Would Naina dare to embrace equality between her daughter and daughter-in-law? Between son and son-in-law? A mother’s dilemma.
As a starry-eyed young bride, fresh out of grad college, Naina was setting up her marital home in a new city, far away from the cosy cocoon of her parental home. Despite the initial excitement and euphoria of rituals, celebrations and honeymoon at a plush hill station resort, she had butterflies in her stomach as she alighted at the railway station with her husband of fifteen days.
As pampered as a little princess, Naina – literally the apple of their eyes – had been supported by her parents in all her hobbies and interests. A curious knowledge seeker, an avid reader and a keen debator, she had always been an assertive but not overly aggressive person.
Despite being a staunch supporter of women’s independence, she had a balanced outlook towards her marital life. So when her in-laws seemed rather unwilling that their daughters-in-law pursued a job, she accepted their suggestion to remain a homemaker.
Arranged marriages are not the best in terms of pre-marriage interaction between a girl and a boy. Naina also had her share of apprehensions and misgivings about life with her new husband. But moments of love and laughter, misunderstandings and disagreements had spiced up their life. Fun and fury took turns to remove monotony and dullness. Swallowing their ego, smiling, apologizing and making up to each other irrespective of who was wrong, brought them closer.
He was her family now. But she still missed her family.
Letters brought news of happy and sad occasions, ailments and awards, celebrations and mourning. She longed to be with her natal family – her parents and her siblings and their families on all such occasions. Physical distance could not distance her heart from them. She regretted her inability to be with them, share their joys and sorrows, nurse them in their old age.
It was not that her husband prevented her from visiting them. Societal norms of the time frowned upon married daughters visiting their maiden home frequently.
Life went on. There were children, strengthening the bond between the couple.
With the passage of time, a lot of things changed. Technology made it possible to connect faster. Mobile phones and video chats bridged the distance between people, across cities, nations, continents.
Naina and her husband brought up their daughter and son as equals. Both acquired professional degrees and became self-sufficient. Both were imparted all necessary life skills-cooking, cleaning, washing up, buying groceries. Both were given the freedom and the skills, and encouraged to take their own decisions whether they were regarding their profession or their life partner.
Times had really changed.
Or had they?
Daughters leaving their families after marriage had not!
When it was time for her daughter to take a crucial decision regarding her marriage, Naina was in a dilemma. Should she really ‘give away’ her daughter in ‘Kanyadaan’ to a man who was her equal in every sense – education, profession, salary, wisdom? Should she really encourage her daughter to forget her family in order to embrace her new family? Or should she hold her daughter close, not motivating her to bond with her marital family lest she should forget her own parents? Would her son-in-law treat them as his new parents and support them as a son would?
Shouldn’t she guide her daughter to strike a balance between her two families?
But a few years down the line, would she be able to refuse ‘Kanyadaan’ for her daughter-in-law too? Would she be able to encourage her son’s wife to devote equal time to her parental family too? Would she be able to guide her to strike a balance between her two families? Would she encourage her son to treat his wife’s parents as his own and support them as a son would?
Equality demands equality between husband and wife.
Equality demands equality for sons and sons-in-law.
Equality demands equality for daughters and daughters-in-law.
Would Naina dare…to take the Road Not Taken?
More importantly, would the new generation dare?
Published earlier here.
Image source: wedding by Shutterstock.