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A daughter-in-law has, since time immemorial, been criticised for everything she does. But fret not, here are a few tips for those facing similar problems!
I am quite an adaptive person. And I believe in accepting people as they are. Neither do I want them to change their way of life for me. Nor do I want to change my way of life for them. I always thought it was cool, until I got married.
The moment I finished taking the seven vows, people started pestering me about my culinary skills, my home keeping skills. Oh! and the hush hush… the “keep your husband happy” skills.
I always thought being happy was the most important. But what I never knew was that, according to societal norms, keeping the husband and in-laws happy tops the list.
The tyranny began when I entered my “new home.” I was welcomed with strange traditions and unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic for me, quite obvious for others. There was no knight in the shining armour, no roses on the path, no love in the air, and neither was my love anywhere in sight. What there was, was just random and unfamiliar faces and their discordant chanting.
Clad in really heavy and uncomfortable traditional dress adorned with the heaviest of jewellery, I was like a sleepless zombie. I longed to get into something comfortable and retire.
Engrossed in my thoughts, I never knew when hubby dearest stood next to me. It, probably, was time for some other tradition that required team play. However, seeing him didn’t help me relax. Instead, it made me feel even pathetic. He had comfortably changed into sandals and shorts, while here I was bearing the burden of traditions.
This may sound over-dramatic to some, and one might think, ‘what’s the big deal, ye to sabhi karte hai’ (everyone follows this). But for someone who had always condemned the atrocities of patriarchy, hardly accepted gender biasing, all this was really perturbing.
While we were dating, I had conveyed my ideologies and my rebellious thoughts to my would-be husband and I believed he respected them. It was only after our wedding did I realise that he was following the age old mantra, “Shaadi ke baad sab theek ho jaayega (things will fall in place once you get married).”
I missed my pajamas and tees badly, I still followed what I was expected to do during my initial stay at in-laws. I remained the ideal saree clad, sar par pallu wali bahu and followed the complete checklist of a married women’s adornments.
Problems started when I, as the daughter-in-law, was expected to follow all the norms even on my subsequent visits. This continued almost a year. It felt suffocating. I felt trapped.
Once, I remember, I wore a Chinese collar salwar suit and the dupatta slipped my head, only to leave a furious father-in-law, who skipped his lunch as he was ‘upset’.
I was labeled as an impudent and immodest daughter-in-law. That’s when I decided I needed to turn the tables, one step at a time. It was time for them to know that being righteous is not impudent.
For those other daughters-in-law, sailing in a similar boat and wondering how to change the norms, here is some advice:
The biggest mistake we make is that we don’t speak for ourselves. We accept things as they are and consider it our fate.
Instead, be bold and firm and stand up for yourselves. When you respect yourself, only then will others respect you.
Women have a tendency to almost always over think and often assume things. It is therefore important to stop assuming and start speaking.
Let others know what’s comfortable for you and what is not.
You don’t own your life to anyone. Your marriage is an equal partnership. When you show love, care and respect for others, those feelings should be reciprocated.
You might be a daughter-in-law, but you have the freedom to live the life that suits you.
You will have to get into each family member’s shoes in order to put across your point. Each one has a different mindset and a different temperament.
As the daughter-in-law, you will have to strike the right chord at the right moment with each one of them.
Although it is important to lay down rules, it is equally important to take one step at a time. Going all out will only label you negatively and will be too difficult for others to digest.
After several disagreements and a series of rebellious processions later, things are changing, slowly but steadily.
Yes, I was called names. There were some bitter moments, but all this was worth it. Now there is only mutual respect and love for each other in the family.
Not only does my husband understand me better and respects my choices but I also a big supporter in my mother-in-law. Though she was adamant at first, she is, now, living a life of her choice too. As for my father-in-law, he too, is trying to amend things.
If you are able to resonate with the issue, please drop a comment. I would love to hear your take on this.
A version of this was first published here.
Picture credits: YouTube
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Neha Mishra has been a software consultant and a technical trainer for six years. When
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