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.
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 but you do not have a right to go around emotionally blackmailing your children.
It is high time we desis reconfigured definitions of family, community, shame, honor, sacrifice, and selfishness.