A mother calls me sometimes to talk about her very unhappy daughter.
This mother retired from a good job, has a supportive husband and lives a comfortable, middle class life ( a driver, a cook, a maid etc), they enjoy socializing with close friends and family, and they enjoy their beer on weekend afternoons.
She had once asked me to sign as witness, in their will, where they leave everything equally to their two children. She clearly loved both her children and both the children were provided equal opportunity to succeed. The daughter was smart, self assured and she had a good career. The proud parents quoted her opinion during conversations, “Our daughter says we should pay our bills online, so now we can’t be bothered with standing in queues.“, or “She said the front door should be painted white, so we changed the colour.“
Their son couldn’t pass class twelve, the parents seemed aware of his limitations, the mother looked content once they managed to get him a job. The son was polite, he did not smoke, he loves Pizza and Coke, and drank only during the gatherings at home.
All was fine with their world till then.
Then their daughter, then 30, married someone she liked. The parents weren’t pleased with her choice but seemed happy for her.
Then some months later a common acquaintance told me their daughter was very unhappy, her husband was beating her, “...but she chose him, it’s her own fault. The parents are so ill, at this age all this trouble for them...”
I asked if she told the mother to support the daughter and bring her back home. She didn’t because thought a marriage should be given a chance, and this would ‘sort out on its own‘.
Many months later, one day the mother called me, she sounded very old and tired. The fact that she was ready to call a near stranger to discuss what most Indians consider a very personal problem in itself was an indication. She said she came to know there was violence when she saw a purple mark on her daughter’s leg. The daughter didn’t want to go back, but she said the father felt she chose her husband so now she must make this marriage work.
At first tactfully and then quite clearly I have been telling her that this violence which has now been going on for two years, was not going to end. I reminded her of how happy they were when their daughter lived with them. I gave examples of another woman, who we both know, lives very happily with her mother, and of another woman who has separated and looks visibly happier and more confident.
The mother sought legal guidance and warned the husband with the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) and for a short while there was no violence, but now he has made her give up her job, he does not allow her to keep any domestic help, she wears only traditional clothing now, he also lovingly apologizes after most beatings which he claims are always caused because of something she did wrong – the girl is now (according to the mother) not ready to come back.
The mother, I sense, still wants this marriage to work, but she is realizing that there is little hope of that happening.
What is compelling this independent and loving mother to allow her daughter to go through this abuse? The girl can start working again so financial security is not a real problem.
Could it be that the parents like most Indian parents see a ‘Happily Married Daughter ‘ as a status symbol? Are they are concerned about what the neighbors and relatives might say?
Would it not be easier to answer or to ignore those who don’t care for their child’s welfare, than to watch their child’s life being ruined?
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