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She asked me what I'd cooked for my husband. That's when I remembered how my mother would answer these questions and my eyes brimmed with tears.
She asked me what I’d cooked for my husband. That’s when I remembered how my mother would answer these questions and my eyes filled with tears.
Recently, I read a post on Women’s Web titled, ‘I Knew Nothing Of Feminism Till I Watched Paroma Made By Aparna Sen.‘ And I was intrigued by the post so I decided to watch the movie. Released in June 1985, it is more than three decades old. In these thirty years, we have all witnessed a number of dynamic changes in India. Today it is emerging as one of the largest economies that is gaining diplomatic clout. We are leaping into a digital future while also advancing in space research, medicine and technology.
I am really proud of India, pick any of the Big Four, the Fortune Five or a global MNC, you will find at least one Indian there. And I am sure, that, as a society, no one had faced any major challenges in adapting to the digital age. Neither have I heard of anyone boycotting their families for switching from a landline to mobiles.
Take for example, my friend’s MIL, she now uses an iPhone that she learnt to use in less than a day’s time. She even makes Tik-Tok videos and has a good number of followers.
Strangely, the same woman is upset when her DIL wears jeans or lets her hair open or isn’t wearing any of the suhag materials. She finds it extremely hard to accept and adjust to the lifestyle her DIL leads. When her son confronts her, she innocently blames the gender gap and how the modern thinking is such a new concept for her.
Sadly, when it comes to opening minds to feminism, society gives a number of excuses to not adjust and adapt. There are places celebrating the birth of a girl, families that do not differentiate between the girls and boys. But these are the same people who make a complete 180 degree turn when it comes to marrying off the same girl.
For example, I got married on January 19th and till the 18th, everything I did was ‘cute’ and ‘innocent.’ People would pamper me where I went. But things changed drastically from the 20th, everyone saw me in a new light.
Two years into the marriage, I am now ‘tez,’ ‘chalak,’ ‘ladaku,’ ‘shaadi ke baad bete ko badal dene waali,’ (sly, and conniving) among others. Strangely, I grew up hearing the same things about my mother, aunt and all the other DILs of that era. Back then, I’d wonder what was wrong with these ladies and why couldn’t they gel with their in-laws. But after being married for two years, I know the answer.
After Paroma, I watched a lot of other movies from the 80’s. Most of them hints here and there about the struggles faced by a woman. These movies merely hinted at it, and did not have the climax where the actor would get a screen time of five minutes for a gyaan filled speech. Basically, the plight of women is still the same and the movies are still just highlighting the same. The only difference is the speeches that have been added like a cherry on top.
Thanks to Netflix, I get to watch movies from all the eras and while taking a break from the 80s, I decided to watch a movie titled ‘Motichoor Chaknachoor.’ It stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Athiya Shetty. It is the story of a 36-year-old man looking for a bride. So far, so good, right?
Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s acting and presence on the screen is enough to hold his viewers in his grasp. The movie does have a few good comic scenes that are well-times. And by the end of the movie, the viewers definitely learn a few words by heart, ‘hamao,’ ‘mora,’ and ‘mori,’ being the key ones. Having said all this, what was strange to me was the script.
Here was a girl rejecting men because she saw marriage as the only option to take her out of India. Nobody in the movie had clearly heard of the IELTS or the PTE, I suppose!
Everyone started laughing when Nawazuddin’s character meets a fat girl as a possible bride. He was shown so desperate to be married, that he would make the ‘sacrifice’ and marry a fat girl. And then, for some strange reason, the girl starts eating samosas and jalebi the moment she gets a chance.
In my entire life, I have never seen any girl fat or not, do that, especially in front of guests! I am a bulky woman too, but I know what maintaining decorum means. If I have to attack the food, I at least wait for the guests to leave before doing so!
He slaps her and she does nothing! She leaves her house, her parents close the door on her saying that it was her ‘personal’ matter and that she had to sort it out herself. And she is forced to stay on the road for a couple of hours.
Then his grandmother comes up to her and tells her, “Abhi toh tu ghar se bahar aayi hai, mann se bahar ho gayi toh bulane nai aaego.” (Right now, you’re only out of the house but if you’re out of our hearts, no one will come to fetch you) Seeing the ‘error’ of her ways, Athiya’s character goes back inside.
No. We are not in the past, we’re still in the twentieth century! Yes, it is still 2020 and this is happening. And somehow, at the end of the movie, they both end up falling in love.
But my suffering continued after the movie as well. One of our relatives from my husband’s side called and inquired about him and his well-being. Happily, I also took the phone from him, since it was his bua whom I was speaking to after three months!
After the initial sweet pleasantries, she asked me if all the dishes were done. Meekly, I told her they were. Then she asked me what I’d cooked for my husband. And I told her, “raajma chawal,” That’s when I remembered how my mother would answer these kinds of questions and my eyes brimmed with tears.
On a full interrogation spree, she asked me if I woke up early enough to make him his tiffin. Again, I replied with an affirmative.
“Haan. Sahi. Accha hai, banaya kar. Dal makhni seekhi ya nahi?” (Good. Good. Did you learn to make dal makhni for him?) Dal makhni is my husband’s favourite.
She continued, “Kuch time sasural aake, apne saas-sasur ki seva kar. Bechari teri saas, akele hi karti hai sa. Kab tak karegi?” (You should spend some time at your in-law’s place too. Your ‘poor’ MIL does everything on her own. How long can she do all this?)
“Jee dekhti hun. Mujhe abhi office se chutti nahi hai,” (I’ll see. I don’t have too many leaves from work) I told her.
“Le le fir! Paise ki kaunsi kami hai! Hahahaha!” (Take a leave then! We can afford it) she said. At this point, we exchanged some good night messages before I hung up.
After the call, I was unconsolable. I was crying like a baby. Day by day, all this is becoming too frequent and I start missing my old independent life leading me to cry. And I desperately wanted my parent to come pick me up.
When my husband came in and saw me crying, he asked me what happened. After I narrated the incident to him, he started laughing. “Arre! She was just pulling your leg. This is just her way of joking!”
“How is this a joke!” I asked angrily.
“You are silly. This is extremely common in our culture. We just pull each other’s leg and laugh about it later,” he responded calmly.
Ours is an inter-caste marriage and whenever I point out a mistake by any of his family members, he blames it on cultural differences. I am so frustrated with all this that I have stooped down to a low level. And every time we fight, I say, “Wait till this happens to your own daughter! That day I will ask you whether this is culture difference or gender inequality.”
“What kind of mother you are! Cursing your own daughter, she is just a child.” The mere mention of ill-treating our daughter infuriates my husband.
Wish he could remove the societal blindfold and see the plight of a mother, who has to curse her own daughter just to bring a man to his senses. But alas, it backfires and the clock of equality still does not move.
Later I realised, my mother would say the same things to my father. The fate of a married woman has not changed since. It is a chain of the same incidents happening to every married woman. Luckily, a few families have changed and now accept their DIL as she is and try to accommodate her. In such cases, the MILs are at the receiving end as they are constantly reminded by the relatives as to what a grave mistake this is.
It is not about the MIL or the DIL, it is about all women at large. What if we all unite and uplift each other, I am sure men would be outnumbered.
Arth, Paroma, Damini, Lajja, English Vinglish, Queen, Pink, Lipstick Under My Burkha, I don’t know how many movies would it take to bring everyone on the same page.
Picture credits: Still from the movie English Vinglish
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Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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