That day I realized no matter what one did a daughter is never accepted anywhere. I was an outsider to the family I was born and will always be an outsider to the family I was married into.
In most traditional Indian families and many such other traditional families from around the world, we often hear a very common phrase when referred to daughters after marriage: “daughters are now outsiders.”
There is no mention of such a thing in any religious text I know of, yet most people adhere to this as sacred. It is treated as a huge sin and a shameful act if a family does not abide to this. Thus, this citation has become the norm in many households.
Majority of the people following this turn a very blind-eye to the consequences that come from this. While a few lucky people have very little or no issues with this, there are many who suffer emotionally due to this. I very strongly believe this is a kind of emotional abuse which the society has decided to widely ignore.
Having experienced this first-hand let me tell you about my first experience of being an outsider, an outsider to the family I was born and an outsider to the family I was married into.
Like every other young girl I was very excited on my wedding day. My family had chosen a good husband who comes from a good family. Everyone kept praising me and telling me how lucky I was to be chosen to be the daughter-in-law of such a prestigious family. That I should feel privileged and proud; and honestly, I was. They were all good to me, and the few times I met them they seemed very kind.
At the age of 18, others words have a huge impact on how you feel, I was simply glowing. That day I became an outsider to my family.
My parents advised me on how I should accept my husband’s family as my family now and be the ideal daughter-in-law I was taught to be. I was an outsider to my family but any disorderly conduct from me reflects on the reputation of the family I was born into, so I meekly promised obey.
For the first few months after marriage I was very careful to mingle with my new family, please everyone and follow the rules of my new household. Being the only daughter-in-law of a big joint family I soon realized I had a lot of responsibilities and expectations from me were very high.
Trust me, at that young age it wasn’t easy to grasp everything but I diligently followed everything as best I possibly could. My mother, aunties, cousins all did the same, so why couldn’t I?
The few times I slipped my new family was kind enough to help me out. There was a time or two when I caused them disappointment but it was soon forgotten and I was forgiven.
Where there are other women being abused, wasn’t I lucky? Well I was told I should be, so I thought I was. Even if late in the nights I sometimes questioned myself if this was right, I soon remembered my parents advice and hushed my thoughts off. These thoughts were ungrateful and that was not how my parents brought me up.
Then came the first festival after my marriage, Diwali, the Festival of Lights and my favorite.
In the family I was born into we decorated the house, made an array of appetizing cuisine, had massive displays of fireworks and a mass family gathering. I wondered how it would be in my new home and was earnestly looking forward to the festival.
Diwali arrived and I helped my in laws with decorations and cooking. Soon it was time for everyone to arrive. It was supposed to be my first mass family gathering with my new family. I wanted to look my best, so I dressed in my best outfit and chose the perfect accessories to go with it.
The guests started arriving and I warmly welcomed them all with my family. I missed my parents and family, but I was now an ‘outsider’ and not welcome to the gatherings there. My festival was to be celebrated with my new family. My mother-in-law asked me to serve and so I did. Everyone commented on my good work and how I had proved myself as a good daughter-in-law.
I was overjoyed, I wanted to mingle with them all and get to know my new family better, so I sat with a group of young girls.
They politely introduced themselves and then spoke in hushed voices only amongst themselves. Soon it became very awkward, something didn’t seem right but I couldn’t put my finger onto what I was doing wrong. I tried initiating more conversation, but didn’t get much of a response. I then moved to sit with another group of women but the same happened there as well.
I was confused. My mother-in-law ushered me towards the kitchens. She said I had made her and my new family proud by fulfilling my duties well but now it was time for me to take some rest. I said I was fine. But that’s when I understood what was wrong.
She very sweetly and politely said: “Everything is fine here, you’ve taken care of all the work, but now you should give them some privacy. This is all family and you are an outsider we’ve accepted but you still are an outsider. I’m sure you don’t want the guests to be uncomfortable because of you. I hope you understand. Eat something and retire to your room, dear.”
It was a terrible blow but I composed myself and went to my room. I couldn’t eat. That day I realized no matter what one did a daughter is never accepted anywhere. I was an outsider to the family I was born and will always be an outsider to the family I was married into.
As terrible as the realization was I knew I will never celebrate a festival as I used to because now I was married and didn’t belong anywhere. I wished things were different but alas, this was my destiny and now I only had 17 years worth of festivals to reminisce with.
With a heavy heart, isolated in my room, I listened to the celebrations go on all night, the fireworks go off with a bang and finally the guests depart. My husband came to our room, clearly pleased and extremely very tired. He asked me where I was all this time. That’s when I realized he’d hardly noticed I wasn’t around.
For one split second, I wanted to lash at him for being so ignorant about me, for being shunned this way, for all the despair and loneliness I’d felt all evening. But then I realized how it feels when the joy of a festival is taken away from you. Did I want to pick a fight and do the same to him? I didn’t think so. I couldn’t be that selfish. So with a strained smile I said I was busy, and he was content.
Exhausted he fell asleep and I finally gave into the tears that had threatened to shed all evening. That day onwards, I learnt the hard way to never expect belongingness anywhere because a girl after marriage becomes an outsider and does not belong anywhere.
Image source: a still from the film Manmarziyaan
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