How would you respond?
Comment: It’s good to see so many women expressing their concern and desire to shoulder their parents responsibilities and offer them help in times of need.
However, I would like to ask these women a burning question:
Where does this feeling disappear when the husband chooses to show love, care and affection for his parents?
IHM: I think it’s natural for all children to feel affection for their own parents but Indian women are expected to cut ties with their parents once they get married and see their in laws as their parents (But also give dowry, give up their freedom, family, friends, careers and passions; adjust, obey, make sacrifices, accept criticism of their own parents etc)
Indian daughters are encouraged to have happy married lives by their parents, an Indian daughter’s parents teach her to respect her husband and see him as the most important person in her life. Unfortunately Indian sons are often made to feel guilty if they have happy married lives. Traditionally loving husbands have been taunted as Joru ke gulaam, ghar jamai etc and unlike Indian daughters, many Indian sons would not say that their wives are the most important people in their lives. We actually have jokes about who a man would save if both his wife and mother were drowning at the same time. Where’s the father in these jokes? He too has been warned against becoming a joru ka gulaam of course!
Such societal attitudes do not encourage great relationship with a husband’s parents.
(Also contrast this with how nobody asks Indian daughters such questions, they can generally love their husbands without risking their parents or brothers being offended.)
Presence of in-laws generally means unnecessary and avoidable restrictions on women, they have to dress more traditionally, their house keeping and parenting skills are under scrutiny, their upbringing is commented upon – this often makes it difficult for them to truly enjoy the company of their in laws.
Also I think often Indian sons don’t seem to communicate with their parents the way daughters do. Often the responsibilities of sons towards the parents are more along the lines of ensuring the wife respects and obeys the parents.
In general Indian daughters seem to be able to manage relationships between their parents and spouse better.
Comment: Why do these women who believe in being filial daughters to their own parents (yes, it’s appreciable) turn into evil daughters-in-law who strongly believe that the husband’s parents are burdening their sons with unreasonable & mean expectations?
IHM: Are the ‘unreasonable & mean expectations’ from the sons or from the daughters in law? What is it that they find ‘mean and unreasonable’? It could be little things like having to hand over their earnings to the parents in law, or having to get up every-time an in law passes by (to show they respect them), needing to take permission for most things, often even to talk to/meet their own parents/friends, or to shop and even to go out with the husbands.
Happily married daughters are almost like a status symbol in India. Indian parents respect and even pamper their daughters and sons in law. Indian parents’ love for their son does not seem to involve seeing them happily married. Most sons, as soon as they are married, are under pressure to prove their devotion to the parents, for example a son who is free to walk in and out of the house otherwise, might need permission to take his wife out; he might feel guilty if he wants to buy her a gift. (He is often expected to put his sister or mother before his spouse).
Comment: Isn’t it hypocrisy?
IHM: Hypocrisy is the way we refuse to see that India hates daughters because daughters are sent to (kept dependent so that they have no choice) to take care of their spouse’s parents (with dowry) while sons are seen as support and prayed and fasted for. And then we wonder why thousands like baby Afreen and Baby Falak are killed.
This picture was shared by Anil Singhal – the request to god is, ‘Bhagwan mujhe beta dena’ i.e. ‘God give me a son’.
Comment: I would also like to add that Baghban (one of the most beautiful Bollywood movies ever made) is not just about shouldering the financial responsibilities of the parents but it’s more to do with reciprocating the love & respect that the parents bestowed on their children and will continue to do so.
IHM: I would have liked the movie if it had offered some practical solutions. The couple should have been shown planning for their old age and both having a life and doing something they loved to do, not just Amitabh Bachchan. Till the end Hema Malini remains dependent on her husband.
Comment: Why do adult offspring shirk their responsibilities towards their parents (when these adult children know that the time has finally arrived) under the guise of having the right & liberty to live their own dreams & lives as independent adult individuals & going a step further by claiming that the parents’ love is only an one-sided responsibility & commitment?
IHM: Legally all children, sons and daughters are required to care for their parents, but “doesn’t this show that there is something very basic wrong with this system which is actually seen as good for parents-of-sons, but which leaves them dependent on their child’s (only male child’s) spouse?
Indians don’t have a very good track record of elder care. In the past the elderly men could hope to have their (often 8-15 years younger) wives as caregivers. But once widowed the women had to depend on the sons, and hence the insecurity about the sons being ‘stolen away’ by their wives. It is a system that has resulted in family members trying to control those they depend upon.
Even today widows abandoned by their families, sit and beg outside temples in Vrindavan. Many in their fifties, moving comfortably and in good health. Why didn’t they live in their own homes? How is it that these women/their families did not see their ancestral/marital homes as their rightful homes? Many husbands/families seem to have no concept of financial security for female members. But in general parents of daughters seem to plan for their old age better.“
Comment: A poignant scene from BAGHBAN which refuses to evade my memory even after all these years (partly because I have seen this movie umpteen times with tear filled eyes) deserves a mention in my post:
The son (played by Aman Kapoor) reaches home from his office seething with fury because of a visit paid by his mother (played by Hema Malini) to his office earlier during the day (however, he doesn’t meet her because he falsely assumes that his mother is there to talk about petty issues).
The mother is moved to tears (which she smothers) when she is harshly confronted by her own son in the presence of his wife (played by Suman Ranganathan).
It’s then that the mother offers an explanation and says that she visited him out of motherly love & affection. She states that she had fondly cooked Halwa (an Indian dessert) for her son as she has done all her life without a miss on all his birthdays (a dessert that the son too relishes). She woke up early this morning to cook the dessert for him but since he left for his office; she went to his office, out of her beautiful motherly love, so that he can have a bite as he loved the pudding and always had it on all his birthday mornings.
The son feels ashamed (only slightly; for a few seconds) but his wife seeing it as event that might evoke sentiments of love & care in her husband’s heart for his mother is quick to respond with a heavy melodramatic act of hers (this is when she is not even being and has never been targeted by the innocent mother-in-law). She wails loudly accusing the mother. She blames her MIL for foiling her plans of throwing up a surprise that she had planned for her husband’s birthday (though the wife never had any such plans; she merely cooked it up as an excuse to cash-in on the the situation as shown in the movie). She screams & shouts at her MIL & humiliates her by saying that his mother wants to show that she is the only one concerned about her son (the mother never had any such intent as it has been clearly depicted in the movie).
The husband immediately sides with his wife (who actually is the one adding fuel to fire) without showing any regard for the intense love that his mother has for him and retorts:
Just see what have you done; you made my poor wife cry.
The mother who’s terribly hurt now asks her son (still softly; her composure is unbelievable taking into account the way she has just been humiliated by her own son & DIL for no fault of hers): ‘
‘You can easily see the tears in your wife’s eyes but you can’t see any tears/any pain/ any love in your mother’s eyes?’
With great pain , she adds ‘You seem to have forgotten that I am your mother but I will always remember that you are my son’
Having said that, the mother retires to her bedroom and silently sobs behind the closed door.
IHM: There is so much wrong with this scene although it seems to have been created as a lesson for Indian sons. It’s insulting to mothers also.
The mother, although in good health, is shown to be totally dependent, she has no interests, friends and life of her own. She depended on her husband first, and now on her son. She finds happiness in doing things for her children which don’t necessarily please them. Even the gajar ka halwa is more about herself than the son, in fact the son feels guilty but not delighted that the gajar ka halwa was made for him. This is what happens when women are made to give up singing, reading, careers and friends when they are young. Also, the movie kept the mother in dependence till the end, women older than her are capable of leading richer lives. Older women should be encouraged and supported in finding meaningful lives and not made to fit such stereotypes. Also, please read Radha’s comment here.
The movie was very popular and it touches upon a relevant problem, but it shows no solutions. Is sponsoring of a needy boy’s education a solution (as shown in the movie)? Please consider, how did Mota Bhai and his wife live so happily with no children of their own?
Now for the gajar ka halwa – why do we see hardly any movies where mothers make gajar ka halwa for daughters? Because daughters are paraya dhan (another’s property), not a budhape ka sahara (or support in old age)?
In one movie Tapasya – where Rakhi supports her family, she is shown as staying unmarried because once she marries, all of an Indian woman’s time, her earnings and her labors are seen as rightfully belonging to her husband and in laws.
– Is it surprising that those who respect these traditional values don’t want to have daughters?
In ‘Phagun’ – Waheeda Rehman, deserted by her husband Dharmendra, raises her only daughter Jaya Bhaduri. Once Jaya Bhaduri gets married and her mother visits the young couple, the young husband’s difficulties in making ‘adjustments’ that Indian women face all the time are shown as justified. The movie is not as much about the loneliness or pain of the old mother (no less loving than Hema Malini in Bhaghban) but about the husband’s feelings and reasons why he objects to her presence and interference. (Can you imagine the a movie where a daughter in law is shown doing this and not shown as evil?)
The problem I think is Patriarchy. Male children are seen as the providers of dowry, financial support and elder-care givers, so mothers make gajar ka halwa for them. Where does this gajar ka halwa go when the child is a daughter? And no gajar ka halwa for a daughter in law?