Adjustment – The magic word?

Couple of years back, we had friends staying over, and as usual, we spent the better part of the weekend, talking.

One of the topics that came up was of their niece who had just started working. Apparently, the family was trying to get her married off and she was being rather stubborn -according to them. They were lamenting about how girls these days have ‘fancy’ ideas and have their own demands before getting married. On asking what these demands were, it turned out that she wanted to continue working after getting married. The family was trying to get her to ‘adjust’ because obviously ‘getting married was far more important than having a career’.

I was shocked to hear this from a seemingly modern couple. They went to explain that they even tried to make her understand by giving my example. ‘My example?’ – was my reaction. Apparently they said that even career women like me gave up their jobs and adjusted. I tried explaining that I did not ‘adjust’ – it was my choice – I worked when I wanted to , I took a break when I wanted to, I was not made to ‘adjust’ at all – by anyone. I did not adjust, I just took a decision based on a lot of factors, but I certainly did not ‘adjust’.  All she wants is to have that same freedom. Why should she be expected to give up her way of life? Why not look for a man who has the same expectations as her. Why expect her to enter a relationship starting off with compromises and adjustments that she does not want to make in the first place. Of course, that fell on deaf ears.

It makes me wonder why a man can lay down expectations of wanting a working wife( or a non-working one, for that matter), but a girl having the same(or similar) expectations is told to adjust? If anything, I would think that it makes more sense to have all these thing on the table – right at the beginning, than expecting one person to give up all their expectations, and then have a frustrated life- all their life?

Last time, in India, I met a newly married girl. She had got married within the same community, near her parents. Her mother wanted more for her. She was hoping that her daughter gets married outside the community so that she gets a different life, but that did not happen because the mother does not have much of a say in matters like this. This girl, after her wedding, is now confined to wearing sarees, she can’t ride her scooty anymore, she can’t step out of the house without her in-laws permission. And to make it worse, most girls, apparently get a little freedom when they go to their parent’s place, but because her parents live in the same town/village, she has to go around with a ghunghat even when she visits her parents! And when she voices her frustration, she is asked to adjust, because that’s what married women have to do. She is told that she will get used to all this after some time. It wouldn’t surprise me if the cheerful, bubbly girl is transformed into a woman with hardly a smile on her face, the next time we meet her. Her husband’s life on the other hand, continues just as before.

Another girl, I know, married into a joint family. All the ‘family’ responsibilities came onto her. Including waking up before everybody else, cooking, getting breakfast ready, and even taking a bed-tea to her sister-in-law! On the weekends, her husband would go out with his old friends, while she stayed at home, looking after her in-laws. And this girl, in question was a professional, before she gave up her job because of all the pressure on her. When her husband went abroad on work, she was asked to stay back to ‘look after her in-laws’. I wonder how they would have managed had their son not been married? Oh wait – that is why they got him married! To get a care-taker! Is she happy with her life? Well, lets just put it this way – I would not have heard about all this, had she been happy.

The reason ‘adjust’ and ‘adjustments’ have become a dirty word, so to speak, is because more often than not, it is the women doing most of the adjustments. More often than not, a woman is expected to become part of a new family, take up responsibilities, live life according to other people’s terms, while her partner gets to lead his life just the way it was.

On the other hand, if both partners were to adjust, compromise, and work towards their marriage, one would feel less annoyed with the word – ‘adjust’. Of course, life is full of adjustments, compromises, but people would be happier doing it, if they did not feel forced into it. None of us will get everything on a platter, and we all have to work towards it, in some way or the other. All of us are fine with certain adjustments, but might draw a line at others. I guess a happy relationship is where both partners are not expected to make those adjustments, that they don’t want to make. So if a girl is clear about having a career, then don’t make her ‘adjust’ and get her married off to man who has made it clear that he doesn’t want a working wife. What is the worst that could happen? She might get married a little later – isn’t it better than a life time of unhappiness for both partners?

Like I tried explaining to my friends, if I had been forced to leave my job, I would have felt frustrated and annoyed. Today, because I have the option, I feel at peace with my decision. And if more women want that, the choice, – what is wrong with it? Unless both partners feel happy and secure  in their relationship, it can go nowhere. And an unhappy relationship affect both partners equally. Eventually.

This is my contribution to ‘The Great Adjustment Story‘ at http://www.womensweb.in.

When memories turn into nightmares..

Childhood memories for most of us are, cherished, special memories. Memories of a safe, and protected time.

Not so, for some. For some like Dave Pelzer, it was a different memory, the stuff nightmares are made of. I just finished reading, ‘ A man called Dave’, and like all books I read on the subject of Child Abuse, left me sad, and deeply disturbed. The one concept I can never fathom is how parents can abuse their own children, but clearly it happens and it happens much more than we would imagine.

The book itself is quite a positive, hopeful one.  Dave braves a very, very traumatic childhood. He is abused, starved, burnt by his mother in what seemed to be some sort of a ‘game’ for her. His mother used to call him ‘it’, and everything that happened to him was because ‘it’ deserved it.  He escapes when his teachers called in the authorities and he gets fostered. He grows up haunted by what he went through and with the determination to break the cycle. He is determined to never become like his mother, when he learned that children who were abused were more likely to turn into abusers themselves

He, not only overcame everything, he went on to become a wonderful father to his son, and even gave back to the community, by doing volunteer work with abused children and speaking at venues to increase the awareness around child abuse. He tries to be there for his dying father, and even tries to make sense of why his mother did everything she did, all the while, knowing what he never wanted to be.It was a very moving story of a person who overcomes his past, learns from it, and tries his best to ensure that nobody ever has to go through what he went through. He worked through a difficult marriage and when it fell apart, did everything to ensure that his son was not badly impacted by the separation. He talks about how he managed to survive on bare minimum stuff, so that he could save what he could for the times when he had his son with him. He finally finds happiness, love and contentment, a life which is a far cry from his childhood.

The book ends beautifully with a very touching conversation with his son. He talks to Stephen, his son, how things were different in that time. How parents had complete rights over children. He talks about if a parent says ‘Jump’, a child had to ask ‘How High’. Saying ‘no’ was never an option. Reading that it just makes me glad that there is more awareness today. Even if it means that in some countries parents cannot beat/smack their children. Surely disciplining a child can be done in other ways. Just as abuse can happen in so many ways. Mental abuse is just as possible, and just as harmful..and much tougher to prove.

Despite the laws, and the improve awareness, we still hear of cases like this but surely, if the laws were not there, wouldn’t things be much worse? Every time I hear of people who say that these things never happened a few years ago, I can’t help wonder if it were just that we were not aware of it. I hear people, even saying that such stuff never happens in India – how can we be so sure? Apparently we, in India, don’t even have a specific law or guidelines that could tackle child abuse. Another report says that 69% of children in India are victims of abuse, 50% being abused by someone they trust.

It scares me when I read books like this.. All we can really do is try to make our child’s childhood as happy and safe as we can – by making them aware,by letting them know about what constitutes abuse and ensuring that they always know that they can come and confide in us, irrespective of what they want to talk about..

Not Without My Daughter

The other day in the library, Betty Mahmoody’s Not without my daughter’ caught my eye. I had read it a few years back, but wanted to read it again, yes, I am one of those mad people who re-read books.

The last time I read it, it had moved me, but this time, I was practically in tears. I guess being a mother made me feel what she was feeling much, much more.

The mere thought that someone who you trust(or had trusted), enough to have a child with him, could turn out to be so different and would not think twice before taking away your child from you, is devastating, isn’t it? We dread anything that might take our children away from us, but how would we react when someone as close as your husband decides to do it? And even worse, when he takes you to a country where a woman has practically no say in anything at all. Where a child is always a man’s property. For a while, she was praying for her husband’s death, only to realise that on his death, her child would he his family’s property – not hers! She says, she stopped praying for that as soon as she realised that.

Betty’s chilling tale of how she managed to escape the country with her daughter,Mahtob, will stay with me for a long time. Her determination to leave with her daughter. The embassy in Iran gives her the option to leave without her daughter, which she refuses. She stays determined to leave and leave with her daughter. She explains towards the end how while in the US, she had seen another side to her husband, Moody. She had checked divorce as an option, but had backed when she realised that divorce would give her husband visiting rights at the very least, to her daughter. She decided that she had to take the risk and take her daughter to Iran at least once so that Mahtob is safe forever.

Trapped in Iran, with no friends or help, at times imprisoned in her house by Moody, she wonders if she did take the right decision. Thankfully for her, it all turned out well,in the end. It does make me wonder about how many women go through similar experiences, in countries across the world. Even in countries where laws are equal and fair, things like this could happen if the woman is not strong enough or independent enough. Betty had met another American woman in Tehran, who had accepted her fate and chose to be with her abusive husband in Iran, because she felt that she could not manage on her own, given her lack of educational qualifications.

In so many cases, in our own society, women are held hostage(so to speak) in marriages they are not happy in. While they might not be imprisoned in a physical sense, they are held captive by their lack of confidence, qualification or just the lack of societal support.

The book is thought-provoking in so many levels. It made me thank my luck that I was born where I was.

The Right to Die.

There has been a controversy raging here in Britain about the Right to die.

A mother was cleared, last week, of charges of attempted murder of  her daughter who was suffering from the neurological condition ME.  Kathleen(Kay) Gilderdale had earlier admitted aiding and abetting the suicide of her 31 year old daughter who had battled ME for 17 years. She insists that she only acted in the best interests of her daughter.

Lynn Gilderdale’s moving account if her life and why she desperately wanted to end it, is enough to move amyone to tears. From an active, healthy girl, she becomes a bedridden woman, with multiple complications. When she did finally take her life, her mother helped her in it and ended up having charges of attempted murder on her. Luckily for her, the jury decided that she acted in the interests of and by the wishes of her daughter in helping her die. The judge even said that she should never have been prosecuted in the first place. Here is Kay’s account of why she helped her daughter die.

In another similar case, a mother was found guilty of murdering her son. Francis Inglis maintains that she acted out of love and compassion when she injected her brain-damaged son with a lethal dose of heroin. Her family and everybody who mattered to Tom, her son, is in full support of her action and were dismayed to hear the jury’s verdict.

These two contradicting verdicts, indicate the debate  and conflicting opinion that surrounds the delicate topic of Euthanasia. In Britain, apparently 75% people support the demand for change in euthanasia laws that would prevent carers of terminally ill patients from being prosecuted for assisted suicide.

Despite the huge public support for cases like this, the change in law would not be so easy. There is a lot of criticism from various quarters that are objecting to glorifying ‘mercy killing’. A GP talks about why he feels that legalizing assisted suicide, in his opinion is not right.The Archbishop of York has come of strongly against celebrity endorsements of euthanasia. At the end of the day, legalizing assisted suicides would be a very difficult task, mainly, because of the difficulty in categorizing which situations actually require it. And how would the law be framed such that it is not misused.

Any way, reading about the accounts of Kay Gilderdale’s situation of losing her daughter, of outliving her daughter( one of the most painful things for a parent)  and then being forced to defend her actions in court, being called a murderer of her own daughter, the daughter she was so devoted was very, very moving. It is sad that because of the law, the way it is, such people face prosecution. But is legalizing assisted suicides the solution? Where do you stand on it? What about in our country, India, do you think it makes sense or is it more than likely to be misused? Or do you think it is already happening but does not get reported because of the way things are?

For a child’s smile…

We just got back from one leg of our holiady and were discussing how different our holidays these days are.

There was a time when we went on marathon sight seeing trips. During the pre-daughter days, we used to be up and out the whole day. Grabbing a sandwich when we get hungry, walking around little towns, without even thinking of the time, on our feet the whole day. We used to step out with a map of the place, and would try and get to as many attractions as possible.

These days, our holidays are structured around daughter. Playing in the sand , for what seems like eternity 🙂 Splish-splashing in the sea, eating at her meal times, looking out for child friendly restaurants and waiting for her while she is busy playing in indoor play areas – until she is too tired to play… And funnily enough, we seem to have a lot of fun doing all this too, infact, her screams of joy at building sand castles or entering the sea or sighting ‘Nemo’ at the sea life centre is worth a lot more than all the exploring that we did earlier.

Knowing how our life revolves around our daughter, in the sense that we try to make plans that will involve her and everything we do, is keeping her best interests in mind, it amazes me is how parents can voluntarily sign up their children onto programmes like ‘Pati , Patni aur Woh’. I can understand that the makers have only the TRPs on their minds, but surely, parents would have better sense.. How can any parent let their child be part of a programme like this, where their child is left in the hands of couples, who have little or no experience of handling children. The promos make me shudder.  I know, it will be argued, about how different is it from children acting in movies and serials.. yes, but then I have my reservations about children acting in them too. And will this impact the children in any way? We would probably never know..

I cannot for the world imagine, how any parent can sign up their child for something like this. Is it worth the money, fame or are the parents trying to get a bit of the spot light through their children? Is it all that different from child labour?


Edited to add : Honored to be linked at BlogBharti for this post! Thank you so much BlogBharti!


http://www.blogbharti.com/shantanudutta/india/children-as-merchandise/