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The author asks a very pertinent question of society and her marital family. One that is possibly the last straw in the oppression she has adjusted to as a married Indian woman.
“Learn the rules of this family now that you are a part of our family” these were the first words uttered by my father in law to me.
“Forget how you did this in you Mom’s place. Do it our way now” were the kind words spoken by my mother in law.
“Don’t make rajma like this. Make it the way my Mom makes” said my beloved the first time I made Rajma.
“In our family, the menfolk eat first. You eat after they are done” said my younger unmarried sister in law to me as she and my mother in law sat with the menfolk to have dinner.
Just a few days into marriage and I had been told this and much more about how I have to adapt to “their ways”. I knew marriage needs a lot of work, adjustment and compromises.
But why all the rules were for me and adjustments which only I needed to make? Shouldn’t all the family members adjust and make the new person feel welcome? Isn’t the husband expected to adjust as well?
And that was my first mistake. I shouldn’t have stayed silent. I should have spoken out.
I couldn’t understand why my sister in law could eat first while I had to wait for everybody to finish. We both had hectic work schedules and I too was tired after a long day at work. While she could relax in front of the TV after coming home from office. My first task on entering the house was rush into the kitchen and make dinner. I would stay hungry till everyone finished and then eat alone.
I wanted to ask, if women are supposed to eat in the last, am I the only woman in this house? But I stayed silent and compromised.
All the cooking had to be done following my mother in law’s recipe. The few times that I followed my own recipe, the entire family went out for dinner leaving the food untouched. Of course, leaving me behind to enjoy my own recipe.
I wanted to ask if the hotel chef was following my mother in law’s recipe. But I stayed silent and compromised.
All my western formals were given to my sister in law. My wardrobe had only sarees which were chosen by mother in law. My mother in law said ladies should dress traditionally and decently.
I wanted to ask why this discrimination between her daughter and me. But I stayed silent and compromised.
I couldn’t visit my parents without their permission. I was not allowed to invite my relatives. And I was always required to take off from work if any of their relatives were visiting. My husband and sister in law were never asked to be at home for entertaining relatives or for attending some function.
I wanted to ask my in laws and husband to take my career seriously, but I stayed silent and compromised.
There were so many rules and restrictions imposed on me that over a period of time, I had adjusted and compromised so much that I couldn’t even identify myself anymore. Every aspect of my identity was controlled by my husband and in laws. I had lost my identity and somehow also the will and desire to change things.
Every time I wanted to speak up, I stayed silent. I wanted them to accept me and love me. I never realised this was not a marriage anymore. It was just a compromise.
It was my 27th birthday. I wasn’t expecting anything from my husband or in laws. I had been married for 2 years and nobody in this family had wished me or celebrated my birthday even once.
The doorbell rang early morning. I was surprised to find Papa at the door. He had come all the way from Chandigarh to Delhi to wish me on my birthday.
A surprise visit… which unfortunately turned into a shocking visit. Forget welcoming him, he was not even allowed to enter the house. My husband looked at me and said, “Your Dad should have taken permission from us before coming here.”
That was the last straw….
Papa was stunned and speechless. I had gotten used to being treated like dirt but to treat my father in such a manner was totally unacceptable. I just couldn’t let them treat Papa this way. I don’t know what came over me. I just clasped Papa’s hand and we walked out of their house holding hands.
I wanted to say so many things, but I stayed silent. Walking away spoke a thousand words and conveyed the message loud and clear.
My days of compromising were over.
First published here.
Image source: By Bodhisattva Dasgupta – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
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