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On hearing this, Ruchi's face became red with embarrassment, and her brothers looked strained. Her sisters-in-law looked at them with contempt; her mother was anyway not in her senses.
On hearing this, Ruchi’s face became red with embarrassment, and her brothers looked strained. Her sisters-in-law looked at them with contempt; her mother was anyway not in her senses.
Translated from the original in Hindi.
Upon getting the phone call that told her that her Papa had suffered a heart attack, Ruchi left for her maternal home with her husband Saurabh and son Bunty. On reaching there, when she came to know that she was too late and that her Papa had passed away, she broke down, even as she tried to support her mother in her grief.
After the last rites, all the relatives started returning to their homes. Ruchi would have to come back for other rituals and the thirteenth day, so her husband Saurabh returned home, leaving Ruchi and Bunty there.
Ruchi’s grief knew no bounds in the next few days; her grief and her mother’s grief, but there was work to do too, unavoidable.
Finally, the ritual thirteenth day arrived. Once again all their relatives came; Saurabh and Ruchi’s in-laws also came. Her youngest brother Ajay had also come home from America, taking a month’s leave. Possibly because Ajay must have prompted him, their uncle spoke up, “It is a time of great sorrow, but certain formalities will need to be done anyway, and I think that the entire property should be divided now.” When he suggested that his sister in law, Ruchi’s mother, also be given a share, she started crying. “I do not want any share. What will I do with it? I just want to be with my kids.”
On hearing this, Ruchi’s husband Saurabh said, “Okay then it will be four parts.” Startled, everyone including Ruchi looked at him with questioning eyes. He said, “Ruchi also gets a share, now that daughters also get a share in the property.”
Ruchi took Saurabh aside, to another room. “Why did you say that?” she asked him. “I don’t want any share in my father’s property.” To which Saurabh replied with some anger, “Whether you want it or not, I am not going to give it up.”
In her husband’s family, the atmosphere was such that women were not listened to; their opinions had no value. When Ruchi again said that she will not insist for her share, Saurabh lost his temper at her. “Do you want to stay in my house or not? Think and then answer. I won’t take you with me without the share in the property.”
Distressed, Ruchi came and sat with the others, but now her sisters-in-law and brothers were not talking properly with her. What bothered her was that Saurabh would never earlier send her to her parents’ place, but now he was not going to leave until the division of the property was done and he had ensured a share.
Ruchi did not have the courage to oppose her husband. She was not financially independent in any way, completely dependent on him for everything. If he held on to his threat of not letting her come back home if she opposed him, she did not have the courage to do anything.
So she had to do as she was told. There was a two-storey house as her father’s property, which was divided into four parts. Along with Ruchi’s brother who was living abroad, Saurabh also rented out Ruchi’s share of the property. Ruchi returned from her maternal home to her in-laws’ house with a very heavy heart, as no one even spoke with her properly when she left.
Ever since Ruchi had come back from there, her heart was not in her daily chores. There were already so many restrictions on her in her in-laws’ house, that she could not breathe freely, and now this thorn in her mind also pricked that her Papa had spent almost his entire PF in getting her married.
At the time of Bunty’s birth, she had stayed at her maternal house too, where she had received a lot of care and pampering. When she had left from there, Papa had sent her home with a gold chain, silver utensils for Bunty, clothes, a swing etc. and clothes, sweets for the whole house. Papa had also taken care of all the hospital expenses. At that time her in-laws had not shown any self respect and had taken everything that was given. If they had also wanted a share in her father’s property, why did they take so much dowry? At least they could have left the PF for her brothers…
Ruchi would think all of this, but due to the strict discipline of her in-laws, she could not say anything. Earlier, the thought of her parents’ home would be a strength for her, but now she found herself very alone due to having alienated her brothers and sisters-in-law.
Time passed. At one point, Ruchi became pregnant once again. She had become weak in body and mind, so a lot of care was needed, but her relationship with her maternal home was now not the same as before. The brothers had separate homes, her mother did not have the same authority that she had before her father had passed away, and now after the behaviour of Saurabh over the property division, she did not feel she had a right to go to them for support.
When Ruchi’s mother-in-law told her, “Go to your mother’s home if you want to rest,” Ruchi asked her back, “Where is my mother’s house? She herself now lives in the houses of my brothers.”
She knew that after taking her share despite the dowry her father had to give her in-laws and all the other expenses done on her, she did not have the right to go to her maternal home to be cared for, so she remained in her in-laws’ house. There was a lot of trouble, lack of care, and Ruchi became very weak.
This time she gave birth to a daughter. When she called up her mother and brothers, everyone congratulated her on the phone, but no one came with anything. Her mother-in-law’s face was already strained as it was a granddaughter this time.
Then one day her mother called. Ruchi’s one sister-in-law was going out of station for her brother’s wedding, and the other was going away for a holiday with her family, and her mother would be alone.
Ruchi asked her husband to go and get her mother as she was alone and would need to be cared for. To which Saurabh replied, “How can you bring her here? There are already so many people here that there is no space in the house, and also my mother will not like it.”
“Okay,” said Ruchi. “Then I would like to go there to take care of her.”
This time Saurabh’s answer was, “If you leave, who will do the housework here?”
Incensed at this, Ruchi remarked, “So I have a right to take my share of property, which, of course, is in your control, but I don’t have a right to go and take care of my mother?”
“Your brothers have also got their share of the property,” countered Saurabh. “Then how did they leave their mother alone?”
“I am not in a competition with my brothers,” Ruchi replied. “I care about my mother as you care about your mother, and so I want to go.”
Saurabh raised his voice. “Don’t argue with me, I have said what needs to be said, and you will not be going anywhere!”
Tears welled up in Ruchi’s eyes. When she called her mother, she told her everything. Hearing about her condition at her in-laws’ home, her mother expressed regret at the way they had dealt with her daughter. “Beta, now I feel that if we had already given you higher education by selling your share, then you would not be in this condition today,” she said. “Neither would you have been suppressed in your in-laws’ house, nor would your in-laws or husband have had any right over your property!”
Ruchi told her mother that Saurabh gave the rent that from her share snatched from her brothers to his mother, and Ruchi did not even see it. Her mother was sad for Ruchi but could not do anything now.
A few months later, Saurabh told Ruchi, “It is difficult to maintain the property in another city, so I want to get a fixed deposit by selling off this part of your maternal home. The papers have been made to sell the house; you’ll need to come along with me and sign the registry.”
By now Ruchi was furious with the whole situation. However, suppressing her anger, she said with a false smile, “How can we sell that house? If I ever decided to live alone after getting away from here, then where would I live? Also when our daughter gets married, we will have to give a dowry and there will be other expenses. And after all that, our son-in-law might want to divide up our house. That will leave Bunty with very little share in the property. At that time if my share in my maternal home is still there, we can give it to Bunty.
Now it was Saurabh’s turn to be startled. The realisation that Ruchi could decide to leave and live alone, and that his son-in-law could do the same thing that he did himself, shocked him and sank down on the chair.
Ruchi had a triumphant smile on her face; she had given her husband back in the exact language that he understood.
Author’s note: Today women also get a share in their father’s property, but a father should also ensure that his daughter is educated and capable enough that she can protect her property. It should not happen that the son-in-law takes the property of the wife and uses it for his own ends, because then that woman does not really have the power this property gives her, and the ability and courage to face the husband. This law should not be misused. The government should also implement better the rule that a daughter can take care of her parents when needed.
Image source: still from short film Sanskari Bahu/JKChopra Films, YouTube
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