More on adjustments, compromises, and a woman’s life.. Post 9

Commenting on Iya’s and Roop’s posts made me realize that there was so much more that I wanted to say on this topic…

Last year, someone we know got married. She was barely 22, not financially independent. The worst part was that she was getting married to an extremely conservative family, who lived in the same village as her parents. This also meant that she would not be allowed to drive her scooter(which she did before marriage) or wear anything apart from a sari even when she visited her parents. We had tried dissuading her parents and convincing them to let her get an education, and gain financial independence. But to no avail. They wanted the ‘responsibility’ out of the way. They wanted to get her ‘married off’ so that nobody accused them of ‘keeping an unmarried daughter at home’.  They believed that a daughter has no place in her parents place.

Not even a year down the line, she is back at her parents place. She has been verbally/mentally abused badly by the husband. He wants ‘money’ to shut his mouth. Things have got so bad that, she even tried to commit suicide a few times. Finally she is now back at home. Her parents are supportive of her, but they are still trying to see if a ‘samjhauta’ can be reached. I can’t help wonder what ‘samjhauta’? What compromise can be reached when the husband is not even concerned about her. When all he is bothered about is money.

Last year, I had met her when we were in India. She was newly married, and had a few concerns at that time.  I heard her mother/aunts explain to her that we, women cannot expect everything to go our way. We have to compromise, adjust. Don’t have high expectations. Just learn to be a ‘good daughter-in-law’ and everything will be all right. Having known her, I know that she is a sweet person, soft spoken, and someone who generally toes the line. Not someone who will try to make a fuss out of nothing. Knowing this, if she is unhappy, surely, someone should be listening to her rather than pretend that everything will be alright if she ‘adjusts’.

I can’t comprehend the huge rush to get her back in her marital home. What if her in-laws decide to make her life worse for going and talking to her parents about what she faced? Why, why do people think that an abusive husband is not a big deal? Isn’t it better for her to get out of an abusive marriage now, before she has children and gets even more trapped in an unhappy life?

Clearly, nothing matters apart from the perception that the daughter is married. What is of utmost importance, is that an unmarried daughter is not at home, so god forbid, if the married daughter comes home. Lets find the quickest way to send her back. Lets talk about adjustments, compromises, whatever,  lets just get her back where she belongs. After all, she is the paraya dhan. So what if her next suicide attempt is successful. All that matters is that she is in her marital home. Nothing else, apparently, matters.

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.