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It is time we stopped obsessing over ‘tradition’ and looked towards a more equitable distribution of roles and responsibilities between married couples.
Most of us are aware about how marriage related ‘transactions’ happen in the Indian Families. Be it ‘love’ or ‘arranged’, we do assist our parents in carrying forward toxic social evils. Apparently, we respect our parents; hence we agree to their childish demands. Starting from who will pay for the big fat Indian wedding.
As it is expected that woman will move to husband’s household, her father needs to compensate the other party well for the life-time. The compensation game start during the preparation of wedding itself. While the number of cash transactions have considerably reduced compared to twenty years back, things like bride’s family being asked to arrange the wedding in fancy hotel has taken precedence.
I remember viewing the advertisement of Paan Parag during the 80s, where Shammi Kapoor (groom’s father) tells Ashok Kumar (bride’s father), ‘Par ek baat kehna toh hum aapse bhool hi gaye? Baaratiyon ka swagat aap Paan Parag se kijiye’. This was probably the first advertisement I saw as a five-year-old girl and it made me normalize the patriarchal code of conduct where bride’s father is a meek man in service of a robust father of the groom.
It took me years to unlearn that it is not normal for groom’s family to free-ride on the resources of bride’s family. In my own wedding, when my partner offered my father to share half of the expenses incurred, he was shell-shocked. He never knew that this is a possibility and my partner and I discussed this before we agreed to marry.
Culturally, a bride’s father is expected to send her away from the family with all the possible love and gifts. My father told me that he had kept money for my wedding expenses. I asked him why the hell he did not tell me earlier about this? I would have used it for some trip or further education.
While social customs normalize these kinds of exchange in the name of several rituals, it is actually harassment which should be punishable under law. It does not matter how rich a person is, such demand is uncouth and uncivilized to the core.
All these rituals also stems from the fact that women would be moving to husband’s household and will become the torchbearers of several customs including the regressive ones.
In the present-day context, most of the couples are starting with neutral families living away from their parents. However, it has not changed things much. A nagging call for observing a fast or ritual is just a minute away. While a household run by two independent individuals is run in truly equal sense, the female partner has an extra role in carrying forward the tradition of the husband’s family. A woman who is contributing to the economy of the country and working for essentially the same number of hours or sometimes more than her husband is still expected to maintain the stone-age redundant customs and traditions.
While Indian men are increasingly becoming aware and are not expecting such low standards from their partners, they are yet to come out of their roles as ‘Shravan Kumar’ of the family. They have been brainwashed since childhood on what their roles and responsibilities are as a son.
As an adult, they are primarily seen as ‘a bread winner’ or ‘a sperm donor’. This further implies that his cultural fundamental core is under threat if he marries a woman who is ready to take on the role of a ‘bread winner’ or if they marry a woman who sees ‘motherhood’ as a choice and not compulsion. While men implicitly adapt to the changing times, a slight nudge from mother, sister or an aunt is enough to recall his primary role.
I was surprised when two of my friends who got married to each other completely changed their relationship dynamics after marriage. The girl started addressing him as ‘aap’ and left her job because guy’s family did not approve of her work-hours. She called it a ‘choice’ but I always wonder why she never exercised this choice when she was unmarried. You would want to take break from the work irrespective of your relationship status.
What prompts women to take perennial break from the career after they get married? Is this because she is expected to become so called home minister of the family while the husband remains the finance minister. While the two roles are equally important how about two partners managing a bit of both and not exist in a co-dependent toxin relationship?
There are so many questions to ponder but to uproot the patriarchy, it is a revolution from women and men together to just let go of these evils. Let us celebrate marriage as a beautiful union of two people and put our respective noses in our businesses.
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