Breaking the cycle..

… Or to be more accurate, why breaking the cycle is so difficult..

Our friend Bikram raised some questions in his post here, and I thought I’d try to answer.

Bikram questions ‘The mother-in-law knew how his son was treating the daughter in law , yet she did not say anything Rather she was calling up the Girls father to give more, I mean WHY.. Did she go through the same when she got married and came to the family..

Let me explain with an example. I met a young woman here. She must be in her late twenties or at max, her early thirties. She grew up in India, but got married to an NRI who was 34 at that point in time. She was 18. She says her parents had no plans to get her married but when the proposal came up, it felt like a good one. She has three children, and lives in a typical joint family type of environment, here in the UK. One day we were talking and she started telling us about how tough it is for her. She works, but once she is home, she is expected to be the obedient, dutiful bahu, making tea for everyone, clearing up. It might not sound like a huge deal, but as she says, if you end up spending 45 mins for having a simple cup of tea- it becomes a big deal. Especially in a country where she has no maids or anybody to help out. If she fancies a cup of tea and makes it for herself without checking with the rest of the family, it is considered quite rude. A small example, but it affected her badly enough for her to share it with us. Then she went on to say, ‘What can I do, I can only wait for when it will be my turn to be the mother-in-law’.

I was stunned to hear that. Surely one would think that she would try to break the cycle rather than have it continue? But then I realized that, for her, it is just a fact, an accepted reality. As a daughter-in-law, she has to accept what is given to her, and she has to wait until her son gets home a DIL before she gets to throw her weight around. She does not think of breaking the cycle because she has accepted the system for what it is.

What horrified me, was just a statement of fact for her. Why? Because that is the system they have been brought up it, that is the system they are familiar with. They don’t see a problem with it. A boy will bring home a wife, while a daughter will be sent away. I have heard this justification from so many people.

Dowry is justified too. People think that it is perfectly legitimate. These days it is termed as ‘gifts’ which the girl’s side gives ‘willingly’. I don’t understand why gifting is only the woman’s parents prerogative? Then of course, people will explain that a daughter is going away to her ‘real home’ so her parents would like to ‘gift’ her things. That to me is the root cause of this whole thing. The imbalance in society which is brought about by the concept of a male child being ‘apna’ and a female child being ‘paraya’.

The system is also the reason a parent dreads the birth of a girl child, dreads the day they will have to shell out huge amounts of money to get her ‘married off’.

The only way the evils like sex selective abortions, dowry etc can be eradicated is the system itself changes. If both sons and daughters take up the responsibility of looking after their parents, if parents of daughters are not left destitute in their old age, if a daughter is not taught that no matter what, once she gets married, her marital home is her home, and not her parental home.

In fact in the program, in both the first and the third episode, we had women expressing how it is so horrible for a parent to have their married daughter coming back home. It broke my heart to listen to that. I can’t even begin to imagine how helpless they must have felt. Where could they have gone? How could they have walked out on their marriages when all that has been drummed into their heads is that their parental home is no longer their home?

The moment that stigma goes away, we will find a lot of women comfortable about standing up for their rights. When they know that they will not make their parents unhappy if they land up at their doorstep. When women understand that they don’t need to accept everything that is thrown at them. When they are brought up with the belief that no matter what, their parents will always be there for them. That they are no ‘paraya dhan’.

When old is gold…

We had a get together last Saturday. A fun and delicious dinner with friends, made spicier with an interesting discussion.

Some of us ended up discussing Feminism, and as is usual, there were a lot of views. Predictably most of the men felt that it was ‘unnecessary’. I have to say rather proudly, that I have a feminist of a husband – he was only man who openly supported us girls 🙂

While a lot of things got discussed, one which I wanted to analyse here was ‘History’.

Just because historically patriarchy seems to be the norm, people seem fine with accepting it as the best thing. I was told a lot of times that we, women need to understand the ‘history’ behind it. And if it works, why are we trying to break the balance. The question for me is, does it actually work? What was difficult to get most of them to understand was that it works only for some sections of society. If it were working, we wouldn’t need to change it.

Also, the fact that the Western world followed patriarchy is always thrown in for added measure. It always makes me laugh that most people who would deride ‘Western Values’, have no problems with using the example of patriarchy in Western Society as an excuse or a justification.

So going back to the issue, I was surprised to see how vehement the men were in opposing any change to the current situation. Most of them were ready with examples of women torturing men, with women abusing dowry laws, citing these, as reasons why men have more to fear than women. Nuclear families, of course, were the worst example of low-life, the moral corruption that women getting powerful, is leading us to. What makes it all the more ridiculous is that the people spouting all this are all NRIs who are most certainly not staying with their parents.

And of course, most of them saw nothing wrong with women being considered ‘paraya dhan’. It was natural, was the claim. Girls leave the house, and the boys bring their wives into the house. Perfect, according to them.. What if there are only girls in the family.. Well, that is of course, unfortunate… but what can be done. ‘Sex selection, perhaps?’, I had to ask!

I wouldn’t have worried if these were views expressed by our parents’ generation, but when my generation is so vehement about it, it makes me wonder if education, makes any difference at all.. It made me want to send the IHM’s blog to open their eyes to what women(and men) go through in our society. I wish I could explain to them how patriarchy shackles both men and women. But sometimes, people don’t want to listen, they don’t want change because it works for them at the moment.

You know what was the saddest part? At the end of the night, I was taken aside and told that all this talk of women empowerment is of no use. You can’t change anything.There is a reason society evolved like this, and we should know better than try to upset the apple cart. If at all things have to change – they will change by themselves!

You know what, I was sad, but not for us, women. I was sad for people who thought like this. Who refuse to accept reality, who think that by closing their eyes to it, they can pretend that everything is fine. What a sad existence, don’t you think?