Tiny things like having a son/ daughter/ wife of option in offical forms is moulding mindsets to consider a man the most important.
Have you ever been in a situation where you have been undermined because of your gender?
If Yes – Was it pre-marriage or post-marriage?
Well, mine is mostly Post-marriage.
Personally, for me it was just like the movie Inception, as if I felt asleep one day, and next day woke up to a completely different world. All the physical structures and characters are the same, but the world is different. The hardest part is I can’t undo that sleep and have to accept it as is. Whatever this world is I can’t show my dismay but just accept everything with a smile – like a clown.
At the home front from being daddy’s princess I am now the in-law’s personal maid. They generously and proudly tag it as ‘badon ki seva’ (service of the elders). From waking up before everyone, to the time I sleep after everyone has gone to bed, the ‘seva’ kisses me like a Dementor to suck my soul away.
When I step outside, the world has also dramatically changed from “Your daughter is so smart” to “How dare she cut across her husband to speak” or “She is so bossy won’t even allow her husband to speak” or “This guy has no idea how to control his wife”!
Here are a few incidents to illustrate what I mean.
We had gone for our passport renewal, and for document verification I and my husband were in different chambers. As I was providing my details, the officer who was verifying my application didn’t seem quite convinced with the details. He asked me upfront, “There is a mistake you have not changed your address and surname?”
Though I had updated my marital status and added my husband’s name in the passport, my permanent address and surname were still the same.
I calmly replied, “No it isn’t changed. I don’t want to; please proceed with rest of the process.”
He then asked me, “Where is your husband?” Wondering why it mattered I replied, “In the second last chamber.”
He did not seem very convinced but went ahead with the process. Then he enquired, “Do you want a cover for your new passport?” I refused and looked over my shouldered just as my husband was passing by. His verification was complete. He waved and signaled he will wait in the hall.
The officer suddenly stood up and called my husband inside.
The guy went straight to the point. “In your wife’s application surname and address are still the same. Is it ok, or do you want to change it?”
I was shocked and taken aback. I know for many this might be a small thing but for me it was not. I am an independent woman who is capable enough to take such decisions, and expect my husband to understand the same. The right choice for him would have been to tell the officer that my wife is capable enough to answer any questions or doubts that he has. But NO, my husband actually took the next chair and cross-checked my documents and then provided an affirmative answer “Yes let it be the same.”
Then the officer went on to confirm “She denied the passport cover, is it ok?”
I never felt so humiliated before, I simply stood up and left the chamber.
On our way back I got a nice lecture about anger control and respecting others. bah humbug!
If anything, I felt insulted because that guy treated me like a 5-year old kid. Even way back when I was actually a kid and my dad accompanied me to the passport office, he sent me alone inside saying you are old enough to answer a few questions. Sadly, this does not hold true in the Post-marriage world. Till date my husband argues that the officer was just doing his job and “Pooch liya to kya ho gya? Why do you have to make a fuss about everything?”
Finally, after years of saving we decided to buy our first car. We were very excited, and the discussions were very romantic until society stepped in. My husband wanted the car in my name because he was really proud that I have built my freelance business so nicely and have really worked hard. Since I was an equal contributor, he wanted to show everyone that I was no less as a woman. So far so good.
Excited, when we informed my in-laws, the first instruction that came in our way. “The car will be in Rohit’s name and registration will be of Punjab”. This ‘whose name’ business hadn’t even bothered me earlier, but when the instructions came, I wondered why they said that. Later it struck me like lightning. Obviously because the car should be in the name of the ‘man’ of the house!
When we booked the car, our loan got sanctioned my MIL did not even bothered to congratulate me; for her it was all about my husband and his achievements. I have no idea amidst all this when I got totally sidelined and my in-laws took over.
All discussion regarding the car was with my husband; for me the questions were gender-specific “Are the dishes done? When are you giving good news? Are you keeping Krva Chauth fast? What did you pack today for husband’s lunch?”.
A few months back I gifted them a TV, my MIL was so engulfed in her pride she did not even bothered to thank me or acknowledge the fact that it was a gift from me. Even after told her upfront that I had sent it, she pretended it was from my husband. She later did pat on my back for choosing a good color. MALE – FEMALE.
At the showroom, the same thing had happened. The dealer found it best to deal with my husband directly. He did not even glance at me while explaining the features. When money discussions came, I stepped in and asked what best he could offer. He ignored my words as if he hadn’t heard anything, and carried on the discussion with the husband.
I controlled my emotions as I dug my head in the phone.
This was one such instance where my husband sided with me and felt and shared my pain. But he stood by his stance “Let people do what they want, it is your duty to put up your best behavior.”
Recently I went to a parlor with my husband. My services started late so my husband left me there and said he would come back after 20 min. My services ended and he was not there yet, so I went to the counter and asked them for my bill. They looked at each other at the counter as I paid the bill. Not sure why the strange glances were passed, I prepared to leave once done, when one of them stopped me and said, “Ma’am inform your husband.”
Startled, I asked, “What?”
“Inform your husband that you are leaving,” the lady at the counter said. The guy who was sitting next to her casually said, “Bta k nikliye kya jata hai!” (Inform him and then leave, it’s not such a big deal!).
Now this was one of the posh parlours in the town, and my personal opinion is that this is very bad customer service. Had this been in a metro city these two persons would have lost their jobs. I stormed out saying that I am not a kid and I can very well walk home.
Finally, when I reached home all angry like Hulk, my husband’s first reaction was, “What was the need of rudely storming out of the parlour? You could have politely replied that sure I will call him. Bol diya to kya ho gya? Why do you have to make a fuss about everything?”
Becoming Corona positive
It all started with a dry cough; the virus literally took a toll on us.
Initially, the symptoms felt like the normal flu, and the doctor whom we consulted said it was influenza. But there was a weird weakness that we constantly felt. Day by day the symptoms were increasing in severity for both of us, so it solidified our doubts that this was not the normal flu. We informed our parents and waited as the days passed.
On the 7-8th day while having lunch suddenly I was not able to smell the food. It had just vanished; there was no nose blockage, extremely dry. For us, this confirmed that it was the coronavirus. Slowly taste loss, hearing trouble, pulse fluctuation, breathing trouble, all swept in. We stayed home and consulted our family doctor; he is a CMO at a reputed hospital.
Our limited knowledge and the deaths in the news really scared the hell out of us. You can call nobody for help and people in your building will start distancing from you. On the internet every symptom either leads to death or cancer and in this case one will bump into – Research is still going on. Mentally this is a very tough time and staying sane is an absolute must.
Who cared about how I was?
We were really trying our best to stay positive. Surprisingly my husband received calls from his brother, sister, and relatives day and night, but no one was asking to speak to me. I felt bad, thinking that what if the virus takes my life, these guys wouldn’t care.
Whenever it is any of their birthdays, exams or festivals, my husband and MIL force the phone into my hand saying it is my duty as a bahu to wish them. I get nothing but cold shoulders from them, and it is I who is the pallbearer of the tradition and respect of the house.
So, it naturally irked me that during one of my darkest phases none of them even bothered to call or text me.
His parents were initially concerned and enquired about my health. But later things changed and all they wanted to talk with me was, “It is best that you guys move with us in Punjab.” At present we are in Orissa. We are stuck here because of him not me, so what is the point of having this discussion with me? Their love and concern was genuine, but what was strange is that when talking to my husband they were enquiring about health, but with me it was all about “move to Punjab!”
I missed my parents too, and they missed me!
My parents who are both old age, I have not visited them since the lockdown. They keep asking me when you guys are coming; my husband has all sorts of excuses for not going. When the topic pops up, he has lots of work and can’t get off from office. The max he can spare is 2-3 days.
When I was corona positive, I was missing them badly and wanted to just go and hug my dad just like the good old days. I understand my husband might be missing his own parents as it was a scary time; I was really supportive, but in return is it too much to ask for a little compassion?
Not once did my in-laws say, “You must be missing your parents, after recovery take some days off and both of you visit them.” They don’t say these things to me, so that I don’t get any ideas in my head. As per them all I should think or care about is my in-laws, even when I am sick. My husband disagrees with me; he argues that it is their ‘utmost love’ for me and effort from their end to make me realize that sasural is now is my home too and they are my parents too. Buh! As if!
My husband as always was clueless and was not able to put a understand the issues. He stood by “Bol diya to kya ho gya? Call nai kiye to kya ho gya tum kr leti. It is your duty to stay connected with everyone in the in-laws. What if they have asked us to move? At this difficult stage, your parents are not their priority we are. Why do you have to make a fuss about everything?”
I can very well agree that yes, we can definitely ignore a few instances and move on with life. But it is these small small incidents that add fuel to fire. What is more frustrating is that constantly it is only I who am at the receiving end. Thankfully we now celebrate the birth of a girl child but accepting the same in the post-marriage world is an alien concept.
The incidents mentioned above are not my husband’s or in-law’s faults, they are really nice people. They are simply acting in a way that our society has taught them. They are now part of the elite group for whom ‘adarsh bahu’ is the ultimate compliment.
While filling a form for our new car I noticed a column SON/ WIFE/ DAUGHTER OF. It made me wonder: why is there a ‘wife of’ option and not ‘husband of’?
It is then that all the above small incidents came crawling into my head. I then realized it is not my husband’s or in-laws’ fault. It is the society as a whole that gives more weightage and importance to a male. What is my husband’s fault if the form doesn’t have a ‘husband of’ column? Had it been there I’m sure he would have ticked it and written my name as an equal contributor in the house and also the nominee.
We are giving men a sense of authority from a mere form; he is bound to think that he is superior.
Like this, there are countless small things that we ignore in our daily lives that are rotting our mind-set. We have simply stopped seeing logic in things. It is high time to make changes at a grassroot level and break the chain of sexism.
Image source: Sunil Chavan on Pixabay
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