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My Apology Letter For Failing to Be The Ideal Bahu/Beti In Our Society

Posted: June 25, 2015

Who is the ideal Indian woman, the ideal bah/beti? This post rips apart the standards Indian women are still held to.

I am sorry for I fail to be the Ideal- Bahu/ Beti (Daughter or Daughter-in-law) as defined by our society.

I salute the ideal woman of our society wherever on earth she exists.

The one who is simple or let’s call her naïve. The one who wakes up before everyone else does. The one who comes home back before sunset or does not go out until some hell has broken loose. The one who speaks less and slowly or does not speak at all until she is asked to. The one who does not sit with her legs apart. The one who walks slowly with eyes fixed only on the ground.

The one who does not have boyfriends. The one who does not live with boys. The one who does not pose for photos with boys. The one who does not touch boys. The one who does not talk to boys.

The one who wears salwar suits/ sarees without revealing any parts of her body other than from where to fit herself in. The one who wears bindi, sindoor, bichhiya, rings, bangles etc 24 X 7 right after she is wed-locked. The one who combs her hair well. The one who keeps her house clean. The one who fasts. The one who keeps her head covered to show respect to her in-laws and relatives.

The one who does not acknowledge her desires – emotional or sexual. The one who does not seem interested in her opposite sex. The one who does not want sex. The one who is a virgin until her first night. The one who bears all the pain without making a sound. The one who sacrifices whenever needed, or voluntarily. The one who is shy; and the one who is almost foolish.

And so on…

Excuse me for being a human being who has all the emotions, just as men. Excuse me for not complying with the hundreds of laws needed to fall under that “Ideal- Bahu/Beti” category. Excuse me for having the very desires that make up the existence of humanity. Excuse me for acknowledging the needs of my brain and body. Excuse me for using my senses in the most natural way it occurs to me. Excuse me for being me!

What provoked me to write such a letter?

On a recent trip to my hometown, I encountered some positive changes in the way women are now dressing up, speaking, going to places, and exploring life in general. But ironically, I also felt that the mindsets of people here have still not changed. With our women empowering themselves, society is putting them into a not-so-ideal bahu or beti category now. We still define the ideal woman as one who is ignorant and cowardly. We still admire women for being inferior, and for accepting this truth happily. We still raise our brows on meeting with modern girls who challenge the system in every possible ways they can. We still expect women to get married off to any well-settled-sophisticated-peter-pan, and bear the baby as soon as she can. We still!

What’s next?

So who can bring the revolution to change the mindsets of one and all? Can it be done by a single brave soul? I am sure we all must agree at this point that we need to change our definitions and rules on the whole. We need to start failing to meet the standards of being the Ideal Bahu/Beti, and at the same time be happy and confident about that. Let’s say “No” to the old customs and expectations that put us on a berth of fire and thorns. Let’s stop pretending to be somebody we are not – both physically and emotionally.

Let’s, for the sake of women, be woman, for once and all!

Thank you for reading till here! I would be very happy to hear your comments, similar or differing viewpoints and experiences, or any feedback. Please share with us here, as they are important for every woman who is reading it!

Indian woman image via Shutterstock

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  1. Appealing post. I’m sure this would help many people change their mind on the definition of Ideal women. 🙂

  2. Hi,I have strong thoughts on Women rights….but i cannot find a proper medieum to help the cause.

    • Hi Gunjan (I’m guessing your name.. forgive me if iam wrong) –

      I know there are many people who want to work on women rights, and we don’t have a good platform where we can safely work. And believe me, if you really want to work on root level, you will get your hands dirty. I visited some slum areas of Delhi and Pune recently, and got to know about shocking situations of women.
      You might look for some ngo in your city which is genuinely working in this direction. Or the best one could be to educate women from low-income groups about the same. Please share if you are having any follow up thoughts on this!

  3. Dear Swati, this prototype of a typical North Indian Bahu is re-created by the Indian television and Mr.Karan Johar. I am quite much older to you, and I don’t see why this letter is necessary at all unless you are feeling guilty of not doing something. Look back and see what is it that you are feeling guilty about. By the way I don’t wear of these markers, I choose to put my career second to my daughters. If someone has a problem well its their circus not mine. I learnt this from grandmother who would have been 90yrs if she was alive today. think about it.

    • Dear Parwati ji, thankyou so much for writing in! I completely echo with you that this prototype is recreated by Bollywood movies and serials. I write the article not because I feel guilty, but because there are still a very large percentage of women in India who feel guilty on not complying to these illogical laws made by society some hundred of years ago. My article is an inspiration to those women who still need some boostup from we all; it’s for those women who like me feel good at heart on hearing from so many of us about this; we need to create movement where ALL WOMEN feel absolutely guilt free!/

      Please visit/ write further your views. It’s very encouraging to hear from people of your age such liberating thoughts!

      Thanks again,

    • First Swati drop the ji, Parwati is good enough, there is something buzzing in mind and I really don’t know how to tackle this, maybe we need see how we can stop this continous bombarding of a prototype… Please keep this pressure I even on me, lets see what we can up with something that stops these idiotic Karan Johar syndrome.

  4. Nicely expressed. Have been thinking the same lately. I have this habit of speaking up and voicing my opinion even though it may seem unsuitable as a bahu. After doing so, though I always feel guilty that is it the right thing to do? To speak up.against in laws. They are nice sweet people but sometimes don’t act / behave nicely towards servants which I feel angry about. Today afternoon only I had a small altercation with my mom in law for a maid and have been feeling bad afterwards. Your article makes me feel less guilty about it. Don’t know whether it was the right thing to do or not but Atleast I expressed something against some action that was not right.

    • Hi Mansee, thanks so much for sharing your experience here. I know it happens a lot, when we regret later because we feel we were rude, or too bold etc. But I have started to feel now that that’s okay as long as we stand up for what we believe. 🙂 Kudos to you for doing that.. WIshing you lots of luck for your journey, Swati

  5. Beautifully expressed. As far as I believe everything happens from within the space, in which we are living. So we can’t expect that something from outside would come to improve the standards of our society. It is only “we”, the people living in society, who can bring a change. All we need is awareness and willingness.

  6. Dearest all, I am so glad to hear your comments. It’s giving me extreme delight that I am having more women with me today who challenge the weak legs of the system, and are confident to become the stronger leg. Thanks again very much! for sharing your experiences here..!!!!


  7. I could say almost 80% of things you mentioned are characteristics of an ideal bahu /beti, have been and are expected out of me. But I’ve this habit of raising my voice for what I feel is happening wrong. I know in the process, I’m losing the likes towards me. But I’m anyway doing, at the cost of being tagged ‘not an ideal bahu /beti’ . Kudos to you for writing such article, hoping one day it reaches out to the ears of our family members.

    • I loved your comment Virali. That’s the harsh truth that in this struggle journey we are loosing so many likes towards us from our society. But let’s be it, as long as we become the voice against illogical behaviour/ expectations/ rules. Thanks so much for sharing your views here.

  8. Such a wonderful post. Swati, I think you speak for myself and majority of female population! Your post has motivated me to express myself better and not feel guily for every unrealistic expectation that i have not been able to fulfil.

  9. Swati, you have some great thoughts and many of them are the same as mine. I also find there is a balance… sometimes it is better to follow a family tradition that is important to the family (example in mine is wearing mugal sutra), in doing so my in-laws (particularly mother-in-law) sees that I am respectful etc, it also makes it ‘easier’ to say this isn’t really important or I don’t think this is valid.
    Joining another family, whether they are Indian or not is all about finding a place; my husband is finding his place with mine, as is my sister-in-law and discovering what is important for us (meals together, Christmas and birthdays). As I find my place in my husband’s family the important things are phone calls, cooking together, celebrations) and that’s something my husband’s brother-in-law is discovering too.
    One of the hardest things is when new bahu’s join the family, and the other bahus are like you described – even if we don’t like to admit it, there is an important role for the sons/husband’s to bring change and share the empowerment. I know because I often see my husband stand in that position reminding others that each bahu is different and they bring different things to the family… not just a womb.
    (Ops… sorry for the novel lol)

  10. I think may of us are already doing it!!! just make sure you don’t
    to the influence of others or anyone else.

  11. Commendable, Swati Agarwal you echo unvoiced thoughts and opinions of many girls silenced by sterotypes of the society.Many a times, its hard to stand up to them. In dire situations when we do take a stand,we are made to feel guilty.
    I am highly motivateby your article.
    I say that “CHANGE begins at home” we need to start with our kids and family’s mindset. I request and I urge to all the other females to help and support eachother in public places or when you see someone in this situation taking a stand or voicing one’s opinion. We need to unite and stand only then we can’t be muted and cornered.

    • Hi Fatimah, thanks very much for sharing your views here. It’s great to hear that you’re feeling more empowered after reading this. That suffices my purpose. 🙂 When you share here, you empower other women too for same. So kudos to you too dear!! 🙂

  12. Now it’s time to have efforts from within the society…..because woman is changing in her thoughts, in her action, in her behaviour. It’s society’s time to accept her rational life. And not to blame her bad daughter in law as only she is not following their traditions. Now it’s time for society to accept that she will not perform any ritual without asking questions, without knowing its meaning or logic.

  13. 🙂 first of all, love you for your thoughts and writing. U r awesome!

    Its very much true tat every in law expect her daughter in laws to dumb as they used. They never accepts us or the reality. It causes too mental pressure and it breaks our heart to live as who we are not.

    Wish all ladies dare to live their way and dreams.

    Thank you very much for this post.

    • Thanks so much Hema for showing such love in your words here! Really, you made my day! I am happy that you liked it and expressed your views.. visit again please.. –Swati

  14. Great article!! As true as it is, it is not going to be a reality until the men (husbands, Father- and brother- in-laws) support the woman (bride/bahu) to unchain herself from the shackles society puts her in. Most importantly, the mother-in-laws need to be large hearted and accept that what they went through was wrong and hence making their bahus go through the same thing is not going to provide them peace. Times have changed, we too need to move with time.We too need to stop treating women like they are emotionless vegetables which nourishes us and takes care of our needs and does not need love, respect and care.

    • Absolutely true Annie. I too was thinking on those lines, that it’s not just a women’s struggle journey. For a perfect balance in society, the other half needs to be in peace. That can be possible only when both halves realize this. Thanks for sharing your views here.. 🙂 –Swati

  15. Hello Swati. Excellent Article. As a woman in her mid fifty’s, living in Canada for last 30some years I have not dealt with most of the issues you have discussed in the article. I have also been very lucky to be married in a family where I was always treated with respect and dignity. But I have found that the women of my generation in India whom I call a sandwich generation is the one who is suffering the most at the moment . On my recent visit to India I found my self having a lot of conversation with women of my generation including my sisters who are still living in a joint family. They not only have to look after their in-laws, bur are also have to look after their daughter-in-laws as well. Most of the young ” bahus” have the careers that they have worked hard for, so they are not interested in staying home.(Rightfully so) So here, we have a generation of women who not only have to look after their aged parents, in-laws but also have to look after the running of the house, cook and clean if the servants don’t show up, and making sure that the every body is taken care off. Talking to them, the main issue is , that the “Expectations” are there weather they can do it or not, and feeling guilty if not be able to meet those expectations. Hopefully forums like this will open up their minds and make them realize that it is OK to say ‘No” and not feel guilty about it.

    • Thanks so much Roma ji, for sharing your views and appreciating mine! 🙂 I completely empathize with women in mid fifty’s who sacrificed all their lives for their families/ in-laws/ children, not getting that sacrificing attitude in return. My mom being one such a lady. She has lived exact same life, and now she is struggling alone in my hometown with all her kids living in metro cities on their own. I really respect women like you and my mom that you people are supporting our point of views even being on the opposite side of the game. Hoping when you come next time, you see some positive changes in India 🙂 Regards, Swati

  16. I think first girls should need to change the thought process of their own parents. As long as they will keep saying ki shaadi k baad tera sasural he sab khuch….marna jeena sab khuch wahin hn…nothing will change…and the root cause is that still woman in d name of MIl n SIL keeps misbehaving with newly wedded bride who has just joined as a new family member.I don’t know how a woman can misbehave with another woman…For instance…if she has lived a coward life during her tenure of DIL…it doesn’t mean they will treat there DIL in the same way.Very nice blog….really appreciable.

  17. Thumps up to your article. I recently got married and very much against dauning myself with every single ornament on my body, no i pretend to be calm and composite. i just be myself whether the person accept it or not. i dont want to loose my originality that when i stand in front of mirror i wonder if thats me only 🙂

    Every person be a man or a woman, they have to set standards for themselves, the way they want to be treated then the world and people around treat you in same manner.

    And it all starts with respecting yourself :-*

  18. Swati u have put down my emotions my feelings here .. I have been the victim of this ideal girl society and I still see women in my native not fighting for their rights.

  19. Very true article. I agree with every single word.
    I have faced all the rules and regulation of being ideal bahu as per article rather more than the article.

    Worst thing is that educated and so called respected people in the family espe ially husband also have all the expectation from their wife/bahu to fulfill all the customs and norms which are from ages and then pretend that they are modern and civilised.”Areee kaise log hote hai jo apne apne biwi/bahu pe atyachaar karte hai” and these same people will do all the same with thier own wife/bahu behind walls.
    Shameless hypocrites

  20. Swati Puranik -

    Awesome post Swati! Lovely article. Truly said I will day Dil se.. At times I become feminist too. I am working but still lot of hue and cry in our society for babu and betis idealism. All are rubbish and useless. I would love to read your articles. Come up with these sort of stuff more. Love you and God bless you.

  21. Hi
    Whatever we have we try to polish that and present it inthe best manner we can.be it ur home , ur dress , ur knowledge , ur beauty ur say it n it should be the best.
    Same is for ideal beti / bahu
    We all talk about only daughter n daughter in laws only so we have to polish these terms only .
    My question is why we r trying to do what is already best?
    What need improvement is this detorating men owned society
    Now its time we should talk about ideal son n son in laws
    If they are ideal then by default we can live our life as we want
    As problem is that we don’t evaluate sons n rectify them
    All r after beti beti beti
    High time now please keep n eye on boys
    Girls will be able to live there life
    Maintain a balance
    where ever who ever needs betterment make them society itself will clean

  22. With all due respect, and may be a bit of undue one as well !! To me, this article is nothing more than a case of misinterpreted Feminism. Sounds like some wannabe writers desperate attempt to get noticed !! And what an easy way to do so !!

    Go Ballistic about women empowerment/ equality/justice etc, no matter how limited your understanding of the subject is or how shallow your arguments are, and add some non-stop society and male bashing. Then top it with a call for revolt/ some sort of uprising !! And ola, here you have a recipe for a article with most nos of Facebook like’s !! BTW, the author is not the only one, there is a tribe of thousands that has been earning its living by championing the cause of women empowerment for decades, without really empowering any women.

    The problem with this whole propaganda is that it doesn’t really empower women !! Not even a single one !!

    A women doesn’t get empowered by reading such misguided articles !! And certainly not by following what they preach !! Women empowerment is certainly not about swapping Your Bindi with Bikini, or sitting with her legs open !! Even using such cliches in a women empowerment article belittles the cause !! At best your points about the same can be called Irrelevant, though to me they border on to the side of being Nonsensical !!

    A women gets empowered when she learns, even more when she earns !! she gets empowered when she learns what it is to live a self respecting and respectful life, and then goes out and earns that respect !! Expecting the society to respect you just for being a women is hypocritical !!

    PS: This is not to deny that our (Indian) society has severe issues when it comes to women equality, but two wrongs certainly can never make a right !!

  23. I agree that women empowerment is not about swapping a bindi with a bikni… BUT the point is Why to make a fuss about wearing a bikni or not wearing a bindi… Let us live our lives without associating any false pride or Prejudice to it…

  24. Puja wadhawan -

    Very well said nd expressed sati…… I totally agree with wat u said and things will not change until mindset of boys change and worst part is mother in laws who is also a girl is highly responsible for such treatment as I’ve seen it happening with many ladies

  25. One point is non sense here. As someone said this post is just for publicity post! The writer speaking about virginity and saying she may not be a virgin before marriage. Oh so you mean to say girl can sleep with any number of boys and marry a completely different person and make him a fool.? If this what it meant then its non sense ! If she marries her true love then fine no issues. But what if its the other way ? Make your point clear

  26. I just loved the write up. Specially when u say EXCUSE ME!
    Recently i have seen the drastic changes and i have also seen learned men accepting those changes. Its easy for our generation to adapt to these changes ( post 1980 born)
    The mentality will be seen changed only after this generation grows old and the previous one is extinct. All thanks to the media and the writer to be upfront in expressing thoughts.

  27. Hi.good initiation.It can help in changing the old mentality and thinking.If some girl is straight forward in nature and raise its voice against wrong thing she should be appreciated instead of criticising her.

  28. If institution of marriage is only about physical needs and empowerment, then there’s no need for a marriage at all. There’s nothing wrong in being in a living relationship forever and keep respective families and no commitments and expectations, no complaints, no charities and no screaming victims. I seriously think every man should embrace the living arrangement. No drama, no kich kich…

  29. Very well written article Swati. I totally agree with the points you have mentioned. I hope the level of hypocrisy in our society comes down sometime soon!!

  30. Awesome article Swati. I totally agree with the points that you have mentioned, in our society for being casted as an ideal bahu, especially if there is another bahu doing the same in the family.You are right by saying that women should not be forced to do things of not her choice in the name of rituals. Respect and culture should be from the heart and not just by covering your head and keeping dumb. I do respect those women who have been doing this by their choice and had the capability to perform everything rightly.
    But nowadays women have to give a lot of time to kids in this competitive world and also pursue her carrier and amongst all this many women face difficulty with so called ideal tantrums.Many a times she is herself caught in guilt if she takes some decisions boldly be it a no to relatives during her kids exam or similar conditions.The women herself need to be strong to come out of guilty feelings and no doubt she needs the support of her dear ones for that. Sharing thoughts on such platforms will also motivate the women to be strong.

  31. Dear Swati.

    In only one word ‘Awesome’. You have not only given vent to your personal feelings but also of thousands of women who undergo all these 365 days *…. years.

    Every mother wants her children to be happy and so does the mother of a daughter too. In fact she wants that the daughter should be at least one step ahead of her and not go through the trauma’s which she herself had undergone. Every wife wants her husband and children to be happy but as human being don’t we have that 10% at least to give back to her for her 24*7 toil, for the exuberant patience that she has in understanding us and adjusting with us!

    Why is it that the bohu has to take care of her in-laws and not the son-in law take care of his in-laws? Which logic, which rule is being adhered to and on what strictures? Debating on this will take ages to get a conclusion. The need of the hour is to grow up and be a human being first and then other things will follow. Being humane will surely be one of the steepping stones to a just equitable society

  32. I think each word is true. We are in 2020 and I am going through this stereotype of a BAHU even today. Being told ki ladki ka doosra janam hota hai shadi k baad so hai khushi k sath accept karo which crushes my soul like anything.

    Thanks for writing this article Swati.

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