“My story is not an extreme case of abuse or discrimination unlike some stories shared on your blog, but it makes me deeply angry and resentful nonetheless.”

Sharing an email.

Hi IHM,

I have admired your blog posts for over 2 years now and the fact that you have taken up the issue of gender discrimination especially post marriage which is a very under talked, under debated, swept under the carpet kind of issue.

I wanted to share my story which is not an extreme case of abuse or discrimination unlike some stories shared on your blog, but it makes me deeply angry and resentful nonetheless. I am fed up of being told that I have a perfect life compared to many others, that I am making a mountain of a molehill and fed up of the low expectations from the boy and his parents.

Mine is a love marriage and we met 5 years back and tied the knot this year. My husband is a really great guy who was always respectful and and had great regard for a person’s private space and agency. But,like most indian guys he’s devoted to his parents in an illogical manner i.e. everything they say must be carried out and he cannot make them unhappy by arguing, debating even if they are wrong.

I was aware that his parents are a lot more conservative than mine, but was not bothered that much as we are staying in a different city from them. But, what happened during the 3 days we stayed after marriage with them makes me very resentful and incapable of having a decent relationship with them.

For innocuous comments like ‘I don’t know the tv in your house, I am only familiar with the tv in my house’, I was given 18th century replies like ‘This is your house now, you have to sit, eat and drink here’. It made me feel like a bought slave whereas I am as educated as my husband and doing very well in life financially and otherwise. I consider myself strong, confident and independent and was not used to this kind of humiliation.

I went outside their house to bid goodbye to their relatives and was shooed inside by my MIL like cattle because I was not wearing the customary wedding bangles(chooda) and so what will the neighbours say!

I chose to ignore all this ,but the breaking point came when I was going to go to my parents house the last night(they live in the same city) and my MIL demanded that I return to their house the next day and go the airport for my honeymoon from their place as supposedly this is my place now. I just nodded and made an excuse the next day that I am not feeling well and hence going to airport from my place only. Usually, I do not take this kind of approach and I am direct and frank, but decided not to take any chances of any fight erupting.But it still did. Not giving a damn that their son is going on his honeymoon and that it is the best time of our lives, they scolded,cursed him on the way to the airport and for the first time in our relationship he used abusive language with me and behaved like a typical MCP, momma’s boy that I never dreamed he could be. I fought back and asserted that this is not the person I married and if he continues like this, our marriage will be in serious trouble. Since then, he has not behaved like that again. He actively participates in all household chores, in fact does a bit more than me,he’s being the model husband. But, his parents will not get off my back. His dad started talking aggressively to me on that the phone, dictating when and on what occasions i ‘have to’ come to visit them. They have the typical boy’s parents attitude that what they say, I have to do, no choice and it makes me crazy angry and determined not to do listen to even the basic requests.

My parents were planning to visit us this month. When they came to know, they started a crazy race out of the blue to book their tickets for a week prior to my parents’ visit as they are the boy’s parents, they have to come first to our place.

All this has made me disgusted and my husband knows this. Even though he doesn’t say anything, I wonder if resents my attitude to his parents. Also, I have no idea how to deal with his parents when they visit us. Normally people who I don’t like, I totally ignore and feel no obligation to interact with them. But I can’t do it in this case. I also have a very short temper and very less tolerance towards medieval attitudes like women must change their name, personality, parents blah blah blah after marriage. Please advice me on how to deal with such regressive people who are supposed to be your family but do not treat you like a human being but like an acquired property. I do not want to hurt my husband too and I am getting sucked into a web of resentment and anger day by day.

Thanks for caring about the lives of anonymous people.

Regards,

A

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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

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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.”