Display of respect for those who are considered higher in social and family hierarchy is a part of Indian culture.
The members who are lower in social and family hierarchy (also the less powerful) are required to display respect.
Obedience, isolation, faith, tradition, guilt, emotional blackmail etc are used to enforce the display.
A missing display could be a challenge. If not immediately controlled, it could embolden the rebel enough to question the inequality.
Which is why neglecting to touch feet of those who are entitled to have their feet touched is often taken very seriously.
Patriarchy can’t survive without controlling the lowest in the social hierarchy.
Touching feet can also be used by non-believers, to falsely convey that they believe in Patriarchal Hierarchies of Respect.
Would you consider the issues in this email trivial? What advice would you give to the email writer?
Sharing an email. [All emphasis mine.]
Let me tell you that I googled for something on DIL’s (to know if there is something wrong with me or my in-laws) and luckily saw your blog and read a lot of stories of Indian DILs. I loved your blog and read the stories to boost up myself whenever I am depressed.
After reading so many stories, I also wanted to share my story after an incident at my in laws. I don’t know it is small or big.
Let me tell you the incident:
I got married last year to a family friend. My in-laws family was known to us. I am the choice of my MIL. She wanted a modern- traditional girl.
It’s almost one and half year after my marriage, and I feel like I have no good quality in me.
There were many taunts on my clothing, cooking etc etc. I kept quiet, never uttered anything. I used to cry in my room at night over such issues.
There were so many things of which I will definitely write to you in detail.
The incident I am talking about is about touching feet.
From the very first day in my new home, I myself touched feet of both my in-laws and said good morning and this is how it used to be every day since then.
My in-laws believe in Radhaswaomi, while my husband doesn’t and neither do I. He has a small mandir in a corner where he used to do his pooja and me too after marriage. It was weird for me to say Radhaswaomi (in which I don’t believe at all). I felt like someone was forcing me and I was not at all prepared to follow this.
I was even asked “subah uthke babaji ki aage matha tek liya karo” (Wake up in the morning and bow your head infront of babaji). I only used to do this for them. I was not connected to this thing and was uncomfortable. But I did this just for the sake of respect to my in-laws.
If they wanted their DIL to be like this, they should have married their son to a girl who believed in “Radhaswomi”.
After few months, on a weekend I forgot to touch their feet as I woke up little late. I literally forgot. She behaved very weird after that in that weekend. In weekdays we used to get up around 6 and face each other in the kitchen and I always used to touch feet but it was weekend and somehow I forgot. I didn’t know the reason of her weirdness though. On the following weekday when I touched her feet, she said ” Paer na chua kar, Good morning na bol, koi baat nahi, radhaswaomi bol diya kar” (Don’t touch feet, don’t say good morning, it’s alright, say Radhaswami). I tried doing this also but somehow couldn’t. It was difficult for me still I did with a half-heart. You know it’s very difficult to do such a thing when your heart doesn’t allow you. I am showing respect by touching feet and saying good morning in the morning. Now this they don’t like this, they want me to greet them in the morning as they want.
She complained to my husband about this and said that I am angry with her and that’s why I didn’t touch her feet. And when my husband questioned to me about this, I have no answer as I was not angry with her for any reason and just simply forgot.
Still I touched feet everyday, and whenever by mistake I forgot, she complained to my husband and he used to ask me, “How can you forget this thing?” We used to fight over this single issue (my husband and me) most of the time.
Days passed, with a lot of other things, taunts on other issues. I kept my mouth shut. I used to cry in my room at night. I never uttered a word in front of them, never showed disrespect to them. I shared my grudges with my husband only. He is nice, loving, caring but he can’t say anything to his parents even if they are wrong.
After 10 months of marriage, I had a miscarriage (pregnancy of 1 month) and was asked for one month bedrest for which I stayed with my parents for two weeks and after I came back , my FIL was hospitalised, and etc etc. And I stopped touching their feet somehow, it happened automatically and I never planned or thought of not touching their feet.
After that I completely stopped it thinking it’s been almost a year now, and if I forget any day then she will complain to my husband and we will fight over this single issue again and again. It’s better to leave it now. And I thought I am also a member of the family now.
Though I never forgot to touch feet on any ‘occasion’; or whenever I went to my home for a stay, and when I came back.
Everything was going normal (though other issues were there), after 3-4 months she complained to my husband about this.
He asked me.
I said, “I have stopped doing this now for quite a long time, and you know the reason behind this. I don’t want to start it again.”
Then again after few days, she complained to my husband. Now he fights over this with me, always asks me to wish her in the morning. She said, “If she doesn’t touch feet, then she should say Radhaswomi”.
He again fought with me and then again she complained, He said to his mom then, “She cant say ‘Radhaswomi’, you cant force her to say that when I also don’t.”
Then they came up with, “Ok then, she can say good morning”.
My concern is, there are 4 members in the family, the 3 don’t wish each other in the morning and why is there a rule for the 4th one? When I used to wish Good morning, then they had a problem with that and because of that I stopped saying “good morning”.
Though I tried for my husband’s sake, one day I came out of my room in the morning and both my in-laws are having morning tea. MIL’s back was towards me, I said Good morning, my FIL responded but she didn’t utter a single word. I felt like a fool. She has ego problem. (my husband agrees with this).
Even after so many things I tried, but nahi hua mujhse (I just can’t do it). I don’t know why but when someone forces me to do something , I can’t.
Now, what she did recently. She called my Husband’s Aunt (who is also known to my family really well). She complained to her that I don’t wish her and said I don’t work at home at all. (which is completely false) That Aunt called my husband and said, “Your mom called me she was really distressed as she (the DIL) doesn’t wish her everyday in the morning and she doesn’t do household work.”
My husband was in office, he just said, “She does house hold stuff. I will talk to her.” But my husband never talked to me about this. He just asked me to wish her in the morning and again a fight over this issue happened. I had my own reasons and I didn’t want to start it now.
It is disgusting to force someone to ask for respect in this way. They can’t see I never misbehaved, I always obeyed them, etc etc.
When I got to know that she discussed this with this Aunt and I went into depression, I cried the whole night. That aunt is also close to me and I had a really good impression on her. And moreover MIL warned me just after marriage not to share any ghar ki koi baat (family affairs) with her as it won’t look good. I always wanted to share my problems with my in-laws with this Aunt but I never did as I had been warned by my MIL. And she insulted me by calling Aunt and complaining about me.
I told my husband that I knew about this but I never told him the name of the person who told me the discussion of MIL and Aunt (that person is very trustworthy and very close to me).
For 3-4 days I was pissed off, I alone know how I spent those days. On the following Sunday, my husband discussed this in front of me and MIL.
She said she never said I didn’t work, koi aag laga raha hai. (somebody is trying to create trouble) I am 100% sure that she said these things to this aunt. Then she said, “ye bhi jaake mere baare me bol de usko, vo jaanti hai main kaisi hu.” etc etc. (She too can go and talk about me to that aunt, she knows how I am.)
Just after this incident they left for a month on a planned trip abroad, to stay with my brother-in-law.
I am really pissed off with all this now and simply just don’t want to stay with them. But I have no other option.
What wrong have I done ?