So are the men offended?

Believe it or not, there are many who think the Star Plus anthem is great because the woman is being allowed to work, to have a girl-child, fly kites, jog, wear track pants, dance, blow kisses at her husband from her terrace; her husband finds her worthy of his attentions, her in laws don’t object to this, (because) her mother in law is not abusive, and her family cares to celebrate her birthday.  What more can a woman ask for?

And in return of all these privileges (which the rest of the family always had anyway) all she has to do is be a never tiring, ever smiling, uncomplaining super woman.

GB explains why it’s okay for a woman to not be perfect and still expect to be loved.

I’m really tired of seeing women who don’t get tired. Or pissed. On some days, I just wake up feeling pissed. I make carping statements, I invite fights, I act like my hair is on fire. In short, I make life difficult for people around me.

But I also believe that I’m effing worth the trouble.

I don’t need to be an angel to be wanted or loved. Because the people around me are not angels either. And I put up with their drama because I care about them. So why in god’s name do I have to keep smiling … in order to be the perfect woman? (Click to read the entire post.)

Preeti Shenoy wants to know,

“Why is she so happy that she has to wake up before everyone else while that lazy lump of her husband sleeps blissfully and then she also has to give him his towel in the shower between cooking her children’s lunches!” (More on Buzz)

Amrita of IndieQuill wonders,

What’s the kid going to grow up thinking – “My mom works and cooks and cleans and dances and sings and is nice to all the birdies in the sky. My dad… um… he drinks tea and goes to work.” Way to be a hero to your kid….


Seriously, it’s men who should be offended.

I wonder what the men think.

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To read my interview with ‘Spark’ click here.

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When a daughter refuses to go back…

Sita and Geeta worked for us when we were newlyweds. Geeta was eight, Sita a little older. We offered to sponsor Geeta’s education but their mother said she had seven kids to raise and she needed the girls to work.

We found the kids adorable, bought them trinkets and treats, but we let them do the dishes and clean our homes.  Then we moved to another part of the city and lost all contact.

Around six years later I was in-between-maids and buying veggies when a young woman in a colorful sari and bangles greeted me with a huge smile. She was Sita. She said it was God’s wish that she found me, she needed help.

She moved into our servant’s quarters and pleaded with me to speak to her parents and let her stay there and work –she wanted to leave her husband. She said they were married three months ago, she was afraid of him, he had a bad temper and he had threatened to kill her if she tried to leave him, he also threatened to chuck her out of his house. She didn’t care, she was sure he’d kill her if she lived with him. She hated him. She feared her in-laws also. She had been making similar appeals to other families she had worked for. She looked afraid.

Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her. No assumptions that she is behaving like a spoiled brat who has never learnt to adjust with her in laws. No insisting that she would ‘get used to it’. No talk about her ‘sanskar’ or her duty towards her parents. No demands that she must try to make the relationship work.

But I was inexperienced then. I asked her how she was going to manage on her own. I asked her what she did to anger her husband. I wondered if she liked another man. (As if that was the perfect reason to send her right back to her husband). Basically like everybody else I assumed she couldn’t possibly know what was good for her. I thought her parents (obviously) would want the best for her, and would do what was best for her*, even if they had married her to a much older man when she was less than seventeen.

Her parents did speak to her husband but this angered him, he insulted them too. Within weeks her in laws wanted them back in their joint family home in another part of Bombay, they left.

We moved to another city and I forgot about her. Such stories are extremely common; most girls learn to live like this, and their marriages ‘work’. Happy or not, they manage to keep the system of semi-forced marriages going. We Indians are grateful to thousands of Sitas who live with some violence and abuse. Their sacrifices are appreciated.

What is happening in Afghanistan hurt because it is not unfamiliar? Even though we are conditioned to treat anything common as ‘normal’.

Around five years later we were back in Bombay and one day I called a malish wali. She saw me and started crying. She was Sita’s mother. She said Sita had died of third degree burns. She was making tea and the stove burst, and her sari caught fire. Her in-laws did not inform the parents until two days later.  While dying Sita begged her mother not to leave her three months old son with her husband. She told her it was not an accident; her husband had poured kerosene on her. She made conflicting statements in her dying moments. This seems to happen all the time.

But I read, “If it’s an accident, you can almost always escape the fire. It’s not really possible to burn all of the body,”

Everybody blamed the parents. Her father died of grief within six months of her death.

Sita’s husband died a year later, of something that made his body turn black as coal. Her mother said god punished him.

She sent the grandson back to his paternal grandmother when he was three years old.  She wants him to be close to his paternal grandmother so that he does not loose his father’s share in property.

I felt little sympathy for her, although she brought a happily married Geeta to meet me. Nothing had really changed for her; I feel she would still do the same if any other daughter of hers were to come pleading for support.

And we have millions of parents like this taking life changing decisions for their helpless daughters.

And this doesn’t just happen in the lower or uneducated classes.

To an Anonymous DIL

DIL = Daughter in Law, MIL = Mother in Law

Dear Anonymous DIL,

Your comment in response to this post was heart breaking. There’s no telepathy needed, you get close to ANY Indian DIL living in a Joint Family, and she is dying to confide in someone about how unhappy she is, how she is frustrated with the way her husband behaves, how oppressive it is to be totally dominated by her in laws and her husband. It makes me both, angry and sad.

Many women say he changes when his parents are around. He becomes stiff, as if he feels guilty he is close to his wife! He can go out alone, no problem, but if he has to go with his wife, he must take permission.

It can be a stressful life for an average girl who wants an ordinary life – and things so many of us – and all Indian men, take for granted – some free time, a satisfying job, some friends, some recreation and most of all, some FREEDOM. Instead a lot the time and energy is spent in fuming over real and imagined insults, there are misunderstandings and resentments, competition, rivalry, jealousy, backbiting…and terrible frustration. All avoidable! Men cannot even imagine it because they never have to go through it. And their wives need not either, if they understand and support them.

What aggravates the trauma is that the girl has no scope to grow, to be creative or original because newer and better ways are totally condemned, anything can only be good if the elders have been doing it. Not a very healthy atmosphere, but we try to pass all this off as ‘inculcating of family values’ and ‘samskars’.

Many daughters in this country are raised to be just good daughters in law, they grow up prepared for a tough life in a joint family, still it is unbearable for them!

When my daughter was born I was advised to drink FIFTEEN Kg of DESI GHEE! Thankfully I had the common sense (and good luck) to smile the advice away. I was also advised not to drink water to avoid gaining weight. I had faith in PREGNANCY by GORDON BOURNE which protected me from all such advice. Just a normal healthy diet was what I followed. In a joint family, this, which affected no one as much as me, would have offended many!

What does one do if one is trapped in such a situation?
Why not create an id and/or start a blog your husband does not know of? Yes, I am suggesting traditional Indian style deception, you know Krishna, Drona and Yudhishthir have used it. You DEFINITELY need a space of your own, if nothing else then just to rant. If you had an email address I could have emailed this reply! No body’s family name and honor will come to any harm if you don’t use you own name. And you will get to speak to like minded people! And frankly if a DIL speaks about her in laws, in India, it is nothing new or scandalous, I am yet to meet a girl who lives with her in laws and does not complain about it. WHY don’t we see girls more than willing to live in joint families? Don’t we care how they feel at all? Why are so many of them complaining? There has to be something wrong with this system? When I was younger I thought they were being unaccommodating, selfish etc but over the years I realised that this system is totally wrong and it gives too much power to some humans over the lives of some other humans. And what kind of power! It is so outrageously unjust and the worst part is, this control is couched in ‘sanskar’.

For those who disagree with me, try and imagine a boy doing what a girl is expected to do…obedience, sacrifice, going nowhere without permission, living under supervision and control, expected to forget your own parents, no independence – everything. Boys, can you live like that? I know I won’t wish it on an enemy.

Imagine, an adult is required to take permission to go and shop, to watch a movie, to cook a favourite dish, and WORST to meet her own parents/friends! A friend of mine, who is a doctor lived in a joint family for a while. She said everybody was nice, there was no criticism or nitpicking, “but when I go home after a tiring day, sometimes I just want to pick a Pizza on my way home, take a shower, wear a long, loose T shirt and flop on my bedroom floor, watching TV and eating Pizza.” But this LUXURY she could not afford. Her husband who came back home with her everyday could though. She had to politely supervise the dinner, when he could say he did not want to be disturbed because he was tired. Doesn’t it sound more a case of if it’s MY child he is tired, if it’s SOMEBODY ELSE’S child she is cranky! Her husband sometimes went out alone with friends, when she wanted to do that there was the same taking permission protocol. When she was offered a job in another city it was understood that she would refuse. She was needed at home, why else did the guy get married? But let’s ask, WHY did this girl get married?

Why shouldn’t all young couples live in their own houses? I know many couples who are taking good care of the parents on both the sides, but they live in their own house with their young children.

Anonymous DIL, it is not right that he supervises your blogging. If he was fair about it, you could let him read it, maybe advice (not command) like an equal or a friend, but no more. This is just not right because you are not a child, you are an adult, and you have a need and a right to interact with the world. This supervision is control of the worst kind, because it is done so self righteously, using excuses like family honor, values and tradition. In India family values value everybody except the DIL. I am rambling because I feel so helpless! Why can’t the rest of us see how wrong it is!

Anonymous DIL, have you tried talking about this to your husband? Your in laws are not alone, so actually whether you stay with them or not, will not really affect them, unless it becomes an ego issue. (Don’t let it become that!). And it will mean so much to you! After enjoying living alone here with you, is it not possible that your husband will realise that it’s nice to have a home of your own? Do you show him how much you love living life like this? Maybe seeing how happy you are will make him see it isn’t such a bad idea to live on your own? Convey this to him; let him know you do not want to live in a joint family again. Do you fear his reaction? Still do it.

If nothing else works TAKE UP A JOB. Getting out of the house for a few hours every day can be a huge break. You are qualified; don’t waste your education over so called ‘petty issues‘ which can actually cause a lot of pain. But what if the family does not allow you to work? I think this is one thing you will have to fight for. Put your foot down, find a job. And keep what you earn. Buy gifts, smile, be pleasant BUT keep your job and your money. I believe they will get used to it.

I hope you wipe your tears and realise that there is nothing wrong with your wanting some space, And decide to fight, I feel you can and will find positive solutions.

Hugz.

Also read No Jeans for an Indian Daughter in Law.