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Patriarchy makes it difficult for women to take care of parents. This rule can have devastating consequences and this author realized.
“Why can’t you live with us, Grandma?” I asked.
“Parents don’t live with their daughters. It is against the rules of the society”, she said.
This conversation happened again and again but I was never convinced or satisfied by my Grandma’s answers. After my grandfather’s death, my grandmother divided her time between her elder son and younger son. She was mistreated by her daughter-in-laws and verbally abused by her sons and yet, she had to live with them. My mother, who loved and respected by grandma, was not given the opportunity to take care of her because society doesn’t ‘allow’ women to stay with their daughters.
So, we would listen to my grandmother’s accounts of her daughter-in-law’s taunts and her sons’ yelling and feel angry. We wanted to intervene but my grandmother stopped us from taking any step because intervening would make things worse for her. Even if she managed to somehow stay with us, she didn’t have the ability to ignore society’s taunts.
If she stayed for more than a month at our place, the aunties in my building would say things like, “Your paternal grandmother stays only for one week at your place, right?” or “My mother never stays with her daughters“. So, my grandmother never dared to disobey the society.
Few months back, my grandmother got an asthma attack and was unable to breathe properly for 3 days. Instead of taking her to the doctor, my aunt and uncle asked for some medicines from a doctor (who prescribed medicines without examining the patient) and neglected the warning signs. Their negligence lead to my grandmother’s death.
The post-death rituals had to be performed by my uncles. My mother, whose love for my grandmother is perhaps more than my uncles, was not allowed to perform the rituals.
I blame patriarchy for my grandmother’s death because my mother’s response to the attack would have been different than my uncle’s. I blame patriarchy for my grandmother’s unhappiness because she would have been happier had she lived with her daughter. I blame patriarchy for the behavior of my aunts because it turns women against women. I blame patriarchy for my uncle’s insensitivity because in a patriarchal culture, people who are not ‘useful’ (like babies, old people) are not treated well.
All men are not like my uncles. There are men who take good care of their parents but why are women not allowed to take up this responsibility? Why is it a sin to stay at a daughter’s place? Why can’t daughters perform the post-death rituals? Why are rules more important than love?
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