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When I Refused To Give In Any More To The Slavery An Indian DIL Is Expected To Do

No one ever takes it as a crime when a woman is made to do all the petty chores for all the members of a family, even for those who are having more free time and are fitter than her.

The most important thing my dad wanted to give all of us was ‘Education’. He would be very firm with our report card. Whenever we (or precisely ‘I’) scored good marks, we could expect a reward from him. Whenever the marks were low or he couldn’t get a child to study every evening, he would warn us, “Those who do not study well will end up being slaves to those who studied well!”

I am not being very proud of my dad when writing this, but neither do I feel embarrassed or ashamed of the fact that education and marks on report cards were his priority. Some people are fortunate to be educated and some are not. We have no right to insult them in any way. Also, life has taught me that education doesn’t play that huge role in our lives after all.

I was a topper in my school and was always in my dad’s good books. He was so proud of my achievements that he would carry my report card showing it off to his friends. Everyone expected me to become a doctor, or a banker. Engineering was not an option typically considered for girls in those days.

Never did I imagine that my life would be a role reversal of my dad’s warning. Marriage worked that ‘magic’ for me.

My mother had warned me…

Even though my dad was very proud of my education, my mom was not so happy. I cannot say she wasn’t proud, because she was, but her fear overrode the pride. She was afraid of two things

  • Her daughter becoming a ‘mad scientist’ and who ‘overworked her brain’
  • Getting a job, being happy with it, and “never having a family who will care for her daughter when she is old.”

So, her plans for my marriage started.

Life is so unpredictable. I ended up marrying a guy who was not highly educated. The family, unlike my dad, did not focus on education. The education of women was neglected in my native village – one of the reasons my dad never wanted his daughters to grow up there, but somehow he was convinced to marry me into a family from the same village and send me there.

You may have seen the videos of snake catchers where they lure the snake to get itself inside a bag. In the same way, my marriage made me slowly slither into slavery of the people around me. One by one the tasks of doing chores around the house became ‘My Work’.

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No one objected to this. Moreover, even ‘I’ did not feel something was wrong. Like the snake slithering into a bag, I slithered into my role of modified slavery.

Until I woke up one day to what had happened

The house did not have running water. I was worried about the toilet hygiene and started to draw water and pour in the toilet, and also fill up the bucket very often. It felt odd carrying water into the toilet every time I had to use it.

I am not sure when the snake will finally realize its condition, but for me, it happened when one day my brother-in-law complained to his sister that there was no water in the toilet. “I don’t know what kind of woman our brother married, she doesn’t take good care of anything!”

Suddenly out of blue my dad’s words rang in the ear, “Those who do not study well will end up being slaves to those who study well.”

Though education had nothing to do with the turn my life had taken at that time, I realized that just being a woman, no matter what my educational status was, people will expect me to work as a slave once I marry a guy. Filling water in the toilet to be used for grown-up people was taken for granted. So were many other chores of cleaning and cooking.

Taking a stand against this slavery

I decided that I was not going to do that anymore.

When my sister-in-law asked me to fill water in the toilet, I put my foot down and told her calmly, “Please teach your brothers to take care of their own shit. That is not my job. They are healthy grown-up men after all.”

A shock wave went through the family and a lot of drama followed, but I was firm.

Slowly the brother who married me also got trained to do all the household chores after decades (nearly 25 years) of unlearning he had to do. He had learned that men don’t do regular chores at home when women are available. Yes, that was his take. Since he has lived in the gulf, he is familiar with all household chores because he couldn’t afford a maid back in the Gulf; but once he stepped on Indian soil, he became very dependent on women to do everything.

I also promised myself that if I have a son and he marries a girl, she will be my daughter. I will not allow anyone to make her feel the way I felt. I think I have kept that promise. 

I will welcome all the negative comments my post will gather from people who will think that I walked away from my duties and I am “misleading women to neglect their in-laws.” I believe in being supportive, but not a slave to anyone; neither to my family nor to my husband’s family. If a person has a disability, then I would consider helping them fill the toilet bucket with water.

My parents loved me a lot, but even they never realized that I was going through great trauma in my in-law’s house. Though many do not support crimes against women, the way a daughter-in-law is expected to serve a whole family without being shown any gratitude for her contribution is accepted as normal by many. Our society has made it so normal that this particular crime against women will always be viewed as her virtue. No one ever takes it as a crime when a woman is made to do all the petty chores for all the members of a family, even for those who are having more free time and are fitter than her. It is time we wake up to this and bring about a change.

Image source: a still from the film The Great Indian Kitchen

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About the Author

Farida Rizwan

I am Farida Rizwan, 55, Counselor and Psychotherapist working as Senior Curriculum Developer with Chimple Learning. I am ardent blogger @www.chaptersfrommylife.com and share my life experiences of surviving breast cancer 3rd stage for read more...

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