Tag Archives: mother-in-law

Desi Bahus: Gladiators in the Arena

24 Mar

Desi Bahus: Gladiators in the Arena

Often the search engine terms used to find this blog are quite amusing. One term especially caught Desi Girl’s attention, “why are desi girls so mean to each other.” This post is an answer to this question and the one posed by Desi Bahu.

 

Women’s oppression in any male dominated society and violence against women (VAW) in homes perpetrated by men is a sad situation. It not only demands attention but often becomes the poster of all violence against women thus ignoring other forms and agents of violence against women. Behind the closed doors in the warmth of the families, familial abuse is often pushed under the rug in the name of family honor. In desi families, male to female violence is as common as else where in the world but what makes VAW in desi homes unique is the involvement of women in perpetrating violence against women. There is ample of documentation of women abetting dowry murders and launching psychological warfare against bahus. But why do women abet VAW?

The answer to this malady rests in the nature of desi household. Desi households are patriarchal (male oriented and dominated), partilocal (on marriage woman goes to live with husband’s kin) and patronymic (woman and her children take on man’s name thereafter, belong to his lineage). In patriarchal societies, women derive status through their association with men in family and marriage. A woman’s social status is dependent on her male kin, whose daughter is she, whose sister she is, who is her husband or who is her son and so on. To expand it further, her social status is related to that of her male kin; if her father or brother are a wealthy then she is considered wealthy. Even though she does not own that wealth but her association with the wealth owner bestows her preferential treatment and higher social status. There is a premium placed on the social and economic status of families in negotiating matrimonial alliances. The qualifications of a bride are reduced to her physical assets that are impermanent in nature like her beauty; fair complexion etc. whereas, a groom essentially has to be able to provide for his family and if not so then his kin should be able to provide that security. At the same time it is understood the bride’s family will help her husband and his kin in the time of economic need. Thus marriage appears to be a site of economic exchange where value of women is dependent on the men they are related to. The question still remains unanswered why women abet VAW. For that we need to go little further.

After marriage when a woman moves into the new household there are already other women there, she has to establish her self. Some women (MIL and SIL) are her spouse’s blood relatives thus have more history and authority in the household and other women like her are brought into the family through marriage (wives of other brothers in the family, called bahus or co-sisters). The status of these bahus is stratified according to the birth order of their spouses. The elder brother’s wife has more say than the middle or younger brother’s wife. This hierarchy is not static there is always a tug of war as the status of brothers is again not limited to their birth order. It depends on how able each brother is physically, professionally successful, charming, has good relationship with his parents and siblings etc. There after a woman’s status further depends on the nature of her conjugal bliss. If she has a good relationship with her husband and he respects her then she is considered good on the other hand, if her marriage is bad her status is immediately threatened (some natal families do not want to be associate with the daughter who has a bad marriage; she is discriminate against her sisters who have successful marriages). Beyond this is another part to this equation the social-economic standing of natal family of each co-sister that determines her status in the sasural (marital home). Hence it is imperative for women in order to establish themselves in the marital home they have to dislodge the conjugal harmony of the other co-sister(s). We have already discussed motivations of MIL and SIL in this dislodging project in the previous posts.

Competition between the co-sisters is not based on their personal worth but on that of their relationship with men in their lives. Even though motherhood is celebrated in desi cultures; mothering of son is treated preferentially. Thus desi households constitute the site for struggle for resources and power. Resources being respect and establishment in the family and power constitute ability to control personal life and lives of others. The ranking of DILs based on age, motherhood and attributes of spouse and natal family keeps women divided. The incoming women not only have to compete against the women already there (MIL and SIL) they also have to rub shoulders with those who are possibly their cohorts. This differential access to power and resources leads to redivision of household labor among the women and exacerbate the antagonism between them and embeds them in an oppressive system where they do not question lack of their personal worth and privileging of their dependence on male kin.

This competition is systemically designed within the desi households and is culturally supported. There are folk songs* sung at weddings that describe the meanness of other women in the conjugal family. It is a kind of anticipatory socialization of the bride to be, preparing her for a war to secure her foothold in the household. These songs narrate how MIL, SILs and co-sisters are always scheming to dislodge the new bride and disrupt her marital harmony. Another culturally supported means of this dislodging project is through the range of joking and respect avoidance relationship between the DILs and brothers-in-law. The husband’s younger brother has a joking relationship with his elder brothers’ wives. He is assumed to be like her brother who provides her with comic relief and support in the hostile household (sexual overtures are possible). At the same time younger brother’s wife has respect avoidance relationship with his elder brother. This not only channels the competition between co-sisters but also set limits on sexual propensity between the opposite sexes (there are always exceptions depending on the economic status and physical prowess of each male member). With this frame of reference if we analyses the question why women abet VAW within homes a clear picture emerges that lack of personal worth or worth just based on physical attributes keeps women looking for means to find worth through their association with men. The desi bahus in desi households are like gladiators, slaves raised to hurt other slaves for the amusement of patriarchy and patriarchal interests. Similar behaviors percolate beyond the walls of homes when women see their self-worth only through others.

Like the search engine term said “why are desi girls so mean to each other,” the answer is as simple; they do not know their self-worth. For some the self-worth is invested in material possessions and for others it is in the possession of relationships, pricy commodity could be prospective boy friend or husband. These people have learned the only way to feel worthy is through manipulating and belittling others to quell the competition. It is a pity how some people in order to feel good about themselves invest so much time and effort in manipulating and making others feel bad. It is just like the puzzle about two equal lines- without using a marker how you can elongate one line. Answer is, to make one line longer partially erase one of the lines. Unless people realize their self-worth for who they are beyond their relationships and material possessions they’ll keep wasting themselves in these petty personal politics and miss out on the wonder of human existence. If you are a person who is feeling bad for what another person is doing or saying to you, please know that you have to value your self and know you worth. Your self-worth lies in you alone and your relationship with your creator/universe. If you know what they are saying is not true then you do not have to bother your self because that is not who you are. Define yourself don’t let people define you. Try using my formula

 “If you are not paying my rent or my bills then what you think about me does not matter.” Try it, it works.  

 

*एक सुख देखा मैंन मैया के राज में,                          I saw peace in my mother’s reign,
सखियों के संग अपने, गुडिओं का मेरा खेलना            Playing with my friends and dolls
एक सुख देखा मैने भाभी के राज में,                           I saw peace in my SIL’s reign,            (brother’s wife)  
गोद में भतीजा रे, गलिओं में मेरा घूमना                     Nephew in the lap, my strolling in the streets
एक दुख देखा मैने सासू के राज में,                             I saw pain in my MIL’s reign,
आधी आधी रतियाँ रे चक्की का मेरा पीसना               I grinding mill until midnight          
एक दुख देखा मैंने जीतहाणी के राज में,                      I saw a pain in my elder co-sister’s reign       
आधी आधी रतियाँ रे चूहले का मेरा फूँकना                 I blowing smoke of the earthen stove

courtesy: http://manishkmr.blogspot.com/2008/07/folk-songs-of-uttar-pradesh-listen-to.html

Advertisements

Desi Mothers-in-law

7 Dec

Desi Mothers-in-law

Most married desi women I know have expressed their discontent with the interference from their in-laws at some point of their life. Some feel this encroachment on regular basis as they live in joint families and those living in nuclear families in different cities still claim long distance remote control effect on their lives. There are numerous desi blogs and forums where women are discussing these issues and seeking support and solutions from one another. Some members suggest paying back in the same coin using tit for tat tactics because most spouses do not rise to the occasion and protect their wives. This makes me wonder if this passive aggressive behavior will remedy the situation or will just push a person into a spiral of emotional turmoil.

The mother-in-law problem is not unique to India/South Asia even in west women report this problem. What make it different for South Asians/Indians are our family structure and social economy. The lack of alternative structures of social support and old age care makes it inevitable for conjugal families to check any development of strong affection between the newly married couple. The fear of loosing economic support from sons makes rest of his family act in funny ways to disturb his married life. Instead of acting from love and kindness towards the new bride they target all their energies in dislodging her even before she is settled. Desi women feel trapped in these murky waters because the premium placed on marriage and lack of other support structures prevents them from leaving.

The other reason of this family feud between female conjugal kin is related to the lack of opportunities to power. In desi communities men have more power outside the homes but senior women within the homes have control over the lives of children, younger men and incoming women. The women who have lived timid lives blossom into dominant figures once their sons attain adulthood. They not only emotionally manipulate their sons but also have the ability to instigate the sons against their fathers to avenge the injustices mounted on them during their youth (refer Dilip Kaur Tiwan’s Sahitya Academy award winner Eh Hamara Jiwana). Such behavior is not limited to house wives even professionally successful mothers-in-law resort to such tactics. One may wonder why professionally successful women need to act so mean towards their daughters-in-laws. The taste of absolute power over another person is exhilarating; also it speaks volumes about a person self doubts, low self esteem and mistrust for the sons they raised.

Emotionally abusive and manipulative MILs have low self esteen and are alway busy in keeping up with the Jones. They live their lives in bitterness. They are unhappy most of the times so all they exude is unhappiness.  They are drama junkies, they’ll create a scene about anything under the sun, even if something happens in Mrs. Sharma’s home it becomes about them.  Every thing is about them. If you said you gained weight they’ll tell you they gained more than you. If you said you were slim in your youth they’ll contend they were slim to the extent of emaciation. Their need for attention and assurance is never ending and exhusting for people around them. Their loved ones are trying to buy peace from them at all costs. They try to keep this species of MILs calm and contended. But it is never sufficient.  When a DIL comes this burden falls on her and other family members too feel now it should be DIL’s job to serve MIL and keep her happy.It becomes easy for them to exonarate themselves from this responsibility and pile blames on the DIL for MILs displeasure. It is not that the circumstances have made MIL critical and unhappy rather they chose to act so. They are pleasant and good when they want to be. Their most time is spent in drama so even when they are genuinely normal it is hard to believe and one may fear what may trigger another dramatic attack.

These MILs  claim to love their sons and want them to be happy. Th eir formula of happiness for their son does not include his wife. When ever the son is feeling normal in his married life they get a panic attack. Their dialogues are- “Something is happening to me. My heart is sinking, I am dying.” “I feel I’ll die alone you will not care for me in my old age.” Religion is another tool in their arsenal, they claim to fast or pray for the long life of their sons. My friend Anu’s MIL fasts every full moon day for the health and long life of her son. If there happens to be an invitation for a party on the fullmoon day she’ll prepone or postpone the fast. The food becomes more important than the health of her son. The sons of such mothers harbor secret hatered for womenkind especially their mothers but are unable to verbalize it as it will be considered sacreligious. So they turn this hatred to their spouses in the form of emotional, verbal or physical abuse. If they ever stand up for their spouses their mothers’ start with “I gave you birth…” These sons have not learned to cope with this regular drama so when they are confronted with some marital issue their response is usually fight or flight. When they fight they become their own mothers and when they resort flight they become arctic pole. The daughters of such mothers are true copies of their mothers, drama junkies and codependents. They create a lot of drama to get what they want. They also create hardships for their sisters-in-law. If they are married they’ll create hardships for their spouse just like their mothers. This is the reason you feel overwhelmed even if you are with just one family memeber. Also it is family pattern to act alike.

Not all women are powerless at all times and not all men are powerful at all times. The ideal of unquestioned generational reverence is one of the ways to maintain hierarchy within families and allocate power to women over other women and younger men. This helps in checking women’s revolt against male dominance in every day lives and in public sphere. This anticipated power at certain age acts like a carrot for women to strive for becoming a mother-in-law.

There is another rare species of mothers-in-law who are supportive of their daughters-in-law. They not only love them and help them in developing a bond with their husbands but also raise their children. Some of these rare specie MILs are committed to making it better for their DILs as opposed to their own MILs and others in this genre are relatively secure with who they are, they do not have to make another person feel bad in order to feel better about themselves. Such MILs are calm and contended with their lives. They live their lives peacefully and know their boundaries. Even when they disagree with some thing they have a functional way of addressing the issue than creating a drama. If you find such a MIL please respect her and appreciate her.She does not need anything from you other than respect affection and kindness. Tell others about her so that they are motivated to be like her.

 

How to deal with in-laws please see the page “Dealing with in-laws.”

From the wet market

Mostly vegetarian meals from Asia

****आयुर्वेद : आयुष**** ई०टी०जी० आयुर्वेदास्कैन ****AYURVEDA : E.T.G. AyurvedaScan **** ****आयुष आविष्कार**** ई० एच० जी० ****होम्योपैथीस्कैन **** E.H.G. Homoeopathy Scan

AYUSH means A.Y.U.S.H. य़ानी Ayurveda + Yoga & Nature Cure + Unani +Sidhdha + Homoeopathy ; आयुष पान्च चिकित्सा विधियो को मिलाकर एक टर्म बना दिया गया है , जिसका मतलब [१] A word से आयुर्वेद [२] Y word से योग और प्राकृतिक चिकित्सा [३] U word से यूनानी चिकित्सा [४] S word से सिध्ध चिकित्सा [५] H word से होम्योपैथी चिकित्सा ; आयुर्वेद के अलावा भारत में आविष्कार की गयी और भारत सरकार द्वारा परीक्षित की जा चुकी मान्यता प्राप्त विश्व की पहली और अकेली आयुर्वेद की शत-प्रतिशत पूर्णतया स्वदेशी तकनीक "इलेक्ट्रो त्रिदोष ग्राफी : ई०टी०जी० आयुर्वेदास्कैन " , जिसका आविष्कार जून, १९८६ में कानपुर शहर, उत्तर प्रदेश, भारत के आयुष चिकित्सा वैग्यानिक डा० देश बन्धु बाजपेयी - मोबाइल: 09336238994 - e.mail : drdbbajpai@gmail.com द्वारा किया गया और जिसका लगातार विकास कार्य जारी है / E.T.G.A.S. तकनीक द्वारा (1) आयुर्वेद के मौलिक सिध्धान्तों का स्टेटस क्वान्टीफाई करने और इसी तकनीक द्वारा (2) शरीर के सभी अन्गों और प्रत्यन्गॊ में व्याप्त समस्त रोगों के निदान ग्यान की वैग्यानिक aproach की जानकारी कराने और सबसे नवीन दूसरी आविष्कार की गयी निदान और रोग ग्यान तक्नीक आयुर्वेदा थर्मों ग्राफी ; आयुर्वेदा ऊष्मा-स्कैन ; आयुर्वेदा थेर्मल मैपिन्ग एवम स्कैनिन्ग के अलावा आयुर्वेद की अन्य की गयी खोजों में तीसरी खोज ”आयुर्वेद हीमो-मीटर मशीन” द्वारा रोगी के रक्त का परीक्षण करके आयुर्वेद के सिध्ध्न्तों का मूल्यान्कन तथा चौथी खोज रोगी के पेशाब / मूत्र का ”आयुर्वेद यूरीनो-मीटर” द्वारा परीक्षण करके आयुर्वेद के सिध्धान्तो की उपस्तिथि के अलावा मूत्र के अन्दर पाये जाने वाले पदार्थों का विष्लेषण करके रोग निदान की विधियों की खोज रिसर्च सेन्टर द्वारा कर ली गयी है और रोगियों के लिये उपलब्ध करा दी गयी है ...आयुष AYUSH चिकित्सा विधियों के बारे में विश्वसनीय और सटीक और अचूक और सही जानकारी और शोध पूर्ण और शोध युक्त ग्यान बोध कराने वाला द्विभाषीय चिठ्ठा ...................................Ayurveda and AYUSH Therapies including Chines Accupunctur, Magnet Therapy,Physiotherapy etc and with this in June, 1986, invented by KANPUR, Uttar Pradesh State, INDIA based AYUSH Medical Scientist Dr. Desh Bandhu Bajpai - Mobile : 09336238994 - e.mail: drdbbajpai@gmail.com , completely indeginous AYURVEDA SCANNING Technology - "Electro Tridosha Graphy ; E.T.G.AyurvedaScan " system, EXAMINED & APPROVED BY GOVERNMENT OF INDIA , by which (a) status of Ayurvedic Fundamentals are quantified and (b) examinaton of whole body for diagnosis of presence of anomalies and ailments , Second scanning system of Ayurveda Discovered and Invented by Dr. D.B.Bajpai ; Ayurveda Thermal Mapping and Scanning , Other research in Ayurveda is Third one which analysis Blood by AYURVEDA HEAMO-METER devise and Fourth one is AYURVEDA URINO-METER for analysing the contents of urine and status quantification of Ayurveda Principles and is avalable for patient in our research center...... provides information about Research and Developments technology provider , authenticated subject material publisher, Bilingual Hindi and English informer Blog

LOKSANGHARSHA

जनसंघर्ष को समर्पित

Talking to the Wall

Posting about this and that :)

Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury

TBI - Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

My life and everything that touches it....

"कुरुक्षेत्र"

मेरे विचारो का

समाजवादी जनपरिषद

वैश्वीकरण विरोध हेतु

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

W.S.S.A @ UWindsor

Women's Studies Student Association @ University of Windsor, Ontario

Shafiq Ur Rahman Khan

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

Beyond The Second Sex (स्त्रीविमर्श)

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

नारी , NAARI

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

Sparsh

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

Zerqa Abid

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.