A news snippet informed me that the Bombay High Court had ruled that not offering a husband a glass of water when he returned from work did not amount to cruelty. It took me a while to stop sputtering in anger, and choking from the water that I had been drinking from. I quote from the report, “The Bombay High Court has dismissed a city resident’s plea for divorce from his wife on the allegations that she had failed to be a dutiful wife since, among other things, she used to wake up late and that she did not cook tasty food. A bench of Justices K K Tated and Sarang Kotwal upheld an order of the family court that had dismissed the divorce plea filed by a resident of Santacruz on the ground that the allegations made above did not amount to cruelty, and thus, could not be a ground for divorce.”

Kiran Manral The Married Feminist SheThePeople

What is interesting is that the wife herself was a working woman and managed home, groceries, cooking, the petitioner’s parents and doing the other household work. And this was all inconsequential because she did not hand her husband a glass of water when he returned from work. Thankfully, the Bombay High Court observed, and rightly so, that the allegations made by the petitioner did not amount to cruelty. In addition to all of these allegations, waking up late in the morning, not offering the husband a glass of water when he returned from work, the petitioner had also included not cooking tasty food and being dutiful as grounds for divorce.

That a woman who spends all day managing home and hearth, as well as her professional responsibilities should necessarily also be a ‘good’ cook and cook ‘tasty’ food, as well as wake up early, and hand the pampered husband a glass of water when he returns from work, never mind that her day at work and her commute could be as exhausting as her husband’s is frankly, infuriating.

Perhaps this case is indicative of all that is wrong with marriages today, which are still shackled to the patriarchal expectations of the woman doing all the household work and catering to her husband’s every little requirement. The sense of entitlement that this petition reeks of clogs up my nostrils. That a woman who spends all day managing home and hearth, as well as her professional responsibilities should necessarily also be a ‘good’ cook and cook ‘tasty’ food, as well as wake up early, and hand the pampered husband a glass of water when he returns from work, never mind that her day at work and her commute could be as exhausting as her husband’s is frankly, infuriating. The mindset that women exist only to serve seems to have never gone away.

While women have stepped beyond the confines of their homes to conquer the world, the menfolk still assume they can lord it over their wives, and demand to be waited on hand and foot. Perhaps, the petitioner was still stuck in the 1930s, when women were expected to accept chastisement at the hands of their husbands, and the husband would assume them an idiot and the least they could do was not be slovenly so their husbands would not be tempted by less slovenly women. And there was also this, which firmly told a married woman that she and her happiness were completely inconsequential in a marriage. “Don’t answer back; don’t spend money on yourself, don’t do anything he doesn’t want you to do. Then, if you are not a happy woman, your husband at least will be comfortable.”

“Don’t answer back; don’t spend money on yourself, don’t do anything he doesn’t want you to do. Then, if you are not a happy woman, your husband at least will be comfortable.”

In the 1950s, The Good Housewives Guide recommended that the little woman spruce herself up just before the husband returned home from work and put on her brightest smile, greeting him with a cup of hot tea as he entered the home, tired and weary from a day at work and then not trouble him with needless nagging. And yes, she was supposed to read the newspapers so she could indulge in interesting conversation with him on current affairs, but not too much so as to threaten him that her knowledge outsmarted his. Another guide to keeping a husband happy from the 1950s stated that a woman had to have a hot dinner ready on the dining table no matter how packed her day was.“A social service meeting, an afternoon tea, a matinee, a whatnot, is no excuse for there being no dinner ready when a husband comes home from a hard day’s work.” Or from the same era, Dr. William Josephus Robinson exhorts wives to cook well, because, “Bad cooking is responsible for dyspepsia, dyspepsia is responsible for grouchiness and irritability, grouchiness and irritability lead to quarrels and squabbles. And bad cooking, which is the usual thing in the average American home, has been responsible as much as any other factor for driving the husband to the saloon, and to other places. And when she does cook, she should cook, and not be, as somebody said, a mere can opener.”

“A social service meeting, an afternoon tea, a matinee, a whatnot, is no excuse for there being no dinner ready when a husband comes home from a hard day’s work.”

Almost a century hasn’t seemed to change the expectations foisted upon a woman in her role as a wife. This will only change when we begin raising our boys to step into the kitchen, cook their own tasty food, and pour themselves a glass of water. And not expecting a pat on the back for being self sufficient.

Pic credits: ABC News

Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV

Also read: For the Millennials, Career Comes First then Marriage, Kiran Manral

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