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..

An avial of a post..

..is what happens when I have nothing much to say..

Why, you ask? Well, we have been outdoors almost all the time, since the last few days. We went on drives, waded through a little stream, enjoyed ice-creams, and generally basked in the warmth.  Warm weather was finally here, but then like all good things, did not last long. It is back to business as usual today, cold, wet and windy.

The two of us testing waters 🙂

Chicken pox seems to be doing the rounds here, and one of Poohi’s friends has got it. So Poohi was really upset, apparently she wants to ‘eat chicken pox too, coz I love chicken too’!

The other day, we had been watching NDTV’s We the People, on the same gotra controversy. Just wanted to add my share. I cannot comprehend why it becomes necessary to force people to live by other people’s standards. Why can’t it be left to individuals to decide what makes sense for them? And does it make any sense at all, in this time an age? Why is it considered being ‘city-bred’ and ‘urban’ to think like this?  Does it mean that people living in villages have no right to think for themselves? If some people believe that same-gotra marriages are not correct, let them not get married to someone of the same gotra/village or whatever works for them. But forcing entire communities to follow rules like this, is a little difficult to stomach. More so, is the support that they seem to be getting from various sections of society.  Bones has unearthed Naveen Jindal’s interview on this. He actually seems to be support of the Khaps when it comes to same gotra marriages.

Today apparently Arya Samaj has come out with something bizarre. ‘After khaps, it is the Arya Samaj that has shocked couples in Haryana. A section of the sect has decided to ban marriages without consent of parents and villagers.’ .

Apparently in addition to dis-allowing same gotra marriages, they will also refuse to solemnize weddings without consent of parents and villagers! They also go on to say that ‘ Love marriages are harmful as in such weddings youngsters just see the beauty and not the nature and qualities which should be the basis of marriages,” said Baldev.’  And I wonder if women play any role at all, in any of these decision making.

It is funny, isn’t it that, Arya Samaj came into being as a reform movement within Hinduism, is today talking about going the reverse way?  What is your take on this? It just makes me sad that we Indians are supposed to be tolerant people, and yet, we have so many such diktats cropping in various parts of the country. Are we increasingly becoming more intolerant or is it just that now with the media, reporting all this, it is just looking that way?

*avial – a mixed vegetable dish

The art of queuing

Apparently, Britain plans to make ‘art of queuing part of the citizenship test for immigrants’. It is no joke either. Apparently they feel that ‘lot of tension is caused by immigrants not understanding that they must wait in line for services rather than barging to the front’.

Not really surprising, isn’t it? How many times have we wished that people queued properly in India, instead of barging in, or trying to nudge their way to the front. Any way of getting ahead.  People on two-wheelers trying to wedge into that tiny bit of space between two cars in an effort to reach their destination one second earlier. But does all this really work? I have been stuck in traffic so many times, because at traffic lights, people try to get ahead in so many ways that it takes a while for the traffic to start flowing and just as it starts, the lights change again.  Even people getting into trains just barge in, without waiting for those trying to get off the train. Instead of poking and nudging their way ahead, if all of us just queued and waited, life would be so much more peaceful for all of us, wouldn’t it?

I remember the first time I saw the railway reservation queue in Bangalore – nice and orderly. After Jamshedpur, it was a nice change. And just because it was orderly, there were no raised tempers, fights or irritated tellers. And I do think it was much faster even though the number of people queuing was much more. I have no idea how it is now – but 8 or 9 years back – it was wonderful!

In Britain, I have seen people queuing up nicely for so many things. I wonder what makes people behave differently? Is it the attitude that is different or just that when a system gets put in place – people tend to follow it? Is it simply the lack of awareness that makes people behave in this way? What do you think?

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?

Crushed Dreams

As a little child, all she wanted was to go to school with her older brother, but she was sent to another school. Later she realised that it was the cheaper one.

As a ten yr old, she was told to come straight home from school and help out her mother.. while her brother got to play with his friends.

As a teenager, she was told to dream within ‘limits’. To just hope that she gets married quickly and does not remain a burden on her parents.

As a college going student, all she remembers is lots of people coming to ‘see’ her…

As a bride, all she remembers is her parents telling her to not let them down, to be a good bahu and not cause her in-laws any reason to complain..

As a wife, all she remembers is the violence, both mental and physical and not being able to even tell anybody.. she had no friends of her own, she had no money of her own.. her parents did not want trouble, her siblings did not want her to rock the boat… Did she have any choice but to go back to her marital home and live her life .. crushed dreams and all.. just the way she had been trained to do so from the time she was born..

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I keep wondering, what it is that makes it so difficult for women trapped in unhappy relationships. with or without domestic violence, to step out.

What makes them victims?

Why do they find it so difficult to walk out, even when they are educated and financially independent?

All I can blame is their upbringing.. the fact that they have never been allowed to speak up, that they have been drilled not to expect too much, that they have been told that once married off, that they cease to be their parent’s responsibility.. They have been told that their duty lies in their marital homes.. and that if they violate any of these ‘rules’, they can certainly not expect any support from any quarter.. This is her ‘fate’!

Even educated, independent women, find it difficult to stand up for themselves, for the fear that they will lose all ‘respect’ and support from society, forgetting the fact that they never had it in the first place..

It breaks my heart when I hear of accounts of women trapped in marriages like this..Read more at IHM’s and Gunmeen’s.  All I know, that I can do, is make sure that my daughter knows that she is never helpless, and she has to stand up against injustice and that we will always be there for her. She is never alone! If every parent did this – don’t you think it would make a difference, eventually.