and when he was older, was put in a residential school. Whenever I have spoken to my in-laws, they seemed proud and supportive of my education and career. I found these welcome; I was very clear that I wanted to marry someone whose parents I could get along with, and who would not be unreasonable when it came to my personal choices.

We went back abroad after the wedding. I came to India (without my husband) for a vacation this month, and went to spend some time at my in laws’ place. My husband told me to visit them only if I felt like it – I went because I thought I could get to know them better. I stayed for 10 days. However, I realized to my shock that there were sides of my in-laws that I had never anticipated.

Every day, she had at least ten different friends and relatives over, to ‘introduce’ me to them. She made coffee and snacks (I helped as much as I could in a foreign home), and I was expected to serve it to them and receive praise for being such a ‘good daughter-in-law’ (no, I was just being a decent host-helper). My achievements (education-wise and career-wise) were emphatically repeated to every group. The audience oohed and aahed and congratulated my MIL for getting ‘such an accomplished bahu’, while I cringed with embarrassment, yet smiled politely. It felt really uncomfortable to be made into some sort of a trophy. Their conversations were not something I could participate in: they gossiped about their other friends, their sons and DILs that I was sure the minute they left he house, they would gossip about me as well. And then my mother-in-law bade me to touch the feet of all the women who had come home to ‘bless’ me. Some of us don’t believe in falling at people’s feet. When I expressed my inhibitions to my mother-in-law, she said that this was de rigueur in her circles, and besides, it was ‘good manners’ and ‘polite’ to seek people’s blessings. Some of these people were her bosses at work, so I was supposed to ‘make a good impression’.  Her tone made it sound like she thought I was ill-bred.

Secondly, I realized that she has a temper issue. Whenever she is stressed, she shouts at whomever happens to be nearest to her that she considers her inferior. This includes her household help, people who live in her building and her siblings. I noticed that while they say nothing to her face (they mostly grin and shift their weight), they say nasty things about her behind her back.

I was with them for just 10 days, but I had her shout at me for no fault of mine three or four times. The last time, I lost my temper too and said I had done nothing wrong, why was I being shouted at. She replied saying I was ‘disobedient, talking back to her, had no respect for elders, acting like I was smarter than her, trying to one-up her to gain her son’s affections (!)’ accusations that I now know don’t apply to me at all. However, I was very hurt at that time. I have not been able to talk to her normally ever since.

My FIL took me aside and said that this was normal with her, and ‘if I ignore the temper and harsh words, she is a wonderful person’. He also said that she regrets not having spent time with her son when he was little, and now feels bad that he was not able to get leave and come down to be with her.

When I discussed this with my husband, he said he would speak to his mother when she was in a better mood, and that I did not have to be there any more and go back to my parents’ place. He also said that my MIL had been abused verbally and physically by her father when she was young (they could not answer back when shouted at, or they would be beaten). While I feel sorry for her, and understand where the cycle of abuse began, I don’t think it excuses her behavior.

So here are my comments/questions:

1. I am quite introverted by nature, and meeting lots of people for an extended period of time, gossip and small talk tires me out. However, in Indian families, the DIL is supposed to be gregarious, extroverted and quite the life of the party.While I found it difficult to play this role for 10 days, I shuddered to think of DILs who live with their in-laws and have to face an onslaught of people on a daily basis. In fact, I have heard it said in some homes: “your daughter is not outgoing enough, how is she going to adjust with all the people at her in-laws’?” Why this expectation? Further more, signalling that one is introverted and reserved gets her branded as ‘impolite’, ‘haughty’, ‘thinks too much of herself’ etc. Practically, what can an introvert do to communicate that such expectations are too much for her, and that she means no disrespect by wanting her own time?

2. It appears like most families want a woman who can answer questions in a checklist, fit into a mould that they have crafted of an ‘ideal DIL’, not a real woman. I don’t think any real woman can be all that! And I think this expectation is fairly universal – it is the rare parent who is actually open to getting to know a person, as opposed to a checklist. Practically, what can a woman like me do to convince my in-laws to get to know the real me? Is that likely? Is that even a good idea?

3. When I told my close friend about these incidents, and asked for advice to deal with it, I was told that ‘I should have inquired more’ and absolutely verified they were good people before marrying my husband. ‘Now it is too late, why complain now? Just adjust.’ was the refrain. I found it astonishing, but realized it is fairly common. The narrative that if you have a bad husband, or bad in-laws, then it is your fault is too prevalent today.But that’s not really true! Can one ever know a family so intimately without practically living with them for a month?

4. My in-laws are in their 60s, and getting older. While I don’t foresee living with them since we live abroad, if they are sick and ailing, I would want to take care of them. I want to have cordial relations with them if I can. But I am also sure I don’t want to be shouted at repeatedly for no fault of mine. Practically, what can I do to inform them that while I would like to be cordial, I don’t welcome intrusions and certainly not temper tantrums?

5. The very idea of a DIL (or even the son) negotiating boundaries with in-laws is considered rude, impolite and disrespectful. But I don’t think the MIL-DIL relationship is hierarchical. I am just a woman who happened to marry her son. How do we negotiate boundaries without it coming across as disrespectful? What is the best answer when one is accused of disrespect, when all one is doing is negotiating boundaries?

6. I have observed that my MIL inhabits a very hierarchical society. She fawns over her bosses (she practically sat on the floor at her boss-lady’s feet while she had coffee), and expects anyone younger than her to fawn over her. She takes it lying down when her bosses shout at her, apparently, and expects her ‘inferiors’ to not retaliate when she shouts at them. This is symptomatic of a larger social problem.

I don’t consider myself having significant problems. My husband is very fair and understanding, and we get along well. He protects me from having to face intrusive questions (about kids, etc.) from his extended family. I don’t have to live with my in-laws. However, just going by my experiences, I feel like I have experienced a taste of what so many many women in our country go through every day, and how that wears down their confidence and erodes their sense of self. This is practically human rights violation, it shouldn’t have to happen to anybody.

I request you to publish this letter, so that I can hear from your readers.

Thank you!

Related Posts:

“Someone ate without showering, someone didn’t bring mithai! These are trivialities, not social problems.”

‘Older people in our society need to learn to have a life of their own. Instead of seeking happiness in their kids’ lives, …’

‘I feel that arranged marriages are for extroverts, and there is no place for us introverts here.’

‘If you don’t mutter under your breath “I hate you” atleast once in your life, I am not doing my job properly.’

Display of respect to those in power, in Indian culture.

“When there are guests I don’t get to talk to them because I am in the kitchen all the time …even wearing a Nighty is considered indecent.”

Are you an Extrovert or an Introvert?

Recognizing Emotional Abuse

Some assertive ways to deal with manipulation.

The Men in Our Lives

“I thought it would indeed be wonderful to live with my in-laws.”

‘And if you are unlucky, you will get an American daughter-in-law.’

Some assertive ways to deal with manipulation.

A Guest Post by BB-Dlite

Hello,

I am a long-time reader of IHM. I am really grateful that such a site exists – it has really helped make sense of a lot of strange things that go on in the name of Indian culture, stuff that is taboo to actually talk about openly. One thing that I have noticed is the lack of assertiveness in the concerns that come in – DILs who need permission to visit their parents, sons who cannot set budgets for spending on parents, doctor DILs who hand over all their money to their in-laws, NRIs remote-controlled from thousands of miles away and many other such horrible situations.

The obvious response is to Just Stand Up For Yourself. But having been the victim of emotional manipulation I know that this is a lot easier said than done, especially when it is seen as ‘talking back’ and ‘being disrespectful’. A huge help to me in this aspect has been the assertiveness book “When I say no, I feel guilty” by Manuel J. Smith. It is an old book (1975) but it still has very relevant advice for those who fear confrontation but also don’t want to be walked all over.

I really recommend reading this book; it is 324 pages long so this is just a brief summary. There are many practice dialogues on situations like how to say no to a friend who wants to borrow money/your car, how an adult child can establish boundaries with their parents, how to prompt criticism of your work to get a raise and many more. The first few chapters especially are very helpful in identifying the many ways we can be manipulated and the underlying beliefs that make such manipulation possible. ______________________________________________________________________________

Whenever there is conflict between two animals of the same species, at least one will display a fight or flight response. Among humans it is not really acceptable to fight openly anymore – so we silently grit our teeth and make the empty vow of later revenge.  This is passive aggressiveness. It is also unacceptable to drop everything and run, so another response is passive flight, where we try to avoid that person for as long as possible. A third option is counter-manipulation. These responses usually work poorly and don’t get us what we want. Fight and flight bring up feelings of anger and fear, and if we usually lose this causes frustration, eventual sadness and depression (withdrawal), all very toxic emotions that are best avoided.

The best response to a conflict is verbally communicating with one another and working out our problems in an assertive manner. It is best to state an honest, assertive “I want x” which can then lead to a workable compromise.

What is manipulation? When someone tries to control your behavior to meet their own personal wants by blatant or subtle arousal of feelings of guilt, anxiety or ignorance (e.g. “hurt” or “angry” looks, silences, ridicule). Manipulators can be family members, your doctor, your in-laws, your friends, even your bank teller. A common tactic is setting up arbitrary rules – rules and standards of right and wrong, fairness, reason and logic, or invention of external structure or assumption that it already exists. These are not legally binding rules, just rules that suit the manipulator. Why are people manipulative? Because it has worked for them in the past!

Your Assertive Rights: You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself. You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior. You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems. You have the right to change your mind. You have the right to make mistakes – and be responsible for them. You have the right to say “I don’t know”. You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them. You have the right to be illogical in making decisions. You have the right to say “I don’t understand”. You have the right to say “I don’t care”. You are your own ultimate judge.

Some assertive ways to deal with manipulation are:

  1. [FOGGING]: assertively cope by offering no resistance to critical statements thrown at you. Just look for the truth in the criticism and agree with it.
  1. Agreeing with the truth: “That’s true, I was out late last night”
  2. Agreeing with the odds: “You could be right”
  3. Agreeing in principle: “You’re right. What you say makes sense, so when I feel the need, I’ll get in early enough.”

Other examples: “You could be right. There are a lot of things I could improve”, “You’re right, I could budget my money better”, “That’s probably true”, “You’re probably right”, “That’s true”, “You may be right”, “My taste is clothes isn’t my strong point”, “I can understand why you think that”, “I’m not surprised you feel that way”

  1. [NEGATIVE ASSERTION]: when dealing with valid criticism or actual mistakes, assertively accept those things that are negative about yourself. Otherwise, if non-assertive, you may (through feelings of guilt and anxiety): seek forgiveness for the error and try to make up for it or deny the error through defensiveness or counter-criticism. In both cases you cope poorly and feel worse.

E.g. Criticism → “You’re right. I wasn’t too smart in the way I handled that, was I?”

A bad haircut: “Yeah, this was a dumb thing for me to try. I don’t like it this way myself”.

An ugly outfit: “I was worried about that. These new styles just don’t suit me at all, do they?”

An error: “You’re right. That was a dumb thing for me to do again and cause you all that work”.

 

  1. [NEGATIVE INQUIRY]: break manipulative cycle by actively prompting further criticism about yourself or by prompting more information about statements of “wrongdoing” in an unemotional, low-key manner. This is best for people you want to remain on good terms with or who you are going to keep interacting with.

“I don’t understand. What is it about “wrongdoing” that is bad/wrong?” or “What is it about my doing x that is wrong/bad?”

Keep repeating this question until critical issue of the conflict in behavior comes to light. This questioning can extinguish repetitive manipulative criticism from these people so it doesn’t drive you up the wall. This can then lead to a real negotiation of likes and dislikes and a workable compromise. Don’t use sarcasm, which is just thinly veiled verbal aggression.

E.g. “This dish doesn’t taste good.” → “What is it about the dish that tastes bad? Not enough salt? Too spicy?” → “Too much salt” → “Anything else besides the salt?” → “No, that’s it.”

Some more: “Is there anything else about me that doesn’t come off right?” “Is there anything else?” “Will you tell me some more about it?” “What am I doing wrong?”

  1. [BROKEN RECORD]: be persistent and using a calm, repetitive voice say what you want over and over again without getting angry, irritated or loud. E.g. “I won’t be coming over this weekend” or “I want my money refunded.” Another option is “I’m sure that ‘other person’s argument’ [FOGGING] but I cannot do that [BROKEN RECORD]” or “I understand/I see your point/ but I’m not interested”. This will not win you any popularity contests, but just repeat as many times as necessary.
  2. [WORKABLE COMPROMISE]: when you feel your self-respect is not in question, offer to wait, flip a coin, offer up another alternative etc. If the end goal involves a matter of self-worth there can be no compromise.
  3. [SELF-DISCLOSURE]: assertively disclosing information about yourself- how you think, feel and react to another person’s comments. This one doesn’t seem like an assertive skill but being open about your thoughts is actually very assertive behavior – I don’t know, I don’t understand, I don’t care, I changed my mind, I made a mistake, likes, dislikes etc.

E.g. Invitation: “No, I just don’t feel like it this weekend. Let’s try it another time?”

E.g. “What will happen if everyone did ‘something speaker doesn’t like’?” → “I don’t know, what will happen?”

When you are being manipulated you will most likely need to use a combination of the above tools. For example:

Friend: “You’re not going to take that Japanese class, are you?”

You: “I haven’t decided yet.” [SELF-DISCLOSURE]

Friend: “You shouldn’t – it’s just a waste of time.”

You: “Yeah, it could be.” [FOGGING]

Friend: “Well, are you going to take it?”

You: “Maybe, I haven’t decided yet.” [BROKEN RECORD]

Friend: “You should take something practical.”

You: “You’re probably right.”[FOGGING]

Friend: “Well, I hope you make a sensible decision.”

You: “So do I. “[SELF-DISCLOSURE]

Lastly, a non-verbal assertive behavior is making eye contact. Avoiding eye contact is a learned behavior in response to past conflicts where we have not coped well. If we don’t look at the other person, we don’t get so nervous or anxious. But it is difficult to be taken seriously if you cannot even look the other person in the eye. It is hard to tell when someone is looking at us in the eye (unless eye is moving) within a 9-inch radius around the nose (test this with a friend). So stare at one ear/eyebrow/bridge of nose instead!

The End Result: Being assertive helps respond to manipulative attempts to control your behavior. It also enables the learner to look at his own personal qualities, the ones he has doubts about, without feeling insecure, and to say meaningfully “So what? I do not have to be perfect to be effective and happy.” It desensitizes you to criticism so you are not defensive, anxious, nervous or guilt-ridden when someone tells us something we don’t like. It also helps us to distinguish between the truth in a criticism and arbitrary right and wrong, and trains you to feel comfortable about making and admitting to errors.

It helps in relationships where the other person may be passively coping (maybe due to your defensiveness or flight when criticized) and cannot assertively complain or state what changes are wanted. Without an outlet for resolving differences, any relationship is destined for failure.

It can prompt us to examine our own behavior for manipulation – this sort of behavior is picked up from those around us like fleas.

What if the other person doesn’t give in or is also assertive in return? If you keep your self-respect by exercising your assertive rights, you will feel good even if you do not achieve your goal.

Being assertive sends a clear and unmistakable message “Hey. I’m not manipulatable. I don’t fit into your game plan. You don’t like that? Okay. Find someone you’re more comfortable with.” ______________________________________________________________________________

 

Vedic Wedding Rituals and Society – a feminist perspective

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

After the Thali post, a few readers (Simple Girl, Fem, Aarti, SB, etc.) wanted to discuss the topic of Vedic wedding rituals and society further – so here goes.

Vedic wedding practices are outlined in parts of the Rig Veda, Atharva Veda and the Sama Veda. They are outlined in the Grhyasutras (within the Vedas). Some information about how weddings in the time of the Rig Veda took place can also be gleaned from the description of Surya’s wedding ceremony. Although this is an allegorical tale, scholars think that the rituals described reflect the practices of those times.

There is a startling amount of similarity between Vedic weddings and current day Hindu weddings. Some may find this ability to preserve traditions over several centuries – this sense of rootedness – admirable; others may see this as rigidity and unwillingness to change and evolve.

There are various interpretations of the Vedas and scholars argue over which is the right way to interpret the writings. There are 3 main reasons for this:

  • The language of the Vedas is an archaic form of Sanskrit, it’s exact form and grammar are now lost to us. Scholars must use their knowledge of later versions of Sanskrit and do their best to interpret the text.
  • The Vedas seem to be written in some kind of a code – the literal interpretation leads to one message and the symbolic/metaphorical interpretation leads to quite another.
  • For a long time, the Vedas were of the ‘Sruti’ variety of literature, that is they were passed on through the oral tradition. Later, they were recorded and became a written form of literature – thus a lot of meaning/significance could’ve been lost in the transcription.

Due to the above reasons, there is a lot of disagreement over the meanings hidden in the verses and it becomes difficult to draw conclusions about Vedic culture. For instance, was Vedic culture egalitarian or was it hierarchical? Were women treated as equals or were they subordinate to men?

I will list and briefly describe just a few primary rituals (there are many others).

Kanya Danam – the father “gives” his daughter as a “gift” to the groom by placing the bride’s hand in the groom’s hand.

The Kamasukta verse recited here is:

Who offered this maiden?, to whom is she offered? Kama (the god of love) gave her to me, that I may love her May the heaven bestow thee, may the earth receive thee

The words “that I may love her” are beautiful but the remaining words – ‘offered’, ‘received’, and ‘bestow’ seem not to indicate independent agency for the bride. Was kanyadaanam a mere formality or was the ownership of women a fact of life? We don’t know.

What we do know for a fact is that the concept of kanyadaan exists even to this day. It remains not only symbolic of the ownership exercised over women by the male members of her family, but also translates to practical life. Women are infantilized both by their birth family as well as by the husband’s family. Many married women are still required to take permission even to step out.

Pani grahanam – a ‘holding of the hand’ to symbolize marital union.

The Vedic chant here is:

I take thy hand in mine, yearning for happiness, I ask thee, to live with me, as thy husband, Till both of us, with age, grow old, Know this, as I declare, to the Gods, that I may fulfill, my Dharmas of the householder, with thee, This I am, That art thou, The Sāman I, the Ŗc thou, The Heavens I, the Earth thou

All of the above lines are acceptable – I especially like that he ‘asks’ her hand and I also like the line about growing old together.   Is the Heaven/Earth analogy meant to be lyrical or does it indicate gender hierarchy? There are several other verses in the Vedas where the men ‘give’ and women ‘’receive’, expressed through imagery.

Kankanabandhana – tying twin bracelets to each other as a symbol of their union and to ward off evil. This practice has a ring of equality to it. The groom AND the bride wear identical ornaments that signify commitment. But why did this practice disappear over time?

This was the practice that seemed to have evolved much later into the tying of the mangalsutra or thali where the tying is done ONLY to the bride. The thread also came to be linked to the husband’s health and long life.  There is no marriage ritual that prays for the health and long life of the bride. Did we become more gender hierarchical over time?

Sapta padi – there are many interpretations of the seven vows, here is a nicer/saner one from Hinduism Today:

  • The first step is taken to earn and provide a living for their household or family.
  • The second step is taken to build physical, mental, and spiritual powers and to lead a healthy lifestyle.
  • The third step is taken to earn and increase their wealth by righteous and proper means.
  • The fourth step is taken to acquire knowledge, happiness, and harmony by mutual love, respect, understanding, and faith.
  • The fifth step is taken to have children for whom the couple will be responsible and to blessed with healthy, righteous, and brave children.
  • The sixth step is taken for self-control and longevity.
  • The seventh step is taken to be true to each other, loyal and remain life-long companions by this wedlock.

Completion of the seventh step is the moment of completion of the marriage ritual.

And here is a misogynistic interpretation: http://varan_bhaath.tripod.com/Pages/Saptapadi.htm When I recently asked our family priest at my niece’s wedding to give me an English translation of the Saptapadi, he gave me something very similar to the above.

Note that the nicer version replaces “sons” with children, for instance. The use of ‘You’ and ‘I’ (with separate roles and responsibilities) is replaced with ‘we’ and common responsibilities. Once again, there is a lot of confusion and disagreement over the “correct” interpretation.

Surya’s wedding ceremony – although this tale is said to be symbolic of cosmic events, scholars also think that the wedding rituals described were reflective of the times.   The bride’s journey to the groom’s home is described in great detail.

Raibhi was her dear bridal friend, and Narasamsi led her home. Lovely was Sūrya’s robe: she came to that which Gatha had adorned. Thought was the pillow of her couch, sight was the unguent for her eyes. Her treasury was earth and heaven, when Sūrya went unto her Lord.

Surya journeying to her husband’s home indicates patrilocality. We don’t know if this is a one off instance or if this was the general trend in Vedic times.

What we do know is that patrilocality is an important part of present day marriages in our society. Women are routinely expected to give up their jobs, move to another city/country, or move in with the husband’s joint family.

Origin and Timeline of the Vedas:

The Vedas were written over a period of time from 1500 through 1000 BC by nomadic Indo-European Aryan tribes as they crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and migrated to the North Western parts of the Indian subcontinent. The Vedas were passed through oral tradition in an old form of Sanskrit long before they were written down.

Content:

The Rig Veda is mostly composed of hymns to various Gods. Most of the Gods were the same/similar to other Indo-European Gods and were nature/element based (fire, earth, sky, water, wind). Thus we can see close similarities between these Vedic Gods (Indra, Agni, Soma, Mitra, Vayu, Varuna, Yama, etc.), Greek Gods (Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Hermes), and Persian and Nordic Gods.

The remaining Vedas contain more hymns as well as other poems, allegorical tales, and philosophical explorations in the physical and spiritual realms.

Ideas Espoused in the Vedas

The Vedas contain rational/scientific/skeptical elements as well as ideas that would be considered regressive/questionable in current time. We don’t know if the latter represent mis-interpretation of the original ideas, added on at later stages, or if such ideas are actually part of the Vedas.

Scientific/Philosophical/Literary Elements

There is a lot of philosophical questioning and agnosticism. The Nasadiya Sukta or creation hymn questions the very existence of God and describes the origins of the universe in ways that run parallel to what modern physicists believe. Many prominent quantum physicists such as Schrödinger, Bohr, and Einstein have written that they were influenced by some of the ideas proposed in the Vedas. There are also parallels between plasma physics and the Vedas. Carl Sagan said that Vedic Cosmology is the only one in which the time scales correspond to those of modern cosmology. The concept of a genderless God (Arthanareeshvara) is unique to Vedic thought.

The story of the Great Flood which appears with Prajapati as the Matsya (later versions identify Vishnu as Matsya Avatara) is said to signify evolution, as the earliest forms of life were aquatic. Similar stories of ‘The Great Flood’ appear in other cultures (Mesopotamian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Mayan, Persian, Greek, Biblical). Another interpretation is that the people of ancient times must’ve experienced a natural disaster and passed this experience down the generations in various forms and variations.

Long before there was science, there was philosophy. Philosophers were the scientists of ancient times – they asked questions, they observed. They lacked scientific methods, accuracy, precision, and data collection. But they had endless curiosity and a love of learning.

The Vedas are not the word of God (like the Gita, Bible, and other later religious texts) but the words of man – man’s thoughts, troubles, explanations, and interpretations of the world he lived in. There are no rewards and punishments, no heaven or hell. There are more metaphors, allegories, personifications, and symbolism here than the combined works of Homer, Sophocles, and Dante. This is the refreshing aspect of the Vedas.

It is a fascinating thought isn’t it – that someone just like you and me, sat down at the end of a tired day, looked up at the night sky, saw the same constellations as us, as they composed these intriguing poems. They wondered about the same things: Who are we and where do we come from?

Precursor to the Caste System

And yet, the Vedas also contain concepts that are the precursors for so many troublesome/regressive/misogynistic/discriminatory aspects of current day Indian society.

  • The Vedas were composed/written in such an esoteric form that the possession and understanding of Vedic knowledge could only belong to an elite class of scholars. This is never a good idea for any society – knowledge sharing must always be a democratic process.
  • The power struggles in the Vedic period became the precursor for the caste system. The warrior class reigned supreme in the beginning, but later the priests became important as rituals became more important.
  • Philosophical exploration and questioning became less important and rituals became more and more significant. Rituals also became less symbolic, more literal, and twisted to favor those in power.
  • Other (Nastika) schools of thought (Carvaka, Buddhist, Jain) tried to overcome the dominance of the priestly class and their excessive adherence to rituals, but were sidelined and Asthika schools of thought became the predominant form of Hinduism.

Treatment of Women

Like all other ancient societies, our stories from the Ithihasas (Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas, which came after the Upanishads which came after the Vedas) indicate that women were not equals to men. Draupadi was gambled away in a game of dice, literally reduced to a pawn in a war between men. (Some scholars postulate that the disrobing scene was absent in earlier versions and was added later during the Bhakti movement.) Sita, who loved Rama with all her heart and soul, was suspected of unfaithfulness and humiliated by being asked to ‘prove’ herself. Women in our epics are portrayed as being treated unfairly. Men were blessed “Ayushman Bhava” (may you live a long life) but women were blessed (Akhada Sowbhagyavathi Bhava (may your husband live a long life) and also with the famous “May you be blessed with a hundred sons.”

When did this preference for the male child begin? In Vedic times? If so, how do we reconcile this discrimination with egalitarian concepts of Adi Shakti (primeval feminine omniscient power) and Arthanareeshvara (androgynous/genderless God) and Durga (Goddess and slayer of demons)?

There are a few women scholars and ascetics mentioned in the Vedas – Ghosha, Lopamudra, Maitreyi, Gargi – but then these women are always portrayed as outliers and needed to stand up against society’s norms and expectations in order to be recognized and accepted. Women in many verses were also required to be “pure” and perfect” which can hardly be described as human.

Androcentrism

So, the question continues to haunt us: Is Vedic culture egalitarian/feminist or patriarchal/sexist?

An interesting answer is provided by the following paper.

Anya Gurholt at Westminster College argues in her paper, “The Androgyny of Enlightenment: Questioning Women’s Status in Ancient Indian Religions” that the fundamental ideas and theories in the Vedas are egalitarian but Vedic society and philosophical organizations were patriarchal and sexist in their interpretation, practice and implementation of the ideas . The reason she gives for this is androcentrism – the original Vedic ideas were recorded, interpreted, discussed, translated, and established in society by men.

Quote from her paper: “This fact is referred to as androcentrism, which is, viewing the world from a male perspective, whilst women are viewed and treated as passive objects, rather than active, subjects of history.”

Gurholt concludes by saying that the (patriarchal and sexist) PRACTICES of Hinduism and Buddhism are in contradiction with the original egalitarian PRINCIPLES of these philosophies. (The related reference is included at the end.)

This is why we also need female historians, scribes, professors, philosophers, priests/clerics/rabbis (besides male ones) so we may avoid bias and retain objectivity and truth.

Conclusion

This post seems to have raised more questions than provided answers. I personally feel that the Vedas (like any other ancient text) should be treated as a piece of ancient literature that reflected the big questions and struggles of that ancient time. To me, it is futile to make literal translations of these beautifully composed hymns riddled with multi-layered metaphors and turn them into rigid prescriptions on how to live (which is what the later Hindu sacred texts like the Upanishads and the Puranas tended to do).  The Vedas should be studied from a historical/literary/philosophical perspective for their many intriguing elements. Insisting on literally interpreting and following 10,000-year-old rituals is akin to resisting evolution.

Evolution is a beautiful thing – it created humans with complex brains. Without evolution, we would be Neanderthals, or going back further, we would be Primates, and if we kept on resisting evolution, we would still be unicellular organisms.

Perhaps the great sages and philosophers who composed the Vedas – if they could see us today – would be surprised and disappointed at how irrational and dogmatic we have become.  How much our present day culture fears questioning and truth seeking, which ironically is the essence of the Vedas.

How we live and let live should be guided by current knowledge of the world, and shaped by the accumulated knowledge and experiences of the past seven to ten thousand years, the time that has passed since the writing of the Vedas.

References – research papers, books, articles, Wiki entries related to this topic

Hawley, John S., and Wulff, Donna M. 1996. Devi: Goddesses of India. Berkeley, CA

Kinsley, Davis R. 1993. Hinduism: A Cultural Perspective

Lalita, K., and Tharu, Susie. 1991. Women Writing in India (600 B.C.[E] to the Present).

Lang, Karen. 1999. Women in Ancient India. In Women’s Roles in Ancient India

A Critique of the Early Buddhist Texts: The Doctrine of Woman’s Incapability of Becoming an Enlightened One. 2002. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies

Barnes, Nancy S. 1987. Buddhism. In Women in World Religions, edited by Arvind Sharma. Albany, NY

Cabezon, Jose I. 1985. Buddhism, Sexuality, and Gender. Albany, NY

Falk, Nancy. 1974. An Image of Women in Old Buddhist Literature: the Daughter’s of Mara. In

Women and Religion: Papers of the Working Group on Women and Religion, edited by Plaskow, Judith., Joan Arnold Romero. Montana

Gross, Rita M. 1993. Buddhism After Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction Buddhism. New York: State University

Anya Gurholt, The Androgyny of Enlightenment: Questioning Women’s Status in Ancient Indian Religions, Westminster College

H. Wilson’s Rig Veda Sanhita (1800s)

Ralph Griffith’s The Hymns of the Rig Veda (late 1800s or early 1900s not sure)

‘Rgveda for the Layman’ by Dr. Shyam Ghosh, and Vedic Physics by Dr. Ram Mohan Roy (for those interested in the physics angle).

Harvard Oriental Series – 50 volumes that discuss different aspects of the Vedas.

http://www.metaphysicalmusing.com/articles/rigveda2014/plasma.htm ( for those interested in Plasma physics – this link gives many other references)

Writings by/Biography of Niels Bohr

Creation Hymn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasadiya_Sukta

“I remember the first time I got slapped was when I bought some pasta home for $2.00 when the similar thing could be bought for 40cents.”

Many of us view with suspicion, essential information about abuse and control that can save lives.

Basic information about recognising abuse [Recognizing Emotional Abuse], how it begins, the absolute non-negotiables, the need for support systems (etc) are treated as modern or western ideas.

Patterns in abuse – like isolating a victim, demeaning them, violence, threats, keeping a victim in dependence, controlling their personal choices, not valuing their happiness, being disrespectful to them –  are treated as ‘adjustment problem’ :(

Sharing an email. Do you think information about healthy relationships and  how to recognise abuse could have helped the email writer in some way? 

Dear IHM,

I have been reading your blog for quite some time now and have drawn courage and inspiration from many posts.

I would like to share my story with you with a hope that you and your readers will be able to provide a general guidance.

I come from an upper middle class family. There was constant reminders from family and friends that there is no male child or varis and that there is no need to invest in educating girls but to save money for marriage. None of this deterred my parents and they raised us well, without compromising in any form. My dad strongly believed that girls should be independent and for such girls marriage-alliances will not be an issue. Love marriage was discussed several times at home and my parents always said that who we choose to marry is entirely our decision and they will respect our choice. I still remember their words, “If you choose to marry a rickshaw fellow, we will still support your decision out of love for you but it is up to you decide if you will be happy with him for the rest of your life”.

I lost my mom when I was 18, and since then lived/studied in hostels. I finished my graduation and soon moved to Australia for further studies. Life was very tough in a foreign country without family and friends. It was then that my (future) husband came into my life at a time when I was lonely and lost. He stood by me in difficult times and with him I began to feel secure and stronger. We were very much in love and my dad didn’t oppose my decision. My husband and I come from two different parts of India, he is a North Indian and I am from South. Our language, culture and many things were very different, but at the time these things hardly mattered. Soon he talked to his parents about marrying a South Indian. I didn’t hear the actual conversation but I thought his parents would be happy with his son’s decision. (They are both well-educated post graduates). My MIL came to visit us after a month. We seemed to get along well and I had a feeling she liked me. The alliance was agreed by making a ‘roka’ ceremony and she went back to India for wedding preparations.

I believed all was well and happy that I would be marrying the love of my life with blessings from both the families. Contrary to my thoughts, my uncle called me one day pleading with me to forget about love and marry someone in our community. I soon sensed something was wrong and upon insistence he told me that my in-laws had some connections with the Police and they sent some policemen to my house to arrest my dad and whoever else was at home. [IHM: Warning Sign 1] Luckily, my dad wasn’t home but unfortunately my uncle was and they arrested him without giving out any details and jailed him overnight threatening that he will be in jail forever if he doesn’t convince me into forgetting the boy. My in-laws wanted the alliance to be broken from the girl’s end so they don’t have to hurt their only son. I was furious when I found out and put my foot down that I will not get married into such a family. But my husband stood by me and told his parents that if he gets married at all than it will only be me else he will remain a bachelor. Finally his parents had to give in and apologised to me, my dad and uncle and twisted the whole story saying that they only asked the police to enquire about family. Anyway with a lot of convincing and persuasion and of course drama, my wedding took place. I consoled myself that we will soon go back to Australia and in-laws interference will be very less. Oh boy how wrong was I!

Not even a month after marriage, there was constant nagging from my MIL to bring my husband’s only sister to Australia which he obliged and she was here to stay with us soon. I never had any issues with her and we got along fine. There was drastic change in my husband after marriage, [IHM: Warning Sign 2] he was constantly irritated with me. He would very often tell me that marrying me was a very bad decision as he didn’t know his ‘worth’ before and now he knows.[3] Had he wished, he would have got a fairer, good looking bride.[4] I didn’t believe him at first and thought he saying just joking. I started getting a complex that I am not good enough for him and maybe he really deserved someone who is better looking than me. I wanted to make up some way for my looks and make him a happy husband. I blindly followed whatever he asked me to do. [5] Our finances were merged and I no longer had any control over my salary.[6]  My husband would do all the banking transactions and I was given $50 as monthly expense. Even simple chores like buying groceries were (currently) handled by my husband. I remember the first time I got slapped [7] was when I bought some pasta home for $2.00 when the similar thing could be bought for 40cents. The physical abuse only put fear in me and I taught myself not to upset my husband ever again.[8] Just not the financial independence, I also realised very soon that I didn’t have any more friends of my own. [9] For some or the other reasons, my husband would turn me against my friends sighting trivial things. The only women or friends I was allowed to talk was wives of his male friends. I gave up all my friendships to make him happy as I thought I’ll have to live with my husband not with friends. You could be wondering what happened to my family all this while, I was too ashamed [10] to discuss with anyone, as I didn’t want people [11]  to think my husband is bad. I remember when we got groceries, I would ask for deo and he always bought men’s deo only and used to say there is no difference between men’s & women’s deo and I should use his to save money. I once got a beating in return for saying ‘get women’s deo and we both can use it if there is no difference’. Every time he hit me, he would apologise and convince me that I get a beating because I have done something wrong and he is only disciplining me and it hurts him too when he is hitting him. Mentally, physically & psychologically I surrendered to him. I think that is my biggest mistake ever.

There was so much pressure from fellow couples as most of his friends started having babies and it was our turn. I got pregnant [12] soon and the whole pregnancy was a very difficult one as the baby wasn’t growing well and I had gestational diabetes. Also there was continuous stress as my husband would not let me have maternity break for more than 6 weeks after childbirth. In my workplace, I was only entitled to 6 weeks of paid leave and if I wish to take it longer leave, then I had to go without pay which was not acceptable by my husband. Every time we had a discussion, he would strongly disapprove. I thought my child is my solace and didn’t want to let go of precious time with newborn. Well after lot of convincing, my husband agreed to 12 month maternity leave. My happiness didn’t last long as soon my in-laws arrived and the real trouble had only begun. My boy was born premature & I had several complications while delivery. My mother in law took control of the whole house including my son. She would only give him to me for feeding, I wasn’t even allowed to put him to sleep. While I was at home, both my in laws would tell me how bad I was for their son and how he has missed out on the opportunity to get a fairer beautiful bride. Now my task was not just making up to my husband for the lack of looks but also make up to my in-laws by being an obedient ‘bahu’.[13] What was supposed to be a year after year visit became a permanent stay for my in-laws in Australia. I started a full time job after 10 months and found going back to work therapeutic. Against my husband and in-law’s wishes, is started making friends at work whom I wouldn’t discuss at home. For my ill luck, my husband got a full time job in the same company. As it was an issue of pride for him at work, he started loosening up a bit. He no longer controlled me in what I wear. I started having choices in buying clothes that I’d like to wear. Once after a fight at home, I discussed my issue with my colleagues/friends and they were shocked to know the truth. They slowly and steadily started brain washing me on how I am being abused by my husband and in laws. Talking to them made me realise how naïve I have been all these years and how my thoughts got clouded into believing that all this while I was making up for not having fairer skin.
I successfully persuaded my husband to allow me to have a credit card and access to banking details. I was allowed to buy anything under $10 without seeking his permission. I was also allowed to go out for lunches with my colleagues. In all this while my mother in law was taking in charge of the house. She didn’t want me to do washing as I wasted too much water and soap. I was restricted only to do dishes, cleaning & occasional cooking. I let her do whatever she wished as I wanted to avoid conflicts.[14]  Then came a time when it was my son’s first parent teacher meeting at school. I put in extra effort that morning for the meeting to look presentable. To my surprise, my husband drove me home instead saying I don’t deserve to go for the meeting and he will go with his mom as she knows better since she is teaching my son at home. I was flabbergasted, as parent teacher meeting for a kinder going child is not about study, it is more about getting to know the parents. No one cared for what I wanted, my husband said he was only being logical.

Four years were gone by and I got pregnant with second child. Unlike last time, this pregnancy was smooth. A girl was born, happy and healthy. I was very thankful for a complete family. My in-laws/husband were unhappy though as the girl was darker skinned, in other words, darker them me. I would get constant reminders again on how only if their son choose a fairer bride, they wouldn’t have to go thru having dark skinned grandchildren as theirs don’t look like north Indian at all. I couldn’t take insults anymore and gave it back to them (mind you my sister in law has got a permanent skin condition called Vitiglo and it pains me to hear that above all it is my in-laws who are judging kids for looks when they have their own kid with such condition) Once during such argument, my FIL kicked me out of my own home calling me ‘bloody south Indian’.

I was waiting in garage for my husband to return with a three month old baby and my son. I waited there for 4 hours before my husband arrived. He was very upset for his dad’s behaviour and went to confront his dad but was replied with a tight slap across his face for questioning his father. I eventually had to get my sister in law to interfere and explain to her parents what it will feel like if her in-laws treated her the same way.

Even though we never talked about it, there was unease and constant nasty undercurrent at home. The environment got toxic and it took a toll on me. Within a month, I was admitted to the hospital with a brain stroke. At thirty two years of age, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and stroke. I managed to survive the first episode of stroke without any physical damage but my life hasn’t been the same since. I had a second stroke in another 6 months and doctors strictly warned me to change my lifestyle as they couldn’t put a finger on what is causing it except for stress. I have since been on medications that are for lifelong. Have had two major surgeries accounting to poor health. I am now on the verge of a life in a wheelchair as my legs have completely gone crooked. I look for happiness and strength from my children and haven’t given up on full time job. All my health problems are brushed away as minor issues. My Mil doesn’t even have the curtesy to ask me about my health. On many occasions, I wasn’t even offered a glass of water after returning from hospital stays.

My kids love me lot but they are totally controlled my MIL. She decides what the kids will wear, what they eat and when they sleep. I am only an entertainment segment when I get to play before bed after finishing the house chores. My Mil is a control freak, I am not even allowed to put clothes for charity without consenting permission from her. She has got this weird desire/habit of saving, only brings vegetables at the end of day that are sold on special price and half of them are rotten. We never bought fresh veggies. I am not allowed to even throw away stale food without her permission, just to quote few examples of her freakiness.
Just recently my MIL got sick with flu and was admitted to hospital. She has since been discharged and made a good recovery. But for last 3 weeks, I have been too busy attending to house, kids, work and in laws. I have been working around the clock meeting all their needs. My husband hasn’t offered to help me in any way and last night we had a fight over how I am not doing enough for his parents. I couldn’t take it anymore and I blasted with all the anger. I told him how I can never forget the fact that my Mil didn’t even offer me water when I was sick, how they do not want a darker skin bahu and how happy their life would have been if a Punjabi bahu came home instead. I didn’t hide the fact that I am looking after his parents only to please him. I told him that whether it’s my parents or his, there is always going to be a conflict and it is us as a couple who need to make adjustments and compliment each other instead of looking for flaws in me alone. Yet again I was silenced with a slap.

I have had enough and can’t take it anymore. I cannot keep battering my self-confidence for the sake of a man who hasn’t got any respect for his wife. I don’t have the heart and feelings anymore for his parents.

Please give me some thoughts and please don’t ask me to leave him as it is not possible. I have tried in vain several times to get this parents to live separately. I don’t see that happening. For my own sanity and health, I am coming out in open requesting you to please read my letter and offer some words of wisdom.

Thanks in anticipation.

Related Posts:

Recognizing Emotional Abuse – Priya

Women and Friendship – Building a Support System – Priya

Simple methods, recommended to anybody else, coping with any other kind of abuse, are forbidden to Indian daughters in law. Forbidden by whom?

What makes some of us resent abuse victims instead of supporting them.

Can a woman marry and change an uninterested man into a loving and responsible husband?

“I think most problems in life are when we look for approval and validation outside of ourselves.”

Changing Someone (or oneself) – Priya

Is your relationship healthy?

Letting Go of Past Wrongs

Guest post by wordssetmefreee

A couple of weeks back, I received an email from J1289 that described some of her difficult /abusive childhood experiences. As a child, she was constantly blamed for things she had no control over. She was belittled, compared to others unfavorably, manipulated and controlled in ways that were a clear abuse of parental authority. She went out into the world, began to question and re-think many childhood misconceptions, and began to form a different (more coherent) view of the world and herself. Despite the abuse, she re-built her self-esteem, a remarkable feet considering many adults (who haven’t suffered abuse) may go through their entire lives without a clear sense of who they are and what they want.

But, how does one forgive those that let us down? How do we forget their meanness, their ignorance, and their selfishness? These lines from her email really stood out for me –

I do admit I have those horrid memories I have suffered in the past come back and it’s hard because you feel so alone in your thoughts, and think it’s only you.  It fills me with disgust, anger and hatred towards my family members and want to cut of relations with them. Sometimes it gets to me so bad that I have no idea how I can keep it in since I cannot vent it to anyone.

Experiencing abuse can leave scars that are difficult to erase.

Not everyone undergoes abuse – but many people face difficult, painful situations at some point in their lives, when they have been wronged in some way. We may have been betrayed by a close friend. We may have felt abandoned by a loving family member, when they failed to stand by us in a crisis. Someone we looked up to may have let us down, disappointed us. Such experiences can be unsettling and hold us back from seizing happiness.

It is common to harbor feelings of resentment, perhaps even hate, against those who were supposed to love us and be there for us. Over time, these feelings begin to take a toll on us. Negative thoughts can eat into a big part of our day. Our experiences begin to influence how we interact with others. We may find it hard to trust other people long after these harsh experiences. We may be wary in relationships, fear emotional intimacy and have difficulty forming deep friendships.

So, how do we get past our past? Simplistic advice such as ‘forgive and forget’ or ‘the past is past’ is not very helpful. Other nice sounding but unhelpful advice includes –

  • “forgiving is a choice”
  • “don’t cling to negative feelings”
  • “you can’t change the things that happened to you”
  • “it’s not worth it”
  • “you need to move on”
  • “put your energy into something that helps you”
  • “anger and resentment are unhealthy”
  • “start on a clean slate”
  • “focus on the present”
  • “change the things you can”

Let’s think for a minute about why this is not helpful. ‘The past is past’ sounds hollow because the opposite is true for the one who suffered in the past. For this person, the past IS the present. The past continues to haunt. It has shaped who he is today. It continues to shape current interactions and relationships.

‘Forgive and forget’ doesn’t make much sense either. How can we simply forget? We can’t just erase certain memories from our minds. They’re still there, whether we like them or not. How can we just forgive? Someone did something wrong. If you examine their actions today, they are still wrong.

And yet we know, all of us, that it is not healthy to constantly harbor negative feelings, to let past wrongs have a hold on us.

So, how do we free ourselves from this pain? How do we lighten our burden?

There are several things we could do to help ourselves –

Understand the past

Yes, this requires us to remember the past rather than forget it. Understand what exactly happened. Was it emotional abuse? Was it abandonment? Betrayal? Humiliation? Disappointment? What exactly happened and who is responsible for what? What was the other’s role in it? What was your role in it? If you were a child, you did not have any control over the situation. If you were an adult, you did have a role. This is not victim blaming, it’s trying to understand how you came to be victimized.

Acknowledge the past

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the past, acknowledge it. Burying it does not help. Acknowledge the fact that you were wronged. Remember how you felt – fear, shame, sadness, anger, pain, guilt – we try hard to bury these feelings, but the minute you acknowledge and accept them, they begin to become less burdensome.

Forgive yourself

Although it is irrational, we tend to blame ourselves (on some level) for the bad things that people do to us. Children often think it is their fault, when they are abused. They must be “difficult” or “bad”, and they deserve to suffer. There is no such thing as a “bad” child. Here, the responsibility rests with the adult, never with the child.

If you were abused/wronged as an adult, forgive yourself because you did what you could, given what you’ve been given. Not everyone is born assertive or spirited. Many of us learn assertiveness through experiences. Very few of us are lucky enough to have strong and supportive role models. Abusers also know how to tap into people’s vulnerabilities and cut off their support systems. So, give yourself a break.

Don’t erase pain

Pain is undesirable and we would not wish it on anyone. However pain has a role to play in our lives. Just as physical pain acts as the body’s warning system and protects us, emotional pain, when handled with the right perspective, helps us grow. It makes us stronger. Pain makes us understand what is really important. It simplifies things. Pain reminds us of the things we love and value. If you have gone through a lot of pain in the past, it may always be there inside you. You can never erase it completely. Therefore it is important that you use it to become stronger and more connected with yourself and others.

Separating your current self from your old self

A curious thing begins to happen if you have taken an honest look at your past, acknowledged it, and forgiven yourself. You begin to feel a separation. You begin to observe yourself objectively, like an outsider. You are able to finally separate the past from the present. That was you then and this is you now. This separation creates distance. You still remember the past events but the feelings associated with those events are less intense.

Let’s take a detour here and consider the example of an ordinary setback, removed from abuse, betrayal, or anything deeply traumatic. You are 5 years old and you just broke up with your best friend. You came home and cried as if your heart would break. For the next few days, you did not play with anyone at school. You stayed in your corner and sulked. By the end of the week, you were neither sad nor happy; you just went about your day in a cynical way. By the following week, you even laughed at something goofy someone did. By the end of the following week, you probably made a new friend. The anger and hurt may still be there. But alongside some positive feelings (new hopes, possibilities) crept in unnoticed and pushed the hurt into the background. Years later, you may even recall the good times you had with this friend you broke up with.

Our minds are interesting – they are geared to both remember endlessly and forget quickly. What we remember and forget depends on a complicated set of parameters such as our own nature, our perception of the event, our age, the context, the people involved, our feelings towards them, and our state of mind. What we remember also depends on what our conscious mind chooses to suppress in attempting to protect us.

Applying the ordinary setback and separation you experienced at age 5 to a more traumatic incident -as you begin ‘separating’, you will be able to recollect the incident without the same intensity, without the gut wrenching pain that you felt during the event or for many years following the event.

Being able to recollect a painful experience without the same intensity of pain is the first sign of freedom from the past.

Change in perspective

Separation leads us to start seeing ourselves differently (we are no longer victims, we feel more in control) and therefore we begin experiencing things differently. We now know what to look for in people. We are more trusting because we are more confident of protecting ourselves in relationships. We get better at drawing boundaries but we also get better at breaking through constraints and self-imposed limits.

Seek positive, affirming people

It is helpful to surround ourselves throughout these stages with strong, positive, supportive people. People who themselves have struggled with something but have come out strong make the most valuable friends. Avoid people who are insecure or tend to be dismissive of your struggles. Love (from a close friend or family member) can be a powerful healer.

Embrace nature

We use the expression “natural” to describe a picture of someone being unselfconscious or just being in the moment. A lot of our stress comes from being disconnected from nature, and therefore from ourselves. Pain has always been a part of the human experience but nature was a refuge, a haven of solitude that healed us, one which we are getting farther away from.

Nature can be your best friend. Take a walk in the woods. Spend time gardening. Hike up the hills and watch the world below. Nature is both calming and invigorating. Observe a tree. Notice how the branches are asymmetrical. The texture varies dramatically from the rough bark to the smooth leaves. Nature is imperfectly beautiful. Nature reminds us of our humanity and helps us accept our weaknesses.

Nature changes so imperceptibly that it is impossible to just sit there and watch the leaves turn red in fall. It is impossible to find the exact moment when the sky begins to lighten (just like one’s healing). Yet, you know these things will happen, with time. Thus, nature imbues us with patience and the confidence that time heals.

Seek new experiences

As you begin to trust people more and as you begin to enjoy your own solitude more, seek out new experiences. Travel if you can. Experience different cultures. Try something you’ve always feared. If you are uncoordinated like me, try a salsa class. If you are uncomfortable in water, take a basic life skills swimming class. New experiences challenge us to keep growing and evolving – and when we keep evolving – are we not moving ahead, are we thus not separating ourselves more and more from our painful past?

Forgive those who wronged you

Ah … the final step to freedom! Forgiveness is supposed to be one of the hardest things to do. Especially when the person who has wronged you does not realize it or admit it. But if you have gone through all of the above stages, forgiving someone is a natural progression. The stages may take months or years depending on the intensity of the pain inflicted, your vulnerability at the time, as well as your perception of the incident/phase. But once you’ve understood the past, achieved separation, undergone a change in perspective, and opened yourself up to new experiences and people with trust and confidence, you’ve gone a long way in healing yourself.

You are now strong enough to forgive. You begin to see the person who wronged you as being human rather than evil, as ignorant rather than malicious, as limited rather than insidious.

Remember, we are not forgetting our past, but we are finally able to look at it with different eyes, more perceptive eyes. It is no longer a raw, painful wound, but a scar that will always remind us of how far we’ve come. A scar that affirms our strength, so we can continue to go places.

Please share your struggles and experiences with letting go of past wrongs, disappointments, failures, disillusionment, and other painful experiences.

Piku in Patriarchy.

Another unexpected surprise. I guess with more and more Indian women watching movies, we are going to see more movies that acknowledge women as people. First Laila in ‘Margarita with a Straw’, and now Piku.

What else do Piku and Laila have in common?

1. Their families respect them and care for them.

2. They care for their parents, but they are not obedient and they do not fit into the traditional ideas of good Indian women.

3. They are sexually active, but are in no hurry to get married.

4. They are relatable.

They are involved in running their homes – Piku is shown cleaning cobwebs, loading her washing machine, counting clothes to be given to the dhobi and understanding their part time domestic helper’s need to take a few days off.

Piku gets impatient with and yells at someone she loves a lot, tolerates some amount of unfair dependence from her seventy year old father, but doesn’t prove her good-Indian-daughter love by sacrificing her social life.

She is caring and responsible without fitting into the stereotype of a good Indian daughter – this would still be considered unimaginable in traditional patriarchal families.

She complains about her father’s interference in her personal life, she appreciates sympathy from her maternal aunt and Rana Chowdhury, she talks about getting married but doesn’t believe that Getting Married and Staying Married is her goal in life.

Piku breaks some other stereotypes too.

I loved the scene where Chobbi Maasi is playing badminton with a younger man(Chowdhry?), who flirts with her, and instead of being flattered or overwhelmed (like the Bua in DDLJ and many other Indian movies) she casually (and confidently) says she was considering marrying a fourth time.

This maasi also wonders if Piku is stressed because she needs a sex life. Two women in an Indian movie talk, casually, about sex, but not about men or marriage – the movie passes Bechdel’s Test. (Laila and Piku have this in common)

My favourite scene [No spoilers] was when Chaudhury asks Piku if she would be able to manage it all on her own, and she says she would.

What if Piku was a son and was living with her mother? If the mother encouraged her… him to be sexually active but to be in no hurry to get married? And if the mother was demanding of his time and wanted to interfere in who he dates or sleeps with? I guess that is how it is for many Indian sons. Indian sons are also offered a solution – to bring home a daughter in law to take care of the mother.

In one scene Piku’s dad demands that Chowdhury picks and throws away a knife. Piku requests Chowdhury to indulge her father. How many Indian fathers of daughters can expect this from their thirty year old daughters? Most of them would be too worried about marrying the daughter off. I hope some Indian dads watching this movies see the possibilities…

Someone who didn’t like the movie said Piku’s father didn’t want her to have a life of her own because he depended on her, this is what, we know, Indian male children experience all the time. I guess what Piku’s father (and other parents who view their girl children as their care givers) would eventually want is freedom and rights for their children, to have a life that doesn’t require them to give up caring for their parents.

That, and that alone will change the way Indian parents view their girl children.

This would mean more and more parents encouraging their daughters not to get bullied into marriages and relationships that leave them dependent or unhappy, and cut off from their birth families.

This is how it would be in a society that is not Patriarchal, where all children and all parents  (whether parents of sons or parents of daughters) are valued and cherished.

I also felt Bhaskor Banerjee came from a  generation of spoiled and entitled sons and husbands who were raised to be ‘looked after’ by their mothers and wives and that was what made a seventy year old behave like a hypochondriac (though loveable, liberal, feminist and spirited) ninety year old. I know plenty of seventy year olds working and living independently, and cherishing their independence.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I was disappointed that women were not shown participating in the funeral.

 Related Posts:

CONTEST: Apply this test to Bollywood movies.

Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha – where a man is asked to Please adjust and save his marriage.

Please watch Queen. Feels like our country is finally changing.

Kai Po Che : Through feminist eyes…

Three thoughts on Bhag Milkha Bhag.

Dev D: Practical Paro Artless Chandramukhi

Bechdel Test: Apply this test to Bollywood movies.

‘Piku': A review of reviews and some of my own thoughts.

Imagine

Guest post by wordssetmefreee

 

Imagine a world where you are judged

Not by your skin color or what you’re wearing

But by your human strengths

For your wit, compassion, and caring

 

Imagine living on a street

Where your opinions can be bared

Without fear of being silenced

By casual denial or malicious stares

 

Imagine having friends

Who listen, validate, make you strong

With whom there are no feelings

That are shameful, taboo, or wrong

 

Imagine living in a community

Where other’s stories shed light

and learning happens unintentionally

Transforming you, in plain sight

 

Imagine a world where sharing

Is welcomed with knowing, accepting hearts

Where expression lends clarity

Piecing together your jagged, hurting parts

 

Does this sound too Utopian?

But such a world isn’t far away

It’s the world of blogging

Where you and I meet everyday

 

Let them not sideline or suppress

Your inner battles, your outer skirmishes

Speak, question, think, and express

Your unruly thoughts, your untamed wishes

 

Let not your voice and mine

Be drowned out in doubt and fear

And lay buried in an obscure shrine

Forgotten in a tomb of despair

 

Let them not lock your thoughts

Take the key and set yourself free

Keep reading, writing, thinking, speaking

For you are the queen of your destiny