When a daughter refuses to go back…

Sita and Geeta worked for us when we were newlyweds. Geeta was eight, Sita a little older. We offered to sponsor Geeta’s education but their mother said she had seven kids to raise and she needed the girls to work.

We found the kids adorable, bought them trinkets and treats, but we let them do the dishes and clean our homes.  Then we moved to another part of the city and lost all contact.

Around six years later I was in-between-maids and buying veggies when a young woman in a colorful sari and bangles greeted me with a huge smile. She was Sita. She said it was God’s wish that she found me, she needed help.

She moved into our servant’s quarters and pleaded with me to speak to her parents and let her stay there and work –she wanted to leave her husband. She said they were married three months ago, she was afraid of him, he had a bad temper and he had threatened to kill her if she tried to leave him, he also threatened to chuck her out of his house. She didn’t care, she was sure he’d kill her if she lived with him. She hated him. She feared her in-laws also. She had been making similar appeals to other families she had worked for. She looked afraid.

Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her. No assumptions that she is behaving like a spoiled brat who has never learnt to adjust with her in laws. No insisting that she would ‘get used to it’. No talk about her ‘sanskar’ or her duty towards her parents. No demands that she must try to make the relationship work.

But I was inexperienced then. I asked her how she was going to manage on her own. I asked her what she did to anger her husband. I wondered if she liked another man. (As if that was the perfect reason to send her right back to her husband). Basically like everybody else I assumed she couldn’t possibly know what was good for her. I thought her parents (obviously) would want the best for her, and would do what was best for her*, even if they had married her to a much older man when she was less than seventeen.

Her parents did speak to her husband but this angered him, he insulted them too. Within weeks her in laws wanted them back in their joint family home in another part of Bombay, they left.

We moved to another city and I forgot about her. Such stories are extremely common; most girls learn to live like this, and their marriages ‘work’. Happy or not, they manage to keep the system of semi-forced marriages going. We Indians are grateful to thousands of Sitas who live with some violence and abuse. Their sacrifices are appreciated.

What is happening in Afghanistan hurt because it is not unfamiliar? Even though we are conditioned to treat anything common as ‘normal’.

Around five years later we were back in Bombay and one day I called a malish wali. She saw me and started crying. She was Sita’s mother. She said Sita had died of third degree burns. She was making tea and the stove burst, and her sari caught fire. Her in-laws did not inform the parents until two days later.  While dying Sita begged her mother not to leave her three months old son with her husband. She told her it was not an accident; her husband had poured kerosene on her. She made conflicting statements in her dying moments. This seems to happen all the time.

But I read, “If it’s an accident, you can almost always escape the fire. It’s not really possible to burn all of the body,”

Everybody blamed the parents. Her father died of grief within six months of her death.

Sita’s husband died a year later, of something that made his body turn black as coal. Her mother said god punished him.

She sent the grandson back to his paternal grandmother when he was three years old.  She wants him to be close to his paternal grandmother so that he does not loose his father’s share in property.

I felt little sympathy for her, although she brought a happily married Geeta to meet me. Nothing had really changed for her; I feel she would still do the same if any other daughter of hers were to come pleading for support.

And we have millions of parents like this taking life changing decisions for their helpless daughters.

And this doesn’t just happen in the lower or uneducated classes.

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102 thoughts on “When a daughter refuses to go back…

  1. Thought provoking post. We all are guilty in some form or another. I have never had a child working in my home, but have had a maid whose child was working. I badgered her contantly to stop, but could not (did not?)do anything about it. Sometimes I think it is also a lack of knowledge.. what are the options? can we force them to send the child? how? I have threatened some with the police ( and it worked) when it comes to child marriage, but education is harder to push.

    As bad as child labour is our system of not letting a girl come back home if she is unhappy in her husband’s house… Don’t you think her death was avoidable Suchismita?

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    • Absolutely. We not only prevent the woman from returning to her maternal home, we also do not let her live on her own, if she sees that as her next option. The sad part is it is her own family that pushes her the most.

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  2. I’ve been reading the news about Afghanistan and every time I read it…I’ll think of your blog… and was sure that I’m gonna find some reference to it here.
    It’s an ugly fact that similar things happen in our country,too. When I see people around me talking about Indian, most of the time they are talking about only educated class and choose to totally ignore the illiterate or lower class people as a part of their country. Many also seem to believe that they themselves are responsible for their problems…. and that has nothing to do with us except when we need a maid. :/

    My last post was about Afghanistan, the new law that has been passed by Karzai… and I agree Purvi, we do not realise that 70% plus Indians live like this girl. Her death had shaken me, but it is a fact of life for the society she lives in… sad yes; end of the world – no.

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  3. Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her

    I agree… totally !

    You JKG!!!

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    • what happened to taht contest !!!

      you tell me…

      In our country people see DIVORCE as a catastrophe…

      cant it normally happen that people get together and things dont work out… cant they separate ?? its a big deal here…strangely… !!

      I know it should be NOT taken lightly but we should trust a person who is prepared to take the step. And what’s the point of an unhappy life or worse… being burnt alive. Nobody listened to her, and even when we did we thought her parents would do whatever was best for her…

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        • and what happened to that contest ?????? you aint replying to that question at all !!!!!!!

          you started it… you must finish it !!!!

          I will Hitchwriter, I like it, it’s close to my heart, I want to do justice to it. I will do it soon… sometimes I take a while to get back to things, …see it took me time to get back to blogging from the recent long break also.

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  4. Yes, it does not happen in only lower sratas of society. I was apalled when my cousin escaped from the US due to an abusive husband & my other uncle was full of criticism saying how will his children find good spouses when we have such an incident in our family.

    The story of Sita is such a sad one & a reminder of what ugliness we have in our society.

    No url Monika 😦

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  5. Its sad to hear abt such things .. we do think they r shown only in movies but they r happening arnd us 😦 Things r changing for sure but even one such case is indeed a heavy loss to the family 😦

    Don’t you think this was avoidable? She asked everybody to help her…

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    • True .. she atleast did open up! Hw many such ppl still don’t do it 😦
      There’s a lady who works @ my Mom’s place IHM! She walked out with her 1 yr old daughter and came all the way from Kolkata to Blr. I remember how she knocked @ everyone’s door, explained the situation she ws in and asked for work!

      That girl is 7 yrs old nw, studies in an English medium school n is so smart! She calls me n my sis Didi n we r so close .. she is almost like a family member for the entire apartment!

      I salute that lady’s guts n spirit! N men who think women are weak, shud see her n tell us what they think!

      ‘I salute that lady’s guts n spirit!’
      Me too Swaram!

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  6. Why is it that we are conditioned to turn a blind eye towards any instance of women’s harassment? So much so that even parents would like to live in a world of make-belief where their unhappy daughter can cope with the worst form of harassment. Is it because it’s the easiest way out?

    D, I think they wanted to take the easy way out. She was not a favorite child, Geeta was fairer and cuter, Sita was dispensable 😦

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  7. The problem with most Indians is that they think a daughter ‘belongs’ to her husband and her marital home is her only home…Hence, even if she’s unhappy there, she’s coaxed into going back…Also, society plays an important part in the decisionmaking process – “what will people say?” is another common reason for sending an unhappy daughter back to her husband…For the poor, there’s an additional problem of money…Often poor parents who would like to keep their daughter with them cannot do so because of poor finances…

    I’m glad that there is a child labour law but unless it is enforced, there’s no point in having it…In Gurgaon I had a neighbour who only kept 11-12 year old maids because they wanted someone young to play with their daughter…If educated people don’t care about laws, how do we expect the uneducated to?

    Sraboney now the law does not allow children less than 14 years to be employed as domestic helpers. Yes I agree about money but this girl would have survived on her own, that was what she asked for, as a live in maid. She had sensed her husband was dangerous, but nobody took her serioulsy.

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  8. Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her

    u are bang on IHM… and i agree this just doesnt happen in the lower strata, I have lost a friend to this… it fills me with anger and rage every time I hear a story like this.

    horrible…. we are too caught up in our own worlds to listen to anybody if someone would have heard her she would have been alive and trust me this is what happened with that friend. I know her parents and sisters still blame themselves for it. I can see it in their eyes, they never smile anymore.

    God that must be hell for them! But I also feel anger for such parents. Even if there is violence but no threat of being burnt alive, don’t the parents ever worry that she might kill herself,out of humiliation, or about the physical pain… or she might get seriously injured (even if they feel it’s fine for a husband to beat his wife (!!!) … and when such cases are in the news all the time… on one hand we throw a fit if a teacher slaps a child, or if she gets hurt in an accident, on the other hand we just turn a blind eye for convenience (it is just convenience after all)…

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    • we are strange people IHM, all this is the result of the strange thing we call as family honor… if we fight people will know and what will they think about us

      and what if ur daughter then who will come thinking abt her or u or her kids???????

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  9. Sometimes I feel as if a woman , is treated and expected to behave like a Cow . In every sense of the word . And if your cow turns against you , or stops being of use to you , then you sell it to the butcher .

    Yes and kislay this little girl had turned to me for help… 😦

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  10. it begins and ends with the idea tht women should makes amends.. we read such cases in newspapers so often.. 😦

    Yes Gauri and we almost become immune to such news. This shocked much more because I had known her as a kid… and because she had appealed to everybody to help her. She didn’t want to die like this.

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  11. Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her. No assumptions that she is behaving like a spoiled brat who has never learnt to adjust with her in laws. No insisting that she would ‘get used to it’. No talk about her ‘sanskar’ or her duty towards her parents. No demands that she must try to make the relationship work.

    The above is correct if the girl is educated, financially independent i.e. basically she can take care of herself. But what if she is not educated, what if she can’t arrange her basic needs and the worst, what if she is from such a poor b/g that she will be a burden on her parents (I know a child is never a burden on his/her parents, but i guess this is hardly true for those poor families). Now frankly speaking i don’t know what to do here. If you force her to go back to her husband, she might at the worst loose her life as it happened here And if she does not want to go back and also does not want to be a burden on her family, she might get raped one day if she is staying alone in some roadside narrow lanes, she might end up in some brothels, you don’t know. It is the worst situation to be in and I really find no solution here, not everyone is lucky that she will get a shelter like Sita got in IHM’s home.

    Mustaf I did not offer her shelter, I had employed her. I know such jobs are available to many women. I know in my own circle there are many widows (AIDS widows, alcohol widows) and they are fine on their own. Many girls icome back to their mother’s village but they live close by, not in the mother’s house… I have blogged about this other woman whose sister lost her husband, and and my maid – believe it or not, envies her. Most of the husbands (almost all) drink, and create a hell at home, women have to work. All the men do is beat, yell, snatch money, fuss about he food, suspect the wives are not faithful… They are addicted to alcohol, which is readily available. I have blogged about this here
    https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/the-life-and-times-of-another-indian-homemaker/

    And the biggest thing is, if there is life there is hope.

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    • Yes, I do agree with you. When you are in the worst situation, it is better to be hopeful and try rather than sitting idle, at least probabilistically if nothing good happens, nothing worse could not happen. Some time i wish GOD could have made women physically strong enough to fight these worthless men, a kick for a kick and i am damn sure these drunks would not have dared a step further.

      I have also gave my comments about the other post there itself, that was an inspiring story & you finished it well, these women don’t feature in Ekta Kapoor’s serial, truly!!!

      Lol No they don’t feature there 🙂 These women do give scratch for scratch (though I wish they could handle it better) and openly wish their husband’s dead, Ekta Kapoor would deny they even exist 🙂 And thank You Mustaf 🙂

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    • Good post and as you said ‘when there is life there is hope’.Much better to live independently than going back to an abusive husband.

      Or Charakan, worse, going to back to a death by burning.

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  12. This happens across all levels of the society and its horrible how inspite of girls wanting to comeback parents don’t want them back in the name of society, name, prestige etc!

    This bit is beautiful “Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her. No assumptions that she is behaving like a spoiled brat who has never learnt to adjust with her in laws. No insisting that she would ‘get used to it’. No talk about her ‘sanskar’ or her duty towards her parents. No demands that she must try to make the relationship work.”

    How I wish everyone understood this!

    A we are beginning to understand, but we are doing it very slowly. I feel if this new generation mothers put their collective feet down, we will have made a good beginning…

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  13. Such a sad tale really. It happens everywhere…
    I have friends who have been sent back to their spouses.
    Another friend and her family changed cities because she came back home after marriage and didn’t go back when persuaded by her father…

    Parents need to stop acting like their daughters are only born to be married off and have children, that their reposnsibilities end once the daughter gets married.
    Once the in-laws and husbands realise that the girl is not alone, maybe the crime, the abuse will lessen and gradually stop.

    Bang on Pixie! And that is one sure way to put an end to it.

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  14. What a sad tale. Irrespective of the class of society, it’s not a rare one though. Economically empowering women so that they don’t have to depend on anyone, will be the only way out…

    Yes Apu but also emotionally empowering them, this girl could have found a job and refused to go, but she believed she must do what her parents asked her to do. The right attitude also must combine with economic empowerment…

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  15. This was such a sad read, so, soooo sad!

    As soon as I started reading, I was filled with dread, as if I somehow knew what the outcome would be 😦

    How does one raise awareness? Education? Television? Street plays? The fear of God?

    How?

    There are these videos against Domestic Violence, I let my maids watch them M4, you should have seen their faces. They had not said that their husbands are violent till then, but violence is a part of their life, but they are so ashamed of it. They blame themselves… Here’s the video… I think these can really work…

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  16. IHM you are right .
    many a years ago when bride burning was very much in news and i was working in the social work department of a hospital, a father who had lost his daughter because of so called stove bursting said, ” she wanted to leave her in laws and husband as they were illtreating her, and she came to us twice but we sent her back. wish we had not forced her to go , then she would have been alive”
    many a times we parents dont understand our children, we treat them as immautre, pampered human beings who cant not and dont want to adjust with their matrimonial duties and families and also because of societal pressures and the feeling< Log kya kahenge" we ignore their pleas of help and let them suffer. and after wards parents are the ones who cry and feel guilty.
    i suppose in the inital statges of married life all couples go through testing times,( two different individuals staying together, frictions are bound to occur) and it is the duty of parents of both the sides to help them adjust and come out of the initial hurdles of new life
    BUT
    parents should not ignore the call for help, should not turn deaf ear and blind eye towards the plight of their daughters who are the victims of torture of married life.
    parents as expereinces ones should go out to help the couple but should nto wait for the things to go out of hands
    it is better to bring back the daughter, break the relation than to let her suffer and come to an ultimate sad end.

    Anju this man misbehaved with her parents also… that was an indication. There was every indication- she was very scared of him. This is not normal… I also feel that the husband here all the support from his wife,- indirect encouragement to treat her badly… I feel very angry with this mother. She was not normal anymore… Sita’s death shook her. I feel such stories should be talked about. And we have some who oppose the Domestic Violence Act.

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  17. “And this doesn’t just happen in the lower or uneducated classes.”
    That is true IHM. When I was small one of my mom’s friends(working in a reputed public sector company and was from educated and ‘forward’ family) was ‘burnt’ by her husband and in-laws. She succumbed to her injuries. Though they claimed that the fire was an accident, my mom and her other friends who always heard horror stories of harrassment took them to court and got them imprisoned. All this was for dowry!

    I know of another girl who found an opportunity to make a phone call from the neighbours’ house, and got help to get out. The family was using her money. She moved out, and the husband continued to visit her, but he didn’t have the guts to live with her- his own wife.Finally she divorced him, now she is happily married. Luckily there were no kids… I have met these people ….

    So this happens even in so-called educated families. Education does not mean anything IHM. If there is no respect for another human being, if inlaws and husbands consider the wive merely as a thing that brings dowry and cooks and cleans and has sez whenever asked for, this happens. Making women think independently is the only solution. Not making them scared of a life all by themselves is important. If they feel that leaving an errant husband will only bring them troubles of the single life, they will always suffer.

    And we don’t realise that single life is not that bad either…I have a friend who is separated, and she is content… and lots of fun too…

    I think I have said this before – I have a cousin IHM who really doesnt respect his wife. She is only living with him for their 3 daughters(they had to have a 3rd to try for a boy) and was forced not to divorce him by her parents(they accused her of bringing them shame) and whenever I think of her I am ashamed that someone in my family can make another human being’s life hell. My father tried to reason with them but had a falling out and now we cannot even intervene. I know everything that she goes through but cannot say anything. I feel guily. As guilty as my cousin and his parents.

    But you are helpless Shilpa, unless she herself decides to walk out there is no freedom from this kind of hell….

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  18. This is happening all over our country and you have summed it up pretty nicely… ‘whatever happening around us seems to be normal’… whats really irritating is its with educated people also 😦 dont know what they learned

    Very true Kanagu, if everybody starts doing something, we decide it is normal! We should think for ourselves???!

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  19. saw the above video in one of ur previous posts as well… it really brings home the message….

    Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her. No assumptions that she is behaving like a spoiled brat who has never learnt to adjust with her in laws. No insisting that she would ‘get used to it’. No talk about her ‘sanskar’ or her duty towards her parents. No demands that she must try to make the relationship work.
    it is ok if this comes from a girl who can speak up for herself and actually atleast ASK for help. a lot of times, abuse is never identified and the women keep suffering it for the sake of children/family/society or whatever else u can think of. worse, they keep making excuses for the behaviour of the husband in beating them up.

    i have personally witnessed the answer of a ragpicker lady: “ab shaadi-shuda ho aur khushi se jee rahe ho toh thodi maar-peeth toh sehni padti hai”…
    my friends and i were shocked. trying to reason with her was useless becoz she was determined to believe that.

    changing their mindset is the first step. when parents start seeing marriage as an optional journey for girls rather than a compulsory destination… maybe the scenario wud change…

    Exactly Ashwathy!And girls should see it first for themselves too. Marriage is not he sole reason for a girl’s existence! Once this sinks i n no girl will be forced to tolerate abuse… though we do also need counseling for those who refuse to get out of such situations…

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  20. When i hear such stories i cry because it is the parents mistake to send the girl to her husband knowing that he will kill her,god did punished him but the son will never get his mother back.

    Yes, she left him with his grandmother who hardly knew him… and what kind of love is this that makes parents leave theri child in such dangerous, unhappy situations? If I could see she was so miserable, why were they ignoring it?

    Afganistan i thought after taliban the country will change,but men are always men why they change and give freedom to women in afganistan,the other day i saw a documentary where still afgan women cover them fully the way they were doing during taliban.

    They have been so unfortunate … I read about how many of them burn themselves, to escape such terrible lives…

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  21. its indeed sad and yes whats worse it even happens in educated homes where huge amounts od dowry has also been given. do parents feel they need money worth? i just think its all about society. we are just too fucking worried about what the society thinks.

    i have a friend who had a love marriage and then got separated within coupla years ‘coz the guy turned out to be physically abusive. just to avoid people trying to get rude and mean whenever someone asked her how come she is at her mom’s house for so long, she would gice a dazzling smile and say i am getting divorced. must have taken a lot of courage but i am so proud of her!

    i am glad that when i got married my parents clearly told me that our home is gonna be my home forever and i am free to walk back anytime! 🙂

    hope more and more parents think like that!

    brilliant post!

    I know that is what I always say to my kids, whatever happens, we are always, always there for them. That is called having respect for family values, … not the way we abandon our daughters in the name of custom… I loved the line I have made bold.

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  22. IHM, It is so sad to read about things like this..

    ‘Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her’ – So true..
    Until such time that parents do not consider a daughter, a responsibility, of which they are absolved of, by marrying her off, things like this will happen.

    And you are right, it is not just in the lower classes.. it happens everywhere.. we just shut our eyes to it.. But every little helps. by reading your words, there are so many of us, who will now be doubly careful, and will try and help , in any way we can..

    And we can make a difference Smitha… though I wish we had more campaigns like Bell Bajao, which created awareness, and changed attitudes…:(

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  23. But I was inexperienced then. I asked her how she was going to manage on her own. I asked her what she did to anger her husband. I wondered if she liked another man. (As if that was the perfect reason to send her right back to her husband).

    IHM how much we stereotype dont we? If a girl has opinions of her own, she is either insane, immature or worse ‘the type who would never adjust’. (someone very close to me thinks that about me just because I believe in saying what I think, in being honest about one’s feelings) Why do we have so many ‘ideas’ of how people are, rather than making an effort to know how people really are? And how absolute we generally are in our beliefs, not an inch or else it would change the world for us. Half our problems are because we are rigid in everything we do or say and the other half is because of plain ignorance and rejection of any other way of life. Not castigating you IHM, hope you understand that.

    Cilla I wrote those lines to castigate anybody who holds those thoughts… to show all the things you saw. I am glad you noticed just how absolute we can be in our beliefs… Even if you were in agreement with that thinking, (as some might be) I was sure next time you heard someone say such things, you would know they how dangerously, sadly wrong such thinking is….

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  24. A sad story indeed.

    Today things have changed, things are better, I guess. People are more understanding of a divorcee and divorcee’s can be seen happily married as well…

    Yes Rakesh … true! 🙂 I have some separated and divorced friends, they are happy, and generally nobody bothers about their being divorced… except close friends who are always trying to fix them up with other single eligible partners 🙂

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  25. a similar case happened to one of my parent’s domestic help’s niece – married in the village and got burnt and died. and the in-laws said that she accidently caught fire !

    i was conditioned to grow up the same way – whatever happens in your husbands house, don’t come back – oh yes, they are qualified parents.
    even when my father encouraged me, my mother would say to my father, “you are giving too much freedom” – do you see where the problem lies?

    Anrosh I have heard such lines too while growing up, and got into long heated discussions too… it was always my dad who thought nothing of such rules. My mother says her dad was way ahead of his times, her mom wasn’t… I know my kids will never say that, I have broken this vicious chain. My mother’s message was confused, she conveyed very subtly that our home was our husband’s home, but she also encouraged us to be bold and, they were both against joint families for their daughters… I guess she was confused by her own very progressive father, and extremely religious, extremely conservative mother. 🙂

    .

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    • Good for you IHM. – We stood up and questioned and fought. I was called rude, unemotional, no concern for parents who sacrificeed, ridiculed and scorned for many of my decisions .

      YOU CUT THE VICIOUS CHAIN – congragulations. one more victory for human kind.

      Realization only comes from thinking and asking questions, Questioning the fundamentals of norms, and mores of society.
      Who says it is like eating falooda – nice and smooth?

      Qualifications do NOT HELP. Only exposure does. one evening a friend of my husband’s came for dinner. He said these days woman seems to have abused power. he was not short of any qualifications – (IIT Bombay and went for masters for a good state school here too etc etc

      another example – a classmate of mine was married AGAINST HER WISHES to another qualified guy. Her father is one of the current sitting judges in the supreme court of India. And both the girl and the guy studied at IIT. The girl was dark and short and so the parents wanted to at least get her married to somebody of their own class. But she was afraid what will happen to her father’s image in society if she marries whom she wanted to.She gave in and is not happy about it even after 12 years.

      i don’t see where qualifications play a role.

      she wrote me a xx page letter after she got married and said the only thing retained in her was her last name. and logically speaking – Was her last name by choice ? And the wedding was done with grandeur – it was a show put for the parents high profile friends… the story goes on…

      it is not about rich, poor or middle class – it is about exposure and standing up for one self and even be prepared to hear ” You are an asshole for what you think is right.

      And when you hear that you know you are right 🙂

      Yes Anrosh! You are right… and anyone can break the chain when it reaches them. There is no doubt about marriages (semi-forced) that are only a peer group face saving act for the parents… this is what I can never understand, how can parents love the society more than their own children???? They just don’t think … and they talk about parents sacrificing for their kids!! 😦

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  26. My mom’s ex maid servant is going through the same problem with her husband. She had got married in Feb. Hope she is able to get out of the hell hole.

    Mostly they don’t let them come back Reema, one of my maids was married very young to a middle aged widower, she was miserable, and she came back and threatened to commit suicide if anybody tried to send her back, they let her stay.

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  27. This so sad but so true…innumerable murderers just get away with it by calling it an accident and nobody ever raises a voice.And what is they raise a voice,is there any justice?

    Very few do get justice… but it would be so much easier if parents just stop abandoning their daughters.

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  28. What I wanna ask such parents is : Is the purpose of a girl’s life just to get married and stay there even if the conditions are like hell? Who’s purpose is it solving?

    Exactly … they really need to answer this one Neha!

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    • The majority of the population think it is so ” the girls life is just to get married”. That one day !

      Don’t parents collect jewellery and saris for their daughter’s wedding. don’t they accummulate money for dowry.

      Don’t they knit and crochet crafts for display to show the prospective bride’s talents – In the urban areas these may be less for lack of time, but still there is a display.

      when asked why do you do all this . they say, “ye sab HAMARE MEH hota hai ” . the normal pschye is you have to bigger than the jones display .. there draw the cycle of the tamasha —

      Oh yes, we all over India are big on display, or appearances. This obsession with ‘creating a good impression’ on the neighbours, relatives, and all strangers is such hypocrisy… a maid wanted to borrow money for her daughter’s dowry, everybody was ready to contribute, and I was wondering what was the use… what if she gave the same money to the girl to start some work, the way she would have for a boy? We are so obsessed with girl’s getting married and at a fixed age- all our troubles begin and end with the necessity of a girl getting married. Her honor, what courses she studies, how she walks, talks, dresses, what kind of friends she makes – even her hobbies and ofcourse her work… all have only one purpose. It doesn’t even make sense, because she may not be what she is forced to be! It seems we strive to create clones of a Sushil Kanya 😉

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  29. oh how heartbreaking this is…and it’s such a sad thing to know it happens to soooooo many people…why do parents do that?…no bloody person would do this to a girl if the parents are willing to stand by her…why don’t parents understand that compromise is not the answer every time? how hard is it to comprehend the pain that the daughter is going through and to do something to help her? dammnnnn

    I so agree Titaxy, ‘no bloody person would do this to a girl if the parents are willing to stand by her’

    Like

  30. This reminded of a similar story that happened in educated, middle class delhi. I met a friend’s friend on the last day of my MA exams in CP. My friend was going to leave us and join her for lunch. This friend was a newly wed then. A year later, I met my friend and asked how her friend was doing. She told me she was dead. It took me a few minutes to understand what I had heard. She had committed suicide. She was 23 and married for less than a year. She had told everyone that her marriage was not working out, her husband did not give her money, did not like her working and emotionally abused her. Everyone including my friend who was one of her best friends told her to adjust. Once she knew she had no support, she took her own life.
    I agree we should all take it seriously when a daughter wants to come back.

    What do these men do when their wives have died such deaths… doesn’t the family feel any shame? Where’s their honor then..? I can’t imagine someone so young taking their lives like this. We hear of a very large number of women, and even girls dying like this. I once took painting classes and there was this tall, skinny girl painting some canvases (actually getting the teacher to paint for her) to take with her and prove that she was talented… and the one day she did not come, she had committed suicide. We heard of no inquiries… why would a young girl kill herself just like that? It was assumed that she probably liked someone else… (so it didn’t matter.)

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    • Its tragic that girls are so expendible in so many eastern cultures. And its even sadder that it is women (for example the mothers and mothers-in-law) who perpetuate the violence and its acceptance.

      Like

    • IHM they plant stories about how the girl was probably mentally sick so committed suicide and get married to other girls…or they go and get some less literate baby making machine from the villages…

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  31. It is still about prestige and society. A girl back home without her husband raises the same set of questions. You wouldn’t believe, IHM. I was talking to a friend the other day and she was telling me that when she vacations alone in India, people ask why her husband is not with her and to top that she isn’t pregnant yet so they assume that there is something seriously wrong with the relationship. This is Calcutta and educated people.

    Divorce is still a taboo and ‘working on a relationship’ is still encouraged. Working on a relationship is important but most of the times the working and adjustment is one-sided. As I always say, it is better to bring up a child alone as a divorcee than screeching and fighting under one roof, living together just for the sake of children. The child with single parent turn out just fine if the home is a happy home. I have seen a lot of problems who had both set of parents but unhappy home.

    When we were in Kanpur, the stove bursting incidents were very common in civil areas. Our maid would come daily with one story of someone’s bahu or beti dying of bursting of stove. There was once an incident about a woman going out to dry her clothes and electrocuted on the wire 😐 , I mean this is plain ordinary wire where people dry clothes.

    Even now it is appreciated if a woman puts up with everything and always works on keeping the house together and even if that means entire day in kitchen and abuse. Women should realize that they don’t have to prove to anyone and even if anyone calls them names or accuse them of home-breaker still don’t care and go live their life. It is okay to open mouth and go against the conditioned arrangement of joint families. For that the girl need to be financially independent and also have strong parents or at least the girl needs to be strong.

    Absolutely Solilo… and I feel this is important- :’Women should realize that they don’t have to prove to anyone and even if anyone calls them names or accuse them of home-breaker still don’t care and go live their life.’

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    • Reminds me of an interview I saw on NDTV. This female is now a very successful writer on domestic violence. She tolerated the abuse for usual reasons and had 2 kids with that abusive man. When her son( the younger one) started showing personality disorder due to the ‘environment’ and when the ‘husband’ tried to hit the kid.. she walked out. And they are still coping with the after effects 10-15 years down the line!

      Like

  32. IHM, What a thought provoking post.
    I remember that my grandparents had a cook with them for some years, who escaped from her husband’s violence. I talk about her in one of my posts – Snapshot 25.
    http://sioneve.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/snapshot-25/

    Her family kept insisting that she go back to him because she was “blackening” their reputation by “running away” from him. Her mother said that it was better that a daughter died than brought shame on the family. The cook resisted for some years, but finally, she went back, thinking that maybe they could work it out. That she owed it to her parents and her in-laws to try to “do the right thing”.
    About a year after that, we heard that she had died. According to her mother, the husband had poured kerosene on her and set her alight. But of course the husband and in-laws said that it was an accident in the kitchen – the stove had mysteriously burst into flames. It was hard to feel much sympathy for her parents – although they carried on a lot about the misfortune of daughters and their parents.
    In the end, I always thought she fulfilled her mother’s wishes: as a daughter, she died rather than bringing shame on her parents.

    Oh my God sioneve this is so horrible! We should blog about these burnings… What kind of mothers can utter such words? ‘ Her mother said that it was better that a daughter died than brought shame on the family.’

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  33. quite a sad story..sometimes i feel all it takes is a deep drawn sigh! and things are forgotten as long as life is comfortable for us..at times..i get angry that no action is taken to deal with such things! bt again..that irritating voice..it rings..’what can we do’..!! helplessness of a comfortable section of society..

    Verbivorehere this happens in comfortable sections of society also… so there is no escaping it exists. I feel women can change this if they stop doing anything that encourages such things. 😦

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  34. IHM,this post reminded me of a similar experience I had.We had this maid who had been recruited y my MIL for many years and she was very attached to our familyA very sweet,demure,but mature little girl..She was a girl of not more than 14/15.She was always a keen learner.
    One day her parents came and told us that she was to be relieved as she was going to be married off and sent to another city.
    This came as a shocker,’cos we never thought she was ready for it.In fact we even asked her and she said clearly she didnt want to get married so early.My husband even volunteered to sponsor her,but her parents were too adamant to relent to see the point.Leave aside acknowledging their daughter’s say.We were helpless as her father made it clear he didnt want any ‘interference’.

    About a year later I recievd a cal frm the father informing us of her death.and even worse she was pregnant when she died.Till today I’ve not been able to forgive myself for that.if we had been a bit more stern and persuasive with her parents she would be alive today.Maye
    Its a really sorry state of affairs,IHM.The mindsets of people have been moulded for generations in such a way that they feel its a sin to get out of that mould.
    I agree with Solilo,the girls need to get that assurance from their parents are with them to fight against any odds,to stand for their own rights.

    Thank you for this post,IHM.I sincerely hope our times change for the better,especially for women.

    …people have been moulded for generations in such a way that they feel its a sin to get out of that mould. 😦

    Like

  35. I too have witnessed women being physically and psychologically abused in their in-laws places. Psychological abuse is even more common than physical abuse. There are so many cases like this !!

    Whom do u think the blame goes to ? The parents ? or the society ?

    Society has all kinds of people, if parents want they can support with or without society’s approval, so parents are at fault. And we make society, Niharika, we can change it too.

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  36. My father was adamant about this. In the stormy days that I was married, he always told me that I could always come back if things got impossible. Just because I got married did not mean that he was not my father and I did not have a home. I was deeply grateful that I had that option always. It is such a confidence booster.

    Like

  37. Forget family honor, practical reasons like her own survival may have led even me to dole out such advice then; but yes now I believe, after that raped mentally disabled girl’s pregnancy, I have realized a person’s wishes and choices should be respected.

    A girl can come back home anytime, no questions asked. Thats how it should be.

    Yes Poonam, like you say, ‘a person’s wishes and choices should be respected.’

    Like

  38. This story brought tears to my eyes. Don’t you wish you could go back in time, grab the smiling girl in the market and try to save her!
    I wrote a post on domestic violence a long time back and a few days ago a commentator came back after a long time to tell me what had happened to her. Something very similar to what happened to Sita. The only difference was that the villain of the piece was not the parents and family, but a woman’s organisation who advised her to go back to her husband. They even called the husband and asked him to take her back. And it was me who had advised her to go to a woman’s organisation for support!!
    But the girl’s parents stood by her and today the woman is free of the monstor who hit her so hard that she has a steel plate in her shoulder. I wonder how it is possible to live with a man who hits you and have any sort of marriage. Luckily in this case the woman was a working woman so there was no question of her being financially dependent.

    Nita this girl could also survive on her own, but her parents wouldn’t hear of it! 😦

    Like

  39. It makes me so sad to read this. Its not just an issue limited to the lower economic strata of society. Its prevalent amongst educated Indian families too. Maybe not that overtly manifested. Maybe in subtle forms. BUt the misuse of power is very much prevalent. It makes my heart bleed. I did a post sometime back and then withdrew it – for fear of confrontation – because it was a rant agianst inlaws and just how they misuse the power they have by virtue of being inlaws. BUt on maturer reflection, it comes clear as a mountain spring – who the hell gives them the power? Is it not in our hands, how we allow others to treat us?
    The scene changes of course, if the victim happens to be uneducated and dependant, like Seeta. And so, everyday scores of them get burnt at the altar.
    I for one, have come across a lot many battered women during my work in India.And it came across as a shock everytime, when I saw how parents themselves forced a woman to stay put in an obviously disintegrating marriage. Social obligations. Societal pressures. Whatever the reason, I dont think there`s a end in sight. Not anytime soon.

    You are right… it is changing but too slowly. You should blog about it Piper, you have experience and you see it first hand. Such a post written objectively, can become a much needed support for some battered, unhappy woman someday.

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  40. IHM.. I dunno where to start. There was this girl in our building.. apple of her parent’s eye. The only girl child.. so on and so forth. They spent so much.. gave her so much dowry and even more than asked.. and yet.. when she came back home telling that she doesnt want to be with him anymore.. they reasoned.. what will you do after we are gone.. who will marry a divorcee etc etc.. and she was sent back.. and when she came back… the next time.. she came back from the hospital directly. She was lucky to be alive.. with so many burns!! it was gruesome to look at her for years together!! Even though they did all kind of surgery and all some scars always remained. and yet they didnt launch a complaint. The guy went scott free and married someone else!!

    And then there is this cousin of mine. He was 30 when he got married to a girl of 18. He had lost his ability to pro-create in one accident which the girl’s family didnt know. My aunt was ashamed of the fact so she got a perverse pleasure in psychologically torturing the girl. The girl had just finished 12th then!! She was from a poor family with 6 girls and one guy. The youngest!

    Initially she used to run back home whenever it became too much for her. Anything she did was “never” right! my cousin (female) could do it better. Always! This bhabhi of mine was very shy and very uninformed in social graces and quite plain too. Her only qualification for the choice was that she was the eldest daughter of a poor man. Her parents both were “teachers”.

    I remember once, when we were living with my aunt, we were sent with this bhabhi to her maayka. Her mom asked her to think about her “sisters” and their future. She had nothing to say. In my very own gawky ways.. I had asked them why they gave birth to so many girl child.. they said coz they wanted a male child. That logic was hard for me to understand then or now.. but well.. my bhabhi did go back everytime.

    Lucky for her, my cousin got married to this rich socially placed guy and this female cousin started to find her mother (my aunt) too boorish for her rarified circle and my aunt realized that how lucky she was to have found this amiable daughter-in-law who still treated her with respect despite all the problems and now they live happily ever after.

    And my cousin is an amiable sort of guy but he has a short temper. His mom (my aunt) was afraid of him separating and living alone with his wife.. and hence would always incite fights between them which resulted in my cousin hitting his wife. Lucky for us he didnt drink or have any such vices so it was never too much harm. other than well few slaps he never did anything that had a permanent damage. They did facilitate her to study further and now she herself is a teacher. But they cant have kids and they wont adopt since my aunt is against bringing someone elses child with no caste no back ground into the home.. if you know what I mean?

    This in itself has become a post isnt it? I dunno. This sucks. but in our family .. dad’s side esp. A man hitting his wife in anger is always the wife’s fault!!

    Winnie the Poohi, all this just shows one thing, that we just can’t see a life for a girl beyond her marriage. If we did we’d see many happy girls, single girls living happily, single moms, and happier children, we’ll hear fewer stories of women burnt alive, or forced to burn themselves or hang themselves… I can’t understand how we just don’t value a girl’s life.. I have seen many such stories too, and then some heart warming courageous stories where a widowed, old mother is living with her separated daughter and her son – it’s all about attitudes. Even the poor can show such strength, and even the wealthiest can be so helpless!

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    • Oh I completely agree!

      One of the reason why I wont marry before I am ready for it! And I am not going to be ready in a long time…. Although even my friends have started asking “when” I will be married!

      We love to ask these questions, I remember being asked the same questions more than twenty years ago 😉

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  41. Does this sound as if I am condoning this ? I hope not. for I dont! I feel thoroughly disgusted.. And I also know that there are many who would show outrage when they read this and yet in their homes.. they will accept the boundaries set by their in-laws and husbands.. did I tell you this bhabhi of mine couldnt go anywhere without permission ? not even to her friends’ house or to the temple!!

    I have seen so much of this, this is my idea of a nightmare. I know of a girl who has some health problem (back pain due to some internal problem), but she who is in the kitchen all day, for the big joint family, was taken for a medical checkup and then no follow ups… everybody is busy! Why can’t she simply ask them to cook for themselves and go tot he Doctor on her own or with a friend? That is not even heard of… 😦

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    • It is a nightmare! I have seen first hand… may be thats why I am not really keen. However on the bright side.. now they all are happy together. The daughter in law has the status of “daughter” now. She can go anywhere .. do anything.. other than ofcourse adopt!

      It is a pain to see her playing with kids.. with that wistful longing She was a comfort for me in many ways whenever I was there! Would tell me stories.. buy me candies and all!

      I feel so sad for her… nobody says anything when men can’t have children 😦

      Like

  42. i loved ur post…and it moves me deeply to hear and read such stories happening almost everyday in the society…
    the best part i liked about this post was the part where u tell the parents not to ask to girl to just give in or expect her to adjust…and rather understand the main reason behind things…
    i just wish i could do something about it…its what i really want to do…many people really need to be rescued… 😦

    Neha if we all talk about it, somebody will hear, if no the parents, than the girl might hear and realise she is not wrong to complain. We should just let anybody in such a situation know that they are not alone, they have support… basically all one needs is the right attitude, everything else follows

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  43. Was moved to tears, reading this post. Very sad…

    The state to which Indian women are subjected to is indeed bad and to know that the parents are responsible for that, doubles the sadness.

    Yes, umsreflections… it’s really very sad

    Like

  44. interesting post
    covering many topics,
    while writing this post, did you realise about child labour,
    for every girl to girl the situation changes,but here problem is inbuild into our indian religion that is dowary system.
    as a society we failed to remove the dowary system from india.

    Like

  45. Hi IHM,

    You ended the blog post with an apt line. This does not happen only in the poor or uneducated classes alone. It is a shame that education has had little bearing on many adults. Sati was long abolished, but many Indian women continue to burn in the fire lit all around them in their “new” house!

    Such an irony it is… “Kanyadaan” ensures that your own parents do not have as many rights over you, as your husband or his parents.… But, if your sasural never really accepts you, then where do you belong?

    Nova thankfully now women needn’t care about who accepts them, women have the power to accept or reject too, and if they are treated without respect, they MUST reject.

    It is surprising how many women are burnt daily due to domestic violence or other kind of abuse…

    And still we hear talk of how the Domestic Violence Act is abused… the fact is there is an attempt to abuse every law, murder, theft, corruption… all are misused, and that does not mean we legalise Domestic Violence (even though violence against women is socially tolerated)…

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  48. I am a survivor of domestic violence & I am alive today only becauseof my parents who did not force me to go back to my husband. I had a fairy-tale marriage to a charming, well-placed software engineer 2.5 years ago. My parents knew his relatives, we had a lot of family friends in common. Everthing was fine during the courtship period, I used to think I was lucky that I had found such a nice person. It all changed after I entered my husband’s house, right from the grihapravesh ritual, where his mother & sisters refused to welcome me into the house! From the beginning my mother in law was against me, tried her best to incite my husband against me & cause misunderstandings.

    Whenever we were out of the house, or out of town, there were no problems between us, he would be the loving guy that I married. But after coming back into the house, my problems would start. His mother would tell him stories about how I had spoken ill about his family to some xyz relative & he would believe her. Because of this, my husband & I used to have massive arguments everyday, but I never let my family know about it as I wanted to preserve the image of a happily married couple in front of them. My husband used to taunt me, make nasty comments about my caste, say I was incompetent, under his mother’s & sister’s influence..Afterwards, he would apologise & say that it would never happen again. His mother used to say that I was mentally unstable.(I am a qualified post-graduate Class1 gazetted officer in the State Government). 5 months after the wedding, my in laws asked me to get out of the house at about 11pm, in front of my husband. He refused to intervene & dropped me at my parents house early the next morning. He told me that he could not defy his parents.

    It was then that my parents found out about the reality. I was hesitant to tell them the truth because my father is a heart patient, but I had to tell them why I had landed up on their doorstep at 7 am with just a plastic bag of clothes & my purse. My husband stopped contact with me after that. I discovered I was pregnant & thought that at least this news would make my husband realise that he had a responsibility towards me. My parents & I went to meet him & his father. They did not relent . They insisted that if I wanted to go back to him, I should terminate the pregnancy. My parents took me home & promised me that my child & I would always have a home with them. I tried calling him regularly after that but he used to cut my calls or hang up on hearing my voice.

    In my fourth month, I received a notice from my husband’s lawyer saying that I had deserted him & he was not responsible for my child or the pregnancy. This caused a lot of stress, with the result I miscarried. Neither during my pregnancy, nor after losing my baby did my husband or in-laws bother to contact me.

    I took a long time to come out of this emotionally. All the while, my in-laws kept sending messages through common friends that they wanted a divorce & that they wanted to get him married to a girl from their own community. It was only through my parents support that I survived & came out of depression.

    After completing one year of marriage, I filed a case against him in the Family Court for Restitution of Conjugal Rights, because I still hoped that if he would come out of his parents house & stay with me separately, he would go back to being the person I had married. Today, the case is pending. In between the Counselling sessions, he got more & more abusive, screaming at me in Court, in front of the Cousellor, threatening me that he would with a lot of damage, etc. Finally, I lost my patience with him & filed a case against him of Domestic Violence on the grounds of verbal, physical, mental & emotional violence. I am waiting for the DV judgement, which should be out this week. It has been a long battle, but I could come out of it alive only because my parents did not turn me away, when I came to them.

    I appeal to everyone to support girls & not force them to go back to abusive husbands & in-laws…

    Me – You have been through a lot Phoenix. Thanks for sharing your experience. You are very fortunate that your parents supported you. My best wishes to you, I know this must be traumatic, but I also feel you are better off without this marriage. I have seen boys’ families breaking their sons’ marriages – it’s difficult to understand how they can want unhappiness for their own child. And although the wife might hope that things would improve, they generally don’t – because even if they do not separate, the in-laws continue to harass the girl, and the behaviour of the husband never changes. Hugs.

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  50. This is so unfortunate. I am going to the links u gave. I have to.

    Me – Now her mother walks around like in a daze and her father and husband are dead.. her father died out of grief, says the mother.

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