Of families and marriages

IHM has written recently about domestic violence and how there is widespread acceptance of it even among the educated class. A lot of interesting comments have appeared on that. I remember this particular comment which talked about the widespread belief that men do lose control at times. A few years ago, I had thought that about a friend’s father, because I knew the mother to be a highly unrealistic person, someone who had married early and thought that life would only be a romantic dream. Things had soured when she couldn’t accept the fact that her husband, whom she had herself chosen, wasn’t the romantic type. And both husband and wife wouldn’t budge from their list of expectations and duties. Things kept piling up, the relationship deteriorated further after my friend was born. And in the belief that the wife was like an errant child, in the next 20 odd years the husband beat her around half a dozen times (maybe sounds little compared to what some women go through). She too had her own emotional blackmail tantrums. It was just a doomed relationship I guess. And though I didn’t justify the beating, the very fact that I tried to rationalise it shows how deep rooted this philosophy is in us. Auntie has now finally moved out, something she should have done long ago, to spare the herself and my friend all that mental agony. My friend still hopes that the parents would reunite. Yes, divorce is traumatic but living in an abusive or incompatible relationship is even worse.

But while domestic violence is something more tangible, most women in India suffer from something more subtle. Mental abuse. The judgemental attitude that is based on the whole she is an ‘outsider’ theory. Most families want a custom made bahu who is modern and yet not too modern, educated but not too educated and so on. And she has to be a super woman who should never complain or get angry. The Tulsis of the world can cry in private and moan their fate, but they shouldn’t air an opinion. Just voicing an opinion amounts to disobedience. There is very little scope for honesty in Indian relationships. Pretenses have to be maintained at all costs. And most women are taught that right from childhood, however educated the parents might be.

So even if your MIL constantly harps on how lowly your family is, you are supposed to put up with it. If you answer back you are the bitchy DIL, the potential home breaker. Your husband might have a tendency to treat you like a dimwit and make fun of you in public, but hey atleast he provides for you and doesn’t beat you. He might be a complete loser, never managing to hold on to a job and yet you are supposed to hold on to the hope that with time he will get better. In no circumstances are you to lose the hope that things will work out in the end, because of the doli-arthi theory. And hey aren’t women supposed to be more tolerant by nature, more patient, more everything that tends towards doormat.

How many times do we hear things like the women in the family didn’t get along and that is why the family split? Is binding a family together just a woman’s duty? If the men wanted, couldn’t they have stayed together and tried to build a consensus? Are men really kids that they can be ‘seduced’ and ‘swayed’ by what is called pillow talk? Don’t they have a mind of their own? Well apparently, though women are supposed to be chastised because they are not mature enough, when it comes to such things men are the impressionable ones.

In India, we are supposed to marry families and not individuals. And when I see all these things happening, I feel disturbed and somewhat scared by the prospect of marriage. Is there anything like a balanced family or is it a myth? Will I be able to hold on to my identity once I get married? Is marriage really worth it? There are ‘good’ families out there I guess, but they are extremely rare.