"Women are expected to give up everything after marriage, even their own parents"
In this edition of Marriage Diaries, one woman ruminates over the gendered expectations after marriage and daughters being ‘paraya dhan’
My sister and I grew up with my parents and grandparents in the same house. We were never taught that this is a ‘boy thing’ and girls aren’t supposed to do that thing. We did everything, went to the best of schools. After completing my 12th, I moved to a different city and my sister is currently living abroad. There was never any hesitation or resistance to what my sister and I did because of our gender.
I used to see my friends who had older or younger brothers and how dependent they were on them. If they have to go anywhere, it would be “accha, bhaiya mere saath ayenge”. I became the older brother to my sister. I learned how to drive as soon as I was eligible to, and if she had to go somewhere I became the one to accompany her. I always tried to take the place of a son/brother in my family and I strongly believe that there is nothing I can’t do that a brother would do, if I had one. Or what society perceives them to be able to do for their parents.
I met my husband while I was working down south. We dated for two years before getting our parents involved and getting married. Early in our relationship, I made it clear to him that I have responsibilities towards my parents. I said, “Main us ghar ki beti aur beta hoon.” I didn’t keep him in the dark.
My husband and I live in south India. But due to the pandemic, when work from home came into place I had to live at my in-laws’ place for a long time. Both sets of parents live and work in Jammu. My parent’s house is just a few kilometres away from my in-laws’ and I am really tempted most of the time to visit them because they are alone and I care deeply for them. But, I am afraid of doing so. Because I’ll have to listen to comments like “get disconnected from them, this is your house now.” Of course, I react in a negative way to such comments, then I get told, “Why did you get married if you can’t live without them?” Gendered expectations dictate that women should start disconnecting from their parents after marriage.
We don’t say these things to a man. He can live with his parents for as long as he wants. Our society has never really encouraged a son-in-law to actually behave like a son for the girl’s parents. I get told “that’s not how our society works”.
These comments mostly come from my husband’s family. When I visit my parents and come back to the house the vibe isn’t positive or welcoming . If I have to go again, if there is a party or something, I get to hear, “Abhi kal hi toh gayi thi.” Jabki voh kal would have been one week before.
Having told my parents that my mother-in-law doesn’t really like me coming around so much, they’re now afraid to call me home. I hate that so much. They’ve become hesitant to invite my husband over too.
I was at a wedding and during the puja and kanyadaan, I heard a pundit ji saying, “Now, this is your son.” Telling the in-laws that groom pe jo hak unke ma aur pita ka hai, ab inka bhi voh hi hak hai (the right that the son’s parents have over him, the in-laws now do too). And the responsibility and care towards parents should go both ways, for bride and groom. No one is reading this part of our shastras.
My husband mostly agrees and supports me. But when he interacts with people of the older generation in his family, he gets influenced a little. I can see that change in him.
People keep telling me to ignore it. It’s easier said than done. Once I was talking to somebody and they said, ignore it or confront it. The right thing to do is probably open for discussion. How will a change come if you keep ignoring these things? In a very small way, I want to start making a change. I don’t want to encourage this. Tomorrow, if I have kids, I don’t want this to be what they learn from their grandparents. This distinction has to stop someday.
When you’re single, you’re told to focus on your career, your friendships, hobbies, parents. But soon after marriage, you’re expected to completely change your priorities, take care of a new family all of a sudden. A new set of parents who expect more from you than your own.
I have only a few years left till I turn 30. There is so much I need to discover about myself. Of course, jab seva karne ka time aayega, I’ll do that. I know I have to take care of ageing parents, of my children when we have them. But not right now, I just want to focus on myself and when people start putting these expectations on you, you start to regret getting married in your 20s.
People say this is our culture, it’s in the shastras, samaj ke log kya kahenge? I say, what is samaj? We, the people, make this society and we are the ones who can change it. Marriage is the milan of Shiv and Shakti. If you read mythology, they are equal parts, one half coming together to create a whole being. It’s not a 70 – 30 split, it’s 50 –50.
Am I supposed to just make peace with things as they are? That my parents have two daughters, so they are destined to be alone. And my husband’s family is lucky to be looked after just because they had a boy?
As told to Sara Hussain.