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.”

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

Sharing an email.

Subject: Thoughts on how my life improved_Publish this to thank all the readers for their support.

I had written an email about a year back about being a DIL in the joint family:

An email from a DIL living in a Joint Family: Should I adjust or should I leave?

I am happy to share my current state and how the quality of my life has improved as a whole.

We (Hubby and me) have slowly worked things out and turned the tide around  the house. As discussed in my previous post, I was struggling against the gender discrimination in my marital home.

There came a time when my parents returned from US (after visiting my sister) and visited my town as well, on the way. I informed my inlaws about them being in town. But against my hopes they dint bother inviting them home. This hurt me badly. My parents on their part sent lots of US chocolates for my inlaws even though they were uninvited to their own daughter’s home. The inlaws accepted the sweets without even a  thank you. I embarrased them further by telling that my parents have enquired the health of everyone at home and sent their regards for the same (in a sarcastic way). Their attitude started having a profound affect on me and my hubby and we realised my shoddy existance in the house, the scant respect for my parents etc

This attitude of theirs made us (hubby and me) more united,more rebellious.

Finally there came a time when my dad visited my town yet again and had to stay in a lodge (because he was unwelcome at my place). I found it ridiculous that the in laws,who have taken loads of dowry from this man, the same man who even provided the plates and spoons you eat in everyday, is not even eligible to share a tea with you and meet his daughter. Hubby said enough is enough and slowly and gradually we stopped participating in the inlaws kitchen and started our independent life upstairs. We cooked what we wanted, we ate out when we were lazy, slept when we felt like and wore what we wished.

It was awesome and liberating. Of course there were many awkward moments with the inlaws, where the whole family had food in one kitchen and just us in another.

But it was worth it. The inlaws were cold initially but gradually warmed up to us. It was a clear case of them doing things wrong and facing the consequences

We would meet and greet them, would visit them and talk to them but never get lured by their hints of asking us to come back and depend on them

Eating together can in many ways enable inlaws to control their child and child-in-law’s life.  Every time we wish to eat out, we need to inform them, every time we come home late(for dinner) we need to inform them, we need to participate in the kitchen chores and this makes us stay before their eyes and less time together/any other activities of our choice.We are bound to a routine and little chance of exercising any deviation from the set routine. If after a tiring work week we wish to unwind by going out for breakfast,a spontaneous long drive later, a fun cooking activity of trying new recipies etc are discouraged by this eat together culture. Basically we can’t do anything unplanned, exciting and thrilling.

Eating a snack outside becomes a crime. Not to mention rising early on weekends to cook and slog out for the whole family. Cooking (for 7-8 people 3 versatile meals a day) becomes the primary activity of life.

We can as well meet without having to compulsorily ‘eat’. The family was very rigid in terms of the ‘bahus’ slogging and everyone else enjoying. Father in law proudly claims that the family has to eat atleast one meal together a day. If that is the case why does discrimination creep in, in terms of who cooks that one meal. Why does he (along with his son/daughter) shy away from cooking? Why only eat together? Why not all cook together, work together and then eat together. I was considered the house breaker who changed the son, took him away and broke the family.

But by moving out of the kitchen, I have rediscovered myself and really enjoying my marital life. It takes one firm strong step. My funda has been ‘be polite’ but ‘be firm’. Learn to say ‘no’ in a smiling way.They may blame you , say all sorts of nasty things but it is only so much they can do. Rise above it, sometimes without reacting to it, in a calm and composed way. Do what you believe is right, but be nice to them.They also have their own insecurities.They are also scared of the society .They also will not go out on a war with the son cause they also need him and value his relationship with them. But they ‘try’, try to see how much the controlling can happen ,and raise the bar each time we are quiet.

As a result of this, my whole family has visited our home multiple times.

They also go visit our in laws and have a cup of tea with them. We also hinted to our in laws that if any uncomfortable vibes are passed during any of my family visits then we may leave the town or shift to a neutral home where both sets of families are equally welcome. Fearing this, they treat my family well. When my family visits, we all visit my in laws first, have a cup of tea and then move on to my floor where my parents spend their rest of the time.

Every mature educated couple unfortunately goes through a vicious cycle after marriage.The cycle begins with the parents of the boys trying to play around with the bahu by placing expectations on her shoulder, inch by inch, level by level, and see how she deals with it.Usually in India, the bahu is new,shy,coy bride and is testing the waters so does not resist initially.This encourages them and her discomfort increases. At this time she is not even on a completely comfortable platform to discuss these issues with her husband because they are also still getting to know each other. Mutual trust is still not strong enough for her to liberally complain against his own folks to him. When she finally does, it is a bit of a surprise for him also, he has never seen his parents in bad light before, never felt his parents can be wrong. But if he is a mature guy, he slowly sees all the discrimination, all the wrong. He takes time to come to terms to it, validate it, and agree to act against it, but things start going out of hands by than. And his struggle to gather guts to fight his parents, the actual showdowns,the emotional blackmail are very stressful for the couple, especially him. This is because for her, she knows her wrongdoers easily, but for him its his own people,who have always wished him well till he gets married.The people who behave irrationally are your own people, you have to fight for justice and risk losing all ties with them .

Once the showdown happens, ultimatums given/received the marriage and also the relationship with the in-laws reach some stable state.

All this I have written about is true if husband is a fair,mature guy. I don’t even want to think what happens otherwise.The sad part is,every couple goes through all this, reinvents the wheel each time. Most in-laws try to fit old marriage templates to new modern women. There is struggle, friction as a result. Its high time new customs, relevant for today’s youth are popularised.

We need powerful mediums for that.The religious leaders (who are of this generation) should speak out about such things. The media also needs to grow up to cater to the new lifestyle. I don’t see a single popular soap where the bahu is working in a challenging profession and the Indian families adapting to it. We need to telecast everyday lifestyle changes in positive light.This would solve the major stress problems every couple invariably goes through. I hope to see such soaps/films which educate the society to rise to the modern day demands rather than spewing patriarchy nauseatingly.

IHM’s blog  is the first step which has achieved this purpose in a fearless way. Thanks IHM for your efforts in solving the major concern the Indian youth is facing.

Related Posts:

An email from a DIL living in a Joint Family: Should I adjust or should I leave?

“This would help people realize that happy Indian families like this also exist.”

An email from a Happily Married Indian Daughter in law…

An email: “But my parents, fearing the society and their reputation begged him to take me back.”

Say it Loud, Say it Clear – Dew Drops

Stay Hungry. Stay Oppressed. – There and Their