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Reject That Pressure To Be A ‘Good Indian Wife’ Even When In A Supportive Marriage

Posted: May 19, 2020

My takeaway from the movie Thappad was the conversation between Amrita’s parents, about how married women compromise on their dreams because of conditioning by patriarchy.

I wasn’t much interested in watching the movie Thappad as from the reviews and trailers, we got the essence of the movie, and secondly this is not a movie to watch with my 5+ yr old twins. But now when Amazon Prime is streaming the movie and there was nothing much to do this weekend, I watched it.

What stayed with me from the movie?

The highlight was the conversation between the older couple

Thappad movie has showcased various emotions of women from all walks of life. But what caught my attention and provoked me the most to write is not the exuberant domestic help Sunita didi, devoted housewife Amrita, or the progressive lawyer Netra, nor even the slap or “just a slap”, but a conversation between Amrita’s parents when she finally decided to take divorce. A conversation of great significance for Indian women, which seems to be hidden in between so many powerful performances and dialogues.

The conversation goes like this.

Mother: Women have to suppress their feelings to keep the family together. (Man marna padta hai!)
Father: There’s no need to suppress ones feelings. Did you ever have to?(Aapko kabhi marna pada hai man?)
Mother: Of course I did. Didn’t I have desires? My father wanted me to sing on All India Radio. But I had to compromise. Should I have looked after the house and kids? Or sing songs?
Father: Did I ever stop you?
Mother: So what if you didn’t? Don’t I have a mind of my own? Didn’t I know what was important?
Father: Who told you what was important.
Mother: My mother said home is important, her mother taught her this. Didn’t you know? Did you ever ask, “Why don’t you sing anymore?”
Mother: But you knew people would gossip…if I had sung after marriage. I didn’t say a word, but you let it pass too. YES, I have suppressed my feelings! (Man marna pada)

What happens in many supportive homes?

Doesn’t this happen with us too?

Imagine that the in-laws’ home is supportive – they want to support. But, our conditioning is such that after marriage, we women leave our career, our passion, our dreams for the sake of our family, and that too often when no one tells us to do so. But the idea of sacrifice is taught to girls as they grow up, and we ourselves think being women we are supposed to make sacrifices. Sacrifice for family, for kids. We never share our problems with our husband, we don’t discuss with other family members, and don’t look for the solutions. We just believe that the entire onus to run the family is on our shoulders, so we have to compromise.

And later at one point of time we start blaming our life partner that because of him we endured our entire life. We always conclude that they know our aspirations, what’s hidden in our heart. And the guy doesn’t have an idea that his wife is making sacrifices. He thinks that we are taking care of house nicely, happily raising our kids, managing everything without complaining, so it must mean that we are content.

The idea of the ‘good, cultured’ Indian woman

Why do we women always seek approval from our partner? Why do we want them to tell us to pursue our aspirations? Why do we look up to them for everything? Why do we held them accountable even for our dreams and then condemn later?

Why does this happen? Because cultured women don’t ask questions!!

We don’t even discuss our wishes with them as we think family is more important as our mother has told us. We’re so conditioned to this thinking that we want to be an ideal wife, a dutiful daughter in law, and accept any situation as is, without expressing any apprehensions.

It might also be possible that our life partner doesn’t like us to pursue our dreams, so they don’t encourage us, but maybe they aren’t actively stopping us. Till the time no one is stopping us, I’d suggest that we women have to take it as a Yes. Because our lives are at stake.

Don’t compromise. Mat maro apna mann!

Follow your heart, respect yourself love yourself!

There are so many talented women around us who aren’t able to follow their dreams because their family has not allowed them. Or if they do follow their dreams, they have to stand up to patriarchy, they have to fight for it. And we aren’t pursuing just because no one has told us to.

Come on friends, if we want to make a difference to our lives then don’t wait around for an approval. We have to take that first step.

Introspect and act, Mat maro apna mann!

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I am a mother of lovely boy and girl twins. Chartered Accountant and Company Secretary

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