“I seem to have a lot of similarities with the villainous daughters in law of India’s favourite serials.”

Sharing an email. 

Dear IHM,

Hi. I would like to say that your blog has clarified a lot of things in my life, but the truth is that your blog has thrown me (and I am sure many many others like me) into confusion.. and that is the best part about it. That you make me question about whether I have the right to ask more… about whether what has been seen as my “selfishness” is just a plea to be understood and liked for myself.
I thought of myself as a passive feminist, (if there is something like that) hardly a revolutionary, till I was 24 and married. Till then I took equal work, equal pay as a matter of course, assumed that always regardless of gender stereotypes whoever can do the best job will do it, that merit will always make its own way, and that if you have a career then your skills inside the home are not very important etc. With both parents working, my father buying groceries, clearing the table after dinner, making breakfast early in the morning for us, sharing in a lot of household chores etc was taken for granted. 
Then marriage happened(incidentally it was a love marriage) and it was brought home to me that I am a revolutionary. Initially I insisted on maintaining separate accounts for both of us, I expected that my parents and his would be treated on par (not the “now you are part of our family, and your parents are the girl’s parents attitude), then I expected that since I was working and contributing equally financially that we would share all the household chores as well, I insisted on getting a cook rather than cooking myself (I tried for the first 6 months and felt I couldn’t do it any more when I ended up spending all my time in the kitchen on the weekends) with a very demanding career I was unable to keep the house to the spic and span requirement of my husband (please note that it is still neater than a lot of other houses, but not up to the level of my husband’s house where my mother in law, a homemaker prides herself on her cleanliness). When my husband traveled, rather than packing his suitcase for him I assumed that he would do it and let me know if he needed anything, however later I realised that this was taken as a sign of my disinterest in him. I refused to wear the Sindoor, I do not believe in the mangalsutra but after a lot of gibes at me, I agreed to wear it.(I still get to hear from my husband about how”I do not appear to be married”).
Do not get me wrong, my husband is a very very nice person, genuine, friendly and affectionate. I am frequently told that I am lucky to be married to someone like him. However he is also traditional, conservative and has… let me say rock solid old world values which come into frequent conflict with my rock solid new age values as I am sure happens in a lot of marriages today.
Anyway, I realised to my horror sometime ago that I seemed to have a lot of similarities with the villainous daughters in law of India’s favourite serials not so long ago… leading me to have a lot of sympathy for these “villainesses”. 
When thinking about the stereotypical villainess in the soap operas that enter (or used to enter) our rooms on a daily basis a few thoughts occurred to me.
I have to confess, back in 2000 or was it 1999 when Tulsi Virani made an entrance into our homes I too was an avid watcher.  A few memories of the non sanskaari bahus back then (they usually got what they deserved by having their men have extra marital affairs with sanskaari women)–

The villainess. She enters wearing western clothes, revealing or non revealing. Even after marriage she retains the same clothes, eschewing the sari and the heavy jewellery that the sanskaari bahu wears. Since she is a “career woman”, she does not do seva of the elder members of the family, preferring instead to head to her workplace.  There she is the typical ambitious b*****, talking down to men, insisting on getting her own way, being overbearing and bossy to ensure that the job gets done. (In more extreme cases she may even pull down an aged worker to show how un-respectful she is).  Of course she is good at her work, another sign of how hopeless a daughter in law she is. She resents strictures on her behavior by the elders of the house frequently arrives late due to pressures of work and tends to treat her husband more as an equal than the holy pati- parmeshwar, sometimes even asking him to set dinner on the table or clear something up!! When her sanskaari jethani/mother in law tries to advise her on the importance of worshipping her husband and serving the family, that for an Indian woman the sindoor on her forehead is something that is more important than her life she is curt to the point of being rude. She may insist on staying apart from her in laws (or at least try to convince her in laws), travel on official trips without her husband and even interacts freely with male colleagues or friends.

The transition of the villainess into the sanskaari bahu is complete (usually after she has received her comeuppance with a slap from her husband or an extra marital affair) when she appears at 6:00 am  in the morning in the kitchen, dressed in sari and jewellery, head discreetly covered to take her father in law his first cup of tea. She offers the tea; falls at his feet and her transgressions of daring to have a life outside the home is forgiven! Credits roll!
Bollywood still perpetuates these images with regularity… the movie that comes to mind immediately  of course is the abolutely regressive, stereotypical Cocktail. 
A couple of years ago, one of the leading stars of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna said in an interview that Rani’s character did not have an excuse for the extra marital affair… meaning that SRK’s character did… since his wife was career oriented, successful, upfront and made no bones about her husband’s failures? Does anything justify an extra marital affair?
Please note, I have stopped watching these serials for the past few years, so I sincerely hope that the above is outdated and obsolete 🙂
If you do end up putting any of this email on your blog and are including any of the personal information in the first couple of paragraphs, do keep it anonymous, since unfortunately 🙂 I am not that much of a revolutionary.
Thank you for your blog!
Best Regards
* * *
Related Posts:
New women in old marriages – Careless Chronicles
How to be a Sanskari Bahu – Careless Chronicles
* * *
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Adarsh Bhartiya Nari – Ideal Indian Woman… !!!

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Bjigya shared this Hindi poem being shared on Facebook, here. “...this reaffirms everything we protest against on this blog...”

Here’s a rough translation.

*** आदर्श भारतीय नारी (??) ***
*** Ideal Indian woman (??)***

सर पे सिंदूर का “फैशन” नहीं है,
No sindoor is applied because they think it is not the fashion.

गले मे मंगलसूत्र का “टेंशन” नहीं है !
They want no tension of wearing Mangalsutra

माथे पे बिंदी लगाना “आउटडेटेड” लगती है,
They think wearing a bindi on their forehead is outdated

तरह तरह की लिपस्टिक अब होंठो पे
सजती है !
Various types of lipsticks now beautify their lips

आँखों में काजल और मस्कारा लगाती हैं,
They apply Kajal and mascara in eyes

नकली पलकों से आँखो को खूब सजाती हैं !
They enhance their eyes with artificial eye lashes
मूख ऐसा रंग लेती हैं की दूर से चमकता है,

they make their face up in ways that it glows from afar

पर्फ्यूम इतना तेज की मीलों से महकता है !
Perfume so strong the air is fragrant for miles

जो नथ कभी नाक की शोभा बढाती थी,
The nose-pin which enhanced the beauty of their noses once

आज होठ और जीभ पे लग नाक
Is pinned on the tongue or lips now

को ठेंगा दिखती हैं !
And cocks a snook from there.

बालों की “स्टाइल” जाने कैसी –
कैसी हो गयी,
What a variety of hair styles

वो बलखाती लंबी चोटी ना जाने
कहाँ खो गयी !
That long braid- where is it lost?

और परिधान तो ऐसे “डिज़ाइन” में आये हैं,
And attires have come in such designs

कम से कम पहनना इन्हें खूब भाये है !
They prefer to wear as little as possible

आज अंग प्रदर्शन
करना मजबूरी सी लगती है,
They feel compelled to expose their bodies

सोचती है इसी मे
इनकी खूबसूरती झलकती है !
They think that is the way to look attractive

पर आज भी जब कोई भारतीय परिधान
पहनती है,
But even today when she wears an Indian outfit

सच बताऊं सभी की आँखे उस पे ही अटकत हैं !
I will tell you the truth, every eye is attracted to that!

सादगी, भोलापन और शर्म ही भारतीय
स्त्री की पहचान है,
Simplicity, innocence and shame is an Indian woman’s identity

मत त्यागो इन्हें यही हमारे देश
का स्वाभिमान है !
Do not reject them, these are our country’s self respect!

यदि अब भी हम सोच रहे है कि ये आने
वाली माताएं हमारी आने वाली पीढ़ी में
‘भगत सिंह या नेताजी’ पैदा करेंगी, तो हम
गलत सोच रहे हैं,
If we are still thinking these future mothers in coming generations will produce Bhagat Singh or Netaji then we are thinking wrong,

पश्चिम की नक़ल करते
करते हम पूरी तरह अंधे हो चुके है……

Aping the west has blinded us completely….

जो अब
लाइलाज बीमारी का रूप ले चुकी है……!!

It has now become an untreatable illness….!!!
॥ ईश्वर इन्हे सद्बुद्धि दे ॥

II May god give them wisdom II
जय हिन्द, जय भारत !!

Jai Hindi, Jai Bharat!!

-I guess India lives in many centuries – those who still live in 1950s find the choices of those who live in 2012 difficult to understand.

 – That long braid- where is it lost?

– If long braid is preferred,  I am sure more than 80% of Indian women still wear their hair in a braid or a bun. Hair styles have changed for convenience and ‘stylish hair’ is no indication of one’s lack of values anymore than one long braid indicates Indian values.

– And attires have come in such designs

Everybody wears what is suited for their requirements, tastes, budgets, life style etc – it’s difficult for those who are not directly concerned to understand. I once met someone who thought it wasn’t possible for a woman to wear anything but a sari infront of her in laws.

– They prefer to wear as little as possible

Wouldn’t advice Bollywood style trying to teach women to dress like good Indian women – real life ‘eve teasers’ get Muthalik-treatment.

– They feel compelled to expose their bodies

We need to appreciate that we can’t lay the rules others live by, not even if they are women.

– They think that is the way to look attractive

But even today when she wears an Indian outfit

Tell you the truth, every eye is attracted to that!

They are probably not interested in dressing to look attractive to everybody who has an interest in their personal appearance. Their wardrobe, their money, they shop.

-Simplicity, innocence and shame is an Indian woman’s identity

Women are people – just like everybody else. Some are simple, some are complex, some are forthright, some are subtle, some are naive, some have had the opportunity to learn that naivete makes them vulnerable, some are easy to manipulate, some might even be manipulative.

If they have grown in families that respected them, they would be less likely to be ‘ashamed’ or apologetic about their power to make personal choices.

Confident citizens, men or women, aware of their rights and responsibilities make a strong nation, not naive notions of ‘ideal’ men and women.

If we are still thinking these future mothers in coming generations will produce Bhagat Singh or Netaji then we are thinking wrong,

Indian women (and men) are more than future dads and moms. Also, if a future generation of productive, law abiding citizens is needed, then the society must do it’s bit. How? For example, don’t make them choose between parenting and self reliance, because they might be forced to choose self reliance.

Aping the west has blinded us completely….

Aping anybody without thinking is not a good idea, not even one’s great great grand parents.

An email: He says what am I expecting out of this marriage if I cant even make him happy.

I received this email this morning.

Hi
I chanced upon your blog few days back and have been reading all the posts since then…
I should say reading all these has helped me a lot. I would like to take some help from you and all readers whether am going in right direction. I got married 2 years ago. We like each other initially because we found we both had the right mix of modern and traditional beliefs, but now i feel he is very traditional and i am not sure i want to do many of the things that is enforced on me!. As soon as we got married, he insisted that i wear the bindi all the time since otherwise he feels like he is dead!! I rebelled for a few days but later thought whats the big deal and I wear it now all the time. Then slowly he started saying that am wearing boring clothes at home and he doesn’t feel interested because of that. He restricted me from wearing nighties so I started wearing loose comfortable pants and shirts. Even that he doesn’t like and said I need to wear well fitted clothes… so I actually used to come back from office, change into something which he might like, be fresh, wear lipstick etc etc when he comes back home… then he started complaining that am not wearing saree even occasionally… so I started doing that…now its like he says why are you not wearing saree everyday at home? you are a married woman… you should behave like one … not just wear pants,skirts which is not looking sexy… I have told him that i feel as a sex object if i do all that… but he says whats wrong with me trying to behave in a manner he would like… he says what am i expecting out of this marriage if i cant even make him happy…
Another thing is I pray to god in my mind and its usually when i retire to bed…but he wants me to put flowers to god every day, light the lamp and pray and put kumkum and go…after a lot of fights i actually started doing that also everyday… but if I forget even a single day, he shouts and screams a lot saying he has done me a favour and he had to put the flowers himself… I said how can it be a favour…what’s is wrong in his putting flowers to god on some days?? He says  how can I even question him like that…he is only angry that I didn’t pray to god that day..previously his mother used to pray for him and he used to get whatever he wanted …now he wants me to do that for him since am his wife!!!
Overall the last 2 years i feel I have become very subdued and submissive…. every few days he keeps telling that I should do better…. I should have done this or that… first 1 or 2 months my cooking was not good… he basically said without even knowing cooking how can I be a good wife… then slowly I started cooking very well.. and he said just cooking alone is not sufficient… you need to manage the household… so everything from bill payments, taking care of maids, driver, our house related problems-plumbing, electricity etc, filing all  docs etc.. it came to me… I did that as well… then now he is saying am just doing all tasks only and am not showing him any attention!! Every 2-3 days he keeps saying I don’t show him attention, he had so many expectations, am not even trying to make this marriage work!!! I am just tired of it all…. I don’t want to be a “good” wife anymore!! In fact I want to say go to hell… I need freedom!
Am I right or wrong??
– Not a good wife.

Sindoor, Tali and Mangalsutra.

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On the day of my dad’s funeral, somebody pointed out that it was cold and my mother should have a shawl. I got up to get one. A well meaning relative followed me. I picked a maroon shawl. The well meaning relative muttered, “Red won’t be appropriate, take the beige one.” I assured her maroon would be just fine, knowing I was older than her and my mom was in no state to object.

Later mum mentioned how another acquaintance had pointed out one Mrs S, who was so distraught after her husband died that even a year afterwards; she hardly ate unless someone persuaded her to eat. Perhaps she needed a maid for a while. Join Yoga classes. Get out and meet people, anything to lift her spirits, and help her get on with life. Instead she was used as a subtle example of good widowhood.

A friend who is originally from Nainital lost her dad. She was expected to request some male cousins to perform the funeral rites. She was also expected to watch her relatives take away coloured saris and shawls from her mother’s gorgeous collection. She did neither. Some jaws dropped. She performed all rites and her mother still wears sindoor, and is still complimented for her lovely taste in saris.

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When I visited my mum later, she explained, “If I don’t use lipstick, my lips feel dry…” All her life she drank tea or water before applying lipstick, because (unlike her daughters) she hates leaving lipstick marks on teacups. What made her think she needed to justify her use of lipstick now? I reminded her how as a 68 year old grandmother; she could be a role model for the younger women she interacted with. How proud I was when I told well-meaning relatives, “My 68 year old mother wears sleeveless/lipstick/pretty colours/diamonds… ” etc.  I didn’t even want to mention how dad never cared for such customs.

Old age can be empowering in our culture. Suddenly the same old opinions become respectable.

I love putting sindoor (vermilion) on the forehead and filling the hair parting with it. We even have jokes about how one can intentionally let some of this gorgeous red powder sprinkle on the nose because that indicates a loving husband. But all this is only for parties and occasions. In daily life I don’t even wear a bindi or a nose pin.  Most of my friends don’t either, though some wear mangalsutra inside their shirts. (Inside because they realise that generally these symbols don’t go well with western clothes)

Sometimes a rare well meaning acquaintance would point out ‘bare arms‘ (i.e. no bangles).

Another one once said one should either always wear sindoor or never.

Why?

Because it wasn’t a fashion or a style statement.

No? Then what was it?

Why do women wear sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, bichia, tali etc? To show they are married. Why do they need to ‘show’ or announce they are married?  (Please don’t bring love into it, because evn the most unhappily married women wear these). And then why are they expected to take these symbols off when their spouse dies? Do they stop being married?

Manusmriti has answers?  But of course! [will link or write another post later]

Bollywood has answers too!

Those who follow this traditionally should know what the symbols imply. For those who wear sindoor and mangalsutra like they wear lipstick and a pretty neckpiece these become what they should remain – just some pretty ethnic adornments.