Dheeyaan dee maa rani, bhudhaapey bharey paani

Women in Punjab are warned, “Dheeyaan dee maa rani, bhudhaapey bharey paani”, meaning, ‘a mother who has girl children lives like a queen when the girls are young, but in her old age she has to fetch water from the well’.

This sums up our attitude towards girl children in India.

How does a mother who has daughters live like a queen?

Many Indian parents believe that their little girls must prepare for the hardships that await them in their marital home. Illogical as it sounds, this is taken very seriously. I remember my mother arguing against this. She asked a well meaning ( 😉 ) aunt if she should also train her daughters to live without running water and electricity, because who knew what hardships future held for them.

Ever heard of self fulfilling prophecies? Daughters are literally conditioned to accept a life with endless ‘hardships’ and to live without complaining or fighting back. Neha Chhikara was one such daughter.

So depending on the parents’ whims, girl-children are trained to perfection in the art of washing clothes, running errands, doing the dishes, cleaning, cooking, (many girls are cooking for an entire family at ten) and taking care of younger siblings. This makes life easier for the mother, and so she is said to live like a queen. Hence, ‘Dheeyaan dee maa rani’.

This also means that often girls are either not sent to school or they must make sure they finish the chores at home first.

If the mother has no sons she must accept her fate – no sons, no support in old age. She must do everything her daughters were doing till they got married – including, if required fetch water from the well, hence, “Budhaape bharey pani”.

When my dad was admitted in ICU a visitor noticed us walking over to the hospital cafeteria for sandwiches, and asked, “You have a daughter, she should have cooked and packed something from home!” She did not think I should have cooked. No other family member was expected to have cooked either. And definitely no male member need have worried about our meals.

We have a very clear hierarchy in matters of house hold chores. And we have convenient logic to justify employing young daughters in endless, thankless, physically exhausting and time consuming house hold chores. When we talk of tough competition in academics we are not considering how much tougher it must be for girls who have this added responsibility. Why not everybody pitch-in and do their fair share? This post, on NGI, speaks about the same attitude.

An elderly relative recalls how their five brothers held ‘parantha eating contests‘, while the sisters, (who obviously could only eat when others had finished eating) sweated in the sweltering hot summer kitchen. If the sisters protested, it became a means to annoy and tease them. Mothers looked on indulgently, proud of how well the boys ate.

One hears things like, “You may become an engineer or doctor or a big-shot at work, but every woman has to cook and clean…” so the parents train them from childhood.


Once I went to study with a friend, we were in the middle of some discussion when her younger brother reached home, threw his cricket bat on the carpet and demanded ‘nimboo-paani’. She immediately dropped the books and went into the kitchen. I asked her if her brother couldn’t make nimboo-paani (he seemed fine) for himself. She looked uncomfortable. Her mother had once slapped her because a boy, a class mate, came to drop her home after an extra class in school. Later she had got another slap when she asked what she did wrong.

The same mother now calls her to complain about how the spoiled son is indifferent to her. She was a ‘queen’ when this scholar of a daughter was young, but now she has to ‘budhape bharey paani’ because her daughter in law was not raised to prepare for hardships and has moved to her own house.

I find it difficult to believe that mothers who make their daughters learn house hold chores as a favour, mean well. If it was an unselfish gesture won’t they extend the same favour to the sons? Why raise some family members like life-long princes and others like ‘paraya dhan’?


Read another post about the same attitude by Apu here. Indyeah writes about the missing girl child here.

Edited to add on 25th – Monika wrote about her experience as a daughter of a three ‘dheeyan dee maa’ here.

And Shail’s tells in 55 words, the story of the girls who are allowed to be born.


100 thoughts on “Dheeyaan dee maa rani, bhudhaapey bharey paani

  1. brilliant post IHM…

    u know we are three sisters and my mom had to grow thru what u mention here… all the time and u know what happened once (ok let me do a blog post I think its a great idea.. so I will reveal in the post abt what happened 😉 )

    I dont know when we learn to respect the girl child

    Me – Yes Monika do it!!! I hope you do it today – today is National Girl Child Day 🙂


  2. How many of these sons actually support their parents all through after the daughters are married off? Maybe till he’s single yeah, but how many accomplish that after they get married?

    I can only hope that our generation tries to teach our kids something better than having different rules for petty things like the kitchen and cleaning house between the girl and boy child. I’m so glad today that my parents taught me and my sister differently. 🙂

    Me – Ramit I totally agree with you. I am so glad to know people who agree with this and see this as right and fair… so there is no doubt we will see a better society in coming generations. My kids have no concept of such gender-based divisions of work, they both can manage a basic meal and a lot of fun-cooking – unlike me who hated cooking (and eating) at one time 🙂 In my family cooking is not seen as a chore at all, we all enjoy being in the kitchen and my husband and I are rather obsessed with healthy cooking & eating 😆


  3. Could you add Monika’s post’s link here too when she puts it up? I don’t follow her blog and I’d love to read what her mom went through with three daughters.

    Me – I will do that Ramit!! 100% 🙂


  4. IHM …i love ur posts about ever prevalant things in our society..

    I feel so proud of my parents for never telling me once that i ought to do something cos i am a girl ..my bro and me used to do house chores equally …when mom used to be sick , i’ll do cleaning and he will do dishes …he will help in washing cloths and i’ll clean some mess .
    he cooks better than me and so proud ..alas my bhabhi who is typical indian bahu trained to please hubbies is spoiling him ..:)

    i feel sad for my cousins who are trained for marriage , even education is for securing good husband . and then its the duty of the girl to please all and sundry , husband , in-laws relatives , friends ..the kids and their friends … but then sehna to aurat ka dharam hai …ehhehe ..life is some kind of punishment ..

    I am soo proud of the moms like you , they will definetely make better genration of guys and girls …all equal ..and not one serving other.

    Me – Thanks Preeti -reading such comments makes up for the unhappiness felt… even today when this friend calls about what she went through… and is still going through, it’s very saddening and upsetting. It’s wonderful to see parents being fair to their own flesh and blood. We had to fight a little but I feel even to fight – we have to have the communication open…

    And I have seen girls who raised as equals grow up maintaining that standard of living 🙂


  5. It is disgusting to hear of such sayings! I just thank my luck for being born where I was!

    You know, IHM, I recently heard that in some villages, girls go to school after lunch – the logic is that girls have ‘work’ that they have to do at home. Apparently parents are not willing to send their daughters to school in the morning like their sons go! They feel that training their daughters to cook, wash, etc etc etc is far more important than studies – so unless schools change timings, most girls will not be sent to school 😦

    Most women are taught they, inspite of what they are, domestic abilities are the most important. Why can’t parents teach these essential life skills to sons? Because they are sure to get a maid in the form of the daughter-in-law who will do all this 😦

    The only hope I have is that next generations will have a better life, that girls will not be missing from playgrounds and schools..


  6. I don’t know if attitudes are changing, but on this trip to Chennai, nearly EVERY RELATIVE I met, advised me to have a second child..preferably a GIRL! I was ofcourse miffed at the free advice, but was happy to see that mindsets were changing. An old aunt infact said, only girls will remain affectionate life-long and can be depended on, unlike boys!!
    (Finally, blogrolling you so I don’t miss out on any more posts)


  7. today situation is that in cities even boys do not have playgrounds to play.
    I like your question
    where are the girls ?
    it says all and answers all with your pics.


  8. when mom’s not at home, it’s me who serves guests etc.. 😛 Guess being the older one, I am used to taking charge..mom’s always wanted me to know how to cook etc, so that I don’t depend on anyone 🙂

    Me – Vishesh I feel the new generation is generally very fortunate this way 🙂 Your mom’s made sure you will live a healthier life too… I know of boys who ended up eating out a lot and ate, junk and unhealthy food. My kids also can cook and enjoy cooking too 🙂


  9. I was brought up in a house with one elder brother. No sisters.
    And what you say does resonate with what I know happens out there.
    But there are exceptions.

    My father has six brothers and one sister. And as a result I have 14 cousin sisters.
    The sisters, in my family, rule.

    Every first crop of every season first goes to the gurudwara, then to all the sisters and then any member of the family can eat them.

    I have a rakhi sister. I think she is more of a daughter even though only 5 years my junior.
    My brother has twins. The poor boy is practically ignored in comparison to the little princess.

    My point is, while there are numerous stories about how girls are not treated well or the hardships they go through, I’d love to hear some stories where they are treated for the glorious goddesses they they are.
    I’d really like the blessed ones, no matter how few, to come and share their stories in a positive light.

    Nonetheless, as always, a stirring post 🙂

    Me – Harjee you will find positive stories in the comments. Families where girls and boys both work in the kitchen… I agree that positive stories do make us feel good, and comments by Ramit, Pal, Preeti and Vishesh will make you feel that we are changing 🙂 But I also feel we must acknowledge and accept where we need to change, only then can we begin the change…


  10. Few days ago I was talking to a friend (he belongs to highly educated-rich Muslim family) and he was going gaga over how his 9 year old son has number of options to choose from swimming to tennis to so on and finally his son chose this and that. It was all about his son’s latest hairstyle, latest interests and so on. I asked about his 15 year old daughter’s hobbies. I mean I wanted to know what she is doing. The reply was oh! she doesn’t get much time to do all this (she never did all this even when she was 9). Her hobbies are helping her mom in the kitchen and washing vessels. 😐

    I have no problem with kids helping with chores. In fact I think every individual in the house should contribute in some way or the other but cooking-washing as hobbies for a teenager? Yeah right! like she had any choice.

    This is exactly what your title says ‘ Mother is a Queen’ because she has her daughter to help around then later she needs her son to take care of her because daughter is married off. So basically it is always about treating your parents like King and Queen of some paradise.

    Seriously! people should just shut the hell up about Indian culture and this emotional blackmailing some parents do for bringing children into this world.

    Me – Yes Sol, it does seem we only love our children for what we get from them – not love, but benefits like care in old age and in younger years, help with chores.


  11. IHM, the playground pictures with no girls in sight is exactly what happens in many household because the sisters of those boys have cleaning, cooking and dusting as hobbies.

    Me – This really is so terrible!! the young years are spent not in growing or learning and exploring the world and opportunities, but in helping all day around the house, with no time left for anything else… How can parents do this to their own children!!?


  12. IHM asks, “Why raise some family members like life-long princes and others like ‘paraya dhan’?”

    Exactly or vice versa. Why raise children as an investment? Then better don’t ever utter about selfless parenting. It is a bleddy selfish world.

    Me- Absolutely Solilo!! Unselfish parenting implies reminding the kids of all they did for them.


  13. I wonder if parents have “expected” things from their children traditionally because they could not get it from each other? I mean, in very patriarchal societies like ours, men are socialized not to work at home. So the women train their daughters to help them, with the burden, because it is just too much for them to carry. Similarly the lack of social support, or even of pensions and so on (jobs have been around for 100 years at the most, before that it has been a very agriculture dependent society) make people force their children to look after them. The West has had industrialization for a longer period and hence has been able to build up better support and more systems, easing the burden on children. This is just a theory, of course, but I wonder if this is the case. And of course change would take much longer to come because in India we do tend to be much more socially traditional- in terms of marrying, or following customs.


  14. It’s these kind of mother, the ones who believe that the onus of household chores should rest only on the shoulders of the girl, who then later become the bane of their daughter-in-laws existence, especially if the daughter in-law was brought up in a different way. Things a changing a little bit though. My son started studying “Social and Political life” in school last year (I believe it compulsory from class VI on, in CBSE syllabus). A lot of focus and stress is given on the prevailing situation of gender inequality in our country. In a lesson about “Growing up as boys and girls” it is clearly said that societies make clear distinctions about boys and girls at a very young age. There is even a very humorous graphic novel about a homemaker who goes on strike because she is fed up of folks saying that she does not work! I am glad my son gets to understand all this a young age, else he would have grown up to be one of those folks who go “It’s not so bad. Girls don’t have it that hard”, only because he does not see it himself, because that is not the kind of environment he has grown up in. But such a world does exist and being aware of it is the first step. I have high hopes for our next generation :D.


  15. Personally, I was the pampered one in my family. My brother being the culprit as he will usually did the chores assigned to me, much to my mom’s distress. Well he is 9 years older than me and hence pampers me a lot.

    But that aside, I completely understand what you mean. The career/hobbies/interests of a woman has always been secondary in our society. I remember when I decided to pursue higher studies after working for a company for 2.5 years, one of our neighborhood Aunty, who is wife of an IIT professor and hence belongs to a highly educated class, asked me what was the point of depriving a guy, which means depriving a family, of their livelihood by taking the job in the first place. I should have gone for a PhD, and hence for academics, which is more appropriate choice for a girl anyway. (This career path has been indicated to me by more than one person, including people boys from our generation, especially after learning that my field requires field work). I didn’t understand the question so she elaborated, rather accused me of stealing some poor chap’s job for my amusement! MY AMUSEMENT! That’s what my career meant to her.

    It doesn’t matter if none of those poor chaps ever bothered learning even the simple basics of our field (the reason they failed the interview in the first place)? It doesn’t matter if I worked hard for that job and in that job. It doesn’t matter that I was good at my job. It doesn’t matter that because of that job I got admission in one of the best universities in the world and I paid for all the expenses incurred during the application process, visa process and travel.

    Why all my hard work, my achievements , my career doesn’t mean anything just because I am a woman? And what makes it appropriate for me give all that up for the sake of some guy who doesn’t even like the field we work in?

    Me – I have heard this reasoning Richa, career and self reliance, are amongst the hundreds of little things tradition and custom reserve for men. Earlier most families did this too, girls picked up reading from brothers books- and we have lost countless brilliant engineers and doctors (since we value them so much) to such thinking.
    I knew of this girl – an engineer, whose husband during the ‘negotiations’ made it clear that she couldn’t work after she got married. Her parents agreed, but later there were problems because she wanted to work… no idea what happened eventually, but the idea of dictating, fixing what a girl does after she gets married with ehr degrees… 😦


  16. I wont say I cannot believe such statements exist.. because I know they do.. Its just that it breaks my heart that even today people believe in such nonsense and advocate them.. Its sick to see people expcting the daughters to cook and bring food from home when their father is not well.. The picture with no girls in it is so sad.. I feel so thankful to my parents and my family for letting me do whatever I wanted to do and never making me do anything that many of my friends did..

    Me – I agree Rohini, I feel some people think for themselves, some people just feel safer following what they feel has worked (has it?) for centuries.


    • well its all on perceptions… my mom did not consider her life was bad when i was a kid and never did any work at home…. infact I think, considering the kind of messy girl I was, she thanked her stars the day I did not enter her kitchen! 🙂

      infact when some of my relatives or mom’s friends mocked me that i would absolutely suck at household work after marriage, or that my studies and education would not be of any use coz at the end of the day, i would have to do household work after marriage, my mom told me not to even bother listening to them…Today, my Mom proudly shows off pictures of my home and food cooked by me to the same people, tells them how I pull up dinner for 20 people with complete ease and how all our friends here are super duper fans of food cooked by me.. All this from the girl whose dad used to run behind her with breakfast every morning.. To top it up, she proudly tells everyone how her daughter’s husband and inlaws are motivating her for higher studies coz they want her to have a career too!

      So basically its all about perceptions..

      Me – I absolutely agree!!


  17. Hi IHM… I think it is partly a fault with us girls/women also. I know there is little that one can do to change one’s parent’s attitudes.. but then again… what makes us carry those attitudes even later in life? What makes a career woman with an 8X8 schedule, get up, go to the kitchen and cook for her husband / kids when she is equally.. if not more exhausted then they are.

    Women tend to be soft in matters of the heart… and most times these actions come from love, from concern 🙂 But true.. when it is an “expectation” this rather than being something to appreciate and be thankful for… that is when there is a problem. But its only us who have to drive this change.. and I think you and your blog are doing a wonderful job of it 🙂

    Me – Sunshinesafar I agree, we can change this and also, the fathers should get a chance to show their love and concern too, I am sure they feel bad when they see an exhausted partner working. Many fathers are doing their share and their kids and families love them for it.
    Also a mother and a wife would contribute much better to the family if she spends time with them and joins them in leisure activities.
    Even when women do it out of love and concern, their families should let them know they can show them love, so much better by spending time with them, laughing and playing – relaxing with them.


      • I agree monika..and so its even more important that each woman takes a stand to improve the lot for everybody. But then… maybe we women at some level are more likely to follow rules than to break them… and so the chain continues…

        I think its a matter of making that choice to break free.. and not so much to do with education or awareness, or exposure.


  18. One hears things like, “You may become an engineer or doctor or a big-shot at work, but every woman has to cook and clean…”

    Gaawwwd! I must’ve heard this everyday when I was kid. I used to to much better than my bro in acads, but my mom and extended relatives were still worried about my MIL’s impression of me after marriage. “What will she say? You did not teach your daughter anything!”

    While I and my bro never had different priviledges, in fact I was a more pampered kid – the attitude of parents is that their responsibilities get over after daughter’s marriage and son’s job.

    Me – I agree!! And even though it makes no sense, we even have insurance and Bank advertisements showing the same thing!


  19. Good post, I also took a similar picture of a playground in Delhi without any girls few days ago,with an idea in the back of my mind to post something abt it. Situation is not much different in Kerala in public grounds though they are very few, Hope things will change soon,

    Me – Delhi has a lot of public parks – but all are reserved for boys and men. A small number of older women do sometimes sit and sun themselves, but young girls don’t. You must post the pictures you took, I would love to see them… just to see what was it that you noticed the most.


  20. Well said, IHM. Thankfully, these things are changing, but at such a slow pace!

    Me – True Apu… and the biggest reason they are not changing is our fear of a girl’s future (career, friends, freedom, safety, happiness, self reliance are all sacrificed for one big goal – marriage, not a happy marriage, just a marriage). And even more than that we worry about our own old age!


  21. Hi IHM,
    Another thought provoking post. The pix say it all about how our girls are conditioned and caged to the four walls of homes. I have seen in my orthodox punjabi rajput inlaw’s place how women especially girls are subjected to work from a very small age. while their brothers enjoy the freedom to explore the world. like a gutti the age old stuff is shoved down their minds. In every thing be it food, education, outdoor activities girls are put on the second place.

    Now with the media and awakening in the younger generation some families let the girls study but the ultimate goal is to learn house work , be a garelu, sushil ladki and get married to look after the sas sasur, pati ki seva and give them an heir as if thats all her life is all about.

    I am glad I was not born in such environment but on the other hand I keep listening to my MIL cribbing all the time about how so much freedom, education and rebellous spirit has made me not up to her standard DIL. She wanted a Gai (cow)and got a bail (ox) instead 😀

    Me – LOL or a ferocious cow with a mind of her own 🙂 Love the last line Tikuli!!! Don’t change!!!


    • My MIL wanted me to be a ‘gai’ and never question any shit doled out to me. On the other hand she wanted me to be a ‘kolhu ka bail’ and slog it out for all the ‘laat sahebs in the house who never lifted a finger even for their own personal work. According to them “after all what was the DIL brought in for?”


  22. Though the situation regarding gender suppression in public spaces is similar throughout India ,suppression inside the house may be less in South India .What you ppl think abt this ?

    Me – I feel the attitude is the same all over India Charakan.


    • well I will have to disagree to it… i am a Panju married to a telegu/tamil guy living in blore so I can safely claim to have seen atleast a glimpse of these cultures and I dont think there is any diff in the way they treat their daughters in the south… its still the same, daughters/girls should do things in one and sons/boys should do in another…

      its the same sad story everywhere charakan though I agree its slowly very very slowly improving every where

      Me – I agree. I too have seen all sides and found all kind of people everywhere.


      • I do not have much experience beyond Kerala. My inference is from statistics. May be wrong.

        Me – Day to day life of the girl child is more or less the same Charakan. Poverty might make them the first victims – I know milk, egg and non-veg are given last tot he girl child. Education, free time and happiness are also massive luxuries for her.


        • The sex ratio [number of women for 1000 men] for Southern States of Kerala,TN.AP and Karnataka are 1058,986,978 qnd 964 respectively while that of Northern Indian States of Delhi,Haryana,Punjab,UP,MP,Bihar and Rajasthan are 821,861,874,898,920,921 and 922 respectively.


  23. Richa, next time you see that neighbor, punch her in the nose for me, will you?

    And here I am trying to convince my sweetheart to go for an MBA and also willing to take care of the house while she studies, but she’s unwilling! Talk about lazy women! 😛

    Harjee, We both know one of your cousins who cannot probably get a glass of water for herself to save the life of her! Just don’t tell her I said that. But knowing you as I do, you’re going to email this link to her ASAP! 😀

    On a more serious note, I’m blessed to have an extended family around me who believe in equality between the girl and the boy child. I only hope that more and more people can follow through with this, but without being harsh on the children. Let’s also keep in mind that childhood is just that, childhood. Meant to be enjoyed too, rather than just chores and keeping the house clean. As it, the school bags these days are heavier than the child carrying them! 😦

    Me- I completely agree Ramit. We get so carried away with future we forget to let our children be children today.


    • very well said ramit thats what I strongly believe in childhood is meant to be enjoyed the way it should be…. without bothering about the fact that the thing is girlie or boyish and that works both ways…

      i wrote abt it here sometime back http://monikamanchanda.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/so-what-do-u-buy-for-your-child/

      me – I agree. It’s really sad when little boys are asked to take care of their mothers (why not let them see the mother as a parent who can take great care of them) and they are expected to have no fear of dark, no pain in falling and no love for cooking and indoor games…


    • Ramit: I keep away from neighborhood Aunties as much as possible, otherwise someday I might actually break someone’s nose 😀

      I agree. We need to ease off some pressure from our kids. They seriously need a break!


      • Richa, same here. I don’t mix with neighborhood ladies. I don’t wish to keep adjusting to people and their beliefs. The more we have people and noise around us, the less we are able to hear our own voice. Who wants nosy neighbors asking nosy questions?


  24. IHM, wow! I would train my daughter in household chores too but really for herself as a survival technique. Since I was also treated like Paraya dhan, I know what it feels like to read these words! Thank you for taking such issues to a larger audience.

    Me – Butterfly I agree, and both my kids enjoy trying random recipes, they also have chores that they can’t avoid – like walking the dogs, laying the table, but they ,b>both have responsibilities which will benefit them in future by teaching them about responsibilities and by making them independent… my son can make a cup of tea and my daughter can walk the dogs – no rigid rules here.
    And just like chores are for both, both have benefited from playing outdoors too – I can’t even imagine parents not letting a child (a girl child) get any exercise and fresh air. Even my grand fathers from another era were particular about good health for all children.
    Reminds me of how some Indian families even have rules where girls are not given milk and eggs (and non veg) while boys are!


  25. 🙂 The last line is my fav too IHM. all thanks to my MIL. Yea ferocious cow is anyday better. 🙂 love the expression when she says hamen to khunte se bandhne wali gai chahiye thi, aur ye bail mil gaya lol
    Well , I have very recently started to recognise my worth to tell you frankly. Financial independence is must to stand for your rights which I do not have. 😦
    I am supposedly a bad example to the girls in the family who quote my actions all the time. Too much for her to handle. 🙂 will do a post on that .lol

    Me – Keep your morale high Tikuli. There is no justification in expecting a khoonte se bandhne wali gai – it is obvious that a seedhee sadi gai is easier to bully and manipulate (though she may not command any respect). I have a sister in law I look upto and I can well imagine how the girls in your family quote your example and must be so proud of you. We can make a difference to the younger girls in the family – by being good examples and also by firmly but tactfully supporting them.


    • Dear IHM, you’re so right. People want a seedhi saadi gai so they can bully and manipulate them. But is that what the bahu wants? Why does she not have a voice? Parents are to blame here. One should bring up girls and boys with no gender stereotypes. Both have to pitch in with housework, both have to make a career and both need good nourighing food, rest, clothes, education and freedom to think, act and speak.


  26. I agree with you completely… this is the situation prevailing even now in many families, irrespective of North or South Indian!
    I am a south indian, and I have literally seen this happening… the son gets all the privileges and conveniences, but heavy expectations are laid on the daughter, which most of times is accepted by the daughter without any questions!!!

    I just hope the society starts changing… because eventually its the girl child who loves her parents the most even after getting married and staying far away from them. Every moment she is worried, and cares for the well being of her parents…
    Put a boy child in the same situation, the moment he starts staying on his own with a family… rarely does he care for his parents except for completing his financial responsibilities (sometimes even that has to be begged for by old parents!)

    Me – I have seen this too Vijetha… infact there are certain chores like sweeping or doing the dishes that are considered beneath boys!! A mother or a grand mother would never let the boy touch the broom… (daughters are expected to do such chores). They fail to see they are confusing the boy, he is supposed to respect his mother and he is also supposed to understand that his mother can do some lowly chores which he is too superior to do. And if the wife has grown up in a more balanced home – she has some unpleasant surprises waiting for her 😦


    • IHM, I had 4 kids to look after…3 my own and one SIL’s kid. I had a hectic time getting them ready for school, college. My husband needed to jog during the same time. Though he never shared household chores, he once lifted a broom and started sweeping the area (when the maid was on leave) where he jogged. The moment my SIL saw this, she was embarrassed and outraged. She took the broom from him and swept the area. According to her “how could she allow her bro to sweep the floor? “Unki moochon ka kya hoga?”.


  27. I get exactly the same thought in mind whenever I pass public playgrounds…the girls are missing. In the first place, sports are frowned upon for girls, because “they have to bear children”, and on top of that the whole worry about “tanning while playing in the sun”.

    I agree that Indian parents think only about their benefit when they have children (most people don’t even plan their families, anyway), not about what they can do and need to do to make their child independent and a contributing member of society.

    Me – And when sports and recreational activities are as good for girls’ health and development as they are for boys!


  28. I irks me no end when I hear people saying things like,’kya karegi ladki padh-likhke,collector banegi?’ I feel like ,not pulling my hair,but pulling thsoe people’s and banging on the walls! And such mindsets are still prevalent sadly. Proof of which is evident in the images you’ve shared. Why ever should education be subjected to a gender-bias? It is a virtue that is to be imparted neutrally to everyone. No matter how much you try to show the country is progressing,the basic psyche of our society is still in the regressive mode. I fail to understand how can a nation progress,if we as people continue to think in such a backward manner.

    I remember when Namnam was born,I used to keep getting thse responses from the so-called well-wishers,‘koi nahi,agli baar beta hoga’! blech! I know the context is different from what your post is inferring,still just wanted to point out this basic disparity between the two genders that I keep coming across in the minds of people even today.

    Me – Deeps I have heard this one a lot ‘Koi naheen agli baar beta hoga’ and found it shocking when a doctor said this moments after my daughter was born. I was so proud of her and feeling on the top of the world and these guys were sympathising! Imagine the effect this can have on the psyche of women who are under pressure to bear male children- they reinforce the male-baby craze families have.
    My grandad had to hear the “collector” dialogue when he educated his four daughters. He didn’t care and thank god he didn’t 🙂


  29. Pingback: A mother of three daughters : God save her « Monika's World

  30. Thanks IHM for inspiration and encouragement. my post about me will soon be up. I write about the issues dealing with women but unless i myself speakup how will I tell the others to do so. It’s time to do so I guess. Will be making changing in my life and blog writing Now for tomorrow may never come.


  31. My daughter got low marks in one subject and she was very disappointed and started to cry. She never cries for these kind of things and so I slowly urged her to tell what happened at school. One of frnd too had got low marks and this frnd’s Mom has told “We struggle so much to make you study. If you dont get good marks, you may have to sit in the kitchen only, get married and do household chores only. You cannot go for any jobs

    My daughter was shocked at this and so had cried. She asked if this is the situation for her too.

    I hugged her and told that whatever marks she gets, I’ll support her. She can go onto become whatever she wants – actually scoring 90% and above all the time, is not so important than understanding what you are studying.

    But, I was shocked at what her frnd’s mom had told that girl. There are ppl out there, who think they can take any decision with their daughters’ lives, which is quite sad. But, I dont think they treat their sons like this.

    In my home, me and my brothers were treated the same. Today my bro can cook and take care of his house, while his wife is busy working. I am proud of this.


    • Ums…my dawter has never been academically strong and it gets frustrating as i have hopes that she will be self sufficient, but hubby and i take solace in the fact that it is not always the academically strong that succeed in life and hope she will find her vocation in something she is good at…! 🙂


      • Indy, never fret that your daughter is not strong in studies. Not all academically strong people are successes and not all academically weak people failures. There are other traits that go into making people successes or failure. Besides the definition of success is different for different people. If you mean a career with a good income, let me tell you how my daughter is an IT engineer from a reputed national engineering college, but after working for 8 months in an IT company, she quit her job to pursue dance and choreography as a career. It’s more than a year and she is doing very well. Most importantly she is very happy. Academics is not everything. Encourage your daughter to do what she loves doing most. At least it will give her happiness. And remember “never push”. It will do more harm than good.


  32. I have been lucky in that hubby cooks well (better than me) and I simply assume that my sons and daughter will too! In fact when my eldest son asks me to teach him some cooking skills, I always hope he becomes like his dad and not me, who knew nothing about even the basic ingredients in a kitchen!

    And mostly, as a matter of survival, I have learned through hard experience that both male and female need to know how to keep house and cook! It has nothing to do with gender!It is actually quite useful, however mundane we may think it to be! And I think sons must be taught everything as well!

    In this day and age, if two incomes are important two home makers are as equally important to survive! 🙂


  33. Great post as always IHM! My parents had to go through this (since we are South Indians, it’s the first time I’ve heard that saying…) but people have mentioned stuff along the lines of how they feel sorry for my parents as they have two daughters and no sons.

    I remember when I went through school, I was so thankful to have a younger sister rather than a brother because almost all my friends had younger brothers and they experienced the example you’ve given. Their brothers’ needs were always given preference over theirs and they had to do things for their brothers. On the other hand, even though as a child I perceived favouritism towards my sister (she being the younger one :P), it was nothing compared to what my friends went through.

    Oh, on a lighter note…re the picture you’ve put up…I played building cricket until I was 21, as did my sister who was then 16. Only stopped upon coming here to Aus. But we would get asked by aunties and uncles in the adjoining buildings about why we were still playing when we were older. Sadly, while there were more girls playing initially, eventually, it was just my sis, me and another girl amongst more boys. I think other girls do get taught that playing cricket is not ladylike. And of course, not good for your skin because you will become dark and no one will marry you! 😛


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  35. A wonderful post about the sad state of the girl child!!
    The pics say it all!
    Times are changing but not as expected. The majority of the girls do go through this “Training Process” right from a very young and tender age!


  36. There is even the other side (in a fashion) that demands girls (those who actually are born) get educated and work but will validate their existence only if they net a husband… at least in urban India. Parents might even fight it for their girls but often succumb listening to taunts.. mine do sometimes.


    • Many parents do wish to give their girls the freedom to do what they want, but the pressure from relatives and friends is too hot to handle and they succumb.


  37. I was nodding as I read each line in your post-yes, I have heard this many times…
    And then there are these proud mother of sons-who get their sons married to have a daughter in law who’ll ensure they live like queens…..and the cycle continues


  38. Girl children are expected to learn all the housework in preparation for the day they are sent away to take over the responsibilities in her husband’s household. The mothers’ refrain heard often is about her ‘Raaja beta’ who will look after her in her old age!!
    Having a daughter is no cause for worry in our community. But girls are discriminated against in day to day life like everywhere else. Its the girls who did the housework during my own childhood, while the boys lolled, the only work expected from them was going to the store, post office or so. Girls were mother’s little helpers in everything, after all they were in training for the Big Day when they were expected to takeover their duties in the husband’s home!! If ever a girl questioned anything, she was told she was a penkutty (girl) and ‘Avan aankutty alle?? ” (Isn’t he a boy) It was as if no more explanation was needed!
    I wanted to have a daughter just so I could bring her up quite unlike the way I grew up and to show those who thought otherwise, that a girl could be brought up differently (independent, free, given all opportunities to flower and blossom and not oppressed or sidelined as a mere girl) and yet be a girl. But instead I got two sons. 🙂 and I did my bit by teaching them to be sensitive humans.
    Seriously this business of treating girls as ‘paraya dhan’ is absolute nonsense!


  39. Just wanted to let you know again how much I enjoy your posts. As an American citizen born in the Caribbean, I’ve always been interested in how girls are viewed and treated all over the world. In many families in the states – regardless of ethnicity or race – girls are not treated in the same manner of boys. In fact there’s a saying that goes like this – “mothers love their sons and raise their daughters.” In other words, they dote on their sons but bring their daughters up to take care of themselves and everyone else.

    Also wanted you to know that I featured your site in my Friday Finds post last week on my own site.


  40. What a meaningful picture IHM, it brings out the whole essence of your post! As a mother of two girls, I always wonder what all to teach my girls. Then again my mother did not restrict her two girls at all growing up and we ended up just fine. I do give them chores to do, which I believe is very important to be independent as they grow up. Then our house has no boys so it is different.


  41. you know, very appropriate article for republic, at-least how we should change. i liked the picture too…where are the girls? but you know there is more to that than just getting girls at home for house hold chores. Actually i remember my friend (25 years back may be) being told by her grandma that do not jump and play so much else husband won’t like you (reasoning – if a gal jumps too much, may break vagina at early age and husband would think other reason for it)

    so it was back then. I am in US right now, and a friend’s 5 yrs old daughter goes to gymanstic class and she was telling me that she is being told by few of her indian friends that do not let your daughter continue this after a couple of years. not good for her.

    and we celebrate republic day, year after year and nothing really changes

    Me – Oh yes I have heard about the hymen bit. Have no good health, have no fun and games as a kid, so that a future partner might approve!!! Isn’t there more to a girl’s life? How are we better then, than the tribes in Africa which mutilate female genitalia by cutting off the clitoris with a blade, to ensure the husband doesn’t suspect them of enjoying sex!? With more and more people marrying late, we need to look at this attitude again – there’s lots more to a relationship. This too is objectification of women 😦


  42. Thats a brilliant post IHM. You raised a point which I am sure no such mother will be able to answer and that is: How can a mother who forces her daughter to handle all the housework ever think she’s arming the girl for the future?

    Sometimes when my mom’s not keeping well, I do the dishes; and if an aunt/grandmother happens to be around, I have to endure the “you *guys* shouldn’t be doing this kind of work” lecture. This attitude kills me, especially since it sometimes occurs in the presence of cousin sisters who also study/work like me, are bound to have the same exam/office tensions as me, and are bound to be as tired as me after a long day at office/college. How can a conscientious guy ever face his sisters in such a situation?

    Me – Kiran it’s so wonderful to get a comment like this!! I think this does mean that times are changing and the new generation is more conscientious than the last one… 🙂 I wish more people reacted and felt like this… once a commenter pointed out how her husband insisted on his mother, wife etc. and all the family members sitting and eating together, and although the mother said she liked to make them eat first and then eat herself and although she objected, once she did sit down, it was obvious that she was very happy and proud of the son. Your comment reminded me of that comment. 😆


  43. Excellent post as usual, Indian Homemaker.
    Your analysis of the Punjabi proverb is absolutely spot on! One can easily get an insight into the mentality of Indian society w.r.t. girls and women.

    Basically, according to this proverb:
    1. girls = house slaves, be it as kids before marriage or be it after marriage, unless they have sons who can bring new girls into the household upon whom the donkey work is thrust upon. Unless a lady has sons, she is condemned to a lifetime of slavery and drudgery. If she has sons, then she can be the whip-holding slave driver mother-in-law to her bahus.
    2. Boys and men = automatically exempt from any kind of housework.
    3. Married daughters are not supposed to take care of their parents or support them in any manner.

    And we keep searching for reasons behind gender inequality in India!

    I feel that all physically able and available members of the household should chip in with housework irrespective of gender. I also feel that when all members of a family work together on some tedious household task – it decreases the monotony of the task leads to excellent family bonding. For example, recently when I was at home in Delhi, one cold Sunday morning, all three of us (mum, dad and me) got down to making lunch. I chopped the vegetables and prepared the chicken curry, dad prepared an exotic salad, and mum made some nice vegetable dish along with rice. It was so much fun working together in the kitchen!

    Even though my mum has an instinctive dislike for men hovering about in the kitchen, she still has taught me some basic secrets to the fine art of cooking (on my insistence) and does not mind help from me or my dad occasionally (unless we make a mess of things).

    Nevertheless, priority should be given to education, career and health when it comes to housework. Children should be made to chip in only to the extent it does not hamper their studies/playtime. And if both husband and wife are working in fairly stressful jobs, both should chip in equally in housework which fits their schedule and relegate the rest to domestic help/electronic gadgets (which they may be able to afford).

    Coming to the point of married women not being able to take care of their old parents, I think it is absolutely ridiculous and infuriating (another reason I hate this whole concept of “maaika – sasural” and this “apni-paraayi” division for girls pre and post marriage.)
    Parents and parents, and children are children, and the parent child relationship should be independent of the marital status of either the parent or the child!!
    Married couples should be an independent family unit, and both sons and daughters should have equal responsibility of looking after their parents if needed.

    Finally, in the Zen Buddhist tradition, cooking and cleaning are exalted daily tasks, regarded with deep reverence. These are two of the highest forms of daily meditation through which one can control the mind, observe oneself and attain enlightenment. Both cooking and cleaning are used as mind training techniques for monks to overcome tedium and focus on the most basic things in life.

    There is nothing degrading for a man to cook or clean the house. And it is not an easy task at all. Sometimes I feel designing complex circuits in the lab is far easier than cleaning the shelves and cooking a meal for myself!

    Me – Brilliantly said!!!! I also agree about all chores becoming a family bonding time if everyone chips in…
    All the points you have made need to be taken very seriously, we will never see respect for women or love for girl children, unless these changes are implemented. No laws, and definitely no appealing to the parents will change much.


    • Locutus , i really like every point you have mentioned , but you know as you have written that after busy schedule at work husband and wife must work together at home . But here again comes the same problem of childhood training by mother . Husband will not do that and in some cases even wife will not let him do anything . But if we consider that husband is helpful in household chores and wife is happy with his help , then comes Mother -in-law in full Action , who will look down upon her daughter in law and the problems for daughter in law will be increased as she made her husband to work in kitchen….


  44. I was fortunate to grow up with a father who was hands on at everything. No job was ever beneath his dignity, be it cleaning the toilet or cooking. My brother lived abroad from a very early age, and though he came down whenever my father was seriously ill, the general care of our aging parents has been in the hands of my sister and myself. Our parents have been in my home for almost five years now. (Our brother passed away a few years ago, but in any case our parents have never lived with him and his family).
    I used to hear this saying from my late MIL. Though she spent her final years with us and wanted to leave this mortal coil from her son’s house, she did crave the company of her three daughters.
    Ultimately I guess it’s the relationship you share rather than the gender that determines the course of your life.

    Me – I totally agree Dipali. Sad that your mother in law craved her daughter’s company… I am sure this happens all the time… and still parents feel the right thing is to stay with the son 😦 I have seen your parents pictures on your blog – it’s so wonderful to have such cherish-able relationship with one’s parents, whether one is a daughter or a son.


    • Dipali, my dad too was a hands on at everything and no work was beneath his dignity. There was once a time when we had no maid. Since all work would fall on my mom, dad devised an innovative way to get all the work done. He decided to pay for each job done by us each day. The greedy wolves that we were, all jobs got over by afternoon!


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  53. locutus83 thoughts resonate with my thoughts. @ IHM: I would like for you to do a post on the very amusing dichotomy of worshipping and exploting women that exists in India. It is a request. Hope you’d do one soon 🙂


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  69. I just got your blog from my friend from India . I really liked this , u r right in saying everything , the concept was simple and whole blog was about same simple concept , but u hv written beautifully . Unfortunately , this culture prevails in south asia , females get this discrimination at their homes from mothers and they do same to their daughters , I wish this culture will change. But i feel that this treatment have positive aspect as made girls more responsible and they have the courage to fight , u can see many girls around you who are ahead of many boys at their work …


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