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So many in India live in joint or extended families and small homes, with the only privacy a couple gets is by hanging curtains or mosquito nets.
An old Italian proverb says “Be sure before you marry of a house wherein to tarry”. Pragmatic wisdom, since marriage does not imply romance, torrid emotions and companionship. Rather every married couple – whether newlyweds, middle aged or old–must have a certain degree of privacy, besides personal and physical space. I am sure all adult individuals will agree on this point.
Now consider a few instances.
A former office colleague of mine, married her beau after five years of courtship. Her spouse was a chartered accountant by profession who lived with his widowed mother in their own flat in a middle class locality of south Delhi.
After the initial euphoria was over the new bride discovered to her dismay that her sasuraal was a one bedroom set. For the mother and son duo it was sufficient but now saddled with a bride it was a different ball game. The newlyweds were assigned the lone bedroom while the mother slept on a divan in the living room. To add to her woes the only toilet in the house was attached to the bedroom. And it was accessible from the living room only via the bedroom. There was no second door!
Every night the couple would retire leaving the connecting door of the two rooms ajar. On most nights the mom-in-law would undertake one or more toilet trips depending on her requirement. So for the young couple physical proximity was near impossible. At work the poor girl would often break down and bemoan her fate. Her joy knew no bounds when the elderly lady was out of town visiting friends and relatives. The few hours of intimacy which they managed to grab was like paradise!
The situation continued for nearly three years before the couple managed to buy a spacious flat and moved in with the mother in tow.
Sumita had a worse fate in matrimony.
Hailing from an EWS family in Lucknow, she readily agreed to a negotiated match with a central government clerk residing in Delhi. The young man lived with his divorcee mother in a single cramped room. Though he had applied for government accommodation yet it was taking time to materialize.
Imagine Sumita’s plight when she and her partner were asked to share the large cot in the room while the mother used a makeshift bed on the floor beneath. All night long the couple struggled to maintain pin drop silence lest the tiniest whisper, or a groan or creaking of the bed disturb and awaken the third occupant. The lady seldom left them alone.
Unable to live this way day in and day out, the young girl thought of a plan. She obtained permission to visit her parents during the fiesta season. Once there she blurted out everything to her kin and subsequently filed a divorce suit.
Closer home, during his younger days, my father along with his own, plus an extended family lived in a middle class chawl in central Kolkata. The building had more spacious halls than private rooms.
Often families with six to eight members had a hall to themselves. With the result, many married couples (as the joke still goes around) tenuously maintained a semblance of privacy at night with the help of mosquito nets!
I cannot for my dear life imagine how such couples led fairly long marital lives and even managed to beget offsprings!
While visiting the home of my maternal aunt in Kanpur, I found a similar scene. One of the halls functioned as the sitting room-cum-bedroom for her parents-in-law. In the next, a flimsy wooden partition split the area into the family’s dining room and a bedroom for my three female cousins. In the last, a service and washing area separated my aunt & uncle’s chamber from that of his brother & wife. Curtains replaced doors in these enclosures!
I was dumbstruck to learn that my uncle and all his siblings were born and had grown up in that very house. Personal space thrown to the winds!
My personal life was not cheerful either. Our bed chamber was bang opposite the dormitory occupied my spouse’s two aunts and a sister. (They never married).
Now the lavatory was sandwiched between the rooms. To my consternation my sister in law regularly eavesdropped on her way to and from the toilet. We got proof that she did, for the very next morning during breakfast hour she would publicly divulge what she (might have) overheard the previous night. I nearly died of shame.
Look at some brighter pictures.
When one of my neighbours decided to tie the knot, there arose a roadblock, since all bedrooms in the house were already occupied. So his parents made arrangements to add an extra bedroom – complete with toilet and all – on the upper floor of their single story house!
This thoughtful gesture went viral; two years down the line a couple of other neighbours too got their modest houses renovated and enlarged to accommodate their daughters-in-law. Sure, they deserve kudos!
I would like to point out here that mindlessly adjusting in the marital home – on part of Indian bahus, at the cost of privacy and comfort – is no longer acceptable. The times they are a changing… and women themselves must vociferously demand their fistful of personal space.
Image source: a still from the series Lust Stories
Am a trained and experienced features writer with 25 plus years of experience .My favourite
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