Now, it has been a while since you have been reading me, and a lot of my posts have been about women. It is not surprising, since I am a woman. And, everything I know about this world is through my eyes. But, despite this, a lot of people have called me a feminist.
By the way, what exactly is the meaning of a feminist? Do I support the causes of women? Do I talk about gender equality? Is breaking stereotypical role assignment something that is close to my heart?
Yes, yes, and yes.
If that makes me a feminist, then, hell yeah, I am one, and proudly so.
But, I am definitely not into male bashing. If you read my articles carefully, you would notice that I take up real life examples that shows inequality in gender, created by society.
This inequality is created by society, which is made up of men and women. Not just men.
So, hence proven, I am not blaming the men here. The women are equally responsible for the current state of affairs in their lives.
But, today, let’s talk about The Great Indian Bahu.
A girl gets married in India, and before she becomes a wife, and even before she fantasizes about losing her virginity (if she’s not a virgin, no judgement, seriously!), she becomes the Bahu.
Actually, she becomes the Bahu way before she gets married as well.
I got married only a few months ago, but I know my in-laws from a very long time. And before I proceed, here’s a disclaimer. My in-laws are extremely nice and I have become really close to them in the last few years – They are kind and encouraging and have been nothing but the best to me, so none of what I write below is to discredit them in any way. These are just simple anecdotes to tell you more about what’s expected of The Great Indian Bahu, not necessarily within the household that I live in, but is vehemently present in the Indian Society.
So, yes, the first time I met my mother-in-law, I went shopping and bought myself a whole new wardrobe for that occasion. I bought a nice, indian kurti followed with some earrings and shoes and dressed to the hilt when my then-boyfriend took me to his house to meet the mother.
I was nervous as hell. The meeting went fine. I am not sure if the mother liked me then, or if she thought I could qualify, but I put up a good show, I must say. I told her all about my studies, my interests, a little bit about my family.
So, what’s the point am I trying to make here?
Point number one, The Great Indian Bahu is supposed to impress the in-laws.
With her cheerful nature, her beauty, her compose, her charm, her cooking abilities, her singing, her general knowledge…the list is endless.
And do the in-laws try to impress the Bahu?
No, not really. (Although, I must give credit to my mom-in-law for impressing me thoroughly with the constant incoming plates of delicious food coming my way, on our first meeting – I am not sure if she was trying to impress me or if she remembers this at all, but nevertheless, I did feel that she was making an effort, which was enough for me)
In any relationship, both parties must get to know each other, and if one party is expected to impress, so should the other party.
This is the first stereotype that the society needs to break.
The Great Indian Bahu need not work hard to impress her in-laws, if the in-laws do not impress her with their background as well.
Just the way, the in-laws need to approve of the Bahu, similarly, the Bahu needs to approve of the in-laws.
Makes sense? Fair?
OK then, let’s move on.
Once, the Bahu steps into the family, she is expected to “behave” in a certain way. I am an extremely traditional girl at heart, trust me. Even if it doesn’t seem like so, with my aggressive banter on rebellious themes, I really am. So, most of the times, I gladly follow traditions, customs and rituals.
I don’t mind cooking for everyone. I don’t mind dressing conservatively in front of elders. I don’t mind touching everyone’s feet for blessings. But I don’t mind doing the above, not because I am the Bahu, but because I have been brought up in a certain way.
But then, once things settle down, and if you are living with your in-laws, you cannot perpetually keep up the smokescreen of acting goodie good till the end of time, right?
If you like to roam around in your PJs, sipping on mango milkshakes and watching Game of Thrones while munching loudly on potato chips with your feet hoisted comfortably on round pillows once in a while, that doesn’t make you any less of an ideal Bahu.
If you just cannot bear to wake up at the crack of dawn (To do what, precisely?! Feed the chickens? Mow the lawn? Pluck lemons from hill-tops? Photosynthesis?) before everyone else to prove that you are the ideal Bahu, it just makes you real, not imperfect.
If taking a cold water shower early in the morning and dressing up in zardozi suits is not your thing, you don’t automatically become the opposite of ideal.
All of the above are considered high-risk behaviors in most households and such acts are not expected out of The Indian Bahu. Tsk tsk.
Point number two, before becoming “ghar ki bahu”, you were an individual with certain traits and habits. You cannot change that. Period. Yes, you can adjust, you can be respectful, but you cannot change yourself. And you shouldn’t have to.
Final Point, you are the Bahu, but you want to be the daughter. You want all the rights of your sister-in-law. You want to be loved as much as her, pampered as much as her and taken as seriously as any of the other members of the family?
Well, it’s not.
If you want to make the transition from the daughter-in-law to the daughter, and if you want to change the stereotype and slowly transform from The Great Indian Bahu to the Laadli of the House, prepare to work hard. It’s a lot of hard work, but if you take my advice, could be easy as hell. You just need to do one little thing for this to happen.
If you want to be the daughter, make them your parents. Simple.
The day you stop looking at them as your in-laws and embrace them as your parents, you become the daughter, instead of the daughter-in-law.