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Why are most Indian brides scrutinised by in-laws and expected to be ‘perfect’ in everything they do, otherwise it is all their parents’ fault?
This is a common phenomenon in majority of Indian households and a thorn in the flesh for new brides (old ones too in some cases).
Believe it or not, often the moment a new bride enters her sasuraal /marital home she is automatically placed under surveillance by the members (read: mostly womenfolk of all ages) of her new family. Her appearance, gait, table manners, speech become topics of coffee table discussion.
If the women find the young lady’s behaviour near impeccable, she is fortunate. If they spot a thing or two which they do not like, then the poor girl is in for solid trouble, and liable to be grilled frequently.
I recall how one of my buddies Tina used to laugh loudly. Post marriage she was hauled over the coals for this. “What a manner less woman you are. You are a bahu now. Didn’t your parents groom you properly?” the mother- in-law would grumble.
I cannot figure out for dear life, what is wrong in laughing loudly? Must a girl behave like a dumb doll once she is married?
Another friend Rekha always sported a side parting in her hair. After she was married she dutifully applied vermilion/sindur in her parting as behoves a Hindu bride.
Her mother and sister-in-law threw a fit. They fumed, “Didn’t your mother teach you the basics? Does she have no sense? Sindur is always to be worn on a central parting. Only harlots or concubines use a side parting.”
Rekha was dumbfounded.
Rinku and Sajal were married on a warm October day. Therefore Rinku deferred transferring her warm clothes from her parental home to the new one.
As ill-luck would have it, the weather turned chilly one late October evening. Rinku asked Sajal’s sister to lend her a shawl or wrapper. The woman hit back viciously, “Such brainless parents of yours! Couldn’t even pack the woollens along with your belongings?!”
Now who could have anticipated the vagaries of weather? Do parents control the weather? Who knows? Sajal, who overheard this, bought her a couple of wind-cheaters (the very next day) to keep the cold out.
I have neither the intention of defaming anyone nor washing dirty linen in public. I only wish to highlight the agonizing existence at one point of time, in my life too.
When I got hitched nearly three decades ago I was a nervous bride, for I had not met or interacted with all the residents of the household. While helping out in the kitchen I broke two glass tumblers in separate incidents. An aunt who lived with us saw this and began wailing, “Why oh why did we bring in such a clumsy creature? The parents did not teach her kitchen etiquette!”
Blinded by emotion I wanted to scream, “Look here — parents never teach girls to break glasses; it was an accident. I’ve seen some of you breaking crockery. What of that?” Instead I stood there tongue-tied.
During the first year of matrimony I was blasted right left and centre for (occasionally) leaving bathroom taps on, not shutting doors firmly, and leaving my room without switching off the lights or the fan. On such occasions the catchwords used to be “Paisa kaun dega tumhara baap?” (Will your father pay for the wastage?).
I am a journalist by profession. After my marriage I dovetailed my maiden as well as the new surname in my bylines.
My father-in-law was aghast. He blamed my father for not teaching me the pros and cons of social life. In his opinion a girl ought to break away from her maiden life to integrate herself into the new family. The rantings continued until one day, in sheer disgust I discarded my former surname for good.
But this situation was far from getting over. The old English adage “He that has an ill name is half hanged,” was becoming true in my case. They had determined to dislike me and they weren’t going to change their minds.
The last straw was when one day during my early pregnancy, I was scheduled to meet with my gynaecologist before going to work. I had donned a salwar kameez, a pretty comfortable work outfit. When the matronly lady (MIL) saw me thus attired she began hollering, how my mother was a chhotolok (ill bred, uncivilized). Why? because she hadn’t taught me to wear a sari to the clinic. Doing so would make the internal examinations easier for the doctor.
I was petrified! I was not aware if such a dress code existed. Also didn’t she realize how in major parts of the globe pregnant women smoothly manage without saris till the end? What a preposterous idea!
The time is now. Prospective grooms’ families (a.k.a. ladkewale ) must understand
~ that each bride is an individual with a distinct personality, coupled with a mind, ideas and views of her own.
~ that she must not be forced to adapt to her new home and environs.
~ that a complete break from the past would prove traumatic.
~ that the newlywed ought to be treated with sympathy and patience because she leaves behind a complete chapter of her life for your son!
More importantly each woman has her fair share of plus and minus points. Rather than nagging and nitpicking, appreciating her positive traits and encouraging her latent qualities would ultimately prove fruitful.
Image source: a still from the film 2 States
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