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This is Her Home Too

11 Nov

This is Her Home Too

11/11/2013

She had sent DG an email stating “I need your counsel my lease is running out and I don’t have rent money he has moved out and made me sign divorce papers in lieu of right to stay in the apartment. He visits the apartment whenever he wants but refrains from spending a night under the same roof (it is a requirement of divorce court that they do not spend six months under the same roof) but takes away whatever he wants and yells screams. I have no money to buy baby food or necessities I have to wait for him to bring those for their child. There is a court date in three weeks and I do not know what to do. Please help.”

As they were in the same city DG asked her to come over for a meeting. The woman was a doctor in India and had moved to the US after marrying the love of her life, a software engineer. That one meeting gave her lots of validation and courage to go on for another two weeks while DG traveled. Over time DG has learned how to read  legal documents and file responses; on her return together they did that and prepared for the court date. On the eve of court date DG spent a night at her apartment as they had to go early morning to the family court, it is the most unsafe time for the woman when she stands up to an adult bully and he knows she is preparing to leave (here he had filed for divorce). He did his usual yelling and screaming and pointed finger at DG and said, “this is my house, I’ll call cops on you, you are here illegally.” The poor woman was in tears for she had asked DG to be there with her and now had to ask her to leave. By now DG had learned the rules of game played in US of A by desis. She shouted back and asked him to lower his finger as well as his voice because she was not his wife and “this was her home too and she could invite her family and friends as she wished no matter if he liked it or not.” This was a stunner for him no one to that day had stood up to him under his roof and asked him to lower his voice.

Next morning DG approached the man’s attorney and served him the response (just know one has to respond to all legal notifications not doing so will not make them go away rather you’ll be at loss). Without a lawyer the woman pleaded her case (though DG and another male friend wore black coats, they looked like lawyers but were not granted permission to sit beside her) the judge immediately asked the man to deposit $500 in cheque or cash for woman and her child’s expenses and asked him to pay rent and child support of $1500 in back date since he moved out and rest of spousal support and division of assets could be taken care of in subsequent court dates. First thing the man does is fire his attorney because if his wife could stand in the court without a lawyer and beat his lawyers why did he needed to waste $5000 paying a useless fellow. That night DG brought the woman and her child to her place for, there awaited one scorned man to teach a lesson to the timid wife could do nothing.

This was immediate relief the woman needed to get back on her feet in its absence she was vulnerable to further abuse. Lack of knowledge of laws of land and means to beget that information is very difficult for an abused woman who cannot leave home for fear of being locked out or not knowing where to go searching for it. Just one positive association and validation works as a stepping stone to set women free. It still remains a question where to find it when greater number of people you know disapprove of you or can sympathies with you but do not know how to help you.

One thing we could do is tell women the roof they are under no matter who pays rent is their home and by law they have equal rights to invite friends and family. This one affirmation will challenge patriarchy and abusers alike.
It is important we all learn how to help an abused.

 

When Roof Over Head is a Compromise

10 Nov

When Roof Over Head is a Compromise

11/10/2013

They had been married for four months now they were visiting des to attend her brother’s wedding. She was to stay behind for a month with her in-laws and then go back on a later date while he went back to US of A in two weeks. Her tickets and passport were with her MIL and the four weeks had become four months, he never called even once but he regularly spoke to his parents living in the same house. There was no communication between them, she shuttled between her natal home and in-laws’ place. She went on rickshaw to her parents’ every morning and came back in the evening. Her father would have preferred her dead than see her everyday at his door. The four months turned in to eight months and she had no way of getting back to her husband who she had no communication with. She goes to local NGO asks around and threatens 498A only then she gets her passport back. She flies to the US of A, he receives her at the airport everything is water under the bridges takes her to the apartment they shared before they went to India and never shows up again. With no rent money past two months and no rations this beautiful creature is reduced to 90lb bag of bone. Next step is women’s shelter, finding a job (job market was still okay in 2006) she files divorce but has no way of proving his income as he never brought home any papers all she knew was the name of the employer. Court summons him to produce tax documents and she presents bills from what her parents gave her and spent on her wedding and she walks out of that marriage with that, no alimony, no spousal support. He had a house in his name before his marriage and that remained with him along with everything else that her.

Two years after their so called love marriage they go abroad, physical abuse has already made inroads into the already troubled marriage. After an year of extreme physical, emotional, financial  abuse and isolation she calls 911, he is arrested and she stands there on the street with her suitcase. Though her name is on the rent deed but the lease ends in less than forty days, she is on dependent visa, has no money as he cancels both debit and credit card as soon as he comes out on bail (posted by his employer) in few hours. As she steps into women’s shelter she asks herself is this the right choice to be living off the charity than to stay in that marital hell where she at least had a roof over her head?

What is the cost of roof over one’s head is a very pertinent question for someone living in an abusive marriage. Women often trade personal safety and dignity in lieu of roof over their head because women outside the homes are deemed sitting ducks for character assassination and vulnerable to all sorts of bad things. The hype of home and its safety is so over worked for women and the bad world outside is so demonized that most women prefer the known devil than the unknown. In the absence of an alternative roof over the head women are forced to make so called compromises not out of love and respect but out of lack of alternatives and fear of loss of home. Without safe alternatives women will remain vulnerable to abuse. With a sizable population like ours it is near impossible to provide save shelters in every nook and corner of the country so it becomes more important we make homes safer for women, children, aged and disabled people. It is time we as neighbors, friends and relatives challenge and incident of domestic abuse we witness around us.

Marital Home Belongs to…

9 Nov

Marital Home Belongs to…

11/09/2013

Most of her activist life is spent working at the grassroots with women and children  experiencing domestic abuse while she was still in des and then abroad. Here she’ll share few examples both from her personal and professional experience how the concept of marital home actually works in real life.

There she stood in her two month old marital nuclear home cooking and cleaning as her in-laws were visiting them, she made a feast and she made sure they had a comfortable and pleasant visit. There comes the mother-in-law, starts making faces and making snide comments you don’t have a dining table you don’t sofa the message she is sending is, your parents didn’t provide you a decent start up funds for setting up your new household. By the end of the visit it was established the house is MIL’s son’s and the daughter-in-law was there just to cook clean and serve her husband his family and be thankful for being given this opportunity. They leave she, sulks and he asks her, why a sad face and there ensues their first fight and he says, get out of my house. Yes, it is his house he pays the rent, she only cooks and cleans. There after she could never bring up even rightful concerns because she knew it was his house and she had nowhere to go as she did not want to return to her parents’ who spent so much on this wedding both financially and emotionally.

Her case was brought to DG by a well-wisher who did not know how longer he and his wife could support this woman and her three children who were abandoned by her husband who had moved out of state after defaulting on few jobs and was no longer paying the rent or sending the family any money. The woman did odd jobs for desi families like babysitting, housekeeping and cleaning and that was not enough for four mouths to feed on.  As DG visited the apartment she lived in DG was shell shocked all it had was a crib and a chair three bed sheets, two pots and few plastic plates and tumblers. It is a grace the apartments in the US of A by law are to have appliances and some are carpeted. There was no running water as the bills were overdue the hydro company had disconnected the supply. DG’s first question was what happened to your personal belongings? She told her in a very low voice, her spouse had sent his friend to take away everything in the house and the man proved his loyalty to his friend by actually loading everything in a truck and taking it to his place. He even showed his sympathies by saying, “I am just doing what he asked me to do, it is nothing against you.” Basically it meant “I am an ass for not challenging an adult bully.” It is amazing how some men support other male bullies actually they do so for protecting their common male interests.

How owns the home two people in marriage live in? Is it the partner who pays the rent? If one partner was not employed outside the home does it mean the home does not belong to them? What if one of the partners is earning less than the other or assume is earning just minimum wages and asked to contribute towards the rent then what should be their share? Will you ask them to pay half the rent or go by some percentage of their earnings?

Desi Sex Ratio and Marriage: Nirmala* (1925) to 2011

8 Apr

This week the Census of India 2011 exposed our veneer of India shinning. More girl children are missing in a century. We need to be internationally rewarded for our extreme success in eliminating girl children in the 0-6 year age group. We are really very near to solving the problem of crime against women; simple formula no women no crime against women. Dear @IHM often poses a question about India’s faltering sex ratio, if it will ever improve. Then she finds the answer in the custom of dowry, mandatory nature of marriage for desi women and absurd inequalities for the bride’s family.   This video compliments what she says. But if marriage was the bane of desi woman kind then there ought not to be other crimes against women outside the homes and especially married women. Marriage as an explanation for failing sex ratio is too simplistic; oppression of women is complex and multifactorial phenomenon.

Few weeks ago DG made a comment on a post about if marriages are over rated. @IHM blogged about DG’s basic premise on desi marriages; that further lead to a marathon of posts by different women bloggers. Everyone worded their heartfelt grievances against the institution of marriage to their heart’s content. Understanding desi marriage is a bit complex. To marry is one of the favorite national hobbies besides feeding corruption in the desi world (read South Asia, our neighbors are no different than us; rather they compete to keep the tabs with us).

In her book “Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime,” Vina Talwar Oldenburg found in pre independent India dowry was essentially an upper caste class ritual that intermediary castes adopted to rise up in the caste/class hierarchy. Castes were pretty fluid** at the periphery but the Raj in its need to administer diverse desis tried to fix caste boundaries and duties. Marriages and death feasts became the deciding point. If one belonged to X caste they could/should spend X amount, if they failed that meant they belonged to the lower strata. To keep up one’s position in the caste/class hierarchy or climb up in the hierarchy people started spending exorbitant amounts on these two life rituals, even to the extent where they borrowed money or sold their lands. It is then a rise in female infanticide along with dowry was observed.

It is not to say that communities did not practice female infanticide before that rather there were communities that took pride in the fact they were the bride takers and not bride givers. Village Devra in Rajasthan did not marry a single daughter in 100 years and now again is in news for all the wrong reasons.

In a culture that worships women as Goddesses in the religious texts why there is inherent hatred for living women is something to ponder about. If it is such an oppressive system for fifty percent stake holder why couldn’t they ever topple it, even when they are 50 billion in number they are still slaving. What does a marriage has to offer that women and their families spend all their energies and monies to feed this oppressor? If women are oppressed by the inequalities inherent in marriage so are their natal families. Is marriage only oppressive to women? If marriage benefits men then do all men benefit from it? If not then who are these men who lose in marriage and why? The natal families do not just comprise of all women they do have male members, brothers, fathers and other kinsmen. Are they oppressed too? The answer comes from Sai Akhtar Lahori***, who asks the divine how easy it is to sit in heavens and judge and how difficult is it to be a father of a daughter and a brother of a sister.

Marriage is not the end goal but is the new beginning to sustain this monstrous system. Marriage is not one time expense on dowry and feeding the groomsmen, it is a life long drain on the woman’s natal family. On every festival her natal kin is expected to send gifts to her and her in-laws. On the occasion of her first pregnancy baby shower and child related other ceremonies are her parent’s responsibility. Come the birthdays of kids, weddings in her in-laws’ home every time it is her parents who have to consolidate her position in the household by giving timely and status appropriate gifts. Does it ever end? Guess no, at the time of her children’s wedding, even if her parents are dead her brother(s) ought to bring in rich trousseau for the bride/groom and gifts for other family members. Her reputation depends on these gifts.

A man who is burdened with marrying his sister(s) and daughters finds it easier to accept dowry and gifts from his wife’s family than stand up and say NO to this life long drama. May be he even feels entitled to preferential treatment and gifts because he filled in another man’s coffers. If he could raise a voice to stop this oppressive cycle he faces challenges from other men and women in the community because he challenges their share of privileges. DG recalls a rich uncle of a friend; he married his son to a lower economic class same caste young lady with no dowry. Instead of appreciating his effort and emulating it people in the community gossiped about his son, that he had some flaw (impotency) that he had to be sold for no dowry. His young daughter-in-law was discriminated by other women in the family because she came from poor family and often did not have lofty gifts from her parents to flaunt. After two years of this ongoing harassment DG heard this rich uncle saying he’ll marry his second son according to the caste customs and will accept the dowry too.

DG sees these H 1B visa holder young men living in ghetto like conditions to send money home for their sisters’ wedding and then themselves being sold to highest bidder in the marriage market. DG sees these young poets and writers struggling everyday between their choice to pursue a dream or meet the dictates of masculinity to provide for their sisters’ wedding and submit to their parents’ demands of arranged marriages.

What kind of a system is this where oppressed are vigilant in protecting and perpetuating it and more than willing to feed its gluttony by butchering their beloveds?

If you are a father of a daughter(s) and a brother of a sister(s) do you have the courage to stand up and say “I refuse to waste money on feeding 1000 people I never met and give useless gifts that my daughter or sister will never get to use?”

Or you are the kind like her God forsaken now ex who had the guts to say “I won’t ask for anything but I’ll not refuse if I am given anything by your parents.” Yes, DG did marry that blotch on humanity and she is not proud of it. Yeah, we were cutting costs on food and milk to save for a grand wedding of a pint size terror incarnate (his sister), until last year she was still at her parents’ home. May be the helicopter they saved for is not good enough to secure her a prince in shinning amour.

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* In 1925 Munshi Premchand wrote this revolutionary story about a young girl from poor family. Herparents could not pay a dowry so they marry her to a widower with children her age. She struggles and gives birth to a daughter and dies. Her last words are, “do not make me a women in next birth.”

**Refer concept of Sanskritization by M.N. Srinivas. It is still potent and functional go to Rajasthan and you’ll find Khati Rajputs, and Khati Brahmins and so on. More loyal than the crown…

***Sai Akhtar Lahori wrote two revolutionary poems about men’s oppression in patriarchy. Allah Mian Thalay Aa and Allah Mian Utte Raho.

Allah Mian Thalay Aa

Allah Mian thale aa              Allah Mian please come down

Apni duniya Venda ja           Come and see your world

Yah asmanon rizaq vara        or else shower riches from skies

Yah fer kar ja muk muka       or else have another dialogue

 

Tanon dhehi viyani pendi     If you were to marry a daughter

nanki chak banani paindi      If you were to give gifts to sister’s daughter at her wedding

rusi bhen manai paindi         If you were to appease an upset sister due your poor gifts

lath jande sab tare chah        All your charms would have left

Allah Mian thale aa               Allah Mian please come down

 

Dhiaan non to jamne daindon     You would have not let the daughters be born

kurman de to tane sahndon         If you were to listen to torments from their in-laws

nal shreekan kade na bahndon    You would not have sat with your kin who make snide

miti jandi kapre kha                  remarks for your daughter or sister is still unmarried

Allah Mian thale aa

tare gher na dane honde          If you were poor and had no food at home

pate leef purane honed            And every thing was old at home

kamle log seyane honed          The rich but insane would have given you a ride

pa dainde tanon ghbara         Allah Mian please come down

Allah Mian thale aa

Desi Marriage: For All the Wrong Reason

28 Nov

Desi Marriage: For All the Wrong Reason

In all those years while she was still married that day, people call wedding anniversary never enthralled her coz’ it meant more drama than was on the wedding day itself. Last week it would have been a decade of misery that was cut short by divine intervention that DG can never thank enough for. There was no way of erasing the day from history while she was still married. The first anniversary after divorce is always assumed to be tough one, so our group facilitator late Joyce Harris (DG had joined divorce anonymous just two weeks prior to the D day) suggested DG ought to keep busy and have phone numbers of group members handy to call at any hour. Old man B signed up as DG’s phone buddy for that day. DG made a five hour trip to church and back that fatigued her so much that all she was a good night’s sleep. There after the joys of grad school, surgeries and rehabs never left room for sulking over the day or even remember the date.

This year something was different. Four days prior to “the day” DG started having some uneasiness that she could not define. She thought may be it is marking a decade that is making it bumpy jumpy. Bottom line she could not put a finger on what and why. She tried to recall why she got married in the first place. She realized what ever the reason it was definitely wrong. She began making calls to all her friends to ask why they got married. Here is what she found:

A, you met him here. Coz’ the pastor said marry this woman from the congregation and he was a good Christian. This good Christian was given some very unchristian love that he came out bankrupt and spiritually scarred. He still believes in the Christ and God but not that church.

Sexy (short for Sexsena) was tired of face offs he had with prospective FILs showcase brides and punditji (Hindu pastor) said R is the girl who’ll stick through him and Atiya would not entertain him. Wao, two men 11,000 miles apart have so much respect for their clergy. R is really a good lady but Sexy feels something is amiss even after eight years. Ask R and she’ll tell you, it was her age and with her looks her engineering degree and government job weren’t enough.

Atiya, you met her along with A. Was afraid of ending up alone after living a year in that scary working women’s hostel where watchman kept an eye on every visitor including DG. That hostel behind the Ph.D. hostel was our bête noire any one who could not get hooked in marriage moved there after completing Ph.D. The fate of those living there was bleak whole university knew what awaited them, some old looser or lurking married men…The fear of loneliness intensified after every body else got married. Within six months it felt two perfectly good people in a very imperfect situation called marriage started dragging it and now it is awaiting judge’s approval to call it TATA BYE BYE.

T, you met her along with A and Atiya. Marriage is what all good girls did after they completed grad school and picked up a job. All her life she was told she’ll some day marry a prince of her parent’s choice and live happily ever after. Prince, they did buy for her but happily ever after never happened, rather she was abandoned in a foreign country. Mo, is in the same category, she was abused and abandoned in Des.

IK, you met her here. Coz’ he asked her to marry him and she thought what if no one else asked. Thirteen years and two kids latter she was out of the door. Bitter earlier now claims never been happier.

DG, four years of courtship had fatigued her and she thought get married and get over it. May be yes, she was afraid of faceless people called log what will they say, she was a bad person who ditched him after four years, though the red blankets were staring her in the face; yes they were no longer red flags after four years. She was afraid of her reputation, may be she was scared of ending up alone. She definitely was a codependent. God only knows why she got married, she has no clue. Ok let’s blame her hormones; they clouded her thinking as her uterus refuses to do the thinking no matter how hard she tries to convince it.

N, she married D coz’ she had slept with him. Big mistake and we all witnessed her making another mistake by marrying him. She’ll punish herself for another few years before she calls it quits may be she’ll stay. She is getting comfortable there fighting his indifference and interfering MIL. Who knows …?

Rinky, you met her here. She wanted to do something for herself after following instructions from her parents all her life. S, joins her in saying she wanted to claim modernity by choosing her own mate and not going for backward arranged marriage. One is separated with child and the other is divorced.

Lal, got married even when he had seen DG marrying an abuser and suffering. His reasons are unique; he assisted her break free from her parent’s abuse so he is her only support. She has violent anger issues and he takes it coz’ he thinks she has no one else to vent on. Good Samaritan is being beaten black and blue. Backing out was not a choice for him or those jats would have killed him. Ah, what we do for so called love that is first to walk out of a relationship.

Sum, after break up with Al, he dropped his defenses to his parents or else he would have remained a bachelor. They saved his dharma from being polluted by marrying a Christian. And Al’s folks were happy that they beat the crap of love marriage out of her and saved her future generations from going to hell.

V, her parents threw her out in the middle of the night (now we realize they were trying to scare her from seeing a non Hindu.) But she rushed to An’s home and his mother summoned the priest for a quick wedding. After wedding both realized they were not even talking marriage yet. Here they were unhappily ever after…

SP, got married coz’ his mother needed a helper and she had already picked a girl for him. As the first born he had to set a good example for his siblings. His marriage is working well by grace of his mataji (mommy). It is working 🙂  but he would not confess.

P was the class topper she had to give up on M.Phil coz’ her parents had to marry her sister too who was two years her younger. P’s been married for 15 years now and that sister did not get married until three years ago. Poor P though she has managed to make it work even without love but is resentful at times.

DG asked Su if he loved his wife. He said, “What the heck I have been married for 10 years now. Had you asked in the first year or two I could have answered that question, now it is little complicated.” That is ok but why did you get married? His response was it felt right and he thought where else he’ll find another Vietnamese academic. When she posed the same question to his wife she said, it was like fishing for pearls to look for feminist Vietnamese man. What happened to love? Oh, that vanished once the tenure tracks hit us both. Now it is only marriage and feminism to fight for.

Oh, Sasha. Her marriage is based on mutual non interference, don’t ask don’t tell; devote your life and money for nation building through grassroots mobilizing and every thing will be alright. Haven’t seen them both together at any given time these two are always on the move. It works…

Darn none of us married for so called love they sing in the bollywood flicks and the Mills and Boons. Did love just pass us by or it doesn’t exist. We all married for all the wrong reasons. Was anyone thinking about companionship? Did anyone ask before marriage what was required? Does DG even know anyone with a good marriage? Darn NO with exception of her spiritual parents. Something is definitely wrong with DG or the people she knows. Is it like birds of feather flock together?

PS: There are numerous happy Desi unions; just that DG hasn’t run into them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. More power to them for making it work…

Desi Marriage: Eligible or Ineligible Question

17 Jun

Desi Marriage: Eligible or Ineligible Question 

Why desi parents are hell bent on getting their children married especially girls by certain age? I guess it is a woman’s sexuality rights they are eager to transfer to the man and his family. They are really tired of guarding her. I remember our landlord in Rajasthan raised an orphan so as to marry him to his developmentally disabled daughter. He did marry her and legally raped her then abandoned her when her mental balance was totally lost. I also recall this great aunt in our native village that had Down Syndrome. She was married to a widower with kids. After Gauna (actual marriage, the woman goes to permanently live with her spouse this is when a marriage is consummated). She too came back more stupefied later she lived like a servant than wife in his house. I guess these women definitely needed to get married to ensure their place in the heaven. 

 I also keep wondering why are grandparents so eager. Are they interested in few festivities, sweets or few gifts or a place in heaven? Can’t they just do that without an excuse of a marriage in the house? Never understood how a grandchild’s wedding could ensure place in heaven. I remember when I turned 18 my paternal grandmother started singing to my father “I want to see my first grandchild get married before I die.” I was pretty mad, I asked my father to give me an assurance that if I got married grandma will die if not naturally then definitely unnaturally. Yes, I was a brat. Dad and I didn’t speak for three years. This was not the reason it was a different one and that demands a whole different post. She lived for another decade. Good I didn’t get married or it would have been bad blood there…

I guess both desi men and women experience such pressures from families and community. Oh, I know Log (faceless strangers in the community, just like paparazzi) who gossip around why X’s son or daughter is not yet married. Thanks to these Log or half the population will remain unmarried. Des is really great people make sure invalids, drunks; wife beaters definitely find a wife. Last week I was imported to another sleepy town along with a bunch of singers to officiate a prayer ceremony for a family. To be clear, I don’t sing I was an accompanist as their guy was sick. I had a day off and I am always open to challenges and charting unknown waters I was happy to be a side kick for a change. I have watched so many bollywood movies especially Karan Johar flicks thanks to Amu that I can confidently and independently officiate a wedding, I know the whole chant Mangalam Mangalam…  

During a break before the guests arrived the lady of the house was serving me lunch and after little hesitation she struck a conversation. She informed me the prayer was for seeking blessings to start preparing for the upcoming wedding of the eldest daughter. So she started filling me in how good her daughters are. The elder one 31, she works for Alzheimer Association and the younger one helps couples finance their IVF procedures. (I do not attend weddings except those held at Summer Solstice, if I had a choice I would have run away from my own wedding. I remember telling Sum, friend, I do not know why I am doing this. I refrained all my friends from attending my wedding. Sasha and Ji went ahead to participate in a rail roko and Lal left for Delhi the same day. Sum came, I do not know why; even he doesn’t know to this day). 

These days IK (a white woman raised Catholic, teaches Kundalini Yoga and thinks she was desi in a previous life) is my social conversation coach until six moths ago it was A’s job (you met him here) and while in teens it was Rinks (she is here). IK tells me how I need to go beyond listening and to seem interested. I need to ask some appropriate questions. The problem is I don’t understand half the things and other half I don’t care unless the other person clearly tells me what is happening and if they need any help. So it is a pretty win-win situation for everyone. When I did not utter a word IK elbowed me. I mumbled, so the guy is desi? The look on IK’s face is worth $1000, how can you be such an idiot. 

The mother of the bride continued, “Oh he is an ABCD Telagu, who doesn’t know much about his own culture and language (the bride is north Indian).” I was pleasantly surprised. She further added how it was not a love marriage. I guess love marriages are considered parental failure in upbringing virtuous kids. She explained how she started looking for a match for the elder one when she turned 23. For six years parents approached all relatives and friends to suggest a good match even made few visits to  Des to showed their daughter (as if she was a commodity to be sold to highest bidder). But all efforts failed and the girl’s age kept growing like an evening shadow. Finally she told her daughter to find someone she liked (Wao, what a great favor: WE TRIED, WE FAILED, YOUR TURN and claim to modernity, we are pretty modern we let our daughter pick her spouse).

This reminded me of my cousin who is a second generation Brit, turning 3O’ in 2012. My aunt has been hovering over this self employed adult who bought her first home at the age of 23. Likewise aunt started looking for a match for my cousin since her 21st birthday, though she hasn’t given up yet but now her approach is “You may bring home anyone you like but he should be X caste.” My cousin is pretty mad and her answer was “All those guys interested in me have moved on just because you would not budge and now when the pool has further shrunk you want me to go and fish without any dating skills. Forget it.” Aunt’s weekly dramas are now monthly theaterics as audiences have moved out.  

Anyway, the mother of the bride continued, “A friend of mine suggested this guy, they had known the family for a long time. Our daughter was reluctant we asked her to at least meet him. They exchanged emails for three months before they finally met. Initially she told us she didn’t like him but we insisted she take her time to know him better (these are the same parents who prevented her from looking at any one in her prime youth). I have another cousin in Des, when she entered college my uncle was driving her back home. He stopped the bike and said to her pointing to our fields, “Look I want you to go to college in a straight line (an expression of speech) if ever I heard anything (read you talking to young men or men making cat calls at you) I am going to kill you and bury you in these paddy fields and no one will ever come to know.” (Wao, my great family traditions, readers I am lucky to be alive, thanks Mom 🙂 . Even they had a hard time finding a decent match for her, it felt as if this hundred pound young woman all of a sudden became thousand pounds of sand that no one will take even when delivered in a Sentro with big cash. Finally they found her a simpleton and a MIL to happily lock her horns with. All iizz well…

The mother of the bride to be left the table to fetch me some water, the bride’s aunt whispered in my ear, it is a love marriage. Thanks for blowing the poor mother’s cover uhh. Meanwhile more guests arrived and started congratulating the mother for her son’s wedding. That is when I came to know she also has developmentally disabled twins (25). The older one is still functional he can follow instructions and works four hours a day as a gardener’s aide at a local hospital. He can only follow instructions but not have a conversation. Last December the family travelled to Des for trousseau shopping for the elder daughter and meanwhile they got their older son married to a very beautiful 23 years old. I saw the wedding album my expressions changed I just held my breath beneath my teeth. Who would do that to their daughter? What was her limitation? She is too short just 4’10”. I asked what she does, the bride to be replied “Right now she is learning to speak English.” Great, the wife doesn’t speak English and the husband doesn’t understand Hindi.

I also recall the convent educated beautiful Rajput woman I met a decade ago at the naturopathy institute in Jaipur who was there to get her severely mentally disabled spouse treated rather a respite from his assaults. Some relative arranged this match to get even with her father. She had two sons from this man and no way of walking out of these aggrevated rapes her natal family would not let her do that for divorce is not heard of in their family. A widowed aunt was her only suppoter she ensured her some inheritance.I have seen similar bollywood and TV soaps where love conquers every thing and a disabled starts dancing  a perfect number but in real life developmental disability remains and nothing changes other than the woman’s life… None of the healthy normal women left the disabled man that I know of. 

I came back pretty disturbed how someone could do that to their daughter. Then I recalled my friend C, her younger brother is blind. One time I was at her place helping her mother in the kitchen. Her mother told me how she’ll find a sighted poor Brahmin girl to marry her blind son. Those days Bhaiya was dating his friend’s sister who was partially blind. He had to give upon her due to family pressure as she was from a different caste but later on his own he posted an ad in the newspaper for a match. He got numerous responses from sighted women from poor families. He picked a Gujrati woman, now his family was mad that she was Gujrati. I guess they had decided they’ll not be happy no matter what.

I am still wondering why a healthy working woman cannot find a husband but a developmentally disabled dependent man can easily beget a wife? If there are fewer women than men then how come there is a shortage of eligible bachelors? May be there are bachelors but just not eligible? Do women have to lower their standards just to have legitimate sex. In absence of intelligent conversation and commonality of shared ideals to me a marriage seems to be just an arrangement to have legitimate sex. It is just legitimate sex not safe sex we all know the tales of unsatisfied men visiting the street… I guess if women had an option they would not hesitate either. I guess it definitely works or why else would such seemingly dysfunctional system continue for times immemorial. May be arranged marriage is the only shot for all those who cannot strike it out on their own…

Ex With Benefits: Sex on My Mind

23 May

Ex With Benefits: Sex on My Mind

 

These days I am working over time on my bucket list. Yeh, I know Atiya says, it’s too early but I ain’t taking no more chances. The one of the items is to watch Hindi black & white, parallel cinema and few good movies that were different. Recently I watched Kaash and Paa, the end of both the movies was similar, estranged couple looses a kid and realize they want to give it a second shot. In almost all bollywood movies (I am not aware of any other than Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna) the couple lives it through even if they part they come back together. I guess in real life things are little different.

 In every day life we desi divorced thirty some-thing women are confronted with many conflicting ideas about moving past the failed happily ever after. Some of those who are single are trying both conventional and unconventional means of meeting “that” someone second time around. Sometimes its their parents and relatives trying to arrange a match and other times they rely on desi match making websites like shaadi.com, bharatmatrimony.com etc. Amu is on one of these high tech match making sites so I keep getting the latest. Some days she withdraws her consent to share the details with reader and other days she is fine with it. Those with children are usually over whelmed with custody battles so finding a partner is last on their priority list. If they happen to get a good settlement then they too get into the game.

 I also run an in-person support group and online help for those who are abandoned by spouses in a foreign country. So basically I come across a lot of desi abused or divorced thirty some-thing women and their dilemmas. Towards the end of first session usually women ask me hereafter “what about sex?” The high premium placed on being and remaining married for women is bothersome if the marriage breaks due to what ever reasons. It is still difficult for desi women especially those with children to even imagine they can have a life with someone not the father of their kids.

 From last two weeks we have been playing around with this idea of ex with benefits. Is it possible? Will it work? I guess the familiarity, the comfort of knowing the person could help for short term benefits part of it, as the bottom line will remain the reasons couple parted ways are still standing tall. When it is hard to find someone who’ll respect you for a woman with a mind of her own and have a presentable personality I guess the idea of ex with benefits may seem entertaining to some. Amu was brought abroad after a drive through marriage [1]by a spouse who was on rebound after a break up. As soon as he patched up with his girlfriend (she is his current wife) he walked out on Amu. I was in the hospital when my spouse filed for divorce. Atiya has finally filed for divorce because they are two very good but different people so there is no chance of going back. More over we were childless so we do not have reasons to run into our exes. I guess it is really difficult for women with shared custody of children.

The initial period of separation is very tumultuous, anger, hurt; betrayal and love all play havoc. Once the reality of break up sets in person looks at the socially available options (the stories I hear from Amu and other women about men they meet on these marriage websites are pretty annoying as if these men are frozen in time and have never heard of 2010). It usually begins with loneliness and isolation. When nothing else comes forth person tries to seek the familiar. Physical intimacy is also a way of experiencing one self. The stigma ridden existence plays on the mind of the person and she starts questioning if she really exists. Then begins the honeymoon phase where the couple may try to patch up and sex initially acts as binding glue. Followed by usual stuff that was always annoying and cause of rift; the sex that seemed like main dish now appears to be butter less dinner role on the side. Ex with benefits works only on the condition that the ex goes back to his/her home and not pitch a tent in your yard.

Some people may argue that people do change but I believe change is questionable as most people replace one bad habit with another. If they were violent they may turn in to passive aggressive sort and if they were passive aggressive they may chose to be manipulative in other ways. Unless they address the root cause of their behavior (that usually rests in their childhood and family of origin) they’ll keep repeating what ever is easy and works for them. No wait, may be you really want to try it… Go ahead at least then you’ll never ever think if it could have worked out… Again, the ex with benefits rips you not only of time and energy you could invest in exploring your needs and also meeting new people. Unless you let go off the old how do you think you’ll receive the new… Let it go, make room for a new life…  

These people asked DG to share their stories: 

Recently, Ambi (28) a mother of two under five years of age accused me of acting “white.” We met a year ago just after her second child turned one. Her husband left her twelve hours before she went into labor with his second child. He was cheating and he moved out at the best ever time. He was kind enough to leave enough money in the account for her to pay the rent and buy some food. In last two years he had come to see the children couple of times, though she had to file divorce to get some child support from him but she refuses to entertain the idea of parting ways (divorce is pending). She reasons the stigma attached to desi divorcee and her children’s need to have a father in their life. Few months back he was back in the town for good as his love interest had dumped him now he wanted Ambi back. His reasoning is pretty solid, he said, “I see a lot of change in you. You have matured I guess we can work it out.” Ambi was awestruck; she said “I am mother of two fending all by myself so I ought to be mature.” She was in doubts and she came to ask me if it will be a good idea to give it a try more than that she was reasoning where she’ll find someone who’ll accept her, a mother of two. I could clearly see it was not out of choice but out of lack of choices Ambi wanted to try this out.

We went over probable pros and cons. I do not tell people what to do as nobody likes to hear that. I repeated my pet slogan “We make choices and face consequences. What ever you decide I’ll support you. But ‘you’ have to make the decision.” In our hearts we all know what we want or need and what is right for us but we still ask others because we want someone to validate what we are thinking. He kept visiting her every week and gradually after a month he moved back in because it was expensive to maintain two apartments. Things were great and in six months things were back to where he walked out. This is when Ambi confronted me. She marched in tagging her toddler, she said, “You knew it all along that it won’t work. I was silent. She continued, “Why didn’t you ask me not to do that?” All I could say was “I insinuated you but you made a choice.” She was quite upset that I did not act like a friend where I should have forced her to make a right choice. She said in India friends and families ask you to choose between them and the bad choice and people are forced to make a right decision. I was wondering why are people so afraid of taking responsibility for their actions. I recalled parents asking children to break up their relationship with X or loose right to their property or they’ll commit suicide etc. Are we so threatened by choices we make or that others make? Does my refusal to force Ambi to choose between me and her ex makes me a less of a friend? All I could say was, “You tried now you know it won’t work. Be happy at least you’ll never wonder if it could have worked had you not tried it…”

 Coincidently I ran into Arun this week. He was in a bad shape. A year back he moved out and shared the custody of children. He even started seeing El, my Costa Rican friend. They introduced their children to each others and had been out on a family vacation too. But three months ago the mother of his kids insisted they try it one more time.  He moved back in bag and baggage and it was messier than ever. Now he is living with his parents and has even lost the stuff he had managed to gather in last one year. I am disappointed as two of my good friends Arun and El are hurting and have no scope of getting back together as Arun messed up in taking a chance with ex with benefits.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 
 
 


 

[1] Parents pick some pictures of prospective brides and young men from abroad visit Des for few weeks to meet these women get engaged and married on rush.

From the wet market

Mostly vegetarian meals from Asia

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