Three things I would like to see changed in Karvachauth celebrations.

I believe some of our festivals need to evolve or else they preserve  and perpetuate something we cannot honestly believe in.

What is it that you would like to see changed in Karvachauth?

1. Would it be nice to see Karvachauth as a celebration of love? Of Mutual-love, care and well wishes.

This TOI Pledge is a step in the this direction.

“Once upon a time, a woman fasted all day to pray for the safety and longevity of her  husband. Today, we know this festival as Karva Chauth. Here’s your chance to show your wife she means as much to you, as you do to her. The Times of India invites it’s male readers to follow their wives’ example and observe the fast with them this year. Take the pledge.  And watch tradition take a turn. Will you keep the Karva Chauth fast for your wife? SMS KC <space> YES or NO <space> Your Name <space> Your City to 58888.”

2. Like Sharukh Khan in DDLJ  many young couples celebrate it together (some married young couples too).

I think Karvachauth will eventually be seen as the random, hoodlum-Sena-Safe- Valentine’s Day all over India.

3. I would also like it to be inclusive.

Why does love fun (and everything else that goes with karvachauth) need to reserved for some women?

Well, you cant give me Haldi Kumkum, she said.

Arey, why not, I asked her.

Well, because I am a widow. [Please read: Of Haldi Kumkums and Vethala Paks – R’s Mom]

So do you know of any men who are fasting with their wives today?

I have blogged about how I celebrate Raksha Bandhan and Diwali.

More related posts:

When there is so much one can do with one’s money, why buy noise and pollution?

How to kill an animal’s instinct.

Diwali photographs.

Raksha Bandhan


Raksha Bandhan…

Raksha Bandhan was not celebrated in the traditional way at our place. Rakhis were tied and gifts were exchanged and both the kids were reminded to stand by each other all their lives, specially when we were no more.

Indyeah sent me this link yesterday – on Raksha Bandhan day. I made my son read it aloud… (Hugs Indyeah)

‘So often the death of a sibling is dismissed, unrecognized or even ignored. The assumption is that perhaps it is not as devastating… Yet, our siblings are one of the longest lasting relationships we will ever have.

Siblings define our past, are key in our “evolution” of our identity, and they know all of the intricacies of our families. Our siblings saw us in the best of times and in the worst. There is no other relationship like the sibling connection. In an instant your world changed when your brother or sister died. In an instant, your entire family changed forever.

The impact of losing a sibling has many layers and hits on many levels. You might feel guilt that you are the one that survived, you may feel confusion about what role you now play in the family, you may be angry that your family has changed so drastically, and the sadness you experience can be indescribable.

My daughter’s best friend A tied rakhi for Son today. A. knew how we celebrated Rakhi – how it meant siblings standing by each other and not brother ‘protecting‘ the sister. (Tejaswee joked about having to exchange gifts instead of only receiving gifts.) A favorite, older cousin (26)  took Son out for lunch after that. Yet another  dear cousin called from UK and  wished him… once again I am reminded that support from family and friends makes a tremendous difference. Thank You.

From an Anonymous DIL, Wife and Daughter.

This post was selected by BlogAdda as one of the top posts for this week’s ‘Spicy Saturday Picks’.

Blogadda's Spicy Saturday Picks

I am publishing this comment and my response to it, from ‘How Important is it for a girl to get married?’ because I agree with Ramit when he says, ” IHM This topic that has been raised by Anonymous, needs a separate post in itself so other girls can relate to it too and get a few pointers to stand up. It’s high time they need to stand up… Unbelievable that India has put men on the moon and our mother in laws even after migrating to London are still living in the 15th century! Utter crap!

Here’s the comment.

Dear IHM,

I am a 24 yr old newly wedded girl. got married 4 months ago and moved to the UK with my husband. i know this is a problem every indian DIL faces and I guess I am falling in to it too. my family is very liberal and they do not really believe in following all the customs that the entire world harps on. My inlaws on the other hand are super duper orthodox and for them every custom under the Sun is important no matter how inconvenient it is for the other person. My MIL like any son’s mother thinks that I am the luckiest girl on earth because her son decided to marry me. because her son is in the UK and he is the only one in their family to be living abroad, whereas in my family, every second person is in some part of the word other than India so to me its not a big deal at all! in fact i refused to marry this guy because he is not in India but since everyone in my family insisted that they know this guy very well and I got convinced after speaking to him a zillion times that he is genuinely good at heart.

Now my MIL has a typical characteristic trait of pointing out everything. Even if you miss a small safety pin that was supposed to be given to her or her daughter from my parents’ side, she does not waste a single moment in pointing it out and making it obvious that she is unhappy because the “custom” has been broken. Her daughter is the world to her. I am the world to my parents too but she is a little weird. During the entire wedding, she was not anywhere near us. Kept insisting my SIL stays with us all the time coz she is the daughter of the house. And made sure my SIL and her husband were served everything properly. She does not care if anyone else is not properly taken care of, but with her daughter no chance! So much that once they had their invitations ready, they sent it to my SIL first got her approval and then bothered to send it to my husband coz his approval was not necessarily important though he was the groom.

Somehow, the wedding went on very well with the help and support of a lot of family and friends. Now when I was moving to the UK, I’d left all my jewelry, silver and gifts at my parents’ place. Somehow I was not very comfortable leaving them with my inlaws coz my MIL tries to find fault with everything she sees. In some piece she will think the design is not good or she will say that we should never buy gold at a jewelry shop but make sure we get it made by a goldsmith etc etc. So since I would not be around, I did not want my mom to listen to all her nagging everytime she met my inlaws. Even though my mom asked my MIL if she wants her to get all the gifts and all and leave it here. I did not want her to ask about the gold though.

My question # 1:

Is it not my choice about what I want to do with my things? Do I have to seek my MIL’s permission for everything I do to “my” stuff? Each and every piece of that jewelry has been bought by my parents. None of it is what my inlaws gave me. The stuff they gave me is with me here. But do I have to take her permission before deciding what I want to keep with me and what I don’t? My parents will definitely not need my jewelry. They have enof of their own.

Now coming to it, she has spoken to a common friend of my family and his family recently. She has very conveniently told him that she has no idea what I have done with all the silver items (including 2 sets of thali and glass gifted by my parents) I had and all my jewelry. She tried to convey that she thinks I have given even the thalis and all to my parents and they are happily living on it. The thalis and glasses are as a matter of fact with me and with her proper knowledge coz she was pissed off when I said I want to take them with me. My whole point was I did not see any sense in keeping them safe at home when we could make proper use of it everyday over here. )

Question # 2:

Is it right on her part to speak like this about me and my parents in front of a third person? Is she not kind of insulting me and my parents?

Now the more interesting part, my SIL’s husband does not have any family of his own. His parents passed away years ago and his elder brother and all are only for the sake of being there. So all that my SIL had are at her parents’ place. So she has a valid reason to leave everything with her parents. Now for everything my MIL has one excuse that since my parents dont know all these customs, she is trying to tell them the customs.

I had no intentions of having any ill feeling towards my in laws but this is making me very very sad. I wept all of yesterday and as soon as my husband came home, he realised something is wrong with me. He managed to get me spill out everything (and i am cursing myself for it), spoke to his mom, my mom and tried to convince me that his mom is only trying to tell us the customs and all. He is otherwise very understanding. he knows how his mom has a very weird character and tells me the same thing but when it comes to this particular issue, he says it was a casual talk between my MIL and that common friend and he took the liberty to call up my parents and speak to them about it. What I dont understand is if this ‘casual talk’ was a month ago, why did that man call my parents now and speak to them? I am a new DIL and so I am not supposed to question anyone. All I am supposed to do is keep quiet and see my parents being nagged every now and then because they did not some custom about a piece of haldi or a saree that was supposed to be given.

Question # 4 :

Is that all my parents are supposed to do all the time? Keep giving things to me and my husband? They do give us a lot but is there no break to it? Do they have keep giving us gifts all their life? They have already done enof for us, is it not our turn to make sure they have everything they need and care for their wellbeing (including his parents). Is a piece of jewelry and a set of clothes the only way to show they love us and care for us?

Question #5:

My parents still dont have an account of how much they might have spent for my wedding coz his parents wanted a grand ceremony because they were not taking any dowry. I’d already told my parents that I dont mind staying single all my life but I don’t want them to pay a single penny as dowry. I am beautiful, educated, had a very very good job and I am self sufficient in all ways. There is no need for someone like me to get married by giving dowry etc. My husband also was very particular that he did not want anything as dowry. So since there was no dowry in question they wanted the event to be a grand one. My parents wanted the same thing and so they made sure everything was remarkably exotic much against my wishes coz I dont see the whole point in spending so much money on something which lasts just a day or 2. Is a simple ceremony not worth enof to get married?

I am soo disappointed now that I can’t express it in words. I wanted a family where human values are more important than customs. Thankfully, to my husband all that matters is human values and feelings but I am very disappointed by his parents coz I realised that for them customs play a higher role than human values.

I wanted to spill it all out coz I am just not able to take it anymore. I am a regular reader of ur blog and all I could think of was you when my mind went completely blank.

Please help me.

Anonymous DIL, Wife and Daughter.

* * *

And my response.

Anonymous DIL, Wife and Daughter I was thinking maybe this should be published as a post … it’s such a typical situation!
At 24, and when you are married, you should be left alone and not suffocated with such controls!

I am amazed women achieve so much despite such cruel and horrible circumstances. Just be brave, remember that you are absolutely justified in wanting to be free of such controls, and you are NOT WRONG in expecting your parents to be treated with respect and basic decency. Malicious gossip against a DIL’s family is not something a girl can be expected to respect. And what you do with your jewelery is upto you, even if you do sell it or give it away she can only express an opinion – no matter what our conditioning tells us, it is wrong to to try to control another adult’s life. She is also trying to control her adult, and married, son’s life.

The sons grow up and are conditioned to believe that since mothers only want what is best for them, it is fine if they also want to monitor their entire lives.

This is where Joint Family and patriarchy are so wrong.

And don’t feel guilty if common sense tells you this is wrong, just because somebody is older or is a spouse’s parent, they do not automatically become right.

Expecting your parents to keep spending is wrong; discussing them with anybody, least of all mutual contacts, is not going to build bridges. Discussing you is immature and cruel, and I think if they really care for the son’s happiness, then it is essential that his wife is shown respect… your MIL does not seem to realise that no man can be really happy if his wife is treated like this. Happy wives make happy families.

Don’t feel guilty – you are right, and tell your parents to be stronger, I always say, Strong parents have happy daughters.

Don’t give in to such controlling, keep your jewelery where ever you prefer to keep it.  And quite definitely not with your MIL. Not even if it means a lot to her (Why should it mean a lot to her?). Not even if it makes her feel you love her like your mother. Not even to please your husband. Keep it pleasant but be firm. Maybe just smile and change the topic.

You could tell your mom in law or husband that even if this is done in every next house, you do not like such indulgences in petty gossiping. Convey that you may find it difficult to show respect to  your mom in law unless she (and he also) show the same respect to your parents.

No harmony is possible unless their is justice. Bitterness and oppression can not bring peace. Be tactful, remain polite and respectful, keep your cool …. but do not accept such treatment.

I wish you (or any human) didn’t have to go through this, but since you have to …

Also ask your husband to remember you also have the same feelings, how would he like to be treated EXACTLY the same way by your parents? If parents love their children, shouldn’t they be nice to their spouse too…?

He cannot keep speaking to his mom on your behalf – she will start calling him a JKG. he just has to very clearly let her see that he will not allow his family to treat his wife shabbily, when a husband stands by his wife, nobody from his family bothers her.

Take a look at this post,

No jeans for an Indian Daughter in law.

Two more posts by Unmana you may like to read,

In-Law Advice: What Husbands Should Do

In-Law Advice: What Wives Should Do


Response continued,

@Anonymous DIL, Wife and Daughter, Of course human values are more important than any customs … in fact the only purpose of all customs is to bring us together and make us happy, ‘customs’ by themselves are of no other value, don’t get bogged by all these thing that you forget that these are the best years of your life, remind your husband also.

I fear sometimes elders use customs to show they know more or know better … I feel bad for them, maybe they feel you know more in some other ways so at least here they can show some superiority .

Newer customs will be brought in by newer generation … we  will  change with times, so will the customs.
You will be fine, be brave … hugs, God bless, IHM

Where ever a blogger goes… ;)

Today was the last day of Surajkund Crafts Mela, a colourful celebration of crafts and cultures from all over… I love the ambience and the festive feeling there.

Everybody looked happy 🙂


Pink continues to be the Indian male’s favourite colour 😉 😆 😆


I couldn’t resist bringing this Valentine’s Day gift for our moral police 😉

First there were men and women walking hand in hand!  😯 (Took this picture to capture the beautiful ‘darwaza’)


And then there was this lingerie display 😉 🙄


How I wish a blackened face could save us from this ashleeltaa 😉


A traditional Rajasthani dance…


And Shehanshah Akbar e alam looked like he needed a hair cut 😉


We ate gobhi , mooli and aloo paranthas with radish-pickle and kabuli-chana. Two women on the next table thought (aloud) the pickle was bland. Here’s how they thought it should be made 😉

Radish, peeled, sliced and cut into 2 inch pieces. Ground mustard seeds, red chilli, turmeric, salt and oil mixed, kept in sun for two days.

Try it?

Mothers and daughters.

My mom visited me the other day and the first thing she asked was to watch ‘Tere Mere Sapne’ at 1 pm. I groaned aloud and explained that with Airtel IPTV, she could watch any missed shows later also.

“Great then I also want to watch the last night’s show I missed yesterday!”

So my mom caught two shows I strongly disapprove of, one after another. We ate lunch while watching a group of women circling a peepal tree, praying for their husband’s long life and listening to Savitri’s story.

Savitri snatched her husband back from Yama, the god of death. (Even if we don’t hear of it, I am sure her husband would have done the same for her.) She asked Yama for a hundred sons… (and not one daughter) so he had to return her husband so she could have those hundred sons (no daughters). Now the entire nation seems to follow numerous examples like this, and everybody wants sons.

Gandhari in Mahabharata also asked for a hundred sons. Didn’t they miss having daughters? Sons are fine and good, but isn’t it fun for women to have life-long friends in their daughters?

I saw a friend transform. She had problems at home, and she didn’t seem to care how she looked or lived. She dressed conservatively, wore drab colours and seldom stepped out of her house.

Then her daughter grew up 🙂

During the last few years she took the mother with her to the gym, got her a haircut, both got a music teacher, they go for movies and shopping together,  and the daughter gradually changed her mother’s entire wardrobe. This happens with many women. Grown up daughters become best friends and allies. My friend’s problems are still there but now she has someone who understands and stands by her. She also looks visibly more confident with her new look.

When we were teenagers, my mother used to say she had heard of mothers being close to sons, and wondered why nobody said anything about the amount of fun mothers have with daughters.

My favourite poem by Usha Pisharody says it so well!

For a Daughter I Wish I’d Had!!!

By Usha Pisharody

Audacious smiles

laughter ringing clear-
warm hugs and
little sudden pecks on my cheeks!
A whirlwind of a girl;
now here, gone in a flash!
endearing entreaties-
unquestioning love!
Long long hours of girlish talk-
boys, books, heroes and men!
Life, love, trust and THAT!
Confiding giggles-
while ogling the boys…;)
summing them up, then
walking by in disdain!!
Cheering her up
when sadness strikes-
being there for her…
just in case, she asks!
Holding her hand-
without her knowing..
as only moms can do;
though she, being mine,
would know it too…!!!
Sharing myself with her-
my fears, my joys
my secrets, and my ploys-
Ending the day in warmth
so wonderful
so fierce and filling..
Wishing each mother had
a daughter..
so like mine!!

And a little girl is 19 now.

Can dowry ensure happiness and security for a girl?

Wealthy parents of an educated daughter thought they could ‘buy’ her respect in her marital home.

The boy’s family complained about the gifts at the engagement. They spoke of better ‘offers’ for the boy. The girl’s parents, fearing a broken engagement, agreed to pay more. The tantrums and complaints continued. They continued to comply. How strong and secure did such compliance make the daughter feel?

Her parents conveyed:

# Her parents were helpless. The groom’s parents were all powerful.

# There was no life after a broken engagement.

# A girl must get married. A girl must get married by a certain age. And then she must stay married.

These parents didn’t see what was so obvious. There was every indication that this family was more interested in dowry than in their daughter. The girl went through four years of hell, had a child and tolerated an extra marital affair. Now the husband wants a divorce and she is fighting him in court. She fears the stigma of divorce would affect their daughter’s future.

Her parents’ fears laid the foundation for this hell. Meeting dowry demands reveals a desperation to see a daughter get married and stay married. This can and did make the groom’s family feel they could ‘dictate terms’.

Another beautiful, intelligent and educated girl’s parents seem to feel they could not afford a not-abusive groom.  She was married, with all their savings as dowry, to a man without a regular job. Again there were indications of greed and verbal abuse after the engagement, but the parents ignored them all. She is raised to believe she is better off than many girls who are married to worse guys.

Her parents are proud of their conservative ‘values’ (sanskar) which forbade this daughter from interacting with men lest someone outside their community ‘ruins her life’. Her mostly unemployed husband finds fault with everything she does and calls her a ‘fool’. He thinks he has a right to control what she wears, when she wakes up, if and what jobs she picks up, what Television serials she watches and when and how often she meets her family.

Waiting till they found a suitable boy who did not demand a dowry, or self reliance for the girl were not seen as options here.

Another girl was married with a good dowry to a man who needed money to get his sisters married. The girl did not fit the standard Indian idea of beauty. Her parents wanted to see her ‘settled’ and thought it wouldn’t be possible without a dowry. The boy’s family thought he sacrificed his happiness for his sisters. The boy resented the girl and although he needed the dowry she brought, he felt exploited by her wealthier parents (but not by his own parents).

Since the girl’s personality, her wit and intelligence were not taken into account in these ‘negotiations’, what happiness could that dowry find her in this union?

Sometimes the groom’s family magnanimously agrees to accept a girl with just a rupee (as a token, in lieu of dowry). But this would mean the dowry is a boy’s right and a marriage without dowry is a favour to the girl. What does such a marriage or such a ‘favour’ do to a bride’s confidence? Isn’t there a chance that she might be expected to be grateful?

I know of one father who refused to honour a bad custom by giving even that rupee as token. The daughter felt pride not shame or gratitude for marrying  without a dowry. She was raised to believe she deserved happiness, success and all good things in life and must strive for them. The couple live happily today.

When a girl’s family gives dowry they are clearly saying that the groom is doing their daughter a favour. They also start a vicious cycle of demand and compliance, and leave themselves open to extortion – subtle or direct. Possibly former air hostess Neha Chhikara’s parents made this mistake when they gave 15 lakhs and then again 10 lakhs in cash to their son in law. The 23 year old took her own life on the first of January.[Link]

I agree with Editor, Techgoss, “Someone should start a campaign telling women that if their hubby/hubby’s family wants dowry they are walking into such life threatening situations.”

It is a myth that dowry is unavoidable. The fact is those girls who put their foot down find themselves in happier situations. A confident girl who knows she is worthy of being loved for herself would not see dowry as an option. In the end the world (and her spouse and his family) sees a girl the way she see herself.

A girl who is treated like a burden at home is more likely to accept abuse by her in laws or watch her parents fulfil dowry demands. [Read more here.]

Indyeah tweeted me the link to this inspiring article about girls who dared to throw out greedy families demanding dowry at the last moment.

This howlarious video I found on Alankrita’s blog also talks about ‘totally insufficient dowry’.

If someone dislocated your jaw…

If someone dislocated your jaw in one of the many violent beatings they gave you, how would you like to try to live with them and win their love?

23 year old Neha committed suicide on January 1st. Her family alleged that her in laws “used to beat her up...” [Link] “Once she was beaten so badly by Dalal  (her husband)  that her jaw got dislocated and she also lost her job as air hostess,” Atul Ahlawat, Neha’s cousin, alleged.” After losing her job as an Air Hostess, she found a job on the Cruise liner where her husband was working. [Details in the video below.] Allegedly he continued to beat her here and one day she just couldn’t bear it any more and killed herself.

I am trying to understand what kind of compulsions could make any parents let their child go back to a spouse who allegedly dislocated her jaw. What did they say to her when they asked her to go back? Would they have said the same thing if the child being beaten was a male child?

Why was it so difficult to let this financially self reliant adult walk out of what they allege was an abusive and violent marriage? I have blogged about this in ‘When a daughter refuses to go back’. I can never understand why we don’t trust our daughters when they say they are unhappy… why would we rather they died than walked out?

Here’s the translation of what the mother has to say. I know other Indian mothers who would have said exactly the same thing. My response in red.

“My daughter tried her best. (At best the beatings would become less frequent. The fear and mental abuse will stay. At best physical pain, indignity, embarrassment, humiliation and the lies to cover the bruises will become a part of her life.)

She did not want us to face any kind of unhappiness. (What about her unhappiness? Could she say the same thing for her parents?)

Neha was being tortured mentally. Physically too. (Why didn’t she have the confidence to walk out and save her life? Did she have no faith in her parents’ love and support?)

She told me this many times but I kept explaining to her that it will all be alright after a while. (It never gets ‘alright’, the threat of violence is always there and there is always a risk of injury and death)

The last time when she gave me the phone to speak to Ankit (the son in law) Ankit did not speak to me. And I heard Neha’s pained cry… like someone had hit her or something… then the phone was disconnected.” (This is a violent crime happening, and just because the criminal is a son in law does not make it okay. The parents should rush to the daughter’s side and if she has been brought up with any self worth and if she  trusts them, she will come back with them.)

I also feel violent men sense that the wife’s family would consider an odd dislocated jaw or broken bone their right as husbands. Nothing can be more encouraging for any criminal.

Dowry and Domestic Violence (DV) might lead to death by beatings or by suicide. Counselling and campaigns should be aimed at not just the victims but also the victim’s parents who see Domestic Violence as a domestic matter not a serious crime.

Can Dowry be compared to Inheritance?

My father’s sister describes wistfully, a silver Lemon Set her mother gave her when she got married. She  resents  that her mother in law passed the Lemon Set (along with other things) to her husband’s sister in her dowry. This silver Lemon Set had originally been a part of my mother’s dowry.

I ask my mother if she didn’t mind her things being taken away like this, but she says this was very common. A girl’s dowry traditionally belongs to her husband’s family.

There is a custom in some places where the trousseau is critically examined by the in laws and the girls in the new family pick whatever they like from the new bride’s possessions.

This sort of thing does not happen with inheritance. The inheritance belongs to the inheritors, legally and socially.

One hears of comparisons between Inheritance and Dowry.

I feel the biggest difference is one empowers while the other puts the lives of 50% of the population at risk. Right from the moment they are found to be females.

Unlike a Will, the dowry is wealth given away while the parents are still alive, whether or not they can afford it. This makes girl children unwelcome.

Inheritance on the other hand, can be used by the parents to ensure a comfortable old age. It gives them something to bargain with. They have a choice in when, how and to whom they part with it. This empowers them.

A friend once argued that since the girls get their husband’s property, it is balanced. What happens when a girl doesn’t marry? What if she is divorced or widowed? An unmarried, divorced or widowed woman maybe seen as an outsider in her parental home.

Girls who inherit are in a much better position socially. They are not considered a liability. They have the same rights and responsibilities as the male children. (Legally it is mandatory for all children to take care of their parents even now.)

Do you think dowry, jewellery and other gifts on festivals are a fair compensation for disinheriting or disowning a family member?

The traditional arrangement is equal in distributing the responsibilities?

H. says in a comment:

“…broadly speaking one gets two things out of three: career, family and the privilege of being provided for (in other words options of not having the responsibility of bringing finances)

traditionally men get career and family ;

women get family and the privilege of being provided for.

– the privilege of being provided for comes with the associated responsibility of being a care-giver, of doing so-called mundane and repetitive tasks without any financial rewards (I said so-called because 99% of jobs entail even more repetitive and mundane and mind-numbing robotic tasks ) .

This is the reason the traditional arrangement is equal in distributing the responsibilities.”

I am afraid I disagree.

Being ‘provided for’ has disadvantages –

1. One person works hard and makes himself financially secure (the provider). Another person works hard but remains dependent – the provided for.

Both work hard, but if there’s unhappiness or abuse, only the provider’ can take a decision without worrying about the finances.

2. The society, and even the family, doesn’t value the one who has to be provided for. The dependent is seen as a burden. This has lead to sex selective abortions today.

3. ‘The providers’ become powerful. They get to interpret the God’s will.

They make customs and rules about polygamy, divorce, chinna veedu, inheritance, sexual harassment, family honour, suhaagan v/s abhagan, widow burning, child custody, family name being passed on through those children who will grow up to be providers, patriarchy, domestic violence  etc.

4. Finally the traditional role of women as non-working homemaker is a myth. A very small percentage of women were homemakers. Women always worked in the fields, (cultivation was discovered by women) embroidered, weaved, milked cows, made and sold butter etc. And raised newer generations.

Today 70% of Indian women work – at construction sites, in fields, mines, factories and small industries, the way they have been doing for centuries.

And  still they are not ‘providers’ they have to be ‘provided for’.

Is a Known Devil really better?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

A girl who we looked up to in college, got married (arranged marriage) to a charming man who gifted her her favourite car on their wedding day.  Then we heard she had come back home within days because he was violent. Her parents were supportive. She was divorcing him.

This became a topic of discussion. One voice insisted,A man might lose his cool sometimes! Why is nobody asking what she had done to make him so angry?”

We had wondered if this voice had seen domestic violence at home, because he also said an occasional slap was not Domestic Violence.

A close  friend walked out of her arranged marriage to escape an occasional slap. The rest of the time the constant threat of verbal and physical violence made her feel she was going to lose her mental equilibrium.

She was lucky.

Girls are generally sent back. They are told a known devil is better than an unknown one. The alternative of living a life without any devils – known or unknown, is ignored.

The victim’s parents advise her to change, to ‘improve’, to win the abuser over with love and sacrifice! But the commonly recommended tact and sacrifice do not help, because the abuser needs expert guidance, not a compliant partner.

Domestic Violence is not about the victim’s imperfections; it’s about an abuser’s complexes and his wish to control. In many cases the abuser aims to put down a better looking, more successful or more social partner.

A popular Indian women’s magazine reminds the victim that it is better to bear some abuse from a husband than to leave him and be forced to work and tolerate abuse by one’s boss and colleagues! Even if this was to be taken seriously, does one assume that only nonworking women are battered? The most visible victim, a domestic helper is a working woman.

The violence continues lifelong. One man threw out his 60 year old wife in her night clothes, and she sat outside praying nobody sees her.  (‘God of Small Things’ discusses such a case). She knew he would take her in the next morning, in time for his morning tea.

My maids have grown up with domestic violence. More than one has wished, (in a very matter of fact voice) that their husband would die.

Why not leave him then? Because anybody who has seen their lives closely would know that the man would follow, as a Right, and the society will watch them being battered in public, to retrieve his manly pride and position. So they would rather he died than they walk out.

I made them watch this Bell Bajao video. The look on their faces brought a lump to my throat. I don’t think they had ever been told categorically that Domestic Violence is not their fault. Such videos can change social attitudes.

Although there is social acceptance of domestic violence, there is still shame attached to it. If the neighbours have heard the noises, then it must be shown as a one odd case.

We went on a trip with another family once, and I heard them argue in the next room and then she screamed terribly, I wanted to rush and help and then I heard her beg him to stop or else we would hear. She suspected we heard and casually brought up the topic of how all couples had fights and how she would never believe a couple did not fight.

Was she fooling herself or did she believe that this violence was a normal fight? She showed me marks of a bangle pressed into skin and a burn mark, she said (I didn’t ask…  but I feel she needed to share.) she was ironing and the hot iron fell on her hand.

I casually talked of women who had escaped abusive relationships because they realised the violence was never going to end.

This was the closest I came to witnessing Domestic Violence and what shook me was that the couple had looked so normal (i.e. happy). They had played antakshari and dumb charades with us… and she was a bubbly extrovert, he was quiet, almost silent.

Another man had tender spells. He spoon-fed her when the violent fits were over and he gently explained to her that if she would only be a little organised/neater/more cheerful/better cook etc he would never need to lose his temper. (‘My Feudal Lord’ describes this kind too.)

Victims might feel that violence can be controlled with compliance. The fact is that most of the times the abuser is known for being ‘short tempered’, impatient, unpredictable and even a ‘perfectionist’ by those who know him well. (To outsiders he might appear quite sane.)

The worst and most debilitating is the Stockholm Syndrome.

The Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological shift that occurs in captives when they are threatened gravely but are shown acts of kindness by their captors. Captives who exhibit the syndrome tend to sympathize with and think highly of their captors, at times believing that the captors are showing them favor stemming from inherent kindness. Such captives fail to recognize that their captors’ choices are essentially self-serving. When subjected to prolonged captivity, these captives can develop a strong bond with their captors, in some cases including a sexual interest.[Link]