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Does abuse always come with blows, taunts, physical and mental torture? Doesn’t total disregard of someone’s needs count as cause for bitterness too?
I am your quintessential Indian woman; wife, mother, daughter-in-law, teacher. I am blessed with a good job, a sweet kid and husband, broad minded parents-in-law, and so what am I bickering about? Well, I’ll tell you.
Staying in a joint family isn’t a simple task, but unlike what they show on tv, in a city like Mumbai, buying and renting flats isn’t simple either. So like many of us women, I too am ‘adjusting.’
I genuinely love my husband and my family, and thanks to that, I feel for them. Now that I reflect, I understand that’s the root cause of my situation.
My mother-in-law is a nurturer. Be it me or her two daughters, she takes us all under her warm motherly embrace. So her daughters, and their daughters, visit her every evening and stay for tiffin and dinner. This has been the routine, more or less, since the past ten years. So what’s wrong, you might ask.
Well, when I return from office, tired after a day’s work, only to plunge into my son’s homework, I always find the house noisy and occupied. I yearn for a little silence, a little me-time back home, but those glorious moments are limited to my bi-annual visits to my parents’ or when we holiday somewhere else. But never ever in the house I spend my life in.
Once the extended family goes back to their own homes for the night, the kitchen sink is piled with vessels which I end up cleaning, of course with my mom-in-law’s help. But she’s old and I see her toiling in the kitchen all the time, so many a times I willingly request her to retire to bed, with only the dirty kitchen to keep me company.
Then I set my alarm real early, begin my day feeling groggy, looking forward to a hectic day at office and home.
If ever we decide to eat out, there’s always my sisters-in-law and their families, it’s like, a family that eats together, lives together. I can count on my fingers, the exact number of times when I would have dined peacefully with just my husband and son.
Come Sunday, the family unites very early in the morning. Not only the sisters, but their husbands, and some distant relatives at times. Each one with a different culinary liking. So my mom-in-law cooks breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, everything under the sun, to please everyone’s palette.
And I being the ‘bahu’, am expected to help around, which I do because I feel it’s morally wrong to let her slog all by herself. But then it’s my Sunday too, one day of rest that I earn. But being a member of the house and the family, there are certain expectations from me.
More than often, I am tempted to rebel; shut the door and read a book in my room, or pick my bag and just saunter off to the nearest cinema or spa. But then, that behaviour would upset my family, most of all my husband and I wouldn’t want that.
He remains a silent spectator and then, he too is working hard for a living. He returns late, or else he’s busy with telephone meetings or mostly, he gets to travel for work. So he conveniently slips away from all the clatter and clamour at home.
It’s not all that kosher, I crib. I complain. To my husband, within the confines of my bedroom.
Why don’t his sisters stay in their own homes and mind their own business? Why can’t my parents-in-law advise their married daughters to be more responsible? Why couldn’t he, my husband, relocate to a different city, or travel less and support me more?
But then I am rewarded with the best of advice and solutions. “They are my sisters, it’s their home too. Why can’t you take it all in a positive spirit? Do my parents ever force you into household chores? Do they ever hurt you? Just because I’m married, do I have to abandon my parents? Fine, I’ll give up my job and sit at home. Or better still, you tell them to leave, because I can’t. Don’t enter the kitchen, act indifferent, be hostile. Then my sisters would get the hint and never return. Happy?”
I’m sure he knows I would never actually demonstrate any of this, thus the advice. So do my parents-in-law. It’s now kind of accepted that I wouldn’t demand any space, I would meekly carry on and comply with everyone else’s wishes and never openly show my dissatisfaction. Why should I, you might ask.
I’m financially independent, I’m a modern woman, but that doesn’t mean I’m a home breaker. I hate negativity of any kind, at home or at work. I dislike jibes and arguments and worst of all, I can’t separate a son from his parents. I like them all too much and everyone around unfortunately knows this.
All I wish for, is a little peace, a little time for myself and a little understanding from others that my house isn’t exactly a ‘Restaurant with Boarding facilities.’
You tell me, does abuse always come with blows, taunts, physical and mental torture ? Doesn’t total apathy to someone’s needs count as bitterness too?
True, my in-laws have kindly taken me in, and just as sweetly, taken me for granted.
First published here.
Image source: a still from the Hindi short film Juice
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