Tag Archives: Desi Dating

When Devdas is the role model

2 Nov

 

When Devdas is the role model

11/02/2013

Few months ago while riding back home someone called DG’s name aloud, she is not used to such occurrences so was startled, there stood a young woman smiling at her. DG’s eyes tried to scan her features to find some recognition in those yellow teeth. She started without a pause, “I no longer live with your ex-roommate. How did you ever live in that company.”

It is then DG realized this young woman was girlfriend of the kid she rented her spare bedroom to last year. She was at her place most afternoons and evening after work because she did not want to go to her home where her parents fought constantly. She is a fine young woman, interested to go to cooking school so she would cook in DG’s kitchen stay late and go home around midnight. In her company the best came out of the young man she was with but once they decided to move together after three years of seeing each other DG saw the signs.

Together they could afford a place, she was trying to escape her home and he wanted to have his own place all worked out fine between them. When he left he not only left the place horribly dirty and stinking but also took DG’s dishes and sheets. DG was still recollecting that time when she spoke up again, “I am no longer with him, he was so horribly dirty I moved out within a month.” All DG could say was, hmm and she babbled again, “did you say good for you?”

DG said, “no I did not and I am too old to say anything” and then her stop came and she alighted the bus. DG was left wondering at twenty she had had a relationship of three years, a live-in experience of a month and now a new boyfriend. She had experienced what it is like to on your own and how to stand up for yourself and walk out of dysfunctional relationship in time without much harm.

That reminded DG of the question a desi student had posed the previous week, “why young desi people suck at relationships and are into so much devdas like drama,” he confessed how he acted masochistically to get a girl’s favors  by inflicting self harm in high school and a year after.

DG’s answer to him was, we desis thrive in drama and Bollywood music that hammers into our psyche you can only love once and failure or rejection demand self-destruction or just destruction for that matter. With no healthy way of interacting with opposite gender and lack of healthy relationship models what do you expect from them? A young man or woman here (in the US) starts dating by 15-16 and has had few relationships before they actually settle down with someone for good. By mid or late twenties they have had their share of dramas and have if not fully then partially discovered “the self” and are cognizant of their needs and what they need in a relationship and a partner.

We desis if we pick and choose dates just to know them become playboys and sluts who wants those labels? If we prefer arranged marriage then there is no option of dissent but to make it work until death do us apart or one of us kills the other.

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Desi Sisters: Nemesis of Brothers

25 Apr

Honey I Doubled the Kids/Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer

Honey I Doubled the Kids/Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer

 
Tangy Tuesday Pick

Tangy Tuesday Pick

 

The word “sister” conjures all kind of beautiful memories of growing up; running around and fighting for sweet nothings with siblings. Desi folk lore celebrate siblings in so many beautiful ways irrespective of region or religion. Hinduism has specific rituals celebrating brother-sister bond, in the form of rakshabandhan and bhai dooj with regional variations. In Bengal women celebrate Bhai Phota and in south India sisters’ pray for the wellbeing of brothers on Nag Pancham and Avani Avittam.  Thursday is called Birvaar in Punjabi and hindu women do not wash hair on that day to elongate their brothers’ life. There are folk songs celebrating this bond; in some brothers tease sisters how they’ll be married and sent away to their marital homes, in others sisters lament this parting and differential treatment. These rituals, fasting, praying, singing and dancing everything comes and rests on bolstering male ego by declaring women’s dependence on men. Even in non Hindu communities where women as sisters are accorded special place yet it is secondary to male siblings. The only reason for this discrimination rests on patriarchal nature of all communities (minority matriarchal Keralites and North Eastern States are exception).

Desi brothers are expected to protect their sisters from not only from evil strangers but also support them financially when they or their marital families are in need. In 1950s-60s a bollywood sister depended on brother to fix her marriage if her parents weren’t around or could not and a great brother would forgo his marital bliss happily. In 1970s-80s a bollywood sister had to get raped to bring out the angry young man in the hero. To save the honor of his family the hero was entitled to kill his sister if he found her in compromising position. Either way the brother was considered pseudo parent (karta, family head) irrespective of his age. In every decade there was a self abnegating sister India who would kill her dreams of romance and household to raise her orphaned siblings and settling them by getting them married later on to be shunned by their selfish spouses, mostly brother’s wife. She could not get married and take care of her siblings because she did not have a wife where as a raising man’s sibling’s is default job of is wife.

A woman as a sister has a very important place in desi family but the same woman looses that place as a wife. The sister becomes the nemesis of wife. The wedding songs sung by bride’s party describe the mean sister of groom waiting to rip the fragile new bride and her relationship with her yet stranger spouse. The married daughters have visitation rights to their natal home, they are treated as guests entitled to make demands and boss around because it is believed they are hapless in their marital homes. The unmarried daughters are considered temporary residents hence permitted to throw weight around and to be tolerated.

Whereas the songs sung by groom’s female kin portray an evil picture of the incoming bride who’ll deprive them and rip the family unity. Each group of women voices their insecurities and fears related to the bond they share with the groom. The fear of incoming bride is so potent that tradition recommends sisters’ be married before the brother because it is feared his wife would not let him or his parents spend good amount on the wedding. One woman’s need to save for her children’s future becomes selfishness for rest of the family.

The inherent gender inequality in families as supported by culture and tradition shapes the brother-sister bond differentially in every family depending upon the nature of parents. In some families siblings are very close and in others they are bit distant. In some families mothers pamper daughters and spoil them because they believe daughters will go away after marriage and may not receive good treatment at the hands of their in-laws. Then there are some mothers who openly discriminate and ill treat their daughters because they think this way they are preparing their daughters for the worse that may await them in their marital homes. Yet there are other mothers who discriminate and pamper male children without much thought for girl children because they believe for their care in old age they need to be in the good books of their sons. Depending on these approaches of parents towards raising daughters, brothers bond with sisters.

Some siblings are too involved in each others’ day to day lives and some build their identity on this involvement. Others have a concern but not suffocating attitude. Both these attitudes sometimes work and other times backfire depending on who they marry. If a brother who is too involved in a sister’s day to day life is not able to keep up once he is married the sister feels she has a legitimate right to feel neglected. It becomes imperative for her to show her displeasure and make her neglect known. She can even try to sabotage his marital union to make her presence felt. Throwing temper tantrums, making snide remarks about brother’s wife and sulking are some common tactics. In the early days of her marriage C told us how her unmarried sister-in-law would get into a fit of rage in the evening when she and her husband went out for a walk after dinner. DG recalls how that God forsaken now ex’s sister made a scene at wedding reception. She would not go to the banquet hall because DG has snatched her brother, DG was yet to live with the man in the house.

If an over indulgent sister is not able to keep after once she is married she is appreciated for her non interfering stance. But once she is on visit to natal home she can make sure her brother knows her place. Rinku has this evil incarnate SIL who wants everything her brother bought his wife her argument is she won’t ask her husband because she wants to show him how generous her folks are. One time Pinku told his sister, if he were her husband he would have gone missing on purpose. Recently Pinku bought his sister a home because Rinku bought one, now he is paying her mortgage and his wife is preparing for filing divorce. Anti 498A club has been in the forefront saying women file false complaints against married SILs in dowry harassment, when they are not even living with the couple. One need not live with someone to botch their peace, remote controlling can be done over the phone and internet.

Women are selectively accorded privilege in one role and oppressed in another that way they are kept confused and fighting within themselves. All that fasting and praying is a sham when sisters and wives have to rip one another off and destroy peace of men in their lives. Why stay hungry, bother Gods and waste time, just get to the task, fight tooth and nail and get over it for good.

The previous post raised questions about role of siblings especially a brother in the lives of sisters. The unconscionable anchor viciously accused the brother ignoring the fact that sisters were no saints and had tried to break his marriage.

Isn’t it time we desis started behaving like adults and humans.

Approach With Caution: Desi Women Calling Shots

22 Feb

Bless her friends Desi Girl has just returned from a trip abroad. She was a tag along with K, who was attending a conference. Since most of us are single and childless we friends have decided to be there for each other and make sure we meet when ever possible or else take trips together. Who ever can take off from work and pay for travel will tag along where ever the other is going. This is where air miles come handy sweet K used them to fly DG. While she attended the conference DG toured the town and amused herself. On two occasions she attended sessions open to public, a meet and greet event and the formal dinner.

Desis, like potatoes are staple and are found in bulk every where on the planet. There were handful desi men grinning ear to ear in every corner. While K was hobnobbing with peers DG was calculating points of menu items with her WW calculator. DG doesn’t mind being abandoned every now and then but all of a sudden K rushed to her, she seemed bit angry. Sensing her expressions best thing was to smile and wait for her to spit it. She said, “9 O’ clock, oh my I can’t stand it. Why do they even have to try? Don’t look that side.” Okay, then how am I supposed to know what is going on? Let us go to ladies room and then we can talk. Sure.

K: I am sick of these desi middle aged dudes.

DG: Yes, we always were. What is new about that?

K: When will they learn?

DG: Old dogs seldom learn new tricks but what do you want to teach them?

K: Just being desi does not mean I’ll be interested in talking to you, or even interested in establishing any remote affinity in this life time.

DG: Sure, so what happened?

K: I hate it when these men approach me with that grin.

DG: What grin?

K: you know it, that smirk on the face, like trying to strike a conversation and hang around you for no reason.

DG: That is what people are supposed to do at these gatherings. Strike conversations and make professional contacts.

K: don’t pretend you know exactly what I mean. I have to get back in there and I don’t want to bite anyone’s head off.

DG: Okay, will our regaining our composure and cooling off some of the steam change anything out there? So what is the plan?

K: Divide and conquer, you tackle some and I’ll distract others.

DG: How about we stick together and I listen to your pleasantries even though I’ll comprehend nothing and my fore head will wrinkle permanently as I’ll sham interest and comprehension.

K: That sounds like a plan, how about if you had to break ennui or we parted we’ll come to each other’s rescue.

DG: Good, works for me.

We headed back to the floor. Within seconds, we could see a middle aged desi guy (MDG) approaching us. Our divide and conquer and distraction tactics fell flat as his speed of charging was pretty admirable.

MDG: Hello, you are from India

K: Hello, yes we are…

DG (in her mind): wao, what a discovery congratulations, K is wearing a sari duhh.

Few pleasantries exchanged, DG while feigning interest had her eyes on baby keish being served. She was wondering what grooming rules are for such gatherings. Women dress in their best sometime in the national or ethnic wear while men are dressed all alike. There are few wall flowers and few wasps and butterflies in all corners and then there is DG following the food. Sensing K’s discomfort DG strategically coughed as roaming charges applied none of us could make that one important call that rescues one from a bad date. DG has no clue what they were talking but she was pretty bored and her game of calculating BMIs of those in the room was no more entertaining but taxing her mental mathematic skills. Guess it was some thing emcee said that saved us…

Once back in the room K was really charged up and vocal. DG skyped IK for intervention, for a minute imagine shapely K standing 5’3’’ tall in this gorgeous handloom sari with clenched fists and almost yelling in the screen. Here after this is the rule:

If you are pot bellied,

If you are half or full bald,

If you are married, If you have stained teeth,

If your breath stinks, If you are an unhealthy eater,

If you are an MCP, If you are a smoker

Don’t even come anywhere near me…

IK: Ok that is reasonable, but they are not asking you to marry them. It is their choice to be the way they live their life you need not judge them.

DG: (in her head why did you forget sweaty stained shirt guys, those that eat loudly…)

K: Doesn’t matter, they just want to have the pleasure of talking to me and I don’t want to.

IK: This has happened almost all our lives. Is there a better way to deal with it? What can you do about it? Could you be just little kinder and remove your self from the situation?

K: I am sorry I just loose it when I see these losers rushing towards me.

IK: How do you know he was a loser? He was at an international conference just like you.

K: Anyone who fails to take care of themselves is a loser for me. If he was at the international conference I was there too. I have done everything to keep me healthy and agile and I don’t even have a wife to cook and clean for me. I don’t run to talk to any handsome guy I see on the floor. Oh, you are not desi so you have no clue what these middle aged desi guys have in their mind…

IK: I may not be desi but I am definitely middle aged.

K: Have you seen you’re self in the mirror lady? You look younger than us and you work hard to keep healthy and well groomed. I haven’t seen you charging like a bull towards any cute guy.

IK: That is true but this is just spoiling your aura, can you do some heart breath and look where all this coming from.

Ah, sweet IK is doing her therapy thing on a charged bull 🙂 . To diffuse the tension, DG turned the conversation to IK. So what has happened with you lately? IK’s roommate has set up a facebook and twitter account for her and since then she is getting these Fraaandship requests non stop. That is a good thing when you are single. Guys are popping up from wood work. I was in your high school class, I met you at X, …. And then there is this one particular guy he is bit older just in 60 brackets. They were in some class together almost a decade ago. She was impressed with his work and hanged around with him and nothing in particular, she didn’t like him as such. He has been sending IK emails, “you know that I love you, we both could practice together and travel the world.” Then he wrote “I am on few spiritual dating sites, I don’t have much time you know so I want to know what you think about what I said…” Sweet IK is feeling the pressure since he sent her this email, where he wants her to complete a sentence she is literally freaked out, she is really irritated (DG is glad she has no personal FB or twitter accounts rather no one’ll be interested in knowing how many calories she ate). While we were at it T logged in. She has her own melt down, six years of singlehood and 100s of scumbags from matrimonial sites yet no future in sight… She said if she kept her expectations at this rate she’ll never find anyone. She wondered if it is ok to lower our expectations in the prospective partner or settle for something less than we deserve. Then it is said no one is perfect, only yesterday someone asked if one should prefer to live alone or compromise?

After mulling over all the facts and fiction DG concluded:

The fact is if you didn’t like someone when they were young then you are not going to like him now either (a plain Jane transforms into hottie in movies but in real life it is the package that matters not just looks but how person conducts themselves and treats others). If you liked someone then and now they are no longer single stay away you’ll mess it because fantasy is very lethal…  IK think it, why would you like to be with someone older that you’ll have to care for. Yes we are looking for companionship not caretaking… a peer will be a better choice.

Answer to sentence completing exercise: I am too dumb to fill in could you please enlighten me or I am not into such games or I am too old for such games…

It is a good idea to express what one is looking for but it is a bad practice to put pressure on the other person. Drawing timelines is a good practice but expecting the other person to abide by your timeline is not so good. Best way to handle such a situation is to politely tell the person they are great but you are not yet there, at this time your priorities and needs are different. They’ll be wondering what is wrong with them, they deserve an explanation but you need to be firm in what you want and need from a relationship and life. It is not a matter of few hours or days, it is a life time commitment we are talking about.

T, first time we settled because that is what our folk wisdom told us, no one is perfect and you have to get married or else you’ll end up alone. We did compromise and then too ended up alone. Just because of fear of dying alone you cannot marry anyone. Just because your biological clock is ticking you can’t make babies with anyone. You have to respect them enough to keep them around children for all their lives.

Guys, no offense just take a look at where you are in life and in shape. Women have sixth sense to know why you are even striking a conversation with them. Ok it may not be the sixth sense but your body language definitely gives it away. These 30-40 something women are not looking for meal tickets, they are not afraid of dying alone, they have brains and they make healthy choices now on just step up…

What should I say about my friends, they are treasures of my life.

When ever they give me they give me a new headache, how stead fast are they… Continue reading

Signs of an Abuser

7 Aug

Signs of an Abuser

 

Desi Women: What Were They Thinking?

Submitted for indiblogger.in Soch Lo! contest. Please click to vote

 The phrase washing dirty linen in the public is used by communities and families to maintain status quo on an issue that is not acceptable or is oppressive to some members. Gone are the days when washing dirty linen in public meant a private matter exposed to neighbors or those in the vicinity but these days this phrase has acquired new heights. Those involved in interpersonal squabbles rush to media instead to law enforcement and courts for intervention. Media channels kill two birds with one stone by acting as mediators by bringing in so called experts (read any one with a private practice or some credentials basically you have never heard about) and the warring parties to the table and raking moola at the same time. Recently two incidents drew Desi Girl’s attention. Realities TV fame Rahul Mahajan and his already known antics and another TV actress Sehrish Ali. There are many other similar incidents that do not get media attention go unreported one such incident is click to read.

The current wife experienced the same outcome that the first wife reported and sought divorce for. In between another lady reported similar abusive outcome in a short relationship. There appears to be an established pattern in Mr. Mahajan’s intimate relationship that women intimately associated to him have ignored or are not able to decipher. Sehrish, the young actress is dealing with similar issues with a man who not only publically assaulted her but also went out to media with the details of intimate SMSs they exchanged. What were these women thinking? Yeh, the initial euphoria of romance and hormones induces a sort of reality blindness. Also abuse begins gradually in a very systematic way where the intermingling of love and abuse is hard to separate.

Desi Girl wonders if media responsibility is limited to reporting or it goes beyond to raise awareness about preventive measures about the reported issues. I guess when visual media provides titillation in the name of information it should also extend information about gender issues and gender violence. None of the channels or print media have deemed it appropriate to research and report how such incidents can be prevented.

 Overdose of bollywood romance (plus Mills & Boons) and desi wisdom have established classic signs of an abuser as pure love. Be it middle aged Kishore Kumar acting as college student and chasing Vaijantimala or some recent lovelorn hero. Research has shown abusers display distinct personality traits. If one is observant they can easily identify signs of an abuser. Some of the readers will be quick to say even women exhibit these signs. That is true, abuse is a learned behavior. But most statements here will use pronoun “he’ in cognition to the fact all incidents mentioned in this post are of male to female aggression.

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Here are classic signs of an abuser:

Pushes for Quick Involvement:

Soon after meeting he starts talking about exclusive commitment and wants to take the relationship to next level be it physical intimacy or engagement or not seeing other people. In case of Mahajan, agreed he was on the show exclusively for marriage but both of them could have asked for more time to know each other than be surprised after marriage.

 Jealous:

Excessively possessive; calls constantly; crashes on you; is always suspicious either you are looking at someone or someone is looking at you. He feels insecure all the time. Mahajan insisted in the middle of the night his wife tell him who sent her an SMS. If it was urgent she would have told him but he could not wait because he was jealous and insecure.

 

Controlling:

Calls you constantly and too much or asks too many questions and cross questions about your day such as, where were you? Who was with you? Why did it take so much time etc? If you named a person you were with he may even call them to confirm if you are telling the truth. He may monitor your phone calls, may visit your work unexpectedly Don’t be surprised if he keep a tab on your car/scooter mileage. Makes most of the decisions in the relationship, you don’t voice your opinion because you are afraid of upsetting him. 

Another dimension of control is manipulation. Often abusers in the beginning of the relationship are readily available to meet all your fancies. They’ll go far and beyond to meet your expectations in a way that you’ll feel obligated to meet their requests.

Unrealistic Expectations:

Wants you too meet all his needs be it of affection or releasing anger. You should be perfect woman, ideal wife, girlfriend etc.

 Isolation:

Prevents you from meeting your family and friends or people who do not approve of him. He accuses your supporters or his detractors as “trouble makers,” or “causing trouble in the relationship.” Checks or insists on checking your purse, diary, phone. Prevents you from meeting your friends. All this doesn’t have to be direct.It can be done very lovingly like, “I want to spend all my time with you,” “I feel lost when you are not around.” “I miss you when you go away.” It is a way of controlling your every wake moment and isolating you from people. He can even go to an extent to jeopardize your job by delaying you from reporting on time, showing up at your work, calling you too many times at work. If this continues either you’ll quit or you’ll be fired. 

Blame it on the World:

The angry young man of 70s and 80s is still around. Every thing wrong is someone’s fault. You made me angry by not following what I said. He cut me on the road that made me loose my temper. It is always someone’s fault.

 You can Save Me or I Die:

Never takes responsibility for his actions and behavior. You made me angry, you made me do X. I am unhappy because you won’t do X for me. I am sulking because you did not agree with me. It is your job to keep me calm and happy. Devdas is drunk and dying of cirrhosis because Paro won’t forgive him. To save him from cruel death is her job.

Hypersensitivity/Drama Junkie:

Every thing is about the abuser. He/she is easily insulted, feels hurt a about minor things. People are looking at me. I know what you are thinking. Rants about divine injustice meted out to him, as if the whole world is after him/her. The universe is out to get him.

His relationship be it with his parents and siblings are pretty dramatic regular fights, pouting and make up.

Cruelty to Animals and Children:

Yells at, beats or kills animals. Expects little children to perform beyond their age. May tease children to such an extent that they start crying. 65% abusers who beat their partner will also abuse children.

Insensitivity:

Is rude and abusive to those with less power than him/her. Feels entitled to the services of those with less power and prestige. May yell at beggar; be rude to waiter or porter. Look out for these signs they can blow away a very polished exterior.

Verbal Abuse:

Uses foul language, curses, degrades, calls names, and says cruel and mean things.

Rigid Gender Roles:

Believes in stereotypical gender roles, expectations and entitlements. Example, house keeping is a woman’s job; if a man helps he is doing her a favor. Man is the head of the household etc.

Unexplained Mood Swings:

Switches from sweet nothings to violent verbal berating or physical violence. Breaks things and plays rough while still talking sweet nothings. In all desi languages there is a saying “his/her anger is like boiling milk,” it is a way of endorsing and minimizing abusive behavior. Someone just released their pent up anger at another person for no reason or someone just released their displaced anger on a wrong person. After a release they are normal and the recipient is dealing with the after effects and confusion.

Past Battering:

Reluctantly admits battering previous partner but blames it on her for instigating him. “She made me do it.” Mr. Mahajan has classic history of partner battering. Had Ms Ganguly paid attention she could have saved the heartache. Past behavior is the mirror of future behavior. It is very hard for abusers to keep up the façade, sooner or later their true colors show. Yes, people can change only if they take responsibility of their behavior and realize there is a problem. None had happened here.

Makes Threats of Violence:

Threatens to use force if you do not submit to his demands. “I’ll beat you.” Then immediately denies it. “I was just joking.” “Do X or I’ll kill my self.” “If you try to leave I’ll kill you or I’ll spread rumors about you.” In a way he’ll blackmail you. You are affraid of his threats because you know he is capable of executing them. You are afraid of breaking up the relationship. May be you do not know how to break up.

Violent Sexual Fantasies:

Playful use of force during sex. Finds rape exciting. Throws or pins you down during sex.

According to latest reports Mahajans are back together. Nothing unusual about it. It is a cycle of violence. The honeymoon phase will soon fade away again…

It takes 8 to 9 times before a woman can actually leave her abuser. She keeps trying to make things work out until she finally realizes she can do no more or else she’ll loose her sanity or her life.

An average middle class dating scene will some thing like this click to read…

Read How Abuse Begins…

Desi Girl is repeating and cross referencing previous work. She’ll keep doing it until very reader is thorough on what is abuse and how to identify it 🙂

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Desi Dating: Read Between the Lines

31 Oct

 Desi Dating: Read Between the Lines

       The opportunities for higher education and career in the recent years have expanded manifold for women in the urban India. This has brought about rise in age at marriage for women. At the same time changes in rules of commensality and connubiality between castes and genders is being observed. Marriage in India is considered a social and economic exchange between two families rather than two individuals tied in the matrimony. Arranged marriages are a tradition in most communities. Construction of a new approach towards marriage is being observed, where parents and children negotiate on finding a mate (Wei, 2007; Medora, 2003). Medora draws attention to semi-arranged marriages where parents screen potential partners for the children and allow them a courtship period to date and determine compatibility. At the same time many young people accept arranged marriage and family involvement in their romantic relationships but also desire to find their own partner and experiment with dating.

            Dating in India is a complex phenomenon; it carries differential implications for men and women. Often women who pursue premarital relationships not only risk bringing this honor to the family, but also to reduce their (also those of their siblings’) chances of a good marriage. Often, a hint of a premarital relationship can more over hasten marriage for young women to and not of their choice. Hence, most intriguing relationships are clandestine. Wei (2007) studied young urban middle class professionals in Bangalore supporting their personal and romantic relationships with mobile phones. She explored the interactions of dating couples and their families. According to her marriage is the cornerstone of romantic relationships in India. I use few excerpts from her study to demonstrate how young couples are circumventing cultural traditions and yet reinforcing them; a potential ground for abuse where the line between expectation, demand and coercion is indistinct.

            Rohit came to work at GTSC, leaving his home town of Delhi, over 1,000 mile away from Bangalore in the  north. His parents keep in close touch with him, and fact, his mother had recently stayed with him for a long visit. He works an overnight shift. A friend from home is staying with him while he looks  for a job in Bangalore. When Rohit comes home early in the morning, his friend is getting up to start his day.

  Rohit has two mobile phones that he regularly uses: his main Bangalore phone as well as one with Delhi number. The Delhi number is paid for by his parents becaus they have a plan that allows them to call him for free and without roaming costs. He normally carries only The Bangalore phone with him. He reserves the Delhi phon  for family calls and a few friends at home to save on the expense for his parents.

  Besides these two phones, he also keeps two other mobile handsets on his kitchen counter. He has a handset that he keeps in a basket, a broken Nokia that he has smashed in a fit of rage after a fight on the phone with his on-again, off-again girlfriend who lives in Delhi. The basket also holds a collection of chargers. These four phones were all purchased in the last five months. Rohit said that if I had met him earlier, he could have shown me even more handsets from when he switched from a GSM system to his current CDMA one.

 Rohit has been in his on-again, off-again relationship for five years. They are no  “off”- she is engaged to another man. This outcome, according to Rohit, suited his parents and his friends who disliked how the two of them fought. After the breakup, Rohit chatted over the computer with a friend about the latest quarrel he had with the girl, and the friend urged him to cancel her mobile subscription (which he was paying for). His friend told him to cancel it right now, “in front of him.” With the support of his friend, Rohit immediately called the mobile company to cancel but was not able to reach anyone. (Wei, 2007 p. 202-3) 

        This field note excerpt from Wei’s work is an exemplary case of tracing signs of an abuser in the subject Rohit. He has anger issues, in rage he had smashed a mobile phone. In his five years of relationship he has broken up with his girl friend number of times. He is influenced by his friends about how to behave in his relationship. If his girl friend broke up with him in cognizance of his abusive behavior or under pressure from her parents to marry another person is not known. Had this relationship culminated into marriage its future would have been predictable. In the absence of Rohit’s complete life history it is difficult to guess if he was exposed to parent to parent aggression or parent to child aggression but he fits into two of Riggs and O’Leary’s situational models of dating violence. He has friends who support his behavior and he has repeated aggressive behavior in the past. The distinction between expectation (subtle) and demand (explicit) governs the terms of coercion.

            In India arranged marriages have been normative in all communities in India, there are rare occurrences of marriages for love. Marriage is social and economic exchange between two families rather than two individuals tied in the matrimony. With changing socio-economic conditions more and more young people are exploring this less traveled path. As more and more women are entering higher education and professions more changes are being observed in the nature of commensality and connubiality. People are dating and marriage is often the unstated goal of romantic relationships.

Some other excerpts from Wei’s work:

                  “The main barrier though is that his parents are against her, though Kiran is  unclear what their reservations  are besides that they come from differen  communities. Maya frankly realizes she is not a prospective bride because   she is not of the same caste. Kiran wants to win his parents over because he will not marry Maya unless his parents approve. This is as much for practical reasons as it is for filial piety. “If parents are against the girl I am married to then I would have to be the ‘point man’ between my wife and family,” which would be uncomfortable. The process of persuading them is challenging  partly because he is of marriage-able age, so his parents are “under pressure  from their own relatives. Every single day there is a new girl.” (Wei, p. 212)

         Kiran, wanted to marry Maya despite his parent’s objections, yet wanted to win over his parents before making any further commitment to her (p. 232). His parents are visiting him so his relationship with Maya has go clandestine at this time. This romantic relationship desirous of matrimony is marred by parental disapproval. The situation can change if the woman in question and her family pay a price for their daughter’s outlandish demand to marry a man of her choice. The nature of expectation and requests would be something as follows:

Kiran:       My parents are giving up their right to find me a match so at least they can expect a wedding of their choice. 

Maya:       My parents are giving up their right too. Even they would like to have a wedding of their own choice.

Kiran:      But you should understand I am their only son. You know how many expectations and dreams they have for 

                  their only son’s marriage. Your parents can fulfill their dreams at your brother’s wedding.

 Maya:      But this is not right.

 Kiran:       Look, I love you. I am not asking you for any thing all I want is my parent to be happy. They are  not asking      for a dowry. All they want is a decent wedding and good welcome for their guests.

Maya:       Decent wedding means 500 guests. That is too much burden on my parents.

 Kiran:       Maya, even if your parents would have arranged your wedding they would have spent good amount. So  what is the problem here? I want us to be happy.  it is just a ritual my parents want to do and it is just a one time thing.

            This relationship is exposed to friends and society, woman’s reputation is tied to the man. Breaking this relationship will have social and emotional costs for her. The request is becoming a demand and choices to resist the overbearing pressure are limited. Later in the chapter Maya reveals, “Marriage is an integral part of life. If you have a good partner, your life will be smooth. Divorce is not possible for a girl. I will have to get married.” Wei describes this statement as the belief that females in particular must be married. It suggests that marriage is on the participants’ minds as a necessary and important life stage, something that will occur regardless of exactly when or how it does. This attitude frames their interactions with romantic partners (p. 230).  The stage has been set for Maya’s vulnerability. Her choice of spouse can be used against her by her future spouse in either love or arranged marriage as she has transgressed the gender norms. Her prolonged courtship makes her vulnerable to demands for wedding arrangements not conducive to her liking.

            Yet another excerpt: 

                 “Ambar met her husband Nikhil in a C++ programming course in Nagpur.  They were the only two students left in the course after their classmate dropped out, so the instructor told them to exchanged phone numbers. If one of them could not come to class, they were to call each other and the  instructor so that he would know not to come. Nikhil took the opportunity to call Amber every day and talk to her for an hour at a time, even when she was                   too tired to carry on a phone conversation.  At the end of the course, they didn’t have any reason to talk to each other any more. But Nikhil called one more time and proposed to her (making an offer of romantic partnership). Ambar, a beautiful and charming girl, had received so many proposals already, that she thought he was joking and didn’t pay  attention. The next time he called, he asked her what she thought of the question he had asked. She didn’t remember what he was talking about.

 Eventually they decided to spend time with each other as friends and became romantically involved. During their relationship, Nikhil purchased his first mobile phone and got a pair of SIM cards, one for him and one for her. She          already had a handset from her brother as well as a free connection from her employer. He told his family that the paired card was for his chum, Shankar.

                   She told her family that the card was a free gift from Nikhil (although it cost him Rs. 1,000 INR). They talked to each other 4-5 hours a night for free with these paired SIM cards. Because the calls were free, they would just keep the lines open between them even while going for a drink of water. 

                    His parents were initially suspicious of her because during their C++ course, Nikhil had asked Ambar to call him on the family line at 7 a.m. every day to make sure he made it to class on time. The parents did not understand who this girl was to call so often and so early. Ambar also said his family was traditional, and their girls wore salwar suits [loose-fitting tunic and trousures] while she preferred jeans. She said she won over his parents by dressing up in a sari and jewelry to his brother’s wedding, garnering admiring comments from relatives. After that, they asked Nikhil if he wanted to marry her.” (p-226-227)

              The patriarchal expectation from the female partner to assuage the prospective in-laws by adorning traditional garb and behaving demurely is efficiently fulfilled. This was requested or done by Amber on her own either way depicts woman’s attempt to balance tradition and modernity. Over time when this expectation transforms into demand the equation of relationship will change. Some of Wei’s male respondents expressed the desire about the kind of partner they would like to be with. “Ankit described an ideal partner as someone who was not concerned entirely with “cosmopolitan matters. I want a good girl, who is balanced. I want someone who can go to a party and the temple.” Likewise, Abhishek sought a girl who occupied a liminal space, “someone who is open, not too conservative and not way too modern with a ‘model attitude’…A ‘model attitude’ is someone who is working hard but not on the ground or in touch with reality. A conservative attitude is someone who asks for everyone for their opinion.” These desires for partners who can fit in multiple worlds or combine two polar characteristics reflect the realization that they themselves are caught between spaces, says Wei (p. 231). These findings are similar to those of Abraham (2001, p. 142), college going men wanted men to be “simple,” ‘home-loving,” with “compromising nature” being able to “respect elders.” I am left wondering as if these men are signing a package deal, best of both the worlds. What do women expect and get in return? A label- married.

Upadhya (2005) reports unmarried women information technology (IT) professions are less likely to be able to stay in the office till late night, unless there is a pressing need, because they may face objections from parents or in-laws, or social disapproval. Most women IT professionals, said that they would prefer husbands working in IT, because they would be better able to understand the demands of the job. Where as male IT professionals said that they would not prefer to marry women in the same profession.  This mismatch between IT women’s and men’s expectations in terms of marriage is symptomatic of the ways in which gender relations are being altered by the entry of women into this new kind of workforce. The eight domains of coercion mentioned by Dutton and Goodman (2005) in which a batterer makes demands, imposes coercion, and strips the victim’s autonomy start emerging here; her personal activities/appearance (e.g. demand to wear certain clothing or hair styles) are subtly controlled. What a woman can wear and do is being dictated by patriarchal expectations that are manifested through intimate actors.

              In Wei’s sample working and living away from home are often the personal “firsts’ in the lives of young women. College education and work life has afforded these women new experiences that have implications for their future and families. The transitions in to new adulthood, opportunities to meet non related men and relative emancipation from direct parental supervision are definitely signs of change in society but there is a significant part of social psyche that is struck in patriarchal practices. Violence is linked to the changing power dynamics in the spousal relationship. How men treat women in the newly acquired space and freedom is evident from the new spat of crimes against women, acid attacks, blackmailing and date rapes. The subtlety of coercion is difficult to discern by women and it works in favor of men both individually and collectively.

         Wei also exposes how young urban youth maintain their relationships with their families irrespective of long distance via mobile phones. Family ties and obligations are part of their identities. In some case participants call home daily to espouse family members of their availability and assure closeness. 

                 “In some cases, participants used the phone to check in with siblings that they were “responsible” for. For example, Manoj has his sister routinely give him a missed call to let him know when she has arrived to her office elsewhere in Bangalore. They do not live together, but he shows his concern for her well-being and personal safety by asking her to update him on her whereabouts. 

                  Praskash similarly checks in with his brother in Delhi. Even though he is only one-and-half years younger than him, he feels responsible for him and worries because he lives on his own. He talks with his brother three to four times a day to chat or to ask if he has eaten. Ultra-close relationships with their family indicate care about their well-being beyond catching up on news (p-215). 

           The above excerpt shows defused boundaries between family members. In collectivist communities concept of boundaries is limited to outsiders as families impose restrictions pertaining to commensality between caste, class and religious groups on both male and female members. These restrictions are manifold for women as gender dimension is added to the attributes of their identity and character. This essentially belongs to social/support/family domain of coercion. The incumbent is restricted from seeking support or contact with certain individuals but it is acceptable as it is caste, class, religion or gender appropriate behavior.  In future if a spouse makes number of phone calls to check on the female partner about here whereabouts, she’ll find it hard to believe she is being monitored as it will be confused with an expression of love and care also the spouse is ideally supposed to be her the only emotional support she needs. Any attempt to look for emotional or other support outside the spousal relationship is considered scandalous. Women are rarely able to support and sustain female friendships due to vericlocal (at marriage the woman moves to man’s residence) nature of households. Where as, when in-laws prevent a woman from meeting or talking to neighbors she’ll be able to sense the isolation. At the same time men who are over involved in the lives of their siblings and parents demonstrate subtle codependent tendencies. With so much of long distance intermeshing of lives will these men be able to create time and be emotionally available to their spouse in future is questionable. What about the family their members, will they accept their new responsibilities as married men and curtail their demands? A disturbed relation with parents and siblings is one of the signs of abusers frequently mentioned in the research. The nature of IPV in Indian context is familial rather than individualistic. Over involvement with the family of origin is a potential sign of abuser too. Inability to distance themselves from the daily lives of other family members and create a balance with conjugal life often frustrates men and they use this frustration as an excuse to abuse their spouses. Despite appearing to be independent adults living on their own, participants are entwined with their families who still play central roles in their romantic decisions. Love is considered as a potentially dangerous emotion that could disrupt family obligations (Derne, 2000b), even when the marriages are arranged. So if you are dating with an intention to marry this person start reading between the lines. Starting now how much are you willing to give up?

Thanks for reading. Now “Rate Your Romance” (look in the side bar) and see where your relationship is going.

 References:

Derne, Steve. “The (Limited) Effect of Cultural Globalization in India: Implications for Culture Theory.” Poetics 33 (2005): 33-47.

 Dutton, Mary Ann, Lisa Goodman and James R. Schmidt. “Development and Validation of a Coercive Control Measure for Intimate Partner Violence in Boston, Massachusetts and Washington, DC.”  National Institute of Justice. 2004 < http://dx.doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR04570>

Medora, N. (2003), “Mate Selection in Contemporary India: Love Marriages Versus Arranged Marriages” in Mate Selection across Cultures edited by R.R. Hamon and B. B. Ingoldsby, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

 Riggs, David S. and K. Daniel O’Leary. “Aggression Between Hetrosexual Dating Partners: An Examination of a Causal Model of Courtship Aggression.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 11 (1996) 519-40.

 Wei, Carolyn Y. “Mobile Hybridity: Supporting Personal and Romantic Relationships with Mobile Phones in Digitally Emergent Spaces.” Diss U of Washington, 2007. URL: http://scarlethamster.com/research/dissertation.html (March 28, 2007).

 

 

 

 

From the wet market

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