Paraya dhan and her limited rights.

Somewhere in the blogosphere –

“… girls were considered a burden..but today times are changing…but having said that i will say that I feel pleasure in traditional giving to my daughter’s in laws..to me its my gratitude to them for loving, respecting and looking after my daughter, because my daughter lives with them, not their son with me, so its they who spend on her and look after her.”

A lot of Indians will find nothing wrong with this statement. Not even with ‘…they who  spend on her and look after her.‘ [One person works hard and makes himself financially secure. Another person works hard but remains dependent.]

Not even with,

because my daughter lives with them, not their son with me’. (Why not?)

We feel grateful to a paraya dhan‘s in laws for ‘looking after‘ her and we try to keep them happy.  Dowry and gifts for a woman’s in laws are rarely mutual.   It’s dangerous to assume that gifts and dowry  can buy happiness or safety for woman.

Won’t it be simpler to let the girl be self reliant? Not just financially but also in her attitude.

No, because yesterday an acquaintance complained, “Independence makes girls selfish, they don’t like to live in Joint Families.

I would have thought selfishness should make them want a system that is said to be good for them.

It seems the system does not suit all it’s members – so some member must be forced to accept it, in the name of custom, tradition, family values, honor, their destiny, sacrifice or love.

The Joint Family System is convenient for parents of male children. It is also the biggest reason why all Indian parents pray, fast, bless, abort or kill for a budhape ka sahara*.

We  even steal, or secretly replace our female babies with male babies in hospitals.

We openly express sympathy when a girl child is born.

We also believe that 50% of all equal adults in India (and their children and grandchildren) belong to their spouse’s family.  From the moment they are born they are prepared for being able to survive, adjust and accept a life that they may or may not want. Any objection to living with their spouse’s families is seen as being selfish – and no sin can be bigger for a woman, because the essence of a woman lies in her eagerness to ‘sacrifice‘.

All paraya dhans are expected to give up their identity when they marry. They can also be restrained from using this new identity if they separate from the spouse. [Thanks for the link Mr Gopinath.]

Murtaza Khan understands these double standards very well it seems. He believes that the ‘lady who opts for marrying outside the state (Jammu and Kashmir) must lose citizenship of the state.

I was relieved to note that the Jammu and Kashmir assembly witnessed an uproar… as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member Murtaza Khan introduced …the controversial Permanent Resident Disqualification Bill. [Link]

(Jammu and Kashmir enjoys special status under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. Only residents of the state can acquire immovable property, study in professional institutions and get government jobs. [link])

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Paraya dhanThe term is used for girl-children in India.  Traditionally a girl-child is seen as a liability, because her parents must train her from babyhood to live with and serve her spouse’s family. paraya’ – not one’s own, ‘dhan’ – property, wealth.

Budhape ka sahara – a male child – seen as a support in the old age. Also called budhape ki lathi – meaning a senior citizen’s walking stick.

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73 thoughts on “Paraya dhan and her limited rights.

  1. My in laws found it unacceptable if I cooked for my parents or spent time in the hospital caring for them – when such situations arose. Oh they said nothing outright – it would come out sneakily. Here I was an earning, contributing member of the family. It was perfectly acceptable and laudatory when I did similar things for them. The lines are drawn pretty clearly in our psyche

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    • 😦 I can imagine how it feels. Just reading the message, I was thinking, what if my wife’s parents or my wife taunted me if I went and helped my parents or helped them financially from my own earnings. I would absolutely explode. But unfortunately, women are supposed to do this every day in the name of the game.

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      • Rakesh but what about women who are not earning? Should they be able to support their parents from the husband’s income? Should women still be homemakers or should every woman be earning? Are women then wrong to demand maternity benefits or if they don’t get enough compensation, would you say they are wrong in choosing not to be mothers? Women pause their careers when they have babies – now the society/fathers/grand parents everybody wants a new generation – should they not contribute by making sure motherhood does not become a hindrance in a woman’s self reliance or growth?

        I know of this daughter in law who looked after her father in law who was seriously ill for a while. The entire family visited them and it must have become too much work for the daughter in law, but the general attitude was they were visiting their brother, uncle, father’s home and not this woman’s – it wasn’t her home.

        So where was this daughter in law’s home? What if she needed to spend on something that this family did not approve of? What if she needed to go and care (or bring them to this home which was not hers) for her own parents/siblings?

        Is it surprising that women do not like the Joint family System?

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        • I think both husband and wife should have an equal share in the total household earnings…

          On a lighter note however, what if the wife is interested in a lot of shopping while the husband is more of a planner for future? 🙂 Then I think he better keep money out of his wife’s hands 😉

          Me- I have a friend who says her husband spends too much while she is a planner, and her favorite line is, “I always tell him ‘don’t waste money like this, my husband worked hard to earn it!'” 😆

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        • I had a landlord (a businessman) who told me that he never told his wife his real income lest she spent it all on sarees and diamonds…

          Me – He obviously didn’t see his wife as a partner and never thought of planning their expenses and investments together 😦

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  2. Very well said IHM…considering girls as Paraya dhan is an age old Indian mentality which i believe is rather difficult to change at the grass root level..Educated society is changing their perspective a bit now-a-days. But still in majority houses girls are brought up teaching, how to be a good homemaker,and how their whole life is dependent on the kind of family they get married into..

    Me – Very well said Maverickshree! If we stop thinking a girl’s life begins and ends with getting and staying married – most of our problems would be over, from dowry to female foeticide, all has it’s root in the need to get a girl married at any cost, even at the risk of her life 😦

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  3. It was painful to read this IHM. Went through traumatic times trying to adjust to a joint family for 2 years. It had far-reaching consequences for me…lost my identity…it’s taken a decade of living separately as a nuclear family to heal and ‘find’ myself again. It’s rare to find joint families (but they do exist) that actually work for the benefit of all members, not just the males and elders.

    Me- I agree starsimyeyes. In fact typical Joint Families suit those who have male children and have resulted in all Indian wanting to have only male children 😦 Today when we speak of senior citizens being neglected by their sons and daughters in law – we don’t even count senior citizens who only have girl children.

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  4. You know, IHM, although theoretically it is alright for a husband to stay with the bride’s family permanently, I wouldn’t want my husband to be a ‘gharjamai’…I mean, it’s fine if he has to stay for some time but not forever…I want all the attention focussed on me when I’m with my parents and not on him as it is when my husband visits…Imagine if he lived there permanently – eeks!

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      • In Singapore too, a lot of men live with their in-laws…I think basically we like living on our own – I wouldn’t want to live with my parents or in-laws…At least, my husband has no qualms visiting and when he was between jobs, we lived with my folks for a few months…My BIL doesn’t visit and neither does he let my sister…He last stayed at my parents place when I got married 9 years ago and that too because he had too…He was trying to get out of it but then was told by his parents that society would look down on him if he didn’t attend his SIL’s wedding…

        Me – In India men feel uncomfortable visiting their spouse’s family… I think initially they were discouraged because they had to be pampered and their parents feared the girl’s family might influence them or stop treating them like ‘jamai raja’ (translates to – His Excellency the Son-in-law 😉 ) if they became too familiar…

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    • Why not? Is it because you would subconsciously feel that your husband is a “loser”? Why is it not okay? Why should a man work his a__ off to pay off loans taken to buy/build a house, car etc etc when he could just earn a paltry sum and move in with his wife at her home? Would you respect him? Be honest

      Me- KC why should it be seen as less than respect-worthy for a man to live with his in laws while it is perfectly fine, even expected from a woman to do the same? Take a look at Shail’s comment please.

      Personally I feel all couples should live in their own homes, neither should be forced to adjust to the other’s parents’ requirements.

      And I know plenty women who are earning as much as their husbands and still have no say in any decisions related to their own lives, I also know couples where women are earning more or equal and are very happy – it has a lot to do with attitude.

      You seem to feel women are lucky if they earn only a a paltry sum while they move in with their spouse’s family – ever wonder then – why women today prefer to work and prefer to live in nuclear families?

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      • KC, I’d be glad to move in with a millionaire working wife and not work for ever.

        How’s that?

        Jokes apart, seriously, if my sweetheart’s pay package shoots up a bit more, I’d gladly retire and sit at home and blog and make merry! Let her work hard and make money for the both of us!

        I’m an Indian male, and I don’t mind it at all! Be glad to!

        Me – And why not? 🙂 I feel a lot of men feel this way but are afraid of what the dhobi, neighbours, an aunt’s mother in law’s sister’s son might say.

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        • I guess KC does have a valid point and it has been raised before in IHM’s posts. I guess, even men have it difficult coz. they are expected to earn and take care of the family and be the provider Just like it is unfair to expect women to be the home makers. So it is not easy for men as well. But yes, overall though, men still have it a lot easier socially.

          And whatever anyone says, I think very very few women would happily marry a home maker husband who doesn’t earn.

          Me- Women are conditioned to believe in fixed gender roles Rakesh, these things change with time – eventually I think we will see a more flexible system where most people will work and those few who become home makers will do so because that’s what they prefer to do. I know many, many women, very successful entrepreneurs where men have either joined their business but basically they take care of the kids’ studies and also help with taxes and management etc … it doesn’t seem odd at all – perhaps because the men are equally confident and even qualified.
          In some cases once the men retire or take Voluntary retirement wives have started their own thing and now the wife runs it and the guy (including an uncle of mine) says it’s time for him to chill. They are earning much more than he earned in all his years of working – and they are both loving it, they travel a lot too and they are companions in the truest sense 🙂 If I wasn’t writing this blog post I would have never noticed who was earning and who was the one at home whenever we visit them.

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        • You know, you love to give individual examples. When I give individual examples (eg. for happy joint families), you say there are very few of these but many more of those… and then when I pose a difficult question, you give single examples like the one above…. Not Fair IHM 😛

          My Question was,

          How many women would marry a man who does not have a good stable job or no job at all?

          And please, no examples. Just choose one option below:

          Few
          Very Few
          None

          😆

          Me- LOL Rakesh, quite a few even today and in the years to come still more. Just imagine how many women were earning thirty years ago? Working women are still made to feel like they must prove they are good home makers too, and Stay at home dads will face some interference too, it will be a slow but definite change. You will see it if you take a careful look around even now.

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        • seriously, bro, try it. I am not saying its impossible but you will have to keep your male ego in check. And its an ego we are born with, not develop due to Indian society and all. I am really fed up with this bullshit about Indian society and American society crap. Men are men, whether in India or in the US, and women are women, whether here or elsewhere. It all seems nice on paper — try it and then may be after ten years you could tell me your honest experience. I am not saying its impossible, but its a bit difficult. I suggest you ask your millionare girlfriend whether she would prefer a slacker? If you are joking. Please read the reply I have written to Indian Homemaker and you will get the jist of what I am saying. I know my reply will seem “politically incorrect” and reactionary to some.

          Me – KC fifty years ago a working earning wife was seen as a blow to the male ego. We evolved and we continue to evolve.

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        • I have no history or example to accept that. There were a whole lot of women freedom fighters, fisherwomen, bengali clerks in british offices when calcutta was the capital, and examples are plenty. In an urban location, where there is work, women has always worked. With education, the percentage is higher now.. and not because of any lessening of male ego… KCs point about man are man and woman are woman sounds frivolous but has great depth. One comment on my blog to quote again… “Confusion arises when people/women confuse traditional views for being ‘sexist’. Women being the nurturers of the family should not be considered/termed as ‘Dependants’. No one would like to be associated with this word.

          Me- I had linked the word ‘provided for’ to an earlier post in response to a comment. Do take a look at that post Durlov.

          Traditionally women have been percieved as biological production plants in certain socities and have been inhumanly treated..Probably that is the reason for such angst in the modern woman… They have been taught how their breed has been tortured for years and the only way to change this is to become financially dependant. I would plead all the women to treat this as a phenomenon practiced in few socities and not generalise this as a traditional norm.

          Me- Is it wrong for women to be financially independent? Traditionally there were not too successful attempts to make them independent – like stree-dhan or dowry (originally meant for the girl I suppose) but these failed because the woman had no say in this. Earning frees a woman to decide who she marries (out of her community or caste or religion for example), it frees her to walk out if her husband brings home another woman or demands she kills her second daughter (Our current Miss India’s mother did just that), she can be a great support for her husband if he wants to start a new venture – (she can earn the bread and butter while he dares to take a financial risk)… one of my maids said her mother didn’t want her to be married at 15, but her husband threatened to throw her out if she objected, and being dependent on her father, her mother had to watch her child married to man years older – what can possibly be wrong with this?

          Domestic violence should not be acceptable to anyone, including women..But at the same time every woman should have an insight into who she is and what she wants from the society and from herself..ONly then will she realise whether she wants to be a nurturer or a provider…or both

          Me- Durlov does the society want to force women to choose between motherhood and self reliance? Or should they receive full support from the society – so they are never forced to make this choice. Remember the society also needs a new generation – so they must make sure women are able to work, be self reliant and raise their children. If they don’t then one day we will see negative population growth.

          (if she can balance the act)” Very well written I think.
          Once she accepts who she is , she will not feel the need to prove herself by going out of the way to fit into the modern society.

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      • I really like to reply to this. I’ll simply state — women seek out successful men without knowing it or telling it on the face. I suggest feminists read a bit of darwinian explanations about mate selection. If you are a successful, you stand a better chance getting a more desirable mate. Now why would a woman want to marry a more successful man — because her offspring would get a head start in life.

        Me- KC now it is possible for either of the parents to provide the same head start in life. This changes some of the considerations while looking for a mate.

        I know this would sound gibberish to most readers here. But I suggest they read some Evolutionary Psychology to understand what I am aiming at. And secondly exceptions do not make the rule.

        Me- The rigid rules are changing. Forty years ago it hurt the male ego to have a wife who could support herself. Before that there were talks of how a literate wife would argue and back-answer and would be difficult to control. This is also a part of cultural evolution.

        I also have female friends, most say that marrying a “loser” is not on their list. And yes, money does count in a marriage.

        Me – Girls today are taught not to be Cinderellas – the system of looking for a rich husband and not a compatible partner left women dependent on the partner. Today if a woman loves money – she must earn it herself.

        At heart lies the belief spread by radical feminism that men and women are “blank slates”. That’s not the case. While human nature is certainly not as iron clad as those among animals, it does exist and men and women (on the whole, and not exceptions) are a bit different by nature.

        Me- Yes they are different… and each individual is different too. And generalisations are constantly being proven wrong by ever increasing exceptions.
        I won’t know about ‘radical feminism’ – never studied it – so won’t comment.

        What I write does in no way condone mistreatment of either men or women. I am not arguing for mistreatment of women, but simply saying there is a human nature and it is different in men and women. And yes, Women don’t prefer “losers”.

        Me- How do you define a loser? A confident, intelligent man who supports his wife and has lesser or no income of his own? Or an insecure man who must marry a woman who earns a little less than him so he can feel like a king at home?

        I’d love to see feminist mothers giving away their daughters to penniless artists, poets, singers etc etc.

        Me – Who a woman marries is her choice – it’s not for her ‘feminist’ mother or father to give her away…
        I assure you self reliant, successful, confident are marrying men they find compatible – money stops being the top most consideration when they can earn it themselves.

        Sorry for the long rambling but I suggest two books — How the Mind Works — Steven Pinker
        The Blank Slate — the nature, nurture debate — Steven Pinker

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        • KC, true women look out for successful men just like men look out for beautiful women…Ultimately, everything balances out 🙂

          Answer to your question, yes I would respect my husband less if he gave up his job and moved in my parents…I wouldn’t respect him less if I were earning enough to support us and he stayed home as long as we didn’t live with either parents…

          Me- And these days men look out for successful women too. Most boys I know are dating ‘successful’ and ambitious girls – though not necessarily earning or planning to earn loads of money, they are all successful in their chosen fields.

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        • Dear bones and IHM,

          1. KC has a point when he says that women also look out for successful men. Girl’s also look out for a Cinderella opening, and when they find it, they grab it. They even change their Prince charming for a better prospect. And women like Shobha De call it the “empowerment of women” etc.

          2. However, if your article talks about the condition of the girl child in general, then I assume you are talking about the lower middle class and line below.

          3. Priet Zinta while accepting some award said” I thank my parents for not killing me when i was born”. This kind of lop sided thinking, in a nut shell, sums up the essence of your article. Have you ever placed yourself in the shoes of the people who have to kill their girl babies? Do you think that they are enjoying doing it? They do so because they have no choice in life. Our society makes their existence so difficult that at every stage of the girl’s life, her poor father wonders as to what wrong did he do by fathering a girl?

          4. A girl child is a curse for poor people today as well as 50 years ago. Nothing has changed inspite of Indiraji, Soniaji, Mayawatiji, Mamtadi, Amma and last but not the least, the feminist brigade.

          5. Please don’t think that I am ridiculing your article, it’s just that well meaning Feminists have not been able to change the Society because they feel that if a woman comes to power, she will help women.

          6. The girl child is not being killed/ burdened/ beaten/ raped by some big bad men. There are a number of women in this vicious circle as well. I hope things change, but the change needs to start in the villages of UP, Bihar and TN where Mayawatiji, Rabri Devi and Amma will not let it happen.

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      • I absolutely agree with you, IHM, when you say all couples should live in their own home. My Dad agrees with this too. He says to me and my brother, “This is our home – your mother’s and mine. We wouldn’t want you to live here, but to have your own home with your husband and wife or partner.” He says he wouldn’t want my brother and his wife to live with them, because they (Mom-Dad) have their own life and privacy as will my brother and his wife. As for me, he wouldn’t want me to live in a joint family. He believes it makes it easier to understand and live with each other when alone, and when there is no one to influence your or the other person’s thinking.

        Me- When we were young my sister and me had romantic ideas about Joint Families – thankfully my parents were very clear about how suffocating the environment of adults taking permission from older adults to visit friend/find a tutor for a child/buy a chair/visit a doctor etc could be.

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  5. hehe…you have a full blog post for every sentence!!!!

    Me – And still sometimes there are comments which demand I repeat something that has been discussed before and is also linked!

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  6. I hate people who sell their sons. They want money from the girl’s parents and then they expect the girl to take care of them and their house members too.

    But, thank god, now both girls and boys are working and this system is slowly changing. Now, mostly girls take care of their parents. So, now people need not worry about having girl babies, I think.

    Me – Sandhya Yes it is changing 🙂 I hope all children be there for their parents – not just girls, and not just boys, otherwise soon we will find Indian parents aborting their male children 😦 After all if they can sell their sons for dowry…

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  7. What I find so objectionable is our community which never saw girls as paraya dhan so gleefully accepting it and the accompanying perks for the boys’ family that goes with it!! We never had any of this nonsense of belonging to your husband’s house and not allowed to visit parents and such stuff. But the way some of them go on now, they will beat any of those that have been following the customs for centuries, hollow.

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  8. Though in small steps this is changing IHM! 🙂
    I am so glad to see that the mindset and people are slowing adjusting – baby steps, but some progress is always hopeful!

    I find such statments objectionable. My parents will always, no matter what be my parents. Same as with the husband.
    Nothing changes. The sooner people start to accept this, half the problems will stop.

    However, wrong it may seem, the harrassment also lessens/stops once the in-laws/husband knows the girl has a strong support system.

    Nice post as always 🙂

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  9. i know this is a thinking pattern very deeply ingrained in ppl’s pshyche’s. When ppl speak of accepting lifestyle/ sacrificing for in-laws lifestyle eg. everything from dressing to food habits to friends etc. it is spoke as a virtue in our society. the idea of individuality doesn’t apply to the woman unless she has graduated from being a bahu to a m-i-l. good on u for bringing such issues forth.

    Me- Thanks Aparna. Yes it is very deeply ingrained – so much that any attempt to say the system is wrong is sometimes opposed even by those it exploits or oppresses..

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  10. This attitude is what leads us to feel so “lucky” when as women we are treated decently as human beings. You know the number of times I have read about some repressive practice – FGM, the permanent veil, no property rights, and then seen a woman’s comment- “I am so lucky that I am in a community which does not treat me like this…” The attitude you have mentioned is very largely responsible for that. The socialization to accept normal behavior as “good” – which is not good for either men or women. It leads to a dehumanizing of the very strength we so proudly proclaim as our own- our family values….

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  11. Kasshmir is an interesting case.Even a pakistali lady does not loose her citizenship if she marries an indian.Is kashmir less a part of us than pakistan.

    Me – Traditionally a girl’s children do not inherit her religion, caste, gotra, name etc and I think all children of all humans – fathers or mothers should have an equal right to take either of their parents’ names, religions, nationality etc.

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    • Kashmir is a different case.
      They indulge in stone pelting at the slightest provocation, yet our great Home Minister says that they are misguided youth and offers them jobs!
      I can think of a nice one liner ” throw stones at the Army, murder a 11 day baby, don’t get educated but still get a job…what an IDEA!!
      PS- I don’t work for IDEA!!

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  12. The one word.. dhan.. defines our worth doesnt it? .. An object has no feelings.. Its only obligation is to its owner.. and a man.. is always an owner.. be it father or husband.. and if you have the misfortune of being a widow.. than ur son is your owner..

    What else is there to say? I dunno IHM sometimes its so frustrating! The other day I had talk with this guy who was complaining how they have to send stuff to his sisters sasuraal and how… if they dont send their sisters get ‘taana’ and how sisters demand.. that they receive stuff better than.. if not equal to the other bahus.. Mom says that u will have ur wives who will bring the same.. so dont complain about this now..

    And the girls are around 27-28 and pretty well educated… literate.. if being a graduate can be called that…

    If women of my generation can be this impossible.. Can we really hope for a better future for my daughters?

    Me- Winnie the poohi if all girls become self reliant then the parents will also feel more confident in refusing to pamper their husband’s families. And if all girls get equal property rights, then there is no reason for parents to spend their hard earned money on the girl’s spouse’s parents and relatives. Let them work hard and earn their own money.

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    • >> Can we really hope for a better future for my daughters?

      You can set an example by making it quite clear to your daughter that once she’s 21-22 and has a job of her own, she needs to move out and live independently. Parents need to stop sacrificing their own lives so they can save up big and give all that to their kids. In the long run it helps the children too since they learn that they have to build their own lives from a very early age.

      Me- Well said Nish ! I agree.

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      • Again, both I and my Dad agree! Today, though I don’t spend on my food or anything and live with my parents, my Dad insists I spend for something I fancy. Whenever I ask him to buy me a new dress or a pair of shoes or a pair of jeans or a book or anything like that, he says, “Why do you make these whining-baby demands? You have learnt how to earn, when will you learn how to spend? Saari zindagi doosron se maangti rahogi? etc etc etc” The lecture! So now I spend on whatever I want to! In fact, Dad wants me to know the rates of even the stuff I don’t buy – rations, milk, eggs, bread, clothes, furniture, electricals, electronics, etc. so that I don’t have to seek someone to ask or I don’t get duped!
        Even though we have the RACE etc. facilities to get our vehicles repaired, he taught me how to change tires, use a jack, check oil, check if the carburettor is too heated, and the works. Just so that I can manage as much as possible and not get stranded! I used to hate those lessons but I know they’ll come in handy some day.

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  13. Not fair IHM! If you are using words like “paraya” and “dhan” that are familiar to Marathi or Hindi speakers, you really should define them for people who don’t really understand those words. My best guess from the context is that “paraya dhan” means “someone else’s weath”? Even that doesn’t make total sense.

    Me- I have added the explanation and meaning at the bottom of the post Nish… it makes no sense at all. A girls health, mental, emotional and physical, her well being, even her safety is sacrificed to make sure she is accepted by her future own family. And yet happiest girls are those who were brought up to be confident, self respecting, self reliant adults. I have seen amongst my own friend circle how much happier the confident and valued and loved daughters grow up to be. Neglected children grow up accepting neglect as well deserved.

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    • Thanks for the footnotes, IHM. So my translation was essentially accurate except that I did not interpret the meaning correctly.

      Again the way I see it, the bottomline is that as long as women decide to go for arranged marriages, where the primary interest is to buy a groom for a certain amount of direct or indirect dowry, this is not going to change.

      Me – Traditional arranged marriages were typically an arrangement between two families and sometimes even the ages (let alone any other compatibility) was not taken into consideration. One of my maids from near Lucknow has a daughter in law who is a little older, more educated and taller than her son. The newly wed looks after the grand parents in the village – the son lives in Delhi and works. Typical arranged marriages like this are still not uncommon.

      Dowry and requirements of the family were the only consideration in such marriages. The modern version is more like parents introduce a couple and let them decide.

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      • I don’t think all arranged marriages are about money…I had one and no money or furniture was given…My parents gave me sarees and jewellery and I don’t consider those as dowry…My husband and I were introduced, we went out a few times and then decided to get married…No pressure from either parents although we couldn’t ‘date’ for ever before deciding…

        Me- We were introduced the same way Sraboney. No pressure of any kind and we did go out many times before deciding. No money or furniture was given.

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  14. “I would have thought selfishness should make them want a system that is said to be good for them.

    It seems the system does not suit all it’s members – so some member must be forced to accept it, in the name of custom, tradition, family values, honor, their destiny, sacrifice or love.”

    Very good point IHM.

    Do you ever wonder that sole purpose of these “traditions” is to force/control the weaker section of society and hence distorting the balance of power/control even further. And then do you wonder, how did these traditions started? Who promoted them and why? And who are the people who are still resisting change? Obviously, the one who is benefited by these ridiculous traditions. And here in lies the answer to the question why women are women’s worst enemies?

    The women who are benefited by such traditions at the moment are the one’s who want to hold on to them, while forgetting the times when they were on the other side. It’s their time to reap the benefits of these traditions (mainly as they are the mother of a male child) and the cycle continues..

    Me – I agree Richa, and not just women I have seen all elders with male children want the system to continue too. It’s very convenient for them. Traditions can have a very powerful hold on people’s mind.

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  15. “Independence makes girls selfish, they don’t like to live in Joint Families” this is the lamest excuse to not letting girls be independent. And what is wrong with being selfish when everyone else in a woman’s life is selfish?
    Again this goes back to how every one on earth wants women to be these self-sacrificing creatures who will forget their parents and adopt the husband’s parents as her own. Does that even make sense? To say that someone else’s parents mean more to you than your own? Will you ever mean more than their son to your inlaws? All these are stupid and old ‘traditions’ to keep the girl as down-trodden as possible. I might sound like a feminist who wants a reason to bash up others, but that is what it is and I am not ashamed to be so.

    Me- Some of the things we see or hear can be very frustrating Shilpa and the weirdest is when these things are said to be for the girl’s good! One of the things this acquaintance said was that the old system was good, the more freedom girls get the more selfish they get – she complained that these days every girl has a boy friend.

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  16. Yes, this attitude is very common , giving gifts to her in laws because our daughter lives them. Dowry is scattered in every nook and cranny of our system. My 5 year old asked me once “why doesn’t dadima ever give any gift to nani ma, its not nice to just take gifts”

    Me- Sands it’s such a simple observation – only a child who has not been conditioned by the society would notice the disbalance… it’s amazing what humans would accept in the name of “It’s always been done this way”.

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  17. yes it happens,
    i heard cases also opposite this also, now our society is changing but pace is too slow.

    Me- sm wherever women and their parents are using common sense and logic instead of custom to take their decisions, everybody is happy.

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  18. Thinking about the term “Paraya dhan” deeply saddens me. I am so glad that I am living at a time and place, when joint family is not the only solution. Like you point out, there is this starkling difference in way girl’s parents and boy’s parents are treated. My parents have faced this several times, being the parents of two married girls. But they have stood up to themselves, making us very proud of them. When we go home for vacations, my husband and I divide days and nights equally between my home and his home and we both stay at each places. I am praying that I do not have to fight for this in future.

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  19. and from next time, I shall be careful with my words 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

    Im glad you arent reading between the lines in my post !! 😀 😀 😀 or else, I wouldve been a regular centre of attack in your blog !! 😀 😀

    Me- Vimmuuu LOL what have I missed reading between the lines on your blog? 😉

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  20. You know, the best way to stop this will be to use common sense while selecting a guy for marriage. At present, looks or money or family status or parents approval is what many girls/or her parents look to while selecting life partners.

    Girls and her parents should talk to the guy/his fmaily sensibly before marriage – discuss on famly finances, their duties and responsibilities etc. Only if they find the guy and his family giving equal rights to the girl, should they consent for the marriage. This will set right this dowry and paraiya dhan menance.

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  21. Hmm. I think the moment you stay with other people the individuality is compromised. But then we are social creatures and cannot live alone. I think its okey to live with parents/ in laws (I don’t think its fair to use only in laws as the example. I think I felt more restricted when I was staying with my parents 🙂 ) . The onus is on us to retain the individuality. Speak up, fight back if we do not agree with something.

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  22. I am from J&K , and its a pain to get state subject done ! otherwise u cant apply for any collge , university or aquire property ..and after marriage u loose all the rights ….its ridiclous ..there are many other laws in J&K where there are exceptions ..i wonder sometimes is J&K actually a part of india..

    Me- It’s absolutely ridiculous. My husband and I come from different places and I hear my kids being told they belong to his state. This is just one way to control who a woman marries.
    You could blog about this… it will help in creating awareness of the problems faced.

    IHM interesting take on dowry system and praya dhan concept ..
    u know when we were having arguments with my husband when i was married , his mom said ” he is earning such good money , he is not abusive and dont beat u , u dont have to take care of us , then whats your problem with this marriage“.. and she was an educated lady …and her another statement ” even if a lady is a prime-minister , she will cook and wash for her husband ..in the house she is a woman ” …no wonder my parents were convinced at that moment that i should get a divorce …

    personally i would not care about the guy’s earnings … but i wont marry a aimless guy … and also i would be a litle hesitant in giving my hard earned money to someone who will enjoy tv and friends whole day while i slog …he has to share house work / expenditures and responsibilities …apart from that i dont care about his earnings …and thats about attitude IHM as u said

    Me- Preeti I have heard these lines – I think all Indian women have sometimes or other. I have also discovered that although my views are the same – just because I am two decades older, now I can voice my ridicule and be taken seriously. 🙄 It’s not what is said, but WHO SAYS IT that matters in our society 🙄 Older women can make a dramatic difference in our society.

    joint families are suffocating …too much interference

    Me- I agree. All the responsibility is forced upon the one who has least rights and she has no choice to reject the system if she doesn’t want it.
    And then her parents must pay for this life all their lives, starting with ‘roka’, dowry etc.

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    • thank God IHM i have parents who understand that …my mom is a matriculate , and a home maker like you , but she stands by her rights …and thats from where i got my strength …i must admit my dad is not that modern a thinker , still when it comes to me , somehow i can make him see things and slowly change his perspective towards society and women in genral … i have heard him say ” women dont get bored at home ” , and then he was the same man who told me your life your decision ..

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    • In one instant, the woman say that we want to stay nuclear, and the second instant, the woman is happily involving her parents and sharing the secrets (fights/arguments) of conjugal life. And if her parents opinionate (as serious as divorce), its not interference. Ha!

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  23. IHM, all these things have a lot to do with conditioning, so much so that even educated women fall for them. There are a lot of things which I accepted too without questioning them as they sounded good or not worth hurting someone over. So, I just kept quiet and let things be the way they were. Its only now I am slowly learning a lot of those things shouldn’t really have been acceptable at all. I am just happy that I am realising it just in time to guide my daughter in becoming a strong, confident person.

    My romantic views of the joint family disappeared the moment I got married into one !

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  24. By the end, I stay confused. Somehow I cant relate to so much brouhaha about so many things. I feel there is too much superficiality, complications and double standards in in your writing and in the messages. I think the perspectives are too narrow and urban-ish.

    Urbanish perspective? Not entirely.

    I think basic problems women face are the same all over India. Divorce is still a dirty word – we force girls to ‘adjust’ and live with their in laws even if they don’t want to; a large number of widows still stay unmarried; girl- children are still unwelcome, getting married and staying married (and staying a suhagan ) is still very important for a girl…

    Or perhaps my perspective is narrow and Assamese.

    I am born and brought up in Assam, where there is no caste system, no class consciousness, no religious sentiments (changing drastically with ISI being active and Bangladeshi immigrants). I have not seen domestic violence, dowry and dowry death, divorces and ‘nuclear families’ (the few ones I saw were unhappy). I loved my joint family upbringing. I was fed (with hands) by the aunts more than my mom ever got a chance. Games like hide & seek, community swimming in the pond, getting honey from beehives wouldnt have been possible without a joint family.

    IHM – A fun filled childhood no doubt 🙂

    But I know male children are preferred there too. Shouldn’t all children be loved equally?
    Let me ask you this – why do parents all over India prefer male children?

    I really dont understand so much fuss. I would just want to say, why cant we just let nature take its turn.

    IHM- Is it unnatural for adults to marry the ones they love and to make a house of their own?
    Is it unnatural for a girl to want to be wanted and loved by her biological parents as much as any other child?
    Or is it unnatural for a society to let all children love their parents, not just the male children or just female children?
    And is it unnatural that all women want to be valued even if they only have daughters/ or no children/ or no husband or no brothers?
    Do think about it.

    There are woman who do not think that household work is mundane. They love to be nurturers. They love to be provided for, to be submissive and feel sexy. And there are women who would always crib about a supposedly generated status quo of women’s deplorable plight & jump up and down for women’s independence in terms of financial security.

    IHM – There are also women who want a little more than household work. Won’t it be better if each did what they are inclined towards?

    Do you really believe that the problems that are discussed on this blog are not genuine? I understand that it may not directly concern you, maybe it has never touched your life directly, but does that mean the problems do not exist?

    Today in Mumbai with increasing number of blogs (aka awareness) about women independence, I see more confused woman, more confused about their role in the society. More divorces. More under-eye circles.

    IHM – The dark circles were always there, and the confusions were not permitted to women, so our folk lore and folk songs are full of women ( and their parents) fearing or complaining about a girl’s in laws. Today women are in a position to be able to do something about the confusions. And I agree it may disturb those who were comfortable with the old system, but should that mean we do not look for alternatives?

    No divorces may or may not mean happy marriages. A lot of couples stay together even when they are unhappy – and that does not mean the marriage is successful, it simply means they are afraid of society’s reaction to a separation. Living together only because they have no choice is always a good idea?

    The reason is we are not letting each one be. Our support systems are breaking. We dont know our neighbours. We dont play hide and seek anymore!!

    IHM – The difference is now we can choose who to interact with.

    About Support Systems.
    Widows were often returned to their parents’ home and their children were discriminated against by whoever supported them – brothers or in laws. Today we realise that even if one needs support, one need not be dependent – today a widow can earn and ensure that her children and she, both have respect. Isn’t this a better system?

    Here I feel even the brothers can’t really be blamed – it was a forced responsibility. I feel a society where all adults can take basic care of themselves is a healthier society.

    I have seen both worlds. I have seen my joint family. And I have seen khashi and Garo families where the youngest daughter gets the property of the mother and the boys go to the girls’ house. I see how they beautifully manage.

    I have seen how daughter in laws are treated with pride and responsibility.

    IHM – They should be treated like all other adult family members- like equal members, taking part in all decision making, and their opinion should have the same value as other members.

    In Mumbai (perhaps in all metros), I have seen woman going to their parent’s home when she is about 6-7 months pregnant. That completely leaves me NUMB. My parents and the parents that I have grown up with would have taken that to insult. If the daughter in law feels more comfortable in her parent’s house after marriage, and not in the husband’s house, it is a curse for the in-laws. Believe you me, I have always met wives who are happier delivering in their husband’s home.

    IHM – I think a woman should be able to choose who she feels more comfortable with – a girl who can go to her parents house whenever she likes is definitely happier than a girl who will fear that her show of love or trust for her parents might be taken as an insult by her in laws. Such things should not become a matter of honor or insult, this is the reason why women feel oppressed in Joint families.

    Last week, one incident completely numb me to death. One of my team members came to me and requested me for a leave of 1/2 days. She said her sister has got chicken pox and so her mother has to go and take care of her. And obviously since she had a baby, she cant come to office. Now the question that puzzled the hell out of me was ‘where is her sister’s husband, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts…’

    I (we) take ‘paraya dhan’ very seriously. If somebody can trust their dhan to us and call their own blood as our dhan, we will better take care of her and make her the cynosure of our eyes.

    IHM – An adult citizen’s welfare cannot be left to her family’s good intentions. When adults live together, there can be disagreements and there can be ego clashes, an adult should be able – if she so chooses, to live in her own house with her spouse, without being made to feel guilty.

    The biggest problem with ‘paraya dhan’ is the girl belongs nowhere, the parents raise her to fit into another family, and the other family makes her their honor, pride and responsibility. Take a look at what girls all over India go through as kids because they are ‘paraya dhan’. What about their childhood?

    https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/dheeyaan-dee-maa-rani-bhudhaapey-bharey-paani/

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  25. I hate that I cannot write in-line to your response. Please give me your password. 😉 I just wrote a 2000 word response, which got deleted, as I pressed backspace and the page refreshed. Now I am writing in a notepad. I dont think I will write that much now. Let me try.

    You: {Urbanish perspective? Not entirely.I think basic problems women face are the same all over India. Divorce is still a dirty word – we force girls to ‘adjust’ and live with their in laws even if they don’t want to; a large number of widows still stay unmarried; girl- children are still unwelcome, getting married and staying married (and staying a suhagan ) is still very important for a girl…}

    My response: {Marriage as an institution is a man-made fault ridden convention. The other name of marriage is adjustment, compromise and adapting to a new family. Both the boy and the girl goes through new requirements in life. If you want to be in the convention, you better be conventional. Divorce will always be a dirty word, adjustments will always be required, staying married will always be important for both the man and the woman. Widow re-marriage is an issue that my dad once
    fought for. I didnt understand why he was not letting my masi stay close to us. I was a kid. I wondered why he got her married to someone so far away. Now I understand and I respect my ‘Deuta’.}

    You: {IHM – A fun filled childhood no doubt But I know male children are preferred there too. Shouldn’t all children be loved equally?
    Let me ask you this – why do parents all over India prefer male children? }

    My response: {I agree with you here but I have always seen parents being happy with a boy and a girl. A pair is a blessing. So, I have seen parents wanting a child depending on the first child. Yes they may be a bit skewed towards a boy for their first child. But this is going to change. This thought and preference had a genesis / reason which is past due date and the fundamentals have changed now. I appreciate you being pissed with this status quo but at the same time agree that things are changing. No point stressing or rebelling too much about it. Its like the Indian motorist honking the daylights out of the sound ecology, even when he knows that traffic can only move that fast, or worse when he knows that the red light has just turned green. You know we Indians are much better off. Have you seen movies like ‘North Country’ and ‘Missisipi Burning’? You will realise the rural US of A. We have had woman presidents and prime-ministers. How many countries can boast of that? So although it is a valid point you are making, you cannot get too prejudiced and jingoist about it. And talk only of girl issues. Our (educated bloggers) discussions should be gender-neutral or gender balanced. }

    You: {IHM- Is it unnatural for adults to marry the ones they love and to make a house of their own?}

    My response:{Of course it is natural. It is also natural that her elders would want her to convince them of his worthiness. They can get difficult at times, but they are your elders, your family and I am sure they will understand. However, ‘making a house of their own’ is a bit dicey proposition, because the corollary implies that they are breaking an existing house of their own. It is natural that they will face a harder test from the elders. Why is this bothering you? Isnt the fallout of their want, natural too?}

    You: {Is it unnatural for a girl to want to be wanted and loved by her biological parents as much as any other child? Or is it unnatural for a society to let all children love their parents, not just the male children or just female children?}

    My response:{Of course it is natural for a girl to feel wanted by her biological parents. Its a crime not to let the female child not love their own parents? But the duty of the girl is also to give love and get love from her new parents. It may sound harse but she has herself got into an existing convention called marriage. The boy is also in the same boat. He is the son to her parents. Ya it is worse for the woman because she has to stay with the man’s parents. Similarly it is worse for the khashi and Garo men to stay with the girls’ parents. On a lighter note, hve you imagined how difficult it gets to the
    man to have two women in his life – Mom and wife? If you interested, let me tell you about an interesting Assamese custom. The mother of the groom does not attend the actual marriage puja. She cries and bid farewell to her son till the front door of her house. You may be thinking, what crap!!? But its true. She acknowledges and willfully bids farewell to her son to another woman – his wife. From the day of the marriage, her son is the responsibility and property of his wife.}

    You: {And is it unnatural that all women want to be valued even if they only have daughters/ or no children/ or no husband or no brothers? Do think about it.}

    My response: {Like all woman want to be valued irrespective of her marital / reproductive status, all man also wants to be valued the same way. Have you noticed the way society looks at a divorced man. I know you may have noticed that about a woman. Men are also in the same boat.}

    You: {There are also women who want a little more than household work. Won’t it be better if each did what they are inclined towards?}

    My response: {I am a big support of free will. Women should be allowed to a little more than household work. And I dont believe that they are not allowed. There is resistance but things are changing. But the point I am repeating is that marriage requires certain adjustments from both the boy and the girl. And convention says that the girl is the nurturer. Woman do have a choice. In my hometown Duliajan, 99.9% woman are, as you call them, ‘Provided for’. But interestingly the only MLA winning 3 consecutive assembly elections in my home constituency was a woman. See, there are choices to be made everywhere. But every choice has resistance applying both for the man and the woman.}

    You: {Do you really believe that the problems that are discussed on this blog are not genuine? I understand that it may not directly concern you, maybe it has never touched your life directly, but does that mean the problems do not exist?}

    My response: {The problems that are discussed are not representative and are skewed towards woman. Problems may actually exist, thats not the point. My point is that I always rebel against skewed discussions, scenarios and logic. Skewed discussions never veer towards root causes of a phenomenon. Skewed discussions are more of crib sessions and finger pointing sessions. Of course culture plays an important role for a skewed scenario. For instance, a girl slapping a man on the streets would everyone have assuming that the man must have done something wrong. So when I am in your blog and your forum, I feel I
    am in a skewed scenario with superficial remarks and cribs without any clear analysis. I dont want to escape and instead provide my two bits. So I am responding even after losing 2000 words to smoke. Another imaginary analogy could be a man-blog saying “Monogamy sucks, Polygamy is the way”. Men are basically seeders (do you agree) and I believe, there will be a rush of man-supporters for that blog but that blog or th discussion that will ensue may not keep the general female population in mind. It would be skewed.}

    You: The dark circles were always there, and the confusions were not permitted to women, so our folk lore and folk songs are full of women ( and their parents) fearing or complaining about a girl’s in laws.}

    My response: {folklore are also filled with remarks ridiculing marriage, ridiculing a wife’s tantrums, cracking jokes on JKG etc. Also dont forget jokes. When I was engaged and was wearing my engagement ring, one of my seniors told me “thats not a wedding ring, thats suffe-ring. Ha! Again repeating, boys are in the same boat.}

    You: {Today women are in a position to be able to do something about the confusions. And I agree it may disturb those who were comfortable with the old system, but should that mean we do not look for alternatives?}

    My response: {I dont believe that anybody stopped women from getting confused. Marriage is also about giving shoulders to each other to get confused (and cry). But I dont know if your blog or the comments are doing anything about the confusions. Its not analysing the issue keeping the husband in the picture. If you read one of the comments in my blog when I published my previous comment in my blog, shubhra says “Confusion arises when people/women confuse traditional views for
    being ‘sexist’. Women being the nurturers of the family should not be considered/termed as ‘Dependants’…” She further adds, “…every woman should have an insight into who she is and what she wants from the society and from herself..ONly then will she realise whether she wants to be a nurturer or a provider…or both(if she can balance the act). Once she accepts who she is, she will not feel the need to prove herself by going out of the way to fit into the modern society.” I think she has a great point there. And I feel and observe that we have more ‘dark circles’ today.}

    You: {No divorces may or may not mean happy marriages. A lot of couples stay together even when they are unhappy – and that does not mean the marriage is successful, it simply means they are afraid of society’s reaction to a separation. Living together only because they have no choice is always a good idea?}

    My response: {You are absolutely right. ‘No divorce’ is a farce. However, I again repeat, the man is also afraid of society’s reaction. Why do you forget that? I have been staying separately for the past 4 months and I only know how it feels to face the critique – our society.}

    You: {About Support Systems. Widows were often returned to their parents’ home and their children were discriminated against by whoever supported them – brothers or in laws. Today we realise that even if one needs support, one need not be dependent – today a widow can earn and ensure that her children and she, both have respect. Isn’t this a better system? Here I feel even the brothers can’t really be blamed – it was a forced responsibility. I feel a society where all adults can
    take basic care of themselves is a healthier society.}

    My response: {I believe in re-marrying the widow and supporting her from all sides. But ya there are stray cases of her being sent away. I have not seen it myself. With education, woman will start getting independent financially and you are right all adults taking care of themselves is a healthier society. Sau taka! But I dont take this scenario at a gender inequality level. Its more like social inconsistencies created by the strong and mighty. The similar analogy is the Brahmin-Non Brahmin issue. For centuries, Brahmins never allowed the non-brahmins to go to pathsaala. They always wanted the non-brahmins to be illiterate so that they dont understand their mantras that they recite (one of the reasons). Let me tell another interesting thing about ‘Brahmin mantra’. Did you know that on the marriage fire (dont know what it is called) the pandit actually marries the girl and then gives it to the husband. If you decipher the sanskrit mantra you would see that he is the one who is marrying the girl first. He is a Brahmin and has a first right (of refusal!) over all of us. Another thing about Mantra that I read was, when one gives pind by the funeral pyre to his parents, the panditji through mantra says that the son actually is the cause of his father’s death and he has to wash his sins by giving dakshinas – a cow, a goat etc etc… Today things have changed and will continue changing.}

    You: {IHM – They should be treated like all other adult family members- like equal members, taking part in all decision making, and their opinion should have the same value as other members.}

    My response: {I completely agree. It will change with education and awareness.}

    You: {I think a woman should be able to choose who she feels more comfortable with – a girl who can go to her parents house whenever she likes is definitely happier than a girl who will fear that her show of love or trust for her parents might be taken as an insult by her in laws. Such things should not become a matter of honor or insult, this is the reason why women feel oppressed in Joint families.}

    My response: {I agree. I dont debate free will. But I have observed that inlaws take extra care so that she actually feel comfortable. See in the cases that I have seen, both the son’s mom and the daughter’s parents have given farewell to them and they have themselves for everything and the boy’s parents in most case. So the girl never thinks that she has the option that she can go to her parents. so she does not feel oppressed at all. A person in the desert may not feel the need for an AC, when he does not know that AC is something that exist. Its like only when we buy an AC, that we cant sleep without an AC. See I am not referring to giving support back to parents, financial or otherwise. Both parents should be taken care of. They are our elders. Period.}

    You: {IHM – An adult citizen’s welfare cannot be left to her family’s good intentions. When adults live together, there can be disagreements and there can be ego clashes, an adult should be able – if she so chooses, to live in her own house with her spouse, without being made to feel guilty.}

    My response: {See, repeating again, if you are in an institution, you either follow by its rule, or you rebel and get ready for the repurcussions. Rebelling is not bad at all. As I said, making a house implies breaking a house. You know, on a lighter note, I hate wearing ties but who is forcing me to work in a bank. Fact is I forced myself hard to get into a bank because it pays. I never dreamt of the salary that I get in reality today. Its too much. But the fallout is that in a bank, you have to be in a bloody formal dress. Period. So I believe that for any problem, we should first think why we got into the problem. Are we making a trade off? Then suddenly you may find relief.}

    You: {The biggest problem with ‘paraya dhan’ is the girl belongs nowhere, the parents raise her to fit into another family, and the other family makes her their honor, pride and responsibility. Take a look at what girls all over India go through as kids because they are ‘paraya dhan’. What about their childhood?}

    My response: {I dont agree that the girl belongs nowhere. Today’s SasuMa was yesterday’s Bahu. She is the bloody owner of the house and has all the keys for a good 20 years of her life. As a wife, you tell me who decides the colour of the house, the sofa set, the window curtains, the drawing room, the drawing room table where the husband cant put his leg, the colour of the shirts that the husband wears, the ganjees and underwears of the husband, … today, tell me who decides the nursery school, who decides the auto rickshaw taking the kids to school…and so much more that the wife does.

    Yes, childhood is an issue, but times are changing.}

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    • You: I dont agree that the girl belongs nowhere.
      — Today’s SasuMa was yesterday’s Bahu. She is the bloody owner of the house and has all the keys for a good 20 years of her life. —

      Me:
      “For a good 20 years of her life?” Is that all the years that a woman is entitled to feel a sense of belonging for? Men on the other hand belong to their family their entire life.

      You are also letting your personal experiences in Assam colour your view of how the Indian joint family system works. Assam, and many of the other eastern states have a much more equalitarian system, and you should count yourself lucky that you were born in a place where you could witness equality between the son and the wife in the son’s home.
      I can assure you though that down south, and also in many states in the north, the daughter-in-law is not the “cynosure” or the “pride, honour and responsibility” of the house. I’ve seen many cases in our neighbourhood when I was growing up where the newly wed wife was sent back to her parent’s house or kicked out of her sasuraal because she did something that wasn’t agreeable with her saas. For a new daughter-in-law, the in-law’s house isn’t her own for quite a number of years (usually until she has children, or in extreme cases, until she has a male child).
      She has many expectations regarding serving her in-laws, putting them above her maayka, and not being able to go visit her parents’ house whenever she wants.

      This brings me back to what I highlighted in your response.
      this is how a woman’s life is:

      0-25 years: she is conditioned all her childhood that one day she will leave the house, and will no longer belong in that house. She is conditioned that her in-laws will have many expectations of her, and she will have to sacrifice and compromise a lot so that she can prove her goodness to her in-laws. She is told that the name she was given at birth will one day change and her new name will become the central part of her identity.

      25 years: She finds out that her parents are paying for the entire wedding expenses. She asks her mother why this is so – and her mother replies that “this is how it is.” She wonders why, when her in-laws are so wealthy and comfortable, they refuse to pay for some of the expenses. It then dawns on her that this is her parents’ final responsibility towards her – to marry her into another family. Once she is married, she will be part of that family. She is then further surprised that her parents seem to be showering her new husband with gifts and money. She waits to see if she receives anything from his parents, but no – she doesn’t receive as much. She sees her parents treating their son-in-law with a level of respect that she doesn’t get from his parents. She then realises that her parents no longer see her as being part of their house – she is now in the hands of her husband’s family, hence they are being respectful so she will be treated well.

      25-50: She adjusts to her new life at her in-laws (and I say new because of all the changes she is expected to undergo) where she is sometimes not given permission to visit her parents, and sometimes forcibly sent back. She is told that if she doesn’t behave properly, she’ll have to go back to her parents house. She is angry and sad that she is the only one who is subjected to this – no other member of the household is ever threatened with being kicked out, only she is. She then realises that they don’t see her as part of their family yet. This was the house that made her ‘paraya’ to her own parents, and yet the in-laws didn’t see her as one of their own yet. It is only after years of proving herself, and having children that she has an accepted place.

      50: She is now the saas. Hurray, let’s now give her the keys to the house and a license to bully her own daughter-in-law for 20 years as compensation for a the crappy system she is forced to be part of.

      While your responses have merit, a few of them are straying. Even you said that if a daughter goes back to her parents for a delivery, its seen as insulting to the in-laws. Never in your response did you consider that the woman may just want her own parents there during her pregnancy as a source of support, as a source of love, and as a source of her own childhood memories when she is so close to having a child of her own. No, the first priority is of course the feelings and sentiments of the in-laws. Never mind that it is the woman who is pregnant, it is her stomach that is being stretched out with new life, it is her body that is overflowing with hormones, and it is her who will be delivering the baby. Nah, she can’t possibly want to be close to her parents – the two people who have brought her up – without worrying about the insult she will cause to her in-laws.

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  26. I consider myself fairly liberated and a woman of the 21st century. I recently got married to my husband who hails from a very educated, but self confessed ‘orthodox’ family. They had set notions about ‘after the wedding, the ornaments should be with the husbands parents’, ‘both husband wife should always come to the husband’s house first and leave from there last (since we live in the US)’,’wife has to assume husbands name’ and such like. It is unfortunate that educated people have such outdated notions, even today. ‘

    Me- TG this is how Joint Families oppress women, who are the ones who are supposed to uphold them – if women do not like Joint Families (and they mostly don’t) – they are made to feel like ‘selfish home breakers’. Women are also told this system protects and supports them – but it does not give them the option of protecting themselves or supporting themselves. Many working women in Joint Families are expected to come back from work and cook for everybody, while the husband (son of the family) can watch TV or relax – how supportive is that?
    Also often what they earn is rightfully claimed by their in laws/spouse – so despite all the work, they remain dependent.

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  27. IHM good post and good answers to those who doubt joint families severely restrict women’s freedom. It is said that family systems are formed as per the economic needs of the time so as to maximise production. Things are changing for the better and joint families may also disappear as feudalism disappears

    Me- I agree and like all changes this one will be criticised for a while too…

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  28. Do you think there can be a chance, that women getting married might actually want the dowry do be given, so that they can have some control in the new house that they are getting into? I was told this by someone and hence wanted to ask this here.

    Me- It is true DI. Women do try dowry to gain acceptance (!?) in the husband’s house. Just like they agree to have male babies by aborting female fetuses. They might also feel this was a kind of inheritance – the only bit of ‘inheritance’ they would ever actually get from the parents.

    It is good for women to work and be independent, and I have seen a lot of women doing that and respect them. But in a situation where both husband and wife are working till 9 PM in the night (software companies, for example), one of them should take up a less demanding job. Be it the woman, and if she is not willing to, then definitely the man. This is crucial during the initial years of the growing of kids, I think.

    Me- The couple must work out these things. Whoever can afford to take a break and is happier being with the kids should do that. I wish we had a system where the non earning partner was ensured legal financial security…

    Destination Infinity

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