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Desi Choices: or Else
I am fuming really fuming after I read this. IHM has initiated several discussions over women’s choice and blindianlove is talking about choice of love or arranged marriage. All discussions about choice essentially come and rest on a woman’s choice about her attire, her deportment, her selection of spouse on and on. Why are we so obsessed with women and their bodies. I have never heard anyone talking about men and their attire or their choice be it promiscuity or drugging with an exception of marriage by their choice in desi context. Desi women wearing skimpy western wear is problematic for many desi eyes but what about desi young men showing of their undies in the public with those sagging pants??? (I ran into a bunch of desis men showing their undies at the Uni the other day, few months ago the same guys told me how the new batch of desi girls is wearing western wear that does not even look good on them.)
What does choice really mean?
Choice is definitely a complex can of worms. All choices may be greater numbers of choices are definitely conditioned. We are taught limits of our choices any transgression is rebuked sometimes even violently. I have heard parents say, “We are pretty modern, we are okay with you marrying for love. Make sure the guy or the girl is from our caste/religion/region etc.” So it is really a choice??
You have a choice “do as I say or else…” The OR ELSE makes it really doubtful if it is a choice. It is smooth choicelessness that is presented as choice.
At times I wonder if a choice without options really a choice???
Choice should not be confused with freedom. Freedom comes with responsibility both towards self and others. How marrying for love threatens family’s freedom I want someone to explain it to me. How wearing pants or skirts threaten family’s freedom would be another one I need an explanation for.
Bhagyashri went to parlor for threading and lost her life. I received this news by a personal email sent to me by a reader. She also mentioned her story. Let us address this reader as Venu. (I have only fixed the syntax these are exactly her words) She writes:
We are just two sisters, I am the eldest. My sister is a dentist, she works in a local hospital. Last year she visited me for two days. We both went shopping I insisted she have her hair done. She was reluctant but I wanted her to do something for herself. She is been lost since she had the baby. On my repeated insistence she agreed. We had her hair cut and colored. She looked beautiful.
Next day her husband and his mother came to pick her up. As soon as her MIL saw her new look her expressions changed and she literally gave Lalita Pawar looks. I was in the kitchen getting tea ready but I could hear her saying something to my sister. My sister’s face was pale and she was almost shaking. When I came in the MIL said to me how I should not be doing this to her bahu, now I have no right to interfere in their life.
Meanwhile her husband parked the car and came in. He saw his mother upset, the first thing he said to his wife was: “What did you say to mummy?” My sister was almost begging that she did not say anything. The MIL was upset that bahu will become habitual of getting her hair done every month and it will be an additional expense. My sister, insisted it wont be an expense, it was just one time thing and also didi paid for this time. On this her husband slapped her in my presence and said “Mummy say juban ladati hai (you are talking back to mummy; talking back to your elders is considered very disrespectful in desi culture).”
I stood there frozen not knowing what to do. He literally dragged her and shoved her in the car. I am wondering why I didn’t react. Rather I am wondering what should have been my reaction. My own marriage is not solid so how can I even help my sister or ask her to come and live with me. I told this to my husband. Now he throws it on my face every now and then. He tells me “you are lucky I don’t act like your sister’s husband.” Sometimes he says “I should do exactly like your sister’s husband only then you’ll get your senses.” I make Rs. 8 Lakhs (800,000) per annum, I have a girl (13) and boy (8). I can not leave him for their sake so don’t even tell me that.
The folk wisdom tells me to stay away from her (sister’s) marital problems. Every one says you can’t do much Ladki ki sasural ka mamla hai (it is about her marital home you can’t interfere). Then my own marriage is not very good either. My widow mother will be devastated.
Any suggestions about how should I deal with this situation.
Like every mother Venu is thinking she is taking all the abuse and nonsense from her spouse and in-laws for the sake of her kids. She wants them to have a father in their life. She is forgetting that parents are children’s role model of not only gender roles but intimate relationships. The daughter is learning how to be submissive to men in intimate relationships and the son is learning how to oppress women in intimate relationships. No matter how much Venu tries to rub into them the equality of gender and respect for each other lectures because the practicum is showing different test results. On the other hand both children are imbibing how grown ups beget power in intimate relationships- by manipulation and throwing tantrums.
My only suggestion would be to seek professional help. She is in position to afford professional counseling. She ought to start practicing assertiveness skills. I know when a woman starts asserting herself or even voicing her opinion that is different from her so called benefactors violence against her escalates. Those in power who are controlling her life feel they are loosing control thus they give even harder blows to break her spirit or spirit to resist ever again. This also serves as warning to other women who may be thinking of raising their voice against intimate injustice.
At times I do not know what to tell the person because assertiveness is a learned skill and it takes time to learn it. A greater numbers of women all through their lives are taught how not to say no and be people pleaser now I am telling them to say NO. It doesn’t work that way. I guess one should begin with small and minor stuff like what you’ll eat or where you’ll sit, who I’ll talk to etc. But then I think the woman who approaches me is an adult why does she have to seek permission from anyone. Isn’t she the citizen of a free country?
When will desis learn to mind their boundaries. Some walk in to couple’s bedroom and others do not leave until it is way past sleeping time… The whole culture is based on controlling each other. Some parents keep treating adult children (even when they have grwonup kids) as minors. They have no restrain on their tongues and or actions. Then there are dysfunctional adult children of these codependent parents who are miserable and are perpetuating the cycle. DGAC wrote a post where he reiterates the need for desi women to start saying NO. Here I am telling them how to start saying NO.
- Start with small steps: you can not change everything wrong in one day. It took days and years to get into this mess so it will take time. This time use your patience for yourself.Begin with minor things like asserting your choice of food, clothing if not jumping to wear shorts and minis then go with colors you prefer.
- When you say NO to someone, initially the guilty bug will crawl all over you. It is normal because you are doing something you are not use to. Take a deep breath and count ten. Then tell yourself. The other person is capable of doing what I refused to do. They’ll not die or get hurt. If they can then even I can die or get hurt. If I keep doing X for them then how will they learn? I am saying NO for their good. So that they can learn to do X one their own.
- Often times we find difficult to say NO because we think the other person is dependent on us. Believe me you are as dispensable as another guy. If you die to night nothing will stop. The work will still get done. A rooster may think sun rises because I crow but sun rises every morning no matter if the rooster crows or not.
- Once you say no for something don’t revert back, that way you’ll be sending a wrong message to the other person. Oh, when she says no she doesn’t mean it. Ultimately she’ll do it. Yes, often times the other person will create hardships for you because in a way you are asking them to change and accept new you. If the person is using brute force to make you do something then you know the answer how much they love or care for you. They are violating your human right to live in peace without fear of repercussion. Nobody is going to come and save you. IT IS YOUR DUTY TO SAVE YOUR SELF.
- Stop thinking that you are the center of the universe. Nothing is about you, it is about the abuser. No matter how hard you try he/she will find something else to be on your case.
- Remember, everything is about you if you are alive, healthy and sane. If you loose any one health or sanity nothing will matter anymore. Start saying no. If you are stuttering out of fear. If you are bitter and angry most of the time. If you are feeling hurt and not valued. Don’t you think its time you said NO??