I had asked three questions in a comment on this post.
1. Why does the daughter in law’s reluctance to touch feet make some people unhappy? What does it indicate that causes unhappiness to those whose feet are not touched and their well-wishers? It has to be more than just touching of feet – what exactly is it? Does touching of feet symbolize something and that something cannot be conveyed in any other way? Is it about control?
2. Why does the daughter in law not wearing sari affect her in laws? Again, what does wearing a sari indicate that is so pleasing to many people in traditional families?
3. Why is it considered important that the daughter in law should wake up before everybody else? Why does everybody else need that extra sleep which an Indian daughter in law does not? And those daughters in law who do wake up earlier – are they happier?
Here is a response.
1. Touching an elders feet is seen as a way of seeking blessings. Hence, when someone refuses to do it, it seems hurtful. I am not advocating that its the only way of seeking blessings or seeing the right or wrong in doing it. Fortunately, I come from a family and am married into one where this is not expected or practiced often except for special occasions or in the presence of very very old relatives when we are happy to oblige. It conveys more than just respect. It is an action that conveys regard to the long experienced life led by the elderly by seeking their blessings for our own journey of life. By touching the feet one symbolizes that they seek the dust gathered on the feet of the person that has walked long enough on this land (metaphor for the experience gathered over a lifetime) and rub it on ones heart or head (symbolizing may I learn from your lessons and experiences, may I keep these close to my heart or mind when I make my decisions). Every culture has traditional sign languages for various greetings or convey of feelings that were difficult to express in words. I wish these simple gestures would not die with time.
IHM: Do parents of Indian sons have more wisdom and blessings to give than parents of Indian daughters? Should these genstures be voluntary or forced?
Ever heard of Indian sons in law being pressurized to touch feet of their wife’s family members?
Many parts of India have no custom of sons in law touching their in laws’ feet. And in many North Indian states daughters do not touch-feet in their maika. They touch all the in laws’ feet, including the youngest sisters in law, and other family members in their sasuraal.
Why is it considered ‘fortunate’ that this custom is not practised in their family?
I wonder if it is also about, Display of respect to those in power?
2. Sari is more than just a traditional attire. Since it is a part of our culture there are memories and dreams attached to it, unknowingly. My MIL suggested me to wear the most traditional and difficult sari for the main ceremony of our wedding. I had never given it a thought but when I saw the way her face lit up while suggesting it I didn’t have the heart to decline or admitting my fear of tripping over it. I realised that she must have dreamt of it just like my mother dreamt of dressing me up for my big day. I immediately agreed and didn’t regret it one bit as out of all the other saris and outfits I wore for our wedding, that particular sari really took the ceremony to a new level. Several cousins and friends decided to wear it themselves on their wedding and others who were already married wondered why they didn’t think about it!
IHM: Ever wondered why Indian sons in law are denied these opportunities to show respect for their in laws’ feelings and culture (dhoti/mundu/lungi)? And what if there was fear of husband’s disapproval or in laws’ taunts if the ‘suggestion’ was ‘declined’?
3. Since I am a daughter in law who wakes up before anyone else I think I can answer this too. I have a funny story here though While growing up I was famous for not being an early riser but somehow I used to wake up much before my in laws got up during my stay at their home so much so that it made them feel very uncomfortable. My mil felt obliged to wake up too since she felt she is setting up an example for me. After a few early rises she confessed and requested me to please sleep a little longer. She loves her morning sleep and had in laws who woke her up every single day with the puja bell and loud prayers so she’s very considerate about letting all her children (irrespective of by birth or by law) sleep in. When she realized me and my sil had to tend to a crying baby at night she didn’t let anyone wake us up next day even though we had several guests and a ceremony at home that day. Although I love my sleep more than you can imagine, I really benefit from waking up the earliest when we have company or in laws over. It gives me time to organize my thoughts/plans for the day and getting something’s done before the chaos begins. Being the first one awake, listening to that quiet moment when I hear the sound of everyone deep asleep and getting that quiet time alone is really priceless.
IHM: What if the mother in law had decided to continue ‘the tradition’ of the daughters in law (not the mother in law) waking up early? Should some people have the right to enforce such rules on other equal adults? Is it that women’s happiness does not a matter, so long we are not that woman?
Do you think it is okay to make somebody uncomfortable by waking up early (good Indian value), but wrong to make them uncomfortable by waking up late (bad Indian value)?