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Kriya was brought up an independent, modern woman. But the minute her marriage was fixed, things changed. After all, wasn’t she supposed to be the ‘good daughter in law’? A short story.
It all started the moment Kriya’s future husband’s parents come to see her for the first time. Kriya was always considered pretty but suddenly she had to hear her future in-laws and their random neighbors comment:
She is dark! She is too short, look at her heels! Her lips are too big!
Any comment at all. Anything to suggest that she was not good enough for their son and that he could have done better, and it was her biggest fortune in life to have attained him. Whether they themselves looked ugly or if their son would put the Frankenstein’s monster to shame with his looks was immaterial.
Kriya had the most loving and fiercely protective parents. Normally if anybody pointed a finger at her, her parents would have showed them their worth (or the lack of it). But that was in some other life perhaps. She was no longer their beloved princess. She was about to become a wife and daughter-in-law, her biggest validation in life, and was being taught the contrary of what she had been taught in the other life:
Don’t react to their demands, however unreasonable and unfair. Be sensible.. Maturity lies in learning to tolerate/ ignore.
Why risk the fragile future relationships for trivial matters? What if the very privileged groom’s family called off the engagement at the drop of a hat?
Kriya’s mother was a very progressive woman. She had raised her daughter equal to her son. She had given her good education, reasonable amount of freedom, love, affection and independence. But the moment she was to be married, she wanted to cut her wings. She only hoped and prayed to God that Kriya was lucky enough to get a good husband and good in-laws. Her happiness was now a matter of her destiny.
The engagement survived as Kriya followed her mother’s advice and it was time for the wedding. Nothing was of Kriya’s choice but her mother-in-law’s, including her dress, the venue and the catering. But her mother told her it was okay. The wedding was just one event and there was no need to come across as a dominating woman by expressing her choices.
Kriya’ family spent half their life-time’ savings on the wedding, all in the name of culture. Kriya’ soon to be husband had once told her that he could never marry a woman who earned more than him. But surprisingly, his ego and masculinity were not shattered when his father-in-law paid every single penny on his wedding. Not only did he and his parents reach the wedding as complete VIPs (read beggars), but invited unnecessary guests to show off, all at the expense of Kriya’s parents. They even complained about the arrangements and added much drama to the already cinematic wedding. But Kriya was not allowed to object to anything.
These things happen in weddings. Her parents said.
Once the marriage had solemnized with so much injustice already inflicted upon Kriya and her family, the irrational become more powerful. It was a vicious cycle that she had got herself into. She was expected to earn, pay for living expenses, cook, clean, all with a beautiful smile and not complain. Overnight, Kriya who was once an intelligent, free-willed, thinking individual with likes and choices in life was expected to transform into an epitome of selflessness and sacrifice.
The partnership was unequal from the outset. She could not visit her family without prior permission from her in-laws – a monitored, short, approved visit. Our culture may preach family values and respect for elders but such elders are only the privileged ones who have given birth to sons. When Kriya expressed her desire to stay separately with her husband, she was shamed and labeled as selfish and uncultured. Even though her parents longed to see her once a year, the very thought was outrageous for her husband’s parents.
Her father wondered where did he go wrong? He gave in to the demands of future-in-laws in the hope that his daughter should not be taunted for anything. What a surprise then, that this greedy and materialistic family made his daughter’s life miserable anyway, irrespective of how much he spent on the wedding?
Kriya’s mother was devastated too. She regretted that she taught her daughter to tolerate little misbehaviors and misdeeds, small taunts and humiliations, minor restrictions, and let her suffocate, breath by breath. Kriya’s family could have acted upon the signs they saw early on, but they did not. They all thought that such things were common in our society. Their sense of normal had been skewed for generations. Nobody realized that she was making a choice all along by choosing to tolerate, to endure and to suffer and encouraging her perpetrators.
Kriya resents her husband and his family. But more than that, she has grievances from her own parents. Why was she taught that it is a good thing to let herself be treated this way? As a daughter, she was raised to be independent, but nobody taught her that it was okay to be an independent daughter-in-law as well. She was conditioned to believe that it was her sole responsibility to save her marriage even if it meant compromising on her self-respect. She was asked to keep quiet for the sake of maintaining relationships. She had to keep everybody happy at the cost of her own happiness. She was told that her biggest strength lies in being submissive. But now she knows that it is not her strength. It became her weakness. Her resilience did not pay off.
She could have stood up for herself the day her fiancé’s aunt commented that she her nose was too big. But she did not. She was already engaged.
It was too late..
She could have refused when her father agreed to gift a car to her husband. But the wedding was a week away.
It was too late..
She could have retaliated when her husband refused to let her visit her ailing grandmother. But she did not, for she was already married.
It was too late..
She even complied when her mother-in-law directed that she could not have her baby in her mother’s comfortable home. They were going to be a family.
It was too late..
Now she has a daughter and she feels stuck in the marriage, much more than she has ever felt before.
It is too late..
Or is it?
Kriya has decided that she will not take it anymore. She will not raise her daughter in this home and set a wrong example of what a wife or daughter-in-law should be. She is going to teach her daughter to be a good, respectful human being – not a good wife or a good daughter in law. Not until people learn to be good husbands or good mothers/ sisters/ fathers-in-law. Respect is a two way street and nobody attains it by virtue of their age or relationship or the convenient culture. They better learn to earn it.
Kriya feels that the day we teach this to our daughters, the progress in the social fabric will complete a full circle.
Image source: Indian bride with a mangalsutra by Shutterstock.