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Women are the only ones expected to ‘adjust’ and carry the entire burden of a marriage. No wonder many girls shy away from marriage or enter marriage as they would a war zone.
I understand your anger at the dowry deaths that seem to be raising a dirty head in ‘the country’s most literate state’. I can also feel your angst when you say, “What exactly do the parents of boys/men of our country want? On one hand, they want their sons to marry and on the other, make life difficult for the girl entering their house? Why can’t they allow their sons to remain a bachelor if they are anyway going to be unhappy?”
My response to the last question would be that they would be at a loose end as their pet project, ‘transform the girl’ would be made redundant and they wouldn’t know what to do with the rest of their lives.
Even in a so-called ‘progressive’ households, where dowry is eschewed, the expectations from the girl remain. From the time the girl enters her marital home in all her finery, she is expected to ‘transform, change, mold, adjust, blend and adapt her life to be an ideal wife to the man she marries. Besides, she is also a cook, maid, companion, and nurse to the rest of the family members.
In other words, she moves not just physically into the new home, but also aligns her thoughts, movements and essence to fit in like a used doormat. On the other hand, the man sometimes even forgets that he has taken a vow to cherish, protect, love and respect the girl. His life remains largely unchanged except for maybe more sex. Yet, the men spend most of their lives joking about how marriage has enslaved them!
My maternal grandfather, a highly reputed mathematics professor had five girls and he had horror tales to tell when he tried to get his daughters married off. There were times when he was neither offered a chair to sit on nor served a glass of water. He was impressed by my father’s family as they offered him coffee and that too without it being diluted.
This was in the 1950s and 1960s, when girls were considered a liability. Not much seems to have changed in 2021, with demands for dowry being made and met; and dowry deaths still prevalent. Experts do say that the statistics of such deaths show a decline over the years, yet such deaths are one too many. This entitlement of the boys and his parents in our country is beyond understanding.
There is a peculiar diktat in Tamil culture. A married woman is supposed to stand to the right (valathu pakkam) of her husband and if she stands to his left there is a lot of joke surrounding the phrase, eddam kudukakudathu (don’t give her much leeway). It is told so many times that it ceases to be funny.
But then, that particular mindset is the corner stone around which many marriages are built across our nation.
It is considered sacrilegious, if the man happens to be a little more loving, listens to the counsel of his wife, particularly when it comes to decision-making or starts visiting his in-laws once too often. In the same breath, she is expected to not just adjust in the new home but also seek permission for every action of hers.
But then, I am willing to look into this status quo with a benevolent eye and commiserate with men for the disservice caused to them in the name of patriarchy. At the outset, they are all thumbs and needles, if household chores are thrust on them. Many are still not encouraged to learn the basic life skills like cooking, cleaning, and picking up after themselves or washing their own innerwear!
Some of them are given so much importance over their female siblings that there is often an underlying resentment nursed by the sister towards her parents and to a large extent towards her brother. This prevents their bonding at a deeper level.
The poor man is always on tenterhooks lest, he comes across as a ‘Joru ka Ghulam’ (a wife’s slave). Perforce, they turn a little more austere, snap at, and have a stiff upper lip with their wife and not “succumb to the wife’s wily allure.” This not merely puts an added pressure to the fledgling relationship but renders them lonely, unhappy and an emotionally immature lot. He cannot afford to cry or show his sensitive side. His life is always under scrutiny and he is permanently caught in a lose-lose situation, where all stakeholders feel he is one weak person, and is under constant pressure to prove that he is ‘a man.’
So dear, the men of our country are damned if they change, damned if they don’t!
Girls on the other hand are not only taught the life skills but also told at the time of marriage not to ‘carry tales’ from their in-laws house. This attitude might boomerang in times of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or like in the above case- dowry deaths. But, on the plus side makes the girls resolve the situation and become more independent. She is appreciated when she adapts in her marital home by both sets.
Fortunately, a few parents of these boy-men have realized that this is not the right way to win the love and affection of the daughter-in-law and are more balanced in their approach. They gain in the long run but sadly in our nation, girls and women are still expected to be the flag-bearer and load bearer of home and society. No wonder many girls shy away from marriage or enter marriage as they would a war zone.
It is high time that the onus of building a family is not placed on girls and girls alone. With both gender enjoying their career, it would be wiser to share responsibility of running a home equally for a balanced approach and unload the huge chip called ‘ego’ resting on the men’s shoulder or his parents’.
This being such a complex scenario, unique to most Asian countries, I had to write this lengthy letter and it has no easy resolution as such, unless boys of our country grow up and they are allowed to by their parents and well-wishers. The couple has to walk the path in marriage, and hence sharing the trials and tribulations as also the joy and happiness is theirs and theirs alone. Isn’t it time to bring about a change in thought processes for happier life all around? I hope it doesn’t remain a wishful thinking.
Image source: a still from the film Thappad
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Chandrika R Krishnan, a Bengaluru-based writer and educationist likes all things beginning with a ‘
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