Desi Parenting: Raising Confused Daughters

20 Jan

Desi Parenting: Raising Confused Daughters

        It is often said in Indian communities that to have good children is a result of one’s good karmas from the previous lives. Desi parents invest in their children especially sons with a hope of receiving old age care as organized state sponsored senior care is not an option. It becomes imperative for parents to keep their sons emotionally obligated to take care of old parents when the time comes. The socialization for this anticipatory duty begins early on. We all have read about the preferential treatment given to the sons in the Indian families, special foods, good education and extra liberty with money etc. Most of us have insisted it didn’t happen in my family, our parents were educated and our mothers were first generation working women. If we take a look back on our lives as children we’ll know how truthful we are being.

        The other day I was speaking to Atia and Shanu about our lives and men in our lives- our fathers, brothers and spouses. Two of us are first born and Shanu is second born to first generation educated women and men working outside the homes, who had moved to urban centers for work leaving their extended families behind. We didn’t come with manuals and our parents away from their extended family were exploring new territories of childcare practices. Three of us clearly remember how our parents claimed modernity through us by insisting we were their sons until the real sons came along.

        Our young mothers with two three children under the four years of age struggled to keep us well fed and quite while our fathers sat reading newspaper after work. Our little eyes were watching it all how our fathers’ eyes controlled the things around the home. Their families had more say in our lives and our mothers hardly visited their parents. Our mothers didn’t start working outside homes until their reproductive goals were met. Mean while we became little pseudo helpers of our mothers to help with their child care duties. We baby sat our siblings, walked them to school and even ran errands. We played field sports attended junior regional sports meets, debated in school competitions; got good grades and even joined NCC and then came puberty.

        At puberty things changed for ever our loving fathers became distant and our mothers became so much more controlling. Sit with your legs crossed, don’t talk so loud, don’t walk like a horse, help me in the kitchen, and don’t do this do that became a regular incantation in our lives. We did not feel any discrimination in food, education and medical care the discrimination we felt was so subtle that we could not even put it in words. We had to help with cooking and family laundry where as our brothers did not move a straw. When we questioned, we were told it is not because we were girls but because we were the older ones. We often retorted if we were the older ones then why do our younger brothers have to chaperon us our friends’ place. Why do you make us go to the bazaar to buy vegetables and not our brothers? Our mothers would say the boy is not aware of how to buy good vegetables. Wao! we were not born with that knowledge either, you taught us. Why can’t you teach that to your sons?

        If we gave examples from other families where boys ran errands then our mothers immediately changed their words into “we treat you like boys so that you have the confidence how to deal with the outside world.” In either way we were at loss and were always wrong because we could never win the bottom line our parents had our best interest in their hearts. More than that we resented how our parents claimed modernity and maintained tradition through our female bodies.

        We were encouraged to demand our rights from the outside world be it in schools, work place or public transports that was modernity but we were always discouraged to talk back to relatives and acquaintances because it was a tradition. The dichotomy of modernity and tradition traversed between speaking English, wearing skirts, trousers and riding bikes where as tradition always came and rested on our maintaining peace at home and to listen quietly when elders spoke. Thus for us modernity was something to be done as opposed to being told. Over time three of us claimed modernity the way we understood by marrying for love against the arranged marriages of our siblings; even though we knew in our hearts we could have done better. We thought with this feat under our belt our everyday struggles with the outside world for a place of our own have come to an end. To our surprise our struggles began now, hereon we were to deal with our confused spouses who like us claimed modernity with love marriage and now wanted to maintain their family traditions by taming us; deal with over bearing in-laws who were not only vengeful but were determined to dismantle our marriages and maintain our dignity in these tiring circumstances. Our stories are very common, many educated and employed women everyday google information on how to deal with relationships because no one taught us how to.

        It would have helped if our parents had taught us how to deal with relationships instead of indoctrinating us about tradition and modernity. Some days when Atia had had enough she blames it on her emotionally absent mother for her emotional failures. I have accused my mother’s passivity for my temper tantrums in the past, forgetting that her passivity was her survival technique in midst of her overbearing in-laws. Where as, Shanu charges her mother’s dramas for her lack of problem solving skills. Our parents have done their best given their understanding, resources and circumstances in raising highly educated, employed and confused daughters now it is up to us where we want to take our confused lives. Those gender discriminate nutrition, education and medical attention practices mentioned in the beginning never happened in our home. What happened in our homes has no name.

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42 Responses to “Desi Parenting: Raising Confused Daughters”

  1. ghughutibasuti February 11, 2013 at p02 #

    Wonderful post! How well you have written what each girl child in a family of many children goes through! Modern enough to do the outside chores and traditional enough to not to let the brother lift a finger to do any work.Later in life modern enough to make a conscious choice of looking after the aging parents when they are well past helping you raise your children. We truly have got trapped in the traditions that are thrust on us and the modernity we now choose for ourselves and were earlier taught to choose by our parents.
    Phew!
    gb

    Thank you,
    DG

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  2. Iris August 13, 2012 at p08 #

    WOW! I wish I had found you three years ago, the things I could have avoided! This is a great place for women like us…thank you, for starting it.

    @Iris,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Glad you found DG’s initiative useful.
    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
    Peace,
    Desi Girl

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  3. Indian Homemaker December 28, 2011 at p12 #

    Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of ‘Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards – 2011′ (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

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  4. Giribala October 17, 2011 at p10 #

    Very well articulated, Desi Girl!! Hope the confusion gives way to enlightenment!

    Thank you!
    GGTS is definitely an enlightened attempt. :) Hope you noted it.
    DG

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  5. Bad Indian Girl May 3, 2011 at p05 #

    Gori Girl,

    Not to sound disrespectful, but the experiences and family dynamics that DG chronicles can be seen at play in varying degrees in most middle class Indian homes. India is surprisingly homogenous as far as middle class attitudes to gender and sex are concerned. In my family, one of my husband’s cousins has married an American woman. I can personally testify that she and I are held to entirely different standards as daughters-in-law. She is pardoned if she sits talking with the menfolk while the women sweat it out in the kitchen. If I were to commit such a transgression, my the women in the extended family would not let my mother-in-law hear the last of it. White women (in my experience) married to Indian men are priveleged in a number of ways. Perhaps you have failed to notice the subtle differences in treatment in your own family. Its a complicated subject and one that I am not confident of confidently and objectively writing about. I’ll leave it to DG to continue to do that. :)

    @Bad Indian Girl,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Why do you have to be bad be bold, beautiful, beaming, bountiful…

    You said: Not to sound disrespectful,…

    Why do you think it will be considered disrespectful to state something that is a fact and you have observed first hand. This notion of offending and exhibiting disrespect is classic desi drama to keep women and minorities in place. Sista you have as much right as DG or any other comment writer to narrate your experiences and observations.

    Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
    Peace,
    Desi Girl

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    • Bad Indian Girl May 4, 2011 at p05 #

      You’re right DG, but, over the past two years, my soon-to-be ex and his family have criticised and found so many faults with me that I really do not feel like a “good” Indian woman. So the “bad” was a tongue-in-cheek reference. As far as my self-effacing obsequiousness is concerned, well it’s just a result of years of conditioning that I cannot seem to get rid of. I can never quite correctly draw the line between being assertive and being inconsiderate and rude. I get all mixed up and go to extremes so as not to appear impolite. I am actually a strong-willed, independent-minded woman. However, I appear timid and docile because my parents drilled good manners and courtesy into me from a very young age. I don’t blame them, they were preparing me for a successful innings in my sasural:)

      Your blog is a gold mine. I’ve been reading it regularly for the past one year and it has helped me take the very important decision of separating from my husband. Your blog, along with “divorcedoodling” and IHM helped me to finally accept that I would never be the pativrata wife that my husband’s family were hoping for. It’s helped me to finally move own and put an end to all the guilt I felt about being a “bad” wife. I simply do not have the temperament that a good bahu and a good desi wife are required to possess. I can’t play along with double standards and hypocrisy and yet pretend to be in an equal partnership. That’s what my husband wants. He wants me to pretend that ours is an equal relationship whereas the reality is that it is as traditional as it gets.

      DG, do you have any insight on the psychology of Indian men who declare that they want to be married to independent women and have equitable marriages, while their behavior is quite to the contrary? Men who want their spouses to be sucessful professionals yet who refuse to share domestic responsibilites.
      Men who insist that their wives be ready with a hot meal in the evening and juggle a successful career all at the same time.
      My husband wants me to be professionally succesful and financially independent, cook and run the house without any help or support, be a dutiful and obedient daughter-in-law and wife; yet he claims that he is a “modern” man. What do men like him really want? I find his demands unreasonable but he doesn’t. He claims all his friends wives play all these contradictory roles with consummate ease, so why do I have a problem. What do you say to men like him? There are days when I want to bang a saucepan on his balding head, I kid you not.
      The biggest reason why I have decided to leave is that I fear I may become physically violent if I stay with him any longer. Your advice will be most helpful. God bless you DG and thank you for showing us that there is a life after a broken marriage.

      @Bad Indian Girl AKA Normal Indian Girl
      DG is flattered that she is making a difference somewhere in the world even if it is virtual :) Thanks for your encouragement.

      As it is said, an apple does not fall from the tree, the parents who raised us to be a polite, non assertive people pleasers were also raising our brother who became someone’s husbands to be narcissists demi Gods. :) Men in our lives are what our parents made them to be. They are as confused as our parents as mentioned in this post. There is a post sitting in DG’s drafts folder on Desi Modernity, will get it out soon. :)

      It is understandable to have tacit aggression due to bottled up emotions for so long. It is great that you are aware of your problem. Please seek professional help to let go of this aggression. Join kick boxing or some other physical activity that will help release pent up negative energy.

      Once a decision is made person feels a kind of freedom and peace they have never felt before and it is also a time to wait and watch because sudden freedom unleashes the trapped emotions and energy in all directions. It is important to channelize your energies by going slow by taking one day at a time by counting your blessings.
      Good luck with your bright future.
      Please share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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      • nolongeraslave May 4, 2011 at p05 #

        Bad Indian girl-I can relate to the idea of Indian men saying one thing and doing another. It’s true actions speak louder than words! Some of the men that say they’re “modern” are actually some of the most backward people.

        Good luck with everything. Agree to your point on how white women have more privileges. It’s a sad double-standard on how it’s okay for white women to do certain things, but not for Indian women.

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  6. nolongeraslave January 27, 2011 at p01 #

    In addition

    Since some Indian men see white women as trophies, they may treat a white woman better than an Indian woman. In the city I grew up in, Indian boys worshipped white women and saw them as the epitome of beauty. They know that a white woman will not put up with the same behavior that an Indian woman is conditioned to put up with. I find it interesting that some white women I’ve met can’t relate to the tales of Desi women talking about being treated poorly by their own men.

    This doesn’t apply to all Indian men, but to some Indian men I’ve seen.

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  7. Lurker January 6, 2011 at p01 #

    ” Most of us have insisted it didn’t happen in my family, our parents were educated and our mothers were first generation working women. If we take a look back on our lives as children we’ll know how truthful we are being.”

    This is so true for me! I grew up thinking that my mom was liberal, but she really wasn’t. Being a girl, she still treated me poorly. She may have been better than some Indian moms, but her behavior was still preferential towards boys. I will talk about what it’s like to grow up with a narcissistic mom in my blog.

    Most of us have insisted it didn’t happen in my family, our parents were educated and our mothers were first generation working women. If we take a look back on our lives as children we’ll know how truthful we are being.

    It takes lots of courage to accept that one is not perfect and one’s family is not the ideal type we watch on TV. Sure you should write about narcissist parents. Have you read Susan Forward’s Toxic Parents. DG highly recommends it.
    DG

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    • nolongeraslave January 27, 2011 at p01 #

      Yep, I just downloaded it..the first few chapters make so much sense. It’s good to find that other adults are in denial of their toxic parents.

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  8. Ariana October 13, 2010 at p10 #

    you know whats most ironic I would be the first woman you would pick in a roomful of woman,who would never take abuse yet here I am with my ph.d’s and engineering degrees in an abusive relationship.
    I have been told its me, bollywood drama queen. I have been told, I am still dealing with my parents passing away and thats why I am miserable.I have been told, I dont know how good I have it.That he cooks, cleans, does all the outside work. (I cook 80% of the time, cos I love cooking for my son)
    I have been told many things,but I know its all a crock of S***.
    I know in my heart I am a strong woman and will survive, I just dont how to take the first step. Should I give up? or should as a good desi nari, make the “sacrifices” for my son and make an attempt to keep the family intact?

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  9. Ariana October 13, 2010 at p10 #

    I have lived in the US for more than 15 years now and moved here for my education cos my mom was very keen, that all her children were well educated. Unfortunately both my modern thinking, multi religious parents passed away and here I was a single professional girl, who had refused all these proposals at my very lowest. In a moment of weakness, I said yes, within 3 months of my mom passing to a Gora. He always had a temper and I am pretty assertive (had to be as a single woman).
    Now 5 years later I cannot help but think what a fiasco I am in. The only good thing, my life my joy, my savior my little 3 year old son.
    I am so embarrased to even tell anyone. Where do I begin? I keep pushing issues under the carpet for our son’s sake. But I am not happy (to which I have been told I am a miserable person) yea, right..Wahetver.
    I am fat, So are you was my retort. Ofcourse I am not Fat, I am gorgeous and he knows it. This pattern of abuse comes from his 3 times divorced dad.
    Who actually told me to leave him. Now on the outside, it looks fabulous, he takes care of my son, cleans, even does the laundry (cos I dont know how to do it according to him, never mind I lived for 10 years in the US as a student and single woman and did it).He plays with my son, is very nice to my family and actually respects and loves them.
    But just the other day he went off the handle and shoved his face to mine and told me to Shut up, and my response was to shove his face away from mine and cuss at him, to which he said I had hit him and was abusive.
    He hit me once 4 years ago and cried and apologized and said he would never do it again. When he hit me the first time, we had only been married a year and I was too shocked, I know I slapped him back and told him if he ever raised his hand again, I would break it and shove it you know where.
    Ofcourse, that incident broke me up but then I had my son and I focussed on the positives, but right now I am not in a happy place. He has agreed to go counselling even though we dont know if it will help.
    His family loves me but at the end of the day he is thier son.
    I cannot tell my siblings cos it will worry them, even though they will support me no matter what this much I know.
    But the whole desi guilt trip on living as as a single mom hankers and if its good for my son.
    Confused and lost
    A

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    • girlsguidetosurvival October 13, 2010 at p10 #

      Dear Ariana,
      Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
      We highly educated and gainfully employed (in upper brackets) women are vocal about are rights and discrimnation against women so nobody can imagine we can be abused or we’ll ever take abuse. But the fact is more educated and employed women are abused as compared to submissive and dependent women, because they accept their fate and do not challenge the injustices where as we directly challenge men’s authority and gender stereotypes. Read this text http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/acatalog/__Living_Between_Danger_and_Love_92.html

      First, please accept the fact you are not alone. Eight in every ten women are abused by their partners. Second, your being abused is not your fault. There is no excuse for abuse. Abusers choose to abuse. It is a choice they make. Please read all the posts and pages on this blog to understand your situation. There is nothing to be ashamed about that you are being abused rather the abuser should be ashamed. The sense of shame isolates us and keeps us powerless. It is not easier for me to say because I was you just a couple of years ago.

      When someone constantly calls you degrading names like stupid, lazy, idiot etc. gradually you start believing them. It systematically errodes your self worth. So put an end to this immediately. This kind of verbal and psychological abuse is more detrimental than direct confrontation.

      … I have been told, I am still dealing with my parents passing away and thats why I am miserable.I have been told, I dont know how good I have it…

      That is called minimizing. The abuser abuses you and tells you things could be worse than that. He/she is doing you a favor by not doing as bad as many other abusers. It is like saying “be happy I just pushed you, I am not like the neigbour who comes home drunk every evening and beats his wife black and blue every night.

      …That he cooks, cleans, does all the outside work. (I cook 80% of the time, cos I love cooking for my son)
      It is like saying I do more chores so i have a right to abuse you. I make more money so I have a right to make all the financial decisions in the family. I make more money so I have a right to gamble etc. It is justifying one’s bad behavior.

      If you are thinking you are doing a favor to your son by staying in this abusive marriage my friend you are mistaken. Your son is learning how to abuse women and what men can do in intimate relationships. Research has shown the generational cycle of violence takes place when children are exposed toabusive parental conflicts.

      SUGGESTED STEPS TO TAKE:
      1. It is a good idea to seek couple’s counselling or family and marriage therapy but be open to the idea you can only speak for your self. The more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it. Even if your partner doesn’t show interest seek support for your self and your child.

      2. Start journaling your conflicts. If he called you names or man handled you etc. Do not indulge into fist fights or physical brawl, even though women use violence in self defence the counter reaction from men is often detrimental to the women. Report it to authorities. It is a law and order situation. You do not want to take law in your hands.

      3. Inform someone you trust about what you are going through. Do not isolate your self.

      4. Explore why do you want to live in this miserable situation. For your child is a very lame excuse that even you know. May be you are thinking you have no support even if your siblings are willing to support your decision. You don’t want to burden/stress them. You don’t want to accept to others you are being abused. You feel no one will believe you. You think if you broke up this relationship you’ll be a failure etc. Explore all the possible reason why you want to continue and them judge for your self if they are worth it.

      5. Find nearest women’s support center or non profit organization that works with domestic violence survivors and explore your options.

      6. Remember, if you continue to live with an abuser while your child is with you (he will always will be with you) you are exposing him to indirect violence in legal language it is called child endangerment. A child can be take away by CPS if they suspect the child is being exposed to violence between parents.

      7. Desi Girl hasn’t seen any woman receive noble prize or any medal for being abused and keeping the family intact. Once a partner hurts the other partner the family is broken. What you are trying to preserve is already broken. Save your self and your child. It is like air crash situation. The adult has to wear the oxygen mask before he/she can help the minor or anyone. If you are not emotionally healthy and safe in this marriage how do you expect to protect your child?

      8. Desi or non desi doen’t matter, abuse is abuse. Bhartiya Nari syndrome only keeps you helpless and stuck in a bad place. If you really want to emmulate a bhartiya nari follow Sita. Sita supported her spouse through thick and thin. She even took the nonsense of “agani pareeksha” and when her almighty spouse abandoned her while pregnant she took a stand. She prefered to die than see his face ever again. She was a very self respecting woman that outrightly threaten’s her mighty spouse’s soveriegnity. I guess for this reason Ramleela always ends at return to Ayodhya and agnipreeksha.

      Kindly read around GGTS and be informed. Write to Desi Girl on her private email and your location so that together we can explore resources for you.

      Sending you support and love,
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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      • Ariana October 14, 2010 at p10 #

        Please send me your email id.
        Thanks
        Ana

        girlsguidetosurvival@gmail.com

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      • Ariana October 14, 2010 at p10 #

        Thank you for your support.I came to this country on my own merits as single woman, I watched woman on oprah and said to myself “why dont these women walk away?” now I know why, its so hard to take that first step.
        I think, if it can happen to me an educated, independent, well travelled, open minded,person like me. It can happen to anybody.
        Its stuff that we think we know and yet when it happens you are lost.
        Ofcourse my family will support me, but I myself after being independent financially and economically for more than 12 years cannot bear to be destitute. I know there are women in worse situtation than me. Its just I am afraid of making a hasty decision. I need to talk. Nobody knows, other than his parents.

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        • girlsguidetosurvival October 14, 2010 at p10 #

          @Ariana,
          Just a few years back Desi Girl was you and now she runs this blog. She knew so much about abuse that she was so confident it would never happen to her but it did. That is how abuse and abusers work they systematically errodes your self esteem and confidence and you are also in shock then you are ashamed that you, you the outspoken advocate of women’s rights is being abused. Then you doubt if any one will believe you because in every gathering you are the life of party and vocal and happy person. You become so good in drama of looking happy that now you doubt if any body will believe the reality you live in. In a way an abused feels they have chopped their own feet by being good and confident. So dear if it is any consolation, you are not the first and you wont be the last, many before you and many after you will be abused and go through this. But for you it can end here and now before you look back 20 years from now and say “What I could have, would have, should have done…”

          Desi Girl has lived in battered women’s shelters and homeles shelters and she is still here, so it wont be that bad. If she can do it then anyone can do it. Believe me you wont be a destitute you are entitled to community property and spousal support if he makes more. If you make more then it can be the other way round. But even then he’ll have to pay child support.
          It is just money and you’ll make it again but if you loose your mental balance then all three money, child and you will be lost. Choice is yours to make.

          You don’t have to make a hasty decision. If you are thinking on these lines means you are giving it a good thought and consideration. You don’t have to do it all by your self. There is enough professional help available. Conatct nearest domestic violence shelter they have legal help clinics they’ll guide you. They even have conseling services and referals, professional trained to help abused women. Seeking professional counseling to check further damage to your sanity ASAP.

          You can always get in touch with Cdesi Girl if you have any questions. Hope this helps.
          Sending you love and peace,
          In Unity,
          Desi Girl

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  10. Astatine July 27, 2010 at p07 #

    Wow…You hit the nail right on the head….where were you when my parents were raising me????? Not born yet probably :-).

    You seem to have all the answers..no .. not answers exactly, but nice to know that I am not the only one with these questions.

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  11. DesiDudeUK July 16, 2010 at p07 #

    Sometimes it takes an outside view to see what is wrong when other people generalise.
    Find it admirable and funny at the same time, that its the gori girl defending the integrity and humanity and sexuality of the desi male while the desi girl is the one derating it, condeming it and dehumanising the desi male.

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    • nolongeraslave January 27, 2011 at p01 #

      If you see my above post, I think this has to do with how some Indian men view white women as superior. The same Indian man that treated his white girlfriend as a queen may have treated his Indian gf poorly. Why? Simply because he knows that a white woman will not put up with the same norms that Indian women are conditioned to put up with. It’s my observation that Indian men are more lenient when it comes to the expectations of dating a white woman. Please refer to my post about how some Indian men think it’s okay for a white woman to have sex and wear skirts, whereas an Indian woman can’t do the same thing.

      It’s great to see that there are white women being treated well by their Indian husbands and marrying into liberal families, but I still think that those with negative experiences should have an outlet to express themselves.

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  12. nis April 29, 2010 at p04 #

    Hi Desi Girl,

    Came over from IHM’s.

    You said it all so perfectly! My parents gave the best education to their three daughters and encouraged us to take up jobs. I remember him ignoring sympathies for having three daughters and no sons and he say his kids are better than all the sons in the entire family. But modernity ended there!

    The day I told my parents about this guy (not of the same religion) I chose as a partner all hell broke loose. My ‘oh so secular, communist, broad-minded’ dad has turned religious and narrow minded. And now mom n dad are worried about not being able to face their relatives and friends and society, elder daughter’s in-laws and spoil chances of good marriage for the younger daughter. So now I have been given the ultimatum of resigning my job and going back home, he wont let one daughter spoil his other daughter’s life!. Surprisingly my sisters support him in this. And I’m left thinking if falling in love was a mistake !

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    • girlsguidetosurvival April 29, 2010 at p04 #

      Welcome to GGTS a safe space.

      Sorry to hear about the happening at your end. That is a very common experience for many men and women and greatly for women as they are considered the markers of community identity and honor/dishonor. Please read the details in the comments @ https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/aren%e2%80%99t-you-the-curry-n-rice-girl/#comment-229 .

      I commiserate with you but I would like to add my two cents on your situation because I have been there and done that…Please ask your self:

      1. Other than religious differences what else is your parents’ concern about your partner and your life together.

      2. Do you both share a common political and spiritual orientation, are you both on the same page about your financial goals (how you’ll save and spend money)and how you’ll discipline your kids. More than religious differences people fight over everyday concerns: money and children.

      3. Right now your family, both parents and siblings are against you so you are too over whelmed and your partner is your only emotional support. Will he be able to provide this support in long run. Are you sure he is not going to throw it on your face in future when you have disagreements.

      4. What do your friends think about him. Are they comfortable with him. when we are in a relationship we tend to wear rose tinted gogles. More objective view comes from people around us who are not in this particular relationships.

      5. Have you met his friends? What do you think about his friends? Remember, A good person is never in bad company. If he/she happens to they quicky try to get out of it.

      6. Have you met his folks? What do you think about them? How do they treat you? (Mine were very good to me until we got engaged and as soon as the Tikka happened they changed like chameleons, I wanted to back out but just was too scared of social humiliation for my famiy and now here I am writing this blog.)

      7. If you still get to get married I’ll strongly advocate for civil marriage under Special Marriage Act because that way none of you is giving into the religious practices of the other. It also protects your interests if in future things go south. After a civil marriage both sides of the families may do what ever they want.

      I do not intend to patronize you or scare you. I am just sharing what I learned with lots of violence and abuse from my so called “love marriage.” You don’t have to be affraid just be love smart. Just listen to the tiny voice deep inside you, your creator gave that tiny voice as a protection alarm, so trust it you’ll know the answer. Once you are sure things will start falling in place. Keep your faith (not religious but your spiritual core about how you view the creator of universe or universe itself) strong.

      With lots of love and support,

      Desi Girl

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  13. niceandnew March 2, 2010 at p03 #

    Hello, GoriGirl!
    If you would care to talk to even a maximum of 10-15 desi girls – anyone from your househelp to say, a colleague – you would realise that what the missy and her friends here are trying to say here make sense. And a LOT of it at that.

    Those subtle discriminations – which as the post says, have no name – are a part of routine for SO MANY desi girls, you seem to have NO idea.

    But I must say, I am glad for you to have married into a house, better than most. Yes, I say married into a ‘house,’ because a girl is never only married to the husband, is she?

    Like this

    • Gori Girl April 6, 2010 at p04 #

      I’m not claiming that what she says doesn’t make much sense – I’m just saying that her reality is not a reality actually shared by many Indian women, and thus she should be careful to not over-generalize her experiences to a subcontinent of over a billion people.

      Like this

      • Gori Girl April 6, 2010 at p04 #

        (where “many” is considered in percentage terms)

        Like this

      • girlsguidetosurvival April 6, 2010 at p04 #

        Hey,

        Welcome back GG. Thanks for coming back. I am glad you see that desi girl makes some sense if not all sense. She did not extend her reality to one million people. She is limiting it to just 80million households with women in them. I addressed the class issue how were able to obtain education and our mothers could continue with their jobs riding on the backs of numerous domestic helps they engaged. So our reality manifests in many stratified locations. As you pose this question of generalization I too struggle with

        Who can claim to be “Desi Daughters,” who they ought to be and where they ought to be?

        Are my friends and me not desis or are we not duaghters? Why are there so many similar issues raised at desilot or motherinlawhell etc. Aren’t our relationship woes rested in our confused upbringing where we haven’t learned to say no without feeling guilty and feeling we are dishonoring our cultural traditions. Why do the cultural identities of our communities come and rest on our shoulders and are written on our bodies. How do we subvert them and yet claim to be desi.

        I have to let you know that GGTS is becoming as a one on one discussion forum and problem sloving place through the admin gmail and chats. Many comments are not even making to the front. I have to respect the privacy of these writers. I do not know what else to say…

        Desi Girl really appreciates your return and looks forwad to read about your recent visit to Des.

        Like this

      • Gori Girl April 6, 2010 at p04 #

        I think you misunderstand what I am saying. I am not claiming that you (or anyone else) doesn’t qualify as a “Desi Daughter”. I am saying that the lifestyle and experiences discussed in the blog post here is not similar to what most Indian women experience. It is a very urban, middle to upper-class type of experience. Thus, I question the implicit generalization that I see in the post that this experience is “the” experience of Desi women growing up.

        If the post wasn’t intended to generalize in this manner, then I’d suggest being a bit more careful with language in the future, because that’s how it came across to me and a few of my friends who read it. (Said friends liked the post, and having come from a middle class urban home in India, emphasized with it.)

        Like this

      • girlsguidetosurvival April 6, 2010 at p04 #

        Thanks again,

        Desi girl is not claiming GGTS it to be the reality of every woman who is desi. Yes, it is a reality of many of us. The many could be in many thousands. No one can claim to represent the whole. We are many small holes (pun intended)divided and segregated in castes, classes, religions, regions, urban-rural and what not. Living our realities in myrid colors of oppression.

        Any reality is not absolute in nature and no one person or group can claim its reality to be “the reality.”

        GGTS, as described earlier is a blog run by Desi Girl who narrates experiences of her friends and dilemmas of her gender coming from their position of privilege- urban, middle class, professional education, professions and what not, may be sometimes even upper castes. But the fact remains in a society where Sankritization is still considered one of the significant chanels of upward mobility these experiences will over lap and collude multiple realities. Thus no one reality can be considered absolute and priviledged. Desi girl has shown the expamle how family honor limits the middle class women from question or directly confronting the injustice as opposed tolower class woman who can create a scene about it even though she may not beget any justice.

        I personally know of middle class women who were raped and remained silent, where as those lower caste rural women garnered the courage to report even when the system and society snubbed their efforts to fight for dignity. The reality of rape remains same for both classes but how each addresses is different. Desi Girl was in the forefront in the grassroots organizing during the Banwari Devi rape case.

        I do not know how Desi Girl gave an impression that she is the know all and can represent all. If it appeared to be so then need to be noted for the future.

        Like this

  14. Boycott Desi Men!!! February 21, 2010 at p02 #

    Desi dudes are the worst. If you ever get married or live with a dude, I hope for your sake that it’s a non-desi.

    Like this

    • girlsguidetosurvival March 12, 2010 at p03 #

      Sorry your comment went unnoticed as it was in the pending pile.

      So you think non-desi dudes treat women respectfully all the time? It is not about desi or non desi it is about how men are brought up, what is expected of them and what they see all around them (in society, media, polity etc.). I know couple of non-desi MCPs and the way they berate their women and I also know few good desi men who are respectful of not just women but everyone.

      How about considering-

      Why get married and make one man miserable when I can stay single and make thousands miserable?
      - Carrie Snow
      American comedienne

      Like this

    • nolongeraslave January 27, 2011 at p01 #

      I agree with Desi girl that there are bad non-Desi men too, BUT I must admit that I easily found a good man when dating non-Desi men. When I was dating Desi men, I kept running into men that weren’t ideal for me. The bad experiences with Desi men actually made me ponder dating outside of my race. :)

      The only downside is that my mom hates it and is trying to break it up, but oh well.

      Like this

  15. aradhana February 17, 2010 at p02 #

    just see my another blog नारीवादी-बहस. link is
    http://feminist-poems-articles.blogspot.com/

    Like this

    • girlsguidetosurvival February 17, 2010 at p02 #

      I will visit your other blog too. I congratulate you for raising these issues. I would like to translate my blog in hindi to reach out to wider audience. I do not do not know how to do it because google translate just killed the language. Do you mind linking our blogs to send this message of hope to all those out there?

      Like this

  16. aradhana February 17, 2010 at p02 #

    आप से यह मेरी पहली मुलाकात है. पर आपके विचार बिल्कुल मेरे विचारों से मिलते हैं. आपकी यह बात बिल्कुल सही है कि जीजाजी को ही कदम उठाना चाहिये था, पर जैसा हमारा समाज है, इसके लिये भी दोष दीदी को दिया जाता. चूँकि यह पहली बार था, जीजाजी कुछ नहीं बोले, पर बाद में ऐसा कई बार हुआ कि उन्होंने बाहर से आने के बाद दीदी को दूसरे ही दिन मायके जाने दिया. मेरे इन मामलों में पुरुषों को भी वैसे ही रूढ़ियों को तोड़ना होगा जैसे औरतों को. मेरे पिताजी ने कभी ये दकियानूसी रीति-रिवाज नहीं माने, जिनका कोई तार्किक आधार न हो. पर वहीं जब मामला बेटी की ससुराल का हो, तो कुछ नहीं कर पाते थे. वहाँ पर निर्णय, उनका होता था. अब जीजाजी भी बहुत हद तक ये बातें नहीं मानते.
    this is reply of your comment on my blog. i will read your post later and then comment on it. thanks for such a precious comment.

    Like this

  17. girlsguidetosurvival February 14, 2010 at p02 #

    Sorry it took me some time to get back to you. I am blessed with spontaneity got to travel to one of the seventh wonders without much planning.

    Yes, Friedan’s used a small pool to make her statement but our pool is in many millions. Our small minority is called middle class. About 80 million households constitute the Indian middle class. Based on these figures if we calculate the number of women who might share the experiences mentioned in this blog is quite a few. The demographic diversity of region, religion, language, caste is yet to be accounted for. Still there will be a section of society that will remain unrepresented. The concerns raised in this post are exactly those faced by the nationalist elite in the colonial India “what is modernity- defining modernity?’ “Why should we claim modernity?” and “How to claim modernity? The answer to the first question was “modernity is what the ruler says- treat women and lower castes with humanity and educate them.” Second answer was- follow the ruler to claim self rule, and answer to the third question was- claim modernity selectively. It was timely to educate women to claim self rule for this reason a college in Calcutta conferred B.A. degrees to women much before Great Britain. Ultimately the whole debate of modernity came and rested on women’s education and fear of its impact on women’s role in preserving tradition.

    The question of women’s formal (read English) education came and rested on, will the education create a sexually unregulated schoolgirl and will she cook and scrub pots and pans once she obtains this formal education (Walsh 2004, Malhotra 2002). For these reasons women’s education for a very long time in my country and many other too remained domesticity oriented and the educators remained chaperons. The nationalist elite appropriated modernity selectively to claim self rule so did the educated middle classes in post independent India to survive in fast changing economies. Educated women could obtain jobs or else could beget most priced commodity- educated and employed grooms. College degree in the US and other western countries is not only valued but is also difficult to obtain due to the cost of tuition. In India, since 1990s women’s higher education is subsidized and promoted through establishment of women’s colleges in small towns. Now you can calculate the number of college educated women in India.

    The echo chamber effect you mentioned definitely created by this population because we make salaries on the backs of those women who do the housekeeping for us when we engage in these educated discourses. If we highly educated professional women are facing these colonial dilemmas in the new century imagine the plight of average women in the small cities and villages. Sangatin Writers describe similar dilemmas and disparities in the everyday lives of rural development workers. Sahota (2004) reports women’s reproductive decisions across the classes are governed by male child preferences. This raises the question are there more social similarities between classes and few economic disparities remain to be explored.

    Like us, our mothers worked to better our standard of living, so did our domestic helps. Our mothers kept quite about how their incomes were used by their spouses and conjugal kin, we started questioning and our domestic helps made a scene about it. The notions of shame and family honor kept our lips sealed where as our domestic helps were vociferous about the injustice, even if they did not receive it. When and where the line between our economic privileges blurs and becomes our social obligation of preserving the great tradition of respecting generational and gender discrimination.

    Washington-based International Center for Research on Women in collaboration with independent Indian researchers found that In India, domestic violence rises with education; a woman’s risk of being beaten, kicked or hit by her husband rose along with her level of education. About 74.8 percent of the women who reported violence have attempted to commit suicide.

    Now, I ask why the same question wasn’t asked about the class of nationalist elite or the forerunners of other social reform movements.

    Do you still wonder who can claim to be “Desi Daughters,” who they ought to be and where they ought to be?

    References:

    Malhotra, Anshu. Gender, Caste and Relogious Identities. Restructuring Class in Colonial Punjab. New Delhi: Oxford University Press 2002.

    Sahota, Simarjeet. “The Social Correlates of Induced Abortion in Jaipur, Rajasthan: Phenomenological Study Gender and Reproductive Rights.” Diss. U of Rajasthan, 2004.

    Sangtin Writers. Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism through Seven Lives in India. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2006.

    Walsh, Judith E. Domesticity in Colonial India. What Women Learned When Men Gave Advice. Lanham: Rowman& Littlefiled Publishers Inc. 2004.

    http://www.icrw.org

    Like this

  18. luckyfatima January 24, 2010 at p01 #

    I just wanted to stop by to say that when I linked you in GG’s forums, in no way did I mean to negate the experiences of you or the people whose stories you feature (I saw your response to me). I do believe that your anecdotes pretty much articulate very astutely a very common experience as a desi daughter and a desi bride. You are absolutely right that non-desi brides married into desi families get an “I am the dumb foreigner” card to pull out which desi girls don’t when dealing with family dynamics.

    Like this

    • girlsguidetosurvival February 11, 2010 at p02 #

      Hi! there,

      Was away for quite sometime, appologies. An independent spirit = Two international borders, three countries and hundreds of karmas resolved.

      I guess I sounded defensive at the GG’s. The lived realities of desi women are much different than what foreigners see in their personl encounters with us. We claim equality with this “other” and yet we feel we have to justify ourselves for innocent ignorances of this other. When we speak up if it resonates louder than expected then we are considered guilty of being defensive. Same is with our personal lives be it with men in our lives or strangers or our families both natal and conjugal. Ultimately we and our issues are reduced to our gender and corporeal existance.

      Like this

  19. Tescumsah January 22, 2010 at p01 #

    I have lived in Mexico and I have traveled to Colombia and Cuba. I am not an expert on women, but I have noticed that Latin women and daughters do house cleaning, cooking, and taking care of younger family members than anyone else in the family. As for the Latin men, they do not help in kitchen. They have more opportunity for education and job position in the Latin society. I believe that Indian women experience the same thing.

    Like this

  20. Gori Girl January 21, 2010 at p01 #

    Who is the “we” in your post? Obviously, I didn’t grow up in an Indian household, but it seems like what you write is a combination of generalizations that I know are not true in all instances (e.g., my husband’s family, where the boys do most of the chores and the girls get preferential treatment) – in which case, what’s the point of this post? – and generalizations that do not seem specific to Indian families at all (e.g. girls are trained by mothers to follow culture-specified notions of femininity) – in which case, why frame this as a desi-specific problem?

    Like this

    • girlsguidetosurvival January 21, 2010 at p01 #

      Hey! Welcome GoriGirl. The “we” in this and most of other posts are my friends (mostly Atiya and Shanu, at other places some other friends those have asked to use their life stories as examples) and me, who share similar life experiences. I am responsible for writing the posts and we communicate regularly about what we want to put forth in simple words and with humor.

      You would have noticed the pages on this blog talk about relationship issues because Atiya and I felt (Shanu, Rinky and Amu came along) that we never learned how to address these issues. The notions of family honor and shame associated with sharing intimate thoughts even with girl friends kept us isolated where as after fifteen years of our friendship we found out our issues and concerns were all the same, we just suffered in isolation thinking we were “the problem.” We had no role models to emulate, at homes our parents, their parents and all those we knew struggled with same relationship issues. The ideals of generational reverence, power struggles between female kin and some times over bearing and mostly indifferent male relatives didn’t seem right to us but we did not know how to put an end to all this. Rather we are doubly burdened because of our awareness of injustice at home and our productive roles outside the homes, both do not match.

      I am glad your husband’s family had different set rules of gender socialization but preferential treatment to anyone at the expense of another person is not my idea of progress. One or two families do not make the norm. I am privileged in numerous ways than my brother in our natal family but I am just one person I do not account for all those who are oppressed. While I am writing this reply I am on phone with Atiya and we are talking about the privileges we had as girls opposed to our brothers. We had less pressure to succeed and we have had more schooling than our brothers and we (Atiya, Shanu, Rinky, Amu) are in better paid positions (since last decade I am in transition). May be this was our sheer will to out do what was expected of us or we wanted to be role models for our siblings and be in good books of our parents and significant others in our lives (all three of us our people pleasers, I am cured to an extent. Atiya is on the way and Shanu has her own monsters to face). In Hindu families there are traditions and rituals that privilege women but at the same time there are systemic oppressions that go unaccounted for.

      We are not drawing any kind of generalizations; we are sharing our experiences and our dilemmas in everyday life. The cultural notions of femininity and masculinity mentioned here are not exclusive to desi communities they are ever pervasive in differential forms across the globe and have differential implications for those who subscribe or resist them. This space is used to raise issues faced specifically by desi women and break the isolation.

      The problems of educated, employed desi women are mostly alike those faced by women in similar status anywhere. The exclusivity comes from the fact how we define our cultural location, the difference from the “other” who subscribes to individuality (read western) as opposed to family/community (oriental) orientation. Our dilemma lies in our struggle with tradition and modernity; the most common phrase we come across is “modern yet traditional.” What does that mean? Is wearing trousers and speaking English indicative of modernity and adoring a sari/salwar kameez a certification of our respect for our tradition. The minute we subscribe to modernity as a process of making choices for “self” most times we feel we are the targets of tradition brigade. To stand up for self against the traditions/rituals that do not seem right to us or are obsolete and oppressive to women we are deemed modern and lacking in cultural values. On the other hand, male peers in our lives put us to tests to see how modern we are. Few years back a male colleague placed his hand on my knee while we were talking, when I asked him to remove his hand, he retorted “I thought you were modern, you are just like other behanji types, just shaming modernity.” Equating modernity with blurred or no personal boundaries and tradition with no personal freedom is quite confusing in everyday life of a desi woman.

      You are a GoriGirl you won’t be put through same standards of expectations in conjugal/familial relations that we face. You’ll always have the benefit of being an outsider, “she is an outsider can’t expect more from her,” “at least she is trying.” If you made an effort to do something in accordance to customs of your conjugal kin it will be appreciated and applauded. Where as, we have experienced our efforts are shunned as pretence and manipulations; at times our spouses join the same bandwagon. Men in our lives are equally confused but they have male privilege and they can wield it when ever they want. Under such circumstances our emotions and sensibilities are in constant struggle with our material realities. We strongly feel our gender socialization has contributed to most of our confusion and we do not fit into the statistically defined parameters of gender discrimination. So ours is “the problem with no name” that we are trying to demystify here in this safe space. Yes, Betty Friedan already did that decades ago at your end but now it is our turn in our own words.

      Like this

      • Gori Girl January 22, 2010 at p01 #

        Thanks for the detailed reply!

        I guess my main concern/uneasiness re: your post comes from the title, which seems to suggest you’re speaking broadly (and describing, broadly) the experience of “desi daughters” – when, in fact, you’re, at most, speaking to and of the concerns of a very small minority of desi women, based off of the experiences of you and two of your friends (who, naturally, will likely have similar backgrounds & experiences to you).

        The self-selection bias is a deeply pervasive one, and one that most people dramatically discount. The echo chamber effect has been shown to be particularly strong among people of my education level/class (roughly speaking), and what I would surmise is yours as well. It makes me very wary of drawing any sort of conclusions regarding the pervasiveness of any cultural meme I see, personally, or even ones reported by the media (which draws from the same highly educated, mostly urban, etc class of people) – it’s just been shown time & time again by economic, sociological, and psychological studies that what is believed to be the reality of society by most individuals is really a reflection of their particular small pond.

        You speak of Betty Friedan & the US-based “Second Wave” of feminism – but the movement was, again, based off of the experiences of a very small subset of American women of the era. Friedan’s Feminine Mystique developed out of a questionnaire she sent to the very elite graduating class of Smith College, for example.

        That doesn’t mean that the issues you write of – or what the second wave feminism was responding to – aren’t real or don’t matter. But I do think that any statements stronger than “this is a particular experience I had, and that I think some others like me can relate to” is probably unwarranted. I know I tend to be more… cautious?… in this than many bloggers, but failing to note these sorts of biases leads one into murky waters pretty quickly.

        Like this

      • nolongeraslave January 27, 2011 at p01 #

        Desi girl,

        From what I’ve noticed, I do think white women married to Desi men have it easier. They’re not held to the same standards as Indian girls.

        When I was in highschool and college, I remember Desi-American boys saying “It’s okay for white women to do certain things, but not Indians.” For instance, it was okay for a white woman to wear a skirt, but horrendous for an Indian woman to do so. Indian women must be virgins, but a white girl having sex wasn’t a big deal. The Indian boys would simply say “It’s because they’re white, but Indian girls should follow different rules.”

        Like this

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Kafila

media | politics | dissent

"कुरुक्षेत्र"

मेरे विचारो का

समाजवादी जनपरिषद

वैश्वीकरण विरोध हेतु

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

A Desi Girl's Guide to Relationship Survival

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

W.S.S.A @ UWindsor

Women's Studies Student Association @ University of Windsor, Ontario

संजीव तिवारी . . Sanjeeva Tiwari .. Chhattisgarh

हमको मालूम है जन्नत की हकीक़त लेकिन, दिल को खुश रखने को ग़ालिब ये ख़याल अच्छा है

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

Beyond The Second Sex (स्त्रीविमर्श)

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

नारी , NAARI

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

Sparsh

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

Zerqa Abid

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Sex And The Indian Cities

love, friendship and life in the Indian cities

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FINALLY FEELING FIT, FERTILE AND FABULOUS

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Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm

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