A Guest Post by an Anonymous Indian Family Vamp.

Dear IHM,

Just saw this comment in one of your blogs:

“People think that girls in love marriages do not pay due respect to in laws. My cousin had a love marriage in Jain’s and she is living a great life.(Our family is liberal). She was a non vegetarian and Kayastha by caste. She is an IITian but knows and has accepted every element of Jainism now (by choice). Her In laws boast about her in their community. Her daadi in law does’nt go anywhere without her. She is an ideal Bahu and loved by all.”

 I am sure the writer did not really intend to offend; I can understand that growing up in largely patriarchal and sexist social conditioning changes one’s perception of normalcy.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist commenting. “Love marriage” or “arranged marriage” hardly affects the life of a woman after marriage (read after honeymoon). Results can be quite surprising.

I had a “love marriage”. Incidentally, my ILs also had a “love marriage”. More interestingly, my MIL’s parents had a “love marriage” too. So, the concept of “love marriage” wasn’t alien to the family and since my ILs themselves did it, they were a lot more accepting of me than they would rather be.

Now, many people would think my ILs are a liberal sort. No. They found my “love marriage” normal because they did it themselves. For all other things, they are as much a typical orthodox patriarchal family.

As for crossing heavens, my MIL is touted as the ideal DIL. She did B.Com. and a degree in music in a major city and lived a somewhat modern life (by the standards of her time). After marriage, she immediately got pregnant (my husband). She was hardly 21 or something. To this date, my grand MIL proudly proclaims (especially to irk me and make me retort and stir things up) that her DIL had just one period after marriage. Interestingly, my MIL was so madly in love and crazy about getting married (thanks to my FIL who is extremely manipulative and can easily convince people), she didn’t even bother to collect her degree certificate. Some achievement (sarcasm alert)!

I think from my previous post, it is evident that she has been suffering from domestic abuse and domination for about 30 years now. She is also severely Diabetic. Anyway, she is extremely timid, subservient and submissive and has sacrificed her happiness, job, health, freedom, and peace of mind and what not for this family.

Now, my ILs are quite impressed and they have a “good opinion on love marriage” because a DIL who came in through “love marriage” was the perfect DIL whom nobody could have found even through “arranged marriage”. In fact, she is considered the best of the three DILs there are (my FIL has two brothers).

In contrast, the youngest DIL, who hated their double standards and domination (like me), openly rebelled and seceded from the joint family. She was brought into the family through an “arranged marriage”. In contrast to MIL, she was from a village and had probably only done her matriculation or something. She insisted that she wanted to study. ILs nodded and got her married. After the marriage, they told her to get pregnant immediately and that she can study later. This, the pressures of a joint family, my typical villainous grand MIL, the abusive men of the household, the restrictions and everything and my FIL’s drinking habits (even on her marriage my FIL was inebriated to the point of going into a coma) drove her to openly rebel. She tried every trick in the book and aborted twice. Finally, they pressurized her so much, she had to relent and finally had two kids. But, she was so bitter by now, she managed to convince her husband and separated from the joint family. Then she did her 12th, BA, MA and now, she is doing her PhD.

This woman, who was “arranged married” by the entire joint family that “selected” her on her “girl-seeing” ceremony, is now the family vamp and all DILs after her (including me) are not-so-subtly warned of the consequences of defying this family. In fact, when I got married, my ILs even warned me to be careful of her (as if she were kidnapping me for ransom) as she would “poison” my mind. My husband has mixed feelings towards her; he knows in his heart that she was right, but being a product of patriarchy, is unable to openly acknowledge or support it.

Anyway, today, I am vamp number two (yay!). Number two because I did not actually openly fight like she did, but I did my share of convincing and peacefully moved out, leaving no quotable evidence in my wake. Vamp, I am, because “I split the family and separated the child from his parents” (as if I was automatically orphaned the moment the thaali came round my neck) even though my ILs still don’t have proof that it was my intention.

My husband, though the main orchestrator of this evil secession plan, is also secretly worried about my reputation. However he is getting more and more relaxed with the comparatively liberal and non-patriarchal living in our new house, albeit slowly.

Three women, two vamps, one “arranged married”.

Now, let’s compare what really happens to the children of women who “cross heavens” and the children of family vamps.

When I compare my MIL’s family and Vamp no. 1’s family, the latter is clearly happier, more well-adjusted and peaceful. Their kids are a lot happier, freer, less frustrated and more comfortable with their parents than my husband and BIL were at that age. In fact, vamp’s daughter recently spoke on a public forum. Her father is thinking of enrolling her for journalism, as that is what she wants to do (despite the fact that she has a “good score” and can actually do engineering or medicine). She is bold, outspoken and is the only kid in the family who is openly not on speaking terms with FIL and grand MIL.

My husband, in contrast, was prohibited from joining a medical college (even after passing the coveted medical entrance) by his controlling and emotional-blackmailing parents. He was put in a random college and course chosen by FIL.

In fact, when he joined, he did not even know what his course was about.

It didn’t stop after he successfully finished his graduation and got a job. He got selected in Infosys with a very good salary to which FIL objected and forced him to abandon.

He finally got a job in a **** company. But being extravagant and alcoholic at that, FIL forced him to send his salary home with hardly anything left for his personal expenses. Please note that my husband was working and living in an expensive city. To manage this, hubby often went hungry. But the family cared a hoot, as this was what eldest sons were supposed to do.

What hubby went through in name of tradition is so horrible to even hear, it brings tears to my eyes even today.

I believe that arranged or love married, only strong, stable and brave women can have well-adjusted and happy families (if they choose to). The rest merely pretend. Scratch the family’s pleasant exterior, and you find it all rotten.

Sincerely,

Family Vamp Number Two

Related Posts:

“I had written an email about being a DIL in the joint family, I am happy to share my current state …”

An email from a Happily Married Indian Daughter in law…

To an Anonymous DIL

“I will never live in a joint family, it has its roots in patriarchy and benefits only men.”

27 thoughts on “A Guest Post by an Anonymous Indian Family Vamp.

  1. Love marriages especially inter religious can get worst for women if staying together with in laws.The bahu has to please more,is brainwashed and forced sweetly,subtlety, sometimes outrightly.to accept in laws food habits,lifestyle and many times converted.
    For people who think love marriages frees you from your own conservative upbringing can literally land up in open fire.
    Some men are totally different at home and completely different outside the house…so this can give nasty surprises when one gets married.

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  2. “I believe that arranged or love married, only strong, stable and brave women can have well-adjusted and happy families (if they choose to). The rest merely pretend. Scratch the family’s pleasant exterior, and you find it all rotten.”

    Thank you!!!

    Many people warn against arranged marriages without realizing that marriage itself is a huge, huge black hole for many women in our culture. It doesn’t have to be arranged in order for it to go wrong. It simply has to be that the family you marry into doesn’t have the same values as you do. There is no system in our culture that is favourable to women so long as families continue to harbour patriarchy and use emotional manipulation and black mail to get what they want. If you want a fair marriage, you have to stand up for what you believe in from the start and find someone to spend your life with that aligns with that mindset.

    Same type of reasoning goes for “arranged marriage” grooms vs. “love marriage” grooms. The argument in favour of the latter is that you get to know them as people better. But the fact remains that men in our culture are largely not taught how to be open and honest with the people in their lives, and especially the women they are in a relationship with. The person that you get to know as a individual often winds up being an entirely different creature in front of his family, and you often don’t get who you married. This can be the case even if you know the person for nine, ten years.

    Speaking from personal experience–my parents had an arranged marriage. But you would be hard pressed to find any two people who love each other more. It worked out nicely for them, because my father was raised by a single mother and he knows how women struggle and how strong and intelligent they can be. Same thing with my grandmother. She never questions my sister’s or my choice of career. It is her expectation that we make something of ourselves. Compare that to some people who write in to IHM about their love marriages that are falling apart, and you find out pretty quickly that it’s not the type of marriage but the mindset of who you spend your life with.

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  3. My impression of a “love marriage” into a family from a different community is:
    1. In laws preference would have been for their son to marry a woman from their own community.
    2. Failing this, they would love for the DIL from a different community to convert totally to their culture so they can show off about at least how amazing thier culture is that DIL has adopted it.
    3. Failing even this, if they have any sense, they resort to a benign form of “she is from a different culture…so what to do?” In fact, I have actually suggested to my MIL that she use this defense if questioned about my strange ways (such as lack of gold-wearing, lack of tea-serving abilities etc). She said, hmph, but I suspect she does use this line both to her relatives and to herself.

    In a way, if one can get to stage 3, being from a different culture can work in one’s favour, because “what to do, different background” at least is a face-saving way for in laws to explain to themselves and society the DIL’s refusal to conform. Whereas for women from the same culture, they are just like “haww how can this be?”

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    • Im married to a Tibetan and my MIL resorts to option 3 all the time. Works for me and her!
      Shes used it successfully when well meaning Tibetan folks urge me to drink salted butter-tea, learn tibetan cooking or tell me that a Buddhist monk MUST chose my daughters name…and Ive generally said “Umm…No thanks!”

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  4. I had my work cut out for me. My brother-in-law married an American in a court in the USA in the face of stiff opposition from his Punjabi parents (my in-laws) who eventually had to back down and accept her.

    All I had to do (as the junior DIL) was to be Indian. That was all the USP they needed🙂

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  5. I feel that women in love marriages do more to “adjust” to offset the disappointment and upset they caused their in laws because they are made to feel apologetic for going against the society in general.

    That said women in general are told to be subdued and adjust all the bloody time.

    “I believe that arranged or love married, only strong, stable and brave women can have well-adjusted and happy families (if they choose to).” – amen to that.

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  6. “People think that girls in love marriages do not pay due respect to in laws. My cousin had a love marriage in Jain’s and she is living a great life.(Our family is liberal). She was a non vegetarian and Kayastha by caste. She is an IITian but knows and has accepted every element of Jainism now (by choice). Her In laws boast about her in their community. Her daadi in law does’nt go anywhere without her. She is an ideal Bahu and loved by all.”

    This must have not gone down well with many feminists, this post is a living proof of that. Whats the similarity between feminists and those moral policemen we all detest so much ? Both try to force and also JUDGE people based on their morality and living style.

    So according the woman who wrote this letter, her MIL is “extremely timid, subservient and submissive”, why ? because she opted for a different living style than her, she became family oriented too early and never sought her own career so obviously she must be subservient and submissive and ofcourse “oppressed” by her husband and in-laws ? But what if it was her own decision ? What if she thought her happiness is in being the housewife or what if she was simply just not interested in her career ? No she can’t be, after all we feminists should only decide how and where her women’s happiness should lie, if she doesn’t understand then she is brainwashed by “patriarchy” or under the influence of her husband, family whatever.

    “I believe that arranged or love married, only strong, stable and brave women can have well-adjusted and happy families (if they choose to). The rest merely pretend.”

    The rest merely pretend ? Wow, the ridiculousness is just laughable.

    ” Scratch the family’s pleasant exterior, and you find it all rotten.”

    Perhaps scratch some feminist’s pleasant, it is not much different from taliban, the only difference is they had arms and govt.

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    • @bellie
      Other things asides, I am really surprised at this part of your comment:
      ‘“I believe that arranged or
      love married, only strong,
      stable and brave women
      can have well-adjusted and
      happy families (if they
      choose to). The rest merely
      pretend.”
      The rest merely pretend ?
      Wow, the ridiculousness is
      just laughable.’

      So you mean to say that weak, unstable and coward women can have happiness? Pray tell me how? I could use some tips (unless they require me to get myself busy with pooja-paath and forget everything else).:/

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      • “So you mean to say that weak, unstable and coward women can have happiness? Pray tell me how? ”

        No I didn’t mean that, what I meant was actually it is laughable how much ridiculous is the self-entitlement of the person who wrote that. Why you neglected the entire post ? In her entire post she wrote who those “brave stable” women are, so basically what she is saying is whoever met “her” definitions of bravery, stability are the ones who are happy, rest merely pretend. And thats ridiculous.

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    • The mangalore ‘culture upholders’ thrashed and molested women for choosing to drink/party. The khap-type moral police order people to be killed or raped for choosing the wrong ‘choice’. Can you tell me whether feminists have done anything remotely similar??

      That paragraph you quoted is not judgemental of a ‘choice’ because in-fact the bahu did not herself write in. Sounds more like an in-law praising her ‘transformation’ and assuming it’s a choice. How do you how it was a choice?

      If it is a choice, which feminist is stopping women from making this choice? Choice can only be made when you have more than one option available. That’s what feminists are working towards. For both men and women. The current rigidity of gender roles in India doesn’t offer much choice at all.

      Taking care of all household chores, being the one who is ‘given away’ upon marriage, changing your name/ diet/ clothing etc are not a ‘choice’ if no other option is available without serious repercussions. If this is genuinely a choice then you would expect roughly equal number of men and women choosing these things.

      For example, how many men do you know who have changed their first/ last names upon marriage? Isn’t it a coincidence that a vast majority of women make this choice and almost no men do? Do you honestly believe there are no social pressures involved?

      “So according the woman who wrote this letter, her MIL is “extremely timid, subservient and submissive”, why ?… she became family oriented”
      You know her MIL better than her, do you? What does being submissive have to do with ‘being family oriented’? Why is the FIL not automatically submissive then? Surely her family is his family too so he must be ‘family oriented’ as well! One can be family oriented and have no career and STILL be an equal partner. This is about gender roles being enforced, not about family Vs career!

      Why are you trying to hijack this into something that it is not? Why not actual listen to women who want different things from life if you care so much about choice?

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    • My MIL is timid and submissive and her MIL and my FIL made her this way ( she says ), She did not have a choice. she was the ideal bahu. her life was very pleasant when looked at from outside, she does not want to work outside and is a wonderful homemaker, waits on my fil hand and foot . ( she says she is expected too)
      She never expected us to be adarsh bahu and kept telling me not to quit my job.
      when i asked her why , she said she didnt have a choice. she loves being a homemaker but she also understands she cannot leave and so suffers the horrible FIL in silence. it all comes down to choice.
      I think thats what the LW is trying to portray. no choice means you make do with what you have and paste a smile on your face like my MIL.
      She always say had she been educated with a way to support herself, or put her foot down when she got married, she’d have walked out long ago.. 50+ yrs living with regret , god know for how many more, i feel suffocated just thinking of that. such is the life of many women from liberal, well to do, educated families.

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    • Do you sincerely believe that the MIL in question had a choice to not be that subservient and submissive? You really don’t believe that she was somehow apologetic for having “stolen” a son away from his parents. If you want to truly stick to your convictions, you are free to but don’t be shocked when everyone else calls you out for it.

      You do realize that what feminists are fighting for is not for all women to work outside the home. We totally get that there are women(and men) who’re natural homebodies and are much happier taking care of their home. But if someone is totally not cut out for that, they must have the choice to go one way or the other.

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    • “I believe that arranged or love married, only strong, stable and brave women can have well-adjusted and happy families (if they choose to). The rest merely pretend.”

      Did you simply skip the line where I said that she has been suffering domestic violence for more than 30 years? Still laughable for you? Is it still MY DEFINITION of brave?

      Nowhere have I implied that working women are the only strong persons. My mom is a housewife, but she doesn’t take shit from people hands down. She has her own financial setup, she has hobbies and most importantly she has A LIFE, where she can say no if and when she wishes to anyone’s request, if she cannot fulfill it.

      She is a homemaker, not a servant. But not many women live with that liberation. My MIL doesn’t. BTW I have also written than she sacrificed her health happiness and everything. Not even a masochist/sadist will be happy in sacrificing their health and happiness. That is a very basic human need.

      She is MY MIL. I know because I have talked to her at length. Your blunder was in ASSUMING that I WAS ASSUMING.

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    • LW wouldn’t have any problem, and in fact would be happy for the IITan DIL if she is really as happy as it looks on the outside. She did not say that settling into a cozy marriage is the opposite of happiness. No. All that happened was that some parts of the comments like “boast about her” and being called by ILs as an “ideal bahu” sparked a deja-vu , and her mind flashed back to her MIL who was called the very same things & was boasted about in the same way, but was actually not doing all that by choice (she knows her MIL better, so please don’t claim that LW is blindly assuming that she had no choice just because she was a non-career women. LW did mention that initially she was starry-eyed thanks to sweet tongue or whatever of her then fiancee. She has acknowledged that part & is not hiding/assuming things here. So obviously from her everyday interaction in the family, she has got to know what happened to the dreamy bride later.)
      So, since the symptoms mentioned in the comment were eerily similar to her MIL’s external life, she has posted this – an alternative ending to the story of an “ideal bahu”. Perhaps it could be that some really happy that way, LW isn’t denying it, but only warning us from jumping into conclusion. And no where is she claiming that only career women are brave & have a happy life.

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    • I think the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.

      Here’s the thing. Every adult has to take responsibility for the choices that they make. So if woman X chose to throttle her dreams and identity and force-fit herself into the narrow mould that her husband and in-laws created for her, it’s all good. It’s her life, her decision.

      If there is woman Y who chooses not to be like woman Y, then her choices and her decisions should be respected equally.

      Yet in our society, only women who conform to a narrow, unhealthy, toxic notion of womanhood are praised.

      Women who rebel and defy tradition are critisied, snubbed, isolated and shunned. Why?

      Also, you’re welcome to live any way you choose. You cannot dictate how others live their lives.

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      • Very good and logical comment Neha.

        “So if woman X chose to throttle her dreams and identity and force-fit herself into the narrow mould that her husband and in-laws created for her, it’s all good. It’s her life, her decision.”

        What MIL did, is ultimately her choice. But, if you want to live in a joint family or have any relations, you better make sure your DECISIONS don’t affect others’ lives. My MIL’s decision has affected everybody today. That is why it is totally wrong and unfair.

        We still live in the constant fear that MIL will get beaten up if FIL is irked.

        Every time my husband declines FIL’s unreasonable demands, MIL tearfully calls up and breaks down on the phone. My poor husband is left with no peace of mind at work. This happens for every single DAMN thing, say, not spending a weekend with them or so. If he chooses to ignore her, she calls up other relatives, who in turn bombard my husband with calls and rebukes. Poor hubby finally gets down to his knees and forced to comply.

        Because my MIL is too weak to stand up against her husband, my husband, in order to protect her from getting beaten, has invested in a large house we can barely afford. My jewels have been mortgaged for this house. And, we don’t even live in it. FIL, in fact, staged a one-week dharna and hunger strike to get us to agree for buying the house. MIL cried and pleaded everyone to do it, lest he abuse her again.

        But when we try to actually rebel against FIL and tell him not to abuse her, MIL herself stands in our way. She says, this is her personal life and it is none of our business. And, that we are supposed to respect the patriarch.

        I tell you, it’s absolutely fucked up.

        On the contrary, being self-reliant doesn’t have these side-effects on others.

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  7. First of all, you are not a vamp at all. You are an intelligent and smart woman who did not take any shit and moved out. More power to you!

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  8. Yep, a woman cut off from her individuality and birth family (and ideally doing everyone’s share of chores) = ‘great bahu!’

    A man moving out from the family home = ‘the bahu stole him from us’

    What would they say if the man was cut off from his individual choices, made to change diet, name, religion etc, made to do chores for everyone and generally cut off from his parents? Unthinkable!

    Some ‘culture’ this is! Not hard to see who it favours.

    Kudos to you for seeing through it and looking out for yourself. One must look out for their own wellbeing. Depending on external factors to achieve this can never work. Especially when those ‘external factors’ are brainwashed to want the opposite for your wellbeing.

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  9. What is the feminist view on an old man taking a much younger woman as his partner? Or the other way, a Gold Digger female “taking” an old man..?

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  10. “She tried every trick in the book and aborted twice. Finally, they pressurized her so much, she had to relent and finally had two kids ”

    I can’t admire a woman who thinks abortion is a trick to irk in laws. If you don’t want kids, use contraception. And I fail to see how being vamp is a good thing. The choice is not simply between being submissive and submitting others.

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    • “I can’t admire a woman who thinks abortion is a trick to irk in laws.”

      I haven’t advocated that anywhere or said that it is what ‘brave’ women do. Besides, she did this not to irk her ILs but because she wanted to educate herself and get a job before she had kids.

      “If you don’t want kids, use contraception.”

      You have to consider her situation. She had only done her matriculation and was married into a totally orthodox family. Also, at that time, female contraceptives were not quite easily available or popular, or a woman in her community and upbringing didn’t really have to confidence to go out and buy them herself. Heck, my family never even used to allow women outside the house without an escort; how could she have bought contraceptives even if she wanted to? Besides, her husband was clearly not on the cooperative side.

      So, yeah, she had enormous odds and she somehow tried to fight them – albeit in a flawed way. She is not brave because she aborted. She is brave because she finally got her education and career – despite the family situation and an initially uncooperative husband. At that time, this was a big thing.

      “And I fail to see how being vamp is a good thing. The choice is not simply between being submissive and submitting others.”

      Well, I guess you pretty much live in a bubble. For families like this, even a woman with the slightest hint of individuality is a vamp. I, for example, never actually created any unpleasant situation in the family, even a minor one. The only thing I did was not to get pregnant immediately (we married in 2012), going to work, wearing what I like on my personal outings (office, going out with husband/friends etc. When I went out with ILs, I would wear leggings-kurti, salwar-kameez or saree for some occasions) and finally moving out of joint family (that place was 40 kms from office) to someplace closer to our offices. I did my fair share of “adjustment”, even while getting what I wanted. Do you see any hint of “wrong” or “vampish” in what I did? Isn’t this my human right?

      Why the “vamp” then? That is not a name I have given myself. That is what my FIL and grandMIL actually refer to me behind my back. If being a normal, non-self-sacrificing human being is a ‘vamp’, then so be it. I take pride in being a vamp.

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    • // I can’t admire a woman who thinks abortion is a trick to irk in laws
      Pardon me, where is it said that she did so to irk inlaws??? She did so because she found the environment way too uncivilized (abusive men, alcoholics, horrid MIL, lying & cheating ILs who promised to let her study but did a volte face after signing the marriage papers, much to her shock) to be able to raise healthy, civilized children. As an aside, had the ILs done a similar cheating job with anyone else other than a DIL, they would have been sent behind bars. Even after they backtracked on their promise, I suppose vamp#1 (or any young, innocent woman in the same place) would have first resigned to her fate & hoped for the best. As clearly mentioned, the abusive & alcoholic men & overall indecent household were the ones that told her that things would only go worse from here and forced her to take the decision.
      If she was a lunatic who aborts just to irk someone, she definitely wouldn’t have been able to bring up her children as the happy, shining stars they are now. Simple!

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  11. Parents should never interfere in the marriage relationship of their children. In India there is so much of emotional blackmail in the name of love and respect for parents. When parents take a step back and allow their children take their own decisions they earn respect. Joint family concept would not work in this modern age. There are lots of misunderstandings and resentment when you live together.

    Like

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