Desi Life: Log, Martyrs and Selfishness

21 Apr

We all are aware of faceless strangers called “log” we have debated and lamented their existence. We can point all fingers to this collective called log but at individual level we have no names and faces to point at. Have we done anything to identify and eliminate these nasty mites that control our lives? Guess not much. This locust called “log” swarm out of wood work when it is a matter of a woman’s body, sexuality and agency. A woman who refuses to commit suicide on being raped; one who is determined to file charges; one who is insistent on walking out of a bad marriage or one who is ready to step into male dominated work arena; one who is single or childless by choice or otherwise all let these tongues unleash their furry. These tongues also demonize anyone that does not match their definition of perfect, be it people with disabilities or health issues. These same tongues go dormant when men rape and abuse women, when men steal and rob banks. Why do these tongues selectively bark?

In the previous case women are exhibiting agency, they threaten the power and control of these tongues. They open venues for other women to follow the suit thus further weakening their control; where as in the later case wagging tongues fail to control male behavior because greater number of men fantasize and take pride in following the suit of abusers, rapists and dacoits.

Watch @7:35

For seven months none of the neighbors gossiped about these two sisters dealing with mental health issues, may be they did. Yes, wagging is their job, taking action is not. Now all of a sudden the media tongues along with the neighboring tongues are leashing out on each other and blaming on apathy on urbanization and vanishing joint family. Oh and now they have found the best scapegoat, a brother who got married and decided to move on. How easily the media has demonized and blamed the brother for the mental health issues of his sisters; indirectly they are pointing fingers towards his wife.

According to them the perfect world of Behl siblings fell apart once the brother got married and his spouse could not put up with the sisters-in-law dealing with mental health issues. These were two adult women endowed with agency who chose not to seek medical help for their mental illnesses what could a brother do in such a case? Had his spouse suggested clinical help and institutionalization of these two sisters she would have been demonized by “log” and parents in-laws if they were alive. Oh, some will be assuming if they were alive the Behl world would have been more than perfect. If the brother would have suggested the same, still his spouse would have been blamed for his choice of those words.

Desis are a codependent culture, where like the families of alcoholics we help maintain dysfunctional behaviors because it serves us as it makes us feel in control and gives us an illusion of being useful. (Families of addicts may present a desire to help them quit but their subtle behaviors support addiction because if the person was clean it would be difficult to face the personal demons and dealing with personal issues.) There are mothers who would refrain severing ties with their rogue sons just to keep them coming back home every night. There are mothers who give their stash of hidden money to their druggie sons so as not to deal with his withdrawal symptoms. There are parents who would send regular installments of dowry money or gifts because they do not want to deal with the issue for once and all. If someone was to call this bluff off and say, “Hey I am done, here on I am not going to be part of this game.” The “log” comes around admonishing them, calling names and ostracizing them because they set a new precedent and open doors for others to walk out on dysfunctional families and relatives.

The word we desis dread is being called “selfish.” We are a culture of martyrs without cause; women take nonsense from conjugal kin and spouses and call it a sacrifice for the sake of their children. Sacrifice by definition means a choice inherent, not choicelessness. Younger siblings are forced to delay getting married just to give the older a chance and then it is branded as a sacrifice. If the younger sibling gets married before the older one he/she is branded selfish. Parents choose to have children and then term their lives as a sacrifice. Does taking care of oneself and one’s needs qualify to be called “selfish?”

Selfish are people who refuse to take care of themselves. Selfish are those who portray a sorry picture of themselves in the name of doing favors. If an action we perform does not accord us a choice to back out then it is not a sacrifice it is a bonded labor (most desi women are in bonded labor in marriage and family). A parent has to change the dirty diaper because a child cannot but a parent cannot go around beating the kid all her life “I changed your diapers” (it is a favorite of desi mothers, “I slept in the wet and kept you dry”). A child did not have a choice to be born, as a parent you chose to have a child. Yes, you have a choice to mark an expiry date on parenting they are adults now. You do not have a right to go around emotionally blackmailing your adult children. No you should not and cannot emotionally blackmail minors either.

It is high time we desis reconfigured definitions of family, community, shame, honor, sacrifice, and selfishness.

15 Responses to “Desi Life: Log, Martyrs and Selfishness”

  1. Glacier May 12, 2011 at p05 #

    This is coming from a desi dude :

    This is very true, sometimes I think about my Pakistani parents and it is unbelievable how incredibly toxic they were. My mother in particular with time became emotionally blackmailing, manipulating extremely toxic. This eventually after many years of blankets of guilt led to my estrangement from my entire family, even on the day I was leaving without telling anyone I was covered with guilt and feelings of selfishness. After years of being torn, guilted and manipulated I felt I had no choice but to go.

    It is strange several years ago (before estrangement) on a breakfast table when my mother was having one of her hissy fits my younger brother called out to her :

    ” What you are doing is just blackmail… “,

    My mother’s response was :

    ” … because it works…”.

    At another time I recall her saying :

    “.. mardon ko ghumana bohat asan hay …”

    which means :

    ” … it is very easy to manipulate men …”

    She had become very skilled at emotional blackmail, using circumstances to her advantage, pumping one family member for information regarding the other and using it against both. The aim always was to get what she wants : control over everyone and all dynamics.

    I got into an arranged marriage due to this guilt which was inflicted for several years. During this time all family members had turned against me, my younger brother mocked me behind my back denying that my parents were doing something wrong by guilting me into marriage. The manipulation is so subtle it is difficult to recognize it, difficult to pinpoint and say this is what is wrong. Come to think of I had refused the marriage 2-3 times however my mother refused my refusals by countering them with blackmail, confusing arguments. Her startegy was to inflict the blackmail long enough until I break and give in. After I give in my parents smothered me in an effort to convince this is the right thing to do.

    I realized the game too late, after I got married. My wife unfortunately was a product of the same codependent system. She was sweet but under the skin the same blackmail, manipulating personality existed – she just did it in a different way. I realized with time that she would just be a copy of my mother in a few years, be possessive, crazy and toxic. She was also emotionally unstable and was not very good at managing her feelings, having wildly conflicting emotions one day to the next.

    So one day I got very angry with myself when I realized the game my mother was playing. The thought of estrangement depressed me, I lose whatever I do : I go I lose, I stay I lose – geez what a situation to be in. Slowly I began to accept that if I don’t go I’ll be stuck in this forever : stuck in my mother’s basement and a imported wife from desi land.

    Then one day I decided to stop giving a *hit. I went away (I almost did not) & never looked back, got a divorce, full of doubts although the understanding of my mothers actions had helped curb the damn guilt. It’s only when I went did I realize that I won the desi game. This is the secret to this game : “you can never win, the only way to win is to depart the game”.

    One thing to grasp is that people in these living conditions think this is normal. They don’t know anything else but don’t more importantly don’t want to, they are convinced they are right. Then one day they realize life went by them, the outside world away from this mesh of dysfunction did not care about them. All there is misery and regrets, what a waste of life.

    My biggest regret was the time I wasted in this and my biggest gain was I got control of my life back.

    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Congratulations! on your freedom from that dungeon called toxic family. Sorry that freedom came at the cost of estrangement. You are one brave man who stood up and said enough is enough. DG is going to post this comment as a post for everyone to read.
    we need more men like you who’ll share their experiences and validate concerns of many other men who do not know what to do in similar circumstances.

    Life could be simple and beautiful if we all could just be kind and compassionate to each other and accept adults as adults. Desi parents have children with an agenda, so they end up treating them as extensions of self and for themselves not as independent entities. Then adult children become their own parents and the cycle continues.

    Though yours was an arranged marriage but usually our spouses are copies of our parents 🙂 because we either pick someone we think is familiar or we teach them how to become our parent. In your case you wife saw how guilt works on you so she started using the same tools your mother was using. It is great relief that you are out of that dysfunctional system.
    Here are some posts that may interest you.

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


  2. broken_no_more April 24, 2011 at p04 #


    Thanks for all that you do. saddens me to see how inhumane this co-dependent culture of ours is.

    How convenient to blame the brother. Our culture is in a rot because marriage is everyone’s business. The mother, the father and the sisters.

    Sure as a sibling he could have helped the situation by getting his sisters situated, if he was the only one who was their next of kin, out of pure love for his sisters – but not because he is the brother and his parents have raised him blah blah and all that emotional blackmail stuff that commentator was going on and on.

    My ex mother-in-law denied the existence of her schizophrenic sister to her two sons-in-law and their families – lest their sons-in-law think that something was mentally off with her daughters.

    I was instructed to never broach the topic of her sister even by mistake. It just breaks my heart that she had to deal with the situation in that heartless manner, deny the existence of her sister to the desi “ladkewale log” just to make herself and her family look perfect to the rest of the society.

    Take Care Love Always and Keep doing What you do.


    Desis make everything shameful and turn ordinary things into skeletons in the cupboard, be it a disability or a love marriage. They are really not ashamed of abusing other people but when it comes to right thing their pseudo morality wakes up from slumber. 🙂

    Even in west mental illness and developmental disability was a taboo until mid 60s. Did you watch Rain Man (1988) or Daughter of Memory Keeper.

    How have you been, was thinking about you. 🙂


    • broken_no_more April 26, 2011 at p04 #

      Why is it DG that not a single desi friend commented on this when I shared the link on this story on facebook. Is it that we just pretend to look the other way and talk only about pleasant things while pretending that the unpleasant things do not exist or maybe it will rock the boat if someone does voice an opinion. Or maybe facebook is only to share the good news.


  3. starsinmeyes April 24, 2011 at p04 #

    I totally agree…these ‘log’ want perfection and shred women to pieces, but stay mum about the rampant misogyny in our society and will not raise a finger to stop abuse or correct the massive imbalances regarding gender and gender roles and privileges. So who the hell are they to talk?

    The question still remains, what and who comprises mighty “log.” It is a faceless entity kept alive by each one of us everytime we fail to confront a gossip mongering aunt or uncle in the neighborhood or even our intimates. “Log” just love to complain about “Kalyug” as if “satyug” did not have that washer man with verbal diarrhea.:)


  4. The Brown Vagabond April 24, 2011 at p04 #

    In Indian families, the moment a DIL enters the home, she is blamed for everything. It is like the family has been waiting for years to find someone to blame.

    In the video attached to IHM’s reply, I did not see the sister blaming her brother. Or did I miss anything? She seems very delusional and blames black magic and negative forces. Media reports blame the brother and his wife. The media sources are more malicious than the neighborhood gossip folks.

    What could the brother do when his visits were met with no positive response? Is the brother not entitled to live a good life with his wife? Should he keep forgoing his life for the sake of his sisters? I think not.

    @The Brown Vagabond,
    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Yes, the media and especially the anchor is really messed up in his head on this issue.
    The link posted in response to @IHM’s comment, the brother tells things went bad to worse once he got married so he had to move out with his spouse.
    It is the same question DG asked how much can a loved one do for a person who refuses to take care of themselves or seek help. Why it is selfish to move on one’s life?

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


    • nolongeraslave April 25, 2011 at p04 #

      You know..when my bhabhi entered my family..I was SO tempted to write a letter warning her about narcissism and mind games. The poor thing doesn’t know English well and I don’t speak Hindi well either. 😦

      Then again, a part of me was scared that she would think I was crazy. Sometimes, victims are brainwashed to think that the dysfunctional family is loving while the scapegoat (the victim that speaks out against abuse) is some sort of villain.

      I do feel bad for her. If she ever speaks to me about her concerns, then that’s probably the best time to bring it up. But, she’s so traditional that she may even think that being controlled is normal.

      In the name of love and honor people volunteer to be controlled… Aren’t we desis unique 🙂


  5. Harish April 24, 2011 at p04 #

    Faulting someone or the other and bitching about it makes us feel better. That is how the ego sustains. It believes that it is doing the society a favor, but can negativity ever help anyone? Clever thing, this ego. So many of us dance to its tunes.

    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    You are right giant egos trapped in a petite bodies really create a lot of misery for the person and those around them. Won’t it be a blessing if these silly egos could take some responsibility for their trips and actions 🙂

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


  6. thechildgonewild April 22, 2011 at p04 #

    I completely agree. Everyone loves a bad bahu angle to the story!

    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    Bahus are easier to blame because family pet can bark and bite 🙂

    Please share this message of hopw with anyone who may benefit.
    Desi Girl


  7. cheesychic30 April 22, 2011 at p04 #

    Desis are a codependent lot, you said it! There is conditioning to prevent selfishness which in most cases is mere practicality. Was just talking to a friend who has moved after a life in North and Western India to the South. She is facing some serious trouble with the ‘log’ who are judging her for being different. Everything from her clothes to her demeanour is being questioned and gossiped about. She was even talking about how the maids go and spread stories about her in the neighbourhood, she is so frustrated, she wants to leave the city. I almost judged her by thinking these are small issues to leave a city especially when you dont know what is the

    Log are very judgmental basically because of their insecurity and staunch pledge to patriarchy. We blame the Western culture for McDonaldisation, but isnt the whole point of our own culture conformity? Dont we want clones of perfect mothers, bahus etc.?

    What a shame your friend is dealing with these mouths that have diarrhea. Just tell her DG’s formula

    We are not only codependent but we also champion in not taking any responsibility for our conduct. It is so easy to blame it on McDonaldisation, west and disintegration of joint families (as if they were a paradise for all memebers) than take responsibilty because then we’ll have to change. If nothing else we’ll be more than happy to blame the family pet for what our beloved child just did. 🙂 Oh yes, we want perfect brainless clones of Sita, Draupadi, Kaushalya etc.



    • starsinmeyes April 24, 2011 at p04 #

      Oooooh…loved what you said here GGTS! “If you are not paying my bills, what you say doesn’t matter.” Yes, yes, yes!

      Try it. It works 🙂


  8. fakeindianbbahu April 22, 2011 at p04 #

    Hey , Thats great article ..You have hit the nail on the Brothers role.

    Also another topic about Our Desi family = dysfunctional Families is very rightly said and these same things echo in our so called corrupt system too..Corruption is in our Social setup our families ..and how we ignore the issues and maintain that dysfunctional system in family and society.

    What happens in families is reflected in the outer world be it community or society; what happens outside the four walls does seeps in too. Here DG wrote a line to GV’s comment at IHM’s.
    We desis just love to complain 🙂



  9. p April 22, 2011 at p04 #

    it’s easy to say that when there are only sons in a family.Many parents want to leave behind a son to take care of their daughter(s).What is it if not Apathy on display when a brother comes to know about his sisters’ deprivation through media? Shameworthy.
    Primary responsibility is of blood relatives. Nobody abandons a depressed psychotic person.

    Welcome to GGTS, a safe space.
    The primary responsibility of blood relatives is difficult to ascertain when adults refuse to cooperate and seek help. A lot goes in mental illness and we have to remember any care giver be it blood relative or professional can only do as much. The patients also have some role to play in recovery.

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


  10. Phoenixritu April 22, 2011 at p04 #

    You put it down so well – this myth about “Log” which really are a form of suppression towards family members aspiring to exercise their individuality. And yes, we, as a nation, do have a problem giving up our authority as parents, you know why? Because parenting is equated with God-like authority. So the Bauji or partriarch becomes God, his wife, Goddess and the rest are underlings, the younger lot being considered infants even if they are in their forties or so …

    It is ridiculous

    That is so apt description Holy Desi Family. I just read the expiry date on parenting line to my dad. He had a good laugh. He is the one who told me “it will be selfish on his part if he did not take care of himself and forced his children to rush on every health crisis. He had an open heart surgery 10 months ago neither me nor my brother was present there.


  11. Indian Homemaker April 21, 2011 at p04 #

    Read the post. I agree with you, it’s the brother’s wife who is being blamed.

    It is so shameful that even media plays on these stereotypes about women and the myth of joint family. Ajit Anjum the anchor is so vicious in making his remarks. The sisters are portrayed as martyrs and brother as selfish oaf. In another video the social worker Usha Thakur is accusing the brother that he neglected sisters for property. And none is talking about mental illnesses in India.


  12. Indian Homemaker April 21, 2011 at p04 #

    I saw the news on the TV and watched the video above. I am not sure the brother can be held responsible and judged so harshly.

    It is clear that they did not allow even the neighbors to visit them. It’s possible that depression (or whatever problem they had) made them stop socializing.

    They might have had financial difficulties once the father died, maybe pension stopped (this happens around November, when all pensioners are required to visit the bank and assure them they are still alive, for the pension to continue. ) – so maybe no money from December onwards, maybe no savings. But they had a house, they were educated, and they were only in their forties.
    What stopped them from trying to get help?

    Why didn’t they look for work, or ask their neighbours for help?

    The brother says he tried to contact them but he did not get positive response – not sure if that is true, but are siblings legally required to support dependent siblings? Not sure.

    Should two women in their forties unless there is a disability, expect to be supported by their families as a right, whether or not they get along?
    Will read the post now.

    The pension would have stopped long back as both parents were dead by 1995. The initial signs of mental illness would have shown much earlier. In one video I saw the younger sister is speaking about black magic, exhibiting paranoia and schizophrenia like tendencies. Mental health patients do respond to medication but as soon as they start feeling better they quit and revert.

    It is interesting how adult women are infantalized, families and especially brothers are treated as their guardians and are expected to take care of them. It is amusing how people are asking him about his marriage and if he tried to get his sisters married. Do women have an agency or their agency is only good till it doesn’t disturb the status quo.

    Didn’t have any other relatives.


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