Desi Choices: Or Else

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Desi Choices: or Else

I am fuming really fuming after I read this. IHM has initiated several discussions over women’s choice and blindianlove is talking about choice of love or arranged marriage. All discussions about choice essentially come and rest on a woman’s choice about her attire, her deportment, her selection of spouse on and on. Why are we so obsessed with women and their bodies. I have never heard anyone talking about men and their attire or their choice be it promiscuity or drugging with an exception of marriage by their choice in desi context. Desi women wearing skimpy western wear is problematic for many desi eyes but what about desi young men showing of their undies in the public with those sagging pants??? (I ran into a bunch of desis men showing their undies at the Uni the other day, few months ago the same guys told me how the new batch of desi girls is wearing western wear that does not even look good on them.)

 What does choice really mean?

Choice is definitely a complex can of worms. All choices may be greater numbers of choices are definitely conditioned. We are taught limits of our choices any transgression is rebuked sometimes even violently. I have heard parents say, “We are pretty modern, we are okay with you marrying for love. Make sure the guy or the girl is from our caste/religion/region etc.” So it is really a choice??

You have a choice “do as I say or else…” The OR ELSE makes it really doubtful if it is a choice. It is smooth choicelessness that is presented as choice. 

At times I wonder if a choice without options really a choice??? 

Choice should not be confused with freedom. Freedom comes with responsibility both towards self and others. How marrying for love threatens family’s freedom I want someone to explain it to me. How wearing pants or skirts threaten family’s freedom would be another one I need an explanation for.

Bhagyashri went to parlor for threading and lost her life. I received this news by a personal email sent to me by a reader. She also mentioned her story. Let us address this reader as Venu. (I have only fixed the syntax these are exactly her words) She writes:

We are just two sisters, I am the eldest. My sister is a dentist, she works in a local hospital. Last year she visited me for two days. We both went shopping I insisted she have her hair done. She was reluctant but I wanted her to do something for herself. She is been lost since she had the baby. On my repeated insistence she agreed. We had her hair cut and colored. She looked beautiful.

 Next day her husband and his mother came to pick her up. As soon as her MIL saw her new look her expressions changed and she literally gave Lalita Pawar looks. I was in the kitchen getting tea ready but I could hear her saying something to my sister. My sister’s face was pale and she was almost shaking. When I came in the MIL said to me how I should not be doing this to her bahu, now I have no right to interfere in their life.

 Meanwhile her husband parked the car and came in. He saw his mother upset, the first thing he said to his wife was: “What did you say to mummy?” My sister was almost begging that she did not say anything. The MIL was upset that bahu will become habitual of getting her hair done every month and it will be an additional expense. My sister, insisted it wont be an expense, it was just one time thing and also didi paid for this time. On this her husband slapped her in my presence and said “Mummy say juban ladati hai (you are talking back to mummy; talking back to your elders is considered very disrespectful in desi culture).”

 I stood there frozen not knowing what to do. He literally dragged her and shoved her in the car. I am wondering why I didn’t react. Rather I am wondering what should have been my reaction. My own marriage is not solid so how can I even help my sister or ask her to come and live with me. I told this to my husband. Now he throws it on my face every now and then. He tells me “you are lucky I don’t act like your sister’s husband.” Sometimes he says “I should do exactly like your sister’s husband only then you’ll get your senses.” I make Rs. 8 Lakhs (800,000) per annum, I have a girl (13) and boy (8). I can not leave him for their sake so don’t even tell me that.

 The folk wisdom tells me to stay away from her (sister’s) marital problems. Every one says you can’t do much Ladki ki sasural ka mamla hai (it is about her marital home you can’t interfere).  Then my own marriage is not very good either. My widow mother will be devastated.

 Any suggestions about how should I deal with this situation.

Like every mother Venu is thinking she is taking all the abuse and nonsense from her spouse and in-laws for the sake of her kids. She wants them to have a father in their life. She is forgetting that parents are children’s role model of not only gender roles but intimate relationships. The daughter is learning how to be submissive to men in intimate relationships and the son is learning how to oppress women in intimate relationships. No matter how much Venu tries to rub into them the equality of gender and respect for each other lectures because the practicum is showing different test results. On the other hand both children are imbibing how grown ups beget power in intimate relationships- by manipulation and throwing tantrums.

 My only suggestion would be to seek professional help. She is in position to afford professional counseling. She ought to start practicing assertiveness skills. I know when a woman starts asserting herself or even voicing her opinion that is different from her so called benefactors violence against her escalates. Those in power who are controlling her life feel they are loosing control thus they give even harder blows to break her spirit or spirit to resist ever again. This also serves as warning to other women who may be thinking of raising their voice against intimate injustice.

 At times I do not know what to tell the person because assertiveness is a learned skill and it takes time to learn it. A greater numbers of women all through their lives are taught how not to say no and be people pleaser now I am telling them to say NO. It doesn’t work that way. I guess one should begin with small and minor stuff like what you’ll eat or where you’ll sit, who I’ll talk to etc. But then I think the woman who approaches me is an adult why does she have to seek permission from anyone. Isn’t she the citizen of a free country?

 When will desis learn to mind their boundaries. Some walk in to couple’s bedroom and others do not leave until it is way past sleeping time… The whole culture is based on controlling each other. Some parents keep treating adult children (even when they have grwonup kids) as minors. They have no restrain on their tongues and or actions. Then there are dysfunctional adult children of these codependent parents who are miserable and are perpetuating the cycle. DGAC wrote a post where he reiterates the need for desi women to start saying NO. Here I am telling them how to start saying NO.

  • Start with small steps: you can not change everything wrong in one day. It took days and years to get into this mess so it will take time. This time use your patience for yourself.Begin with minor things like asserting your choice of food, clothing if not jumping to wear shorts and minis then go with colors you prefer.


  • When you say NO to someone, initially the guilty bug will crawl all over you. It is normal because you are doing something you are not use to. Take a deep breath and count ten. Then tell yourself. The other person is capable of doing what I refused to do. They’ll not die or get hurt. If they can then even I can die or get hurt. If I keep doing X for them then how will they learn? I am saying NO for their good. So that they can learn to do X one their own.


  • Often times we find difficult to say NO because we think the other person is dependent on us. Believe me you are as dispensable as another guy. If you die to night nothing will stop. The work will still get done. A rooster may think sun rises because I crow but sun rises every morning no matter if the rooster crows or not.


  • Once you say no for something don’t revert back, that way you’ll be sending a wrong message to the other person. Oh, when she says no she doesn’t mean it. Ultimately she’ll do it. Yes, often times the other person will create hardships for you because in a way you are asking them to change and accept new you. If the person is using brute force to make you do something then you know the answer how much they love or care for you. They are violating your human right to live in peace without fear of repercussion. Nobody is going to come and save you. IT IS YOUR DUTY TO SAVE YOUR SELF.


  • Stop thinking that you are the center of the universe. Nothing is about you, it is about the abuser. No matter how hard you try he/she will find something else to be on your case.


  • Remember, everything is about you if you are alive, healthy and sane. If you loose any one health or sanity nothing will matter anymore. Start saying no. If you are stuttering out of fear. If you are bitter and angry most of the time. If you are feeling hurt and not valued. Don’t you think its time you said NO??

For more tips on How to Say NO Without Guilt click here

10 Responses to “Desi Choices: Or Else”

  1. Namak Haram July 20, 2010 at p07 #

    Excellent post. The big issue in desi culture is interdependent relationships that involve a dominant and a sumbissive role. The successful people know how to balance it, but the vast majority have sheer imbalance.

    In the case of husband and wife, the wife is trained to give and give, and the husband, to take and take.

    The son may be asked to support the whole family, so that the father can retire.

    The daughter may be asked to suppress her desires and wants, so that the son can have what he desires and wants, as sons are valued higher than daughters.

    Each item has its own emotional weapons attached to it, the pressures of society ‘log kya kahen ge’, religious duty, position in family, financial dependency, etc. Husbands use it with wives, parents with kids, etc etc, and subconsciously, it becomes ingrained in the psyche.

    I know of a case where a mother has repeatedly blackmailed her sons emotionally to get what she has wanted, a case where a husband has taunted and dehumanized his wife resulting in her believing that she was at fault for even the tiniest of problems, and that she was a servile being, as opposed to his royal highness. The list can go on an on.

    The key, as mentioned in this post, is to say ‘NO’, something which unfortunately is lacking in desi culture, and even those that do get the courage are subjected to emotional pressure, causing difficulties.

    NO needs to be said. With courage. Desi culture needs to change. The whole paradigm of ‘one submissive, one oppressive’ is not acceptable, and should never have been acceptable.


  2. hmm July 7, 2010 at p07 #

    I was reading about choices..and I am paying for the choices I made.. choices I thought were really smart at that time..
    Now I am not sure anymore.


    • girlsguidetosurvival July 7, 2010 at p07 #


      Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.

      Yes, Desi Girl always say “we make choices and we face consequences.” But the bottom line is good or bad we have to own our choices only then we can heal and move forward. Read about my bad choices here

      So what if we made bad choices we now can even make good ones because we now know better. What ever is hurting you I wish would heal and give you strength to help those sailing in the same boat.

      Please accept my sympathies and warm wishes.
      Kindly share this message of hope with anyone who may benefit.


      Desi Girl


  3. keerthana July 6, 2010 at p07 #

    Sometimes even parents behave so irrationally and say its for your “own good”,
    So frustrating!


  4. bikramjit July 4, 2010 at p07 #

    hmm a good article.. cant advice u on anything i guess its learn as u grow and learn from mistakes …


    • girlsguidetosurvival July 4, 2010 at p07 #


      Thanks for liking the post. You can definitely advice me on time management and shedding laziness. 🙂 I do all the wrong things at all the wrong times. 🙂

      If you found the post useful please promote it to anyone who may benefit.


      Thanks for encouragement. My messages are limited to few. I wish I knew how to take it to those in need.




  5. Indian Homemaker July 4, 2010 at p07 #

    //She is forgetting that parents are children’s role model of not only gender roles but intimate relationships. The daughter is learning how to be submissive to men in intimate relationships and the son is learning how to oppress women in intimate relationships.//

    Your posts are brilliant!

    I loved the advice on how to be assertive. I know how many women need these tips.


    • nolongeraslave March 3, 2011 at p03 #

      I’ve struggled with self-blame on why I wasn’t assertive. My mom and my ex-boyfriend constantly called me a wimp and a weak person when they heard of situations where I couldn’t stand up for myself. What they don’t realize is my parents are responsible for this conditioning. We learn from our parents. An Indian man named Manny on also told me, “You’re blaming others for your inadequacies.” I was trying to find other Desi women in the same situation.

      DG’s post confirmed my thoughts though. A lot of Desi families teach women NOT to stand up for themselves. So, why is it our fault if we don’t know? It’s like expecting an Indian beggar to know Chinese. How can they know if nobody taught them? If we do stand up for ourselves, we find that we’re punished whether it’s through guilting, being yelled at, put down, dirty looks, etc.

      Dear nolongeraslave,
      DG is glad you feel safe at GGTS. It is a good idea to look out for other desi survivors of incest but just beware of likes of Manny who inflict blaming and victimization on survivors. When we know the truth we need not seek validation from the ignorant. DG personally believes 90% of our problems will end if we stop seeking approval from others even if they are significant people in our lives.

      DG was an approval junkie, now she is like ok, “this is who I am you like it good for you, you don’t like it sorry can’t help it.” This is who I am and your choices are accept it or reject it, it doesn’t make a difference to my thick skin. This happened only after she discovered who she is, earlier she was everything others wanted her to be. Now she is what her creator wanted her to be, a kind and compassionate person who does her job honestly and lives in gratitude.


      • nolongeraslave March 3, 2011 at p03 #

        DG, thanks a lot of the comment. You’re right, but it looks like I have a way to go when it comes to NOT seeking validation and approval. My parents are coming to visit me this Sat, so I’m a little off..:P

        Yes, I do think GGTS is a safe place! So happy to find other like-minded Indians.


      • girlsguidetosurvival March 3, 2011 at p03 #


        It is a journey, you were trained to be an approval seeker over years so it won’t go away in a day or two. One step at a time and one day at a time. Yes, the upcoming visit can ensue anxiety and stress, it is normal. Just use DG’s formula, take ten deep breaths, count till ten and drink ten sips of water before you open your mouth. This gives you time to word your sentences cogently and strongly.

        The thing in your favor is they are coming to your place, so it is your home base. You can ask them if they don’t like they can leave and if they leave you can’t do much about it as it will be their choice. You are financially independent, you don’t care what other desis think if your mom is worried about it then it is her problem not your. If she wants you to behave according to her wishes to save her face in the community then she has to step up and do something for you in exchange and that is keep her berating to herself.

        Learn to differentiate between a thought and a feeling. A thought is based on a feeling but it is not a feeling. Eg., I feel as if I am…; I feel like… these are thoughts; and feelings will be like I feel…; I am feeling… . Thoughts don’t hold much water much water if we dig deeper to find where they came from.

        You said: “My parents are coming to visit me this Sat, so I’m a little off…”

        That is a thought; the feeling would be I am anxious about their up coming visit or I am feeling vulnerable due to their upcoming visit.
        Now what are you going to do about your feelings of anxiety or vulnerability?

        1. Identify your feelings and name them
        2. Analyse them and
        3. Honor them.

        Make a plan how you are going to address these feelings.
        Set some ground rules for your self. What you’ll accept and what you’ll ignore and what you’ll confront. Try following them. If you fail to follow through, it is ok because it takes time and practice.
        Just be strong and be yourself not a people pleaser.
        In the end remember

        DG learned the meaning of this quote just few years ago even though she heard it all her life.

        For others who are in Des and are dependent on their tormentors for what ever reasons and can’t ask them to leave can use this technique too all they have to do is firmly say
        “what you said is your view, I do not have to agree or accept it because I am not you.”
        “What you just said about me does not define me I am XYZ but not what you said and i don’t have to prove it to you.”

        Remember abusers have a knack to dare you like, “I knew you were selfish,” and you’ll start doing back flips to prove them wrong and they’ll get what they want, your compliance. 🙂 Another one was ex MIL’s favorite, “X ne kuchh kaha tumhare bare mein main bataoongi to tumhe bura lag jayega” (“X said something about you I don’t want to tell you because you’ll feel bad’). I would get all begging please tell me, tell me… and then she would utter something very mean and I’ll feel terrible. Then she would say didn’t I tell you, you’ll feel offended.

        Later I learned that was a very good trick, “I was not telling you, you insisted so I told and now you can’t blame me for saying something mean.” She got her way. 🙂 If she knew and if she cared about me that I’ll be offended then why did she have to bring it up in the first place? Just to hurt me and purturb me. I learned the best practice in such a senario is to say, “if you think it is offensive then definitely it is and I do not want to hear it. I trust your judgement.” KEEP THEM GUESSING…

        Desi Girl


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