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Indian families think that “the girls will adjust” to anything thrown at them, and this leads to a lot of heartache all around. When will this change?
Today I want to bring to you a story. All characters in this story are purely fictional but it is loosely based on typical Indian mentality.
Once upon a time, an old woman lived with her two children, Arpita and Arnav.
When the time came she got Arpita married to a ‘decent guy’ and gave them lots of dowry, so much so that she and her son had to mortgage their home. Arpita was hell bent on marrying that guy and he and his family had pressured them for a dowry. After marriage she went to her in-laws home but came back within a week, and declared that she will not stay with his family. HE being the good son stayed with his parents and his wife stayed in her maternal home, he would visit once every few months and that’s how time went on.
Fast-forward two years, and time for Arnav to get married. Due to all the pending loans they couldn’t afford to do anything, they couldn’t even afford jewelry for her.
Arpita still stayed with them and rather than helping, she asked for more and more gifts. Her husband and her family lived happily without her and she made everyone’s life hell in her home. The new daughter-in-law came into the family and began to live with them.
With every passing day, the old woman tried to make the life of the new bahu easier by helping her, and their relationship strengthened.
Soon Arpita started growing jealous of this. She did not have a good relation with her mother-in-law and now even her mother was sidelining her for the new bahu.
Things were somehow moving on but the situation was bad. Arnav was in deep financial crisis and Arpita’s demands kept increasing. The new bahu was lost in all this mess and she started to keep her distance from Arpita.
Arpita would preach to the new bahu about living in in-laws house, she herself was staying in her parents home but did not let the new bahu visit her parents.
Seeing the growing distance between Arpita and the new bahu and that leading to clashes between the new couple, the old woman begged Arpita to be with her husband. For 6 months her husband took a separate flat and they lived together. In this time the situation at home got better, the family started budgeting and got their expenses under control. The new bahu and MIL also developed a cordial relationship and love blossomed between the couple.
But like all good things, this was also short-lived.
Six months later Arpita came to her parents house and now she was pregnant. During her entire pregnancy her husband or her in-laws never visited and Arnav, his wife and old woman were totally engaged in taking care of Arpita. Her demanding nature still did not change and the earlier issues started coming back again.
When the baby was born, his father and parents came to see him for a day and then left again. Now Arnav and his wife had new problems to take care of, and with the old woman busy with the baby, the work load increased.
Slowly time passed and Arnav’s wife’s health deteriorated, Arpita was still the same bossy woman and Arnav’s wife bore it all in silence.
A year passed like this. Arpita’s husband had visited once but did not stay, nor take his family back with him. His parents avoided them altogether. In this time Arpita has gone from being a terrible woman to a banshee; she treated her mother like a maid and a care-taker for the baby, while the bahu was bossed around to do her work.
As the days passed, the bahu started revolting. She hated the work, she began hating her husband, and she hated all these people who treated her like shit. The extra work and tension pushed her into depression, and it wasn’t long before she started contemplating separation.
She begged her mother-in-law and Arpita to give her time with her husband, or at least let her go and stay wit her parents the same way Arpita stayed here, but no one listened to her.
Now Arnav had also started hating his wife and sister; he was in a fix and there seemed to be no solution. His wife kept fighting as she was fed up with all the work load and no freedom, his sister’s demands were getting out of hand, and his mother’s health was deteriorating as she couldn’t take care of an active child and Arpita was no help.
Time passed; friends and neighbours started noticing the tension and the occasional fights between the family.
Unable to bear all this anymore, the bahu tried to leave the house. Arpita created a scene and harsh words were exchanged, and Arnav slapped his wife for the first time. After that the family just went to bed, and Arnav slept in the hall.
In the morning when everyone got up, the house was not cleaned, there was no tea, and the bahu’s door was locked. Arpita cursed her for not getting her the usual bed tea, and then went to make tea herself. The old woman went to wake her bahu and was thinking of all the things she will say to convince her to stay. Arnav was also planning his apology and knocked on the door. Even after trying for 15 minutes she did not open the door so they broke it open.
They found her unconscious, with an open pill bottle next to her. She was immediately rushed to the hospital. Her parents were informed along with the police, but who was to be blamed?
Immediately after coming out of the hospital the bahu shifted to a new place and filed for divorce. Seeing that she might also be blamed for the suicide attempt, Arpita shifted to a new place with her baby leaving behind her mother and Arnav. Arnav tried to convince his wife to withdraw the divorce appeal; she withdrew the case her parents had filed but not the divorce.
Arnav and his mother blamed Arpita, Arpita blamed her husband, his family and the bahu, the bahu blamed everyone.
It took another year but the divorce was granted, Arnav and his wife (now ex-wife) still loved each other and Arnav refused to get married again. The old woman fell sick of heartbreak, and ended up in hospital. Arpita visited her mother occasionally but was now busy in taking care of her child.
Time passed and the old woman died of heartbreak, Arnav lived alone his whole life and the ex-wife also adopted a girl and lived alone taking care of her.
Who was to be blamed in this situation? I say the Indian mentality that enforces patriarchy.
If Arpita wasn’t happy with her husband she had every right to live with her parents, but the same should have been applicable to her sister-in-law as well.
The bahu should have talked to her family and reacted earlier, and maybe tried to handle it amicably.
Arnav should have helped his wife made her feel loved rather than leave her alone to deal with his family.
Arpita’s husband should have taken care of her so that she did not look for easy escapes.
All in all Arpita lost her mother and brother, Arnav lost a chance at love and having a family, his wife too.
This is the situation in many Indian families, but people just overlook it thinking “the girls will adjust.” Every year there are so many separations and divorces due to this reason in our country. Many men and women sink into depression and take extreme steps.
Why can’t the Indian mentality change? Why can’t you be more accepting of differences and dreams of women? Why can’t inlaws make the new daughter-in-law feel welcome? If you cannot, then let them stay away; at least the relationships would be cordial, visiting on occasions.
I don’t know what I want to achieve by penning this down, but I hope it gives you food for thought.
Image source: a still from All-Out ad on YouTube
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