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Aging Desi Gods

23 Aug

Aging Desi Gods

08/23/2015

The other day a young mother of two, a five week old and six year old called in. Her problem was as common as any other woman who approaches DG yet was very unique. She confessed ten year and two kids into the marriage it was still shaky and challenging in every way emotionally, mentally, physically and financially yet she wasn’t calling in for herself. It is very common for a survivor looking for help to begin with, “I have a friend who is going through…” as if they are testing waters or are retaining power by externalization of their plight. Through her tears and sobbing she barely managed to say, ” I am too tired.” Yes, that is very natural when you have a five week old. “No, I am emotionally exhausted.” Yes, that is natural too as your hormones are still adjusting. She kept sobbing and DG kept asking her if she was safe and if she had any thoughts of hurting herself or anyone, the usual protocol. She kept insisting her problem was unique by now DG has seen a lot in this field of work nothing surprises her yet this work never ceases to astonish her.

After lots of crying she stuttered, “nothing changed it is still the same. They say people mallow with age but in this culture they just become obdurate. My father is selfish and self centered, he was always verbally abusive, demanding and snooty towards all of us especially my mother. No doubt he was a good provider but an attitude ridden with certain entitlement and anger lingered around him. No matter what is going on with us all attention had to be on him and his basic needs. We kids had to protect her from his tantrums then now with age he is just getting worse.. He has hypertension and other life style related health issues that he is responsible for yet thinks he is entitled to servitude by everyone especially my mother. She isn’t young anymore she too has age related issues and she is slowing down. But this man wants her to run around and attend to his needs. Get me water, where is my XYZ… why is this here, why did you say this or not say that instead; numerous basic things he is capable of doing he still wants her to do and nitpicks on her. If she misses anything he starts berating her and accusing her of neglect because he is retired, not earning anymore,” meri is ghar mein ab kyon chalegi, boodha aadmi bhoj hota hai (my word now has no value, an old person is a burden). Guess the age difference in desi marriages, older man married to a woman few years younger to him was designed to provide personal old age care to the man and his parents.

“Every time I speak to her she just talks about what he did now, how mean he was. I can’t help her other than listen to her venting but I am getting tired of this same story every time. I too need emotional support but I am so scared to ever tell her my marriage isn’t great either, I think she is aware. What do you do? How do you help a person in such a situation? They have been married forty two years it is only getting worse. I feel helpless and angry at the same time. I want to scream, I have left the home it is not my problem anymore. I have my own mess to take care of.”

Anytime there is a mention of domestic violence mind immediately conjures an image of a battered young woman with a kid or two in tow or just by herself. History of domestic violence is as old as patriarchy then how come the image of domestic violence survivor in our collective psyche hasn’t changed much. Haven’t those young battered women ever aged either with age the violence within the homes stopped or we have turned a blind eye to it.

DG has faced similar dilemma. She has yelled at her dad few time to back off and leave her mother alone. Mom is no longer a perky teenager who’ll get you a glass of water as soon as words roll out of your mouth or needs your instructions on how to entertain guests. She had suggested mother not to cook or do laundry for brother and father because what she can do they can do too, it is a learned behavior. To do laundry a person has to put soap in the slot, dirty clothes in the washer and hit the button, what part is rocket in this? Scrubbing collars and cuffs? Write the washing instructions and paste them on the wall. Efficient home making is ingrained in the identity formation of “desi women,” as much as the sense of entitlement is for “desi men;” any failure to serve or being served challenges their “self” concept.

When these women were young, to take a respite from this constant drudgery and nagging they often went to live with their parents (maykaa, peehar, nehar) for few weeks or months; desperation assuaged they returned; the cycle continued but the problem remained. Now that the kids of these post menopausal women have left homes and their parents are either dead or dependent on their sons who have their own families to attend to make these visits to natal homes not very regular and feasible. With age this avenue of respite is lost what else can these abused women do?

The other day a dear friend was sad he had tears in his eyes. He said, a young man took his mother to the USA with him to care for his infant child and left his old father behind because he can’t help around the house. He felt the son was selfish and shouldn’t have separated the aging parents as if all parents always had perfect spousal relationship(bollywood has raked moola on this one so many times). How sensitive? What does he know about that couple’s marriage?

Anytime the term “elder abuse” is uttered image of seniors abused by young people come to mind. We just forget seniors can be abused by aging partners too. Some women have waited all their lives to get out of this misery through their sons. Adult children of abusers do want to help their oppressed parent and the only way they see is to remove the victim from the abuser’s reach because kicking the abuser to the curb is not possible in this culture. Even a drunk, womanizer, indolent and abusive father is deified in this culture.

She recalls a sixty year old woman who could not take constant bullying, nagging and constant put downs she asked her husband to pack his bags and go live at “his home,” this was her home she for paid it with her sweat, blood and tears. He packed the bags and left for the village. Within a week neighbors started asking her when he was coming back. As if neighbors had some business that only he could take care of. She was afraid people will make indecent remarks about her because she wasn’t yet in the grave (she looked good for her age). Her son called from the USA she told him what happened, the son who always supported her turned against her. He was worried, “what will my in-laws say…,” ” my wife will use my parents’ conflict against me.” The poor woman had to let this man back in and now he was even more vicious as he knew there are no consequences for his bad behavior rather it will not just be tolerated but will be rewarded. She laughed about it and said, “pati kitna bhi bura ho ek nazar battu hota hai aurat kisi bhi umr ki ho use gair mardon ki buri nazar se bachaataa hai” (no matter how bad a husband is he is like an evil eye catcher, protects a woman of any age from evil designs of unrelated men).

It is hard for a young woman to seek divorce even if she is being abused it will definitely be a cake walk for a post menopausal woman who never worked outside the home and is now unemployable given the youth worshiping economy we always had. Even if an aging woman musters the courage to utter “D” word, her own kids who commiserate with her turn against her. All of a sudden everything becomes about them. Even the courts don’t take her seriously the court clerk just sits on her application if she went to file one without attorney or a family member.

A very small percentage of aging men are abused by their partners. Just like women these men endured abuse usually verbal and psychological through the length of their marital relationship. In a culture where men grow up with a sense of entitlement (read being God) this seems an anomaly. It is usually their failure to fit into the stereotype of ideal male, dominant provider who is always in control. Men who want to break the generational cycle of power and control in intimate relationships have an intention but lack skill. This will need a whole post and we need more studies to understand this phenomenon.

In the absence of efficient and sustainable support services how do we support aging victims of partner abuse? Few weeks ago DG helped a 69 year old survivor find resources but that is not a possibility in Des.

Can we really support an aging survivor of intimate partner abuse in the absence of detrimental consequences for the abuser and sustainable infrastructure?

 

Desi Sons,Victims of Their Mothers II: Modus Operandi

14 May

This post is in continuation from previous post. Original comment is here. The bold, CAPs and italicized is addition from DG.

Thank you DG.

My post was not against parents, I loved them and still do but I cannot see them because of the actions they took and think they were right in doing them. It is true that I have not come across a woman as toxic as my mother.

I posted my story partly because I wanted to inform people that there are guys in this mess too. Most desi men are very lost, between two poles 1) wife 2) mother.

Desi parents alternate between two poles :

a) Downright ignorant, nasty, abusive.

b) Controlling, manipulating and over protective.

Narcissism reigns supreme in both forms. Mine were in the second category, emotionally engulfing and very manipulating, in particular my mother. My father’s toxicity was of a different sort but it was my mother that really had everyone wrapped around her little finger.

I am not sorry about estrangement, in my ideal world it would never come down to this because my parents did a lot for us. I had this ideal picture in my mind where I would have done anything for them but then things changed ….

My mother underwent a changing I did not fathom at first and did not understand. It was around the time where I had confessed to her that I want to be self sufficient independent adult. At some point she realized that her only investment is her sons (she openly admitted this many times and made it very clear to me that she will let go, “I will NOT let you go.” … yes she said this many many times). Everytime she said this my stomach would turn but I kept quiet, patient that she might ease up on this.

When an abused declares or decides they will nolonger be controlled and will walk away from the controlling intimate the abuser feels loosing control. The idea of loosing control makes them intensify abuse or induce more manipulative ways to keep the abused trapped in their design. Abusers usually begin with sweet talk, how they cannot live without you if that doesn’t work they employ limiting your access to survival means, finances, social isolation etc. When that fail they resort to violent out bursts. This is a very dangerous time. If you are contemplating leaving your abuser do not declare it to them. Move away and then inform them that IT IS OVER. And thereafter there is no going back or working out until your safety (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual all included) is guaranteed, sorry there are no guarantees in the books of abusers.

However it became worse with time, the mistake I made was that I kept thinking that if I did this one more thing for her she would ease up. But as soon she was pleased she started pressing for something else, her aim was to steal me for me… kill all sense of independence so she can control my life as she desires. The guilt an manipulation I faced for a year before my arranged marriage was probably my most miserable year of my life, I was torn between leaving and staying.

Abusers suck the abused into perpetual cycle of people pleasing. The harder you try to please them the harder it becomes to please them because they have made a choice not to ever be pleased. You’ll finish on task they’ll be ready with another. It is a choice they have made and you can’t do anything about it so stay out of this game of making them happy.

Her strategy was multi-faceted, understanding is golden ….

Facet 1: RECRUITING ALLIES

A general nasty level manipulation tactic was to keep me engaged, keep my mind busy so she can have my time. She would start talking to me in subtle, looking at my face to see my reaction to it and thus adjust her. This was the most irritating form of manipulation because it assumed that I stupid and child like. I used to laugh at this behind my back, I pretended in front of her that her manipulation worked to ward this form of incessant manipulation off.

She would get my brothers to do the same, both my elder and younger brother to engage me, keep me busy with tasks, giving my false praise in an effort to smother me and make me give in. She used to pump my brothers for info regarding me and my brothers fully participated, my mother was very good at manipulation. My elder brother though she was right and younger brother mocked and berated me behind my back many many times.

I took me a long time to figure out this facet as my mother was and is a master of guilt inducing toxic lump. When I realized it I understood that anything I say will be used against me so I better watch what I say, how I say and who i say it too.

Abusers will watch your every move and expression keep a ready log of it and use it against you when ever you try to challenge them. Abusers, especially emotional blackmailers recruit allies. Allies are usually people in your immediate circle who have stake in your life; relatives, cousins, friends etc. If you still don’t give in they’ll summon their allies to convert you and make you submit to their designs. You are exposed and shamed in front of these allies thus to escape such future humiliation you start towing the line. Parents often use siblings against each other to maintain control over all of them; siblings relate to parents differently. Some abusers create immediate allies in strangers by shaming you in public or posing a martyrs in public.

Facet 2 : ABUSIVE EXPECTATIONS = YOUR OBLIGATION

Using circumstances to gain sympathy and induce massive guilt. This was very difficult to figure out because there was extreme guilt involved. Basically my mother would complain about someone (my sister in law, my elder brother or father) about something seemingly horrible they did to her and how she is miserable. After telling me the garb she used to observe my reaction to it and keeping coming back with the same manipulation in one form or the other until I reacted to it in a emotional outburst – at this point she knew she got me. Few days of peace followed then the bullshi* again.

The purpose of facet 2 was to keep me close to her, so I never do anything that I wanted for myself. The higher purpose of this facet was to keep me engaged, she knew my weak spots and attacked them whenever she pleased and when she pleased.

A common tactic was to request a task of me which I had to do, during the task she would give me false adulation and pump me for information about circumstances that were later used against me at convenient times. A fight between my brother and father would be used to press her own agenda on me, she was clever and knew when to press & how much to press.

Abuse is cyclic in nature, in order not to alienate the abused and loose the game all together abusers strategically employ praise and admonishing. Abusers go around portraying themselves as martyrs; making an impression that they can be rescued and made well if you will step up. “I am sad or sulking because you would not do X. I’ll be happy if you do X.” “Look how miserable you have made me.” “So and so wronged me you are the only one who can make it better for me, if you listen to my sob story or do as I want.” Thus it is your job to keep the abuser in good humor. An abused starts believing it is their job to keep the abuser happy this induces guilt every time they try to do something for themselves.

It is important for abusers to keep the abused engaged at all times because time to themselves will make them analyze their situation and ask for a better deal or rebel.

Facet 3 ELIMINATING COMPETITION

Hate for other women. Toxic or no toxic, this was just plain crazy.

She often used to tell me : “You are naive and don’t understand women”. (Underneath my breath I used to tell myself : ‘but I do understand you …..’). Any women who even looked at were vilified openly. I missed out on women a lot a lot of time girls that I found downright gorgeous.

My sister in law used to face the brunt of this nonsense, she realized the game early on, I requested her to be calm and concentrate on her life. Of all the people she would know why I left my family. I used to feel for her but her life is hers to deal with. She will eventually divorce my brother who unfortunately is one of the dumbest men I know when it comes to deciphering my parents actions.

As abusers recruit allies they also tactfully check any competition. Their competitors are all those people who have the potential to lure the abused away from the abuser like, friends, sympathetic relatives who call out on the abuser or an attractive suitor. Abusers are insecure and will do anything to paint their competitors black. To stay on top of their game they have to systematically eliminate all competition.They prefer to dwell with those they can control thus their allies are their mini-mes.

Facet 4 DRAMA MONGERING & CREATING FEAR

“I will die …… something will happen to me”.

Geez do I really need to say more? Pathetic shi*

Abusers create so much chaos through drama that abused in an attempt to buy peace and cease chaos gives in. Thus a mission accomplished for the abusers. Desi mothers are known for making suicide threats or they suffer an unknown aliment when attention is one someone else. At T’s wedding her MIL had a fainting spell; everyone rushed to her and they forgot to do the wedding pictures; mission accomplished.

Something will happen to me… is the favorite and nothing ever happens. It is a fear induction mechanism to keep the abused and allies in tow. The fear of blame induces guilt

Facet 5 MINIMIZING & DENYING

Plausible Deni-ability.

She would deny everything and shake off her responsibility when it was convenient for her. My marriage was part of this, oh “you said yes to the marriage …. no I did not, you confirmed the marriage while I was asleep and then manipulated me into it”. She chose my wife carefully, seemingly meek and controllable, someone she could keep under her thumb at all times.

Abusers never take responsibility for their actions. They always have a reason to everything they ever did. If they broke stuff in a anger fit, it was because you made them angry. If you call them on their misbehavior or unreasonableness they out rightly feign ignorance about what you are talking about.

I learnt this the hard way, I would suffer in silence, then read about it & THEN realize this is the shi* my mother is pulling. She know what she was doing all along taking satisfaction in putting me through a emotional roller coaster and then taking satisfaction that her goals have been met.

Estrangement was depressing but necessary, wish it was not like this but thats life and it is not all roses and tulips. Peace of mind is good, I love peace and quiet so I invest my time in working towards goals and pushing myself to limits I didn’t know existed. Most people would classify me as a freak given I am away from my family but I can make choices that they can’t, this does not make me better than them but the thrill of having a choice is the essence of being human, remember even God gave humans a choice to accept or reject Him.

Do I hate my parents? No.

Did I forgive my parents? There is nothing to forgive, I forgave my-self and that gave me the comfort of being true to myself. If one does not confront reality it will force itself upon you and you will kick yourself for it, make your choice before you have to make one.

Before we can forgive someone it is important to forgive ourselves because we beat ourselves for being duped.

CONGRATULATIONS FOR RECLAIMING YOUR LIFE.

From the wet market

Mostly vegetarian meals from Asia

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