Saas-bahu conflicts: Recently a daily soap jilted me out of a slumber. It was not a literal slumber but a metaphoric one induced by the misconception that daily soaps are breaking barriers. I saw a mother-in-law, who is a typecast of a modern MIL, hit her daughter-in-law.
I was shocked by the intensity of the scene and how it was portrayed without any disclaimer. I mention disclaimer because I have seen many daily soaps putting up a small disclaimer while portraying violence against women saying that they don't support any such action. Then, was the violence committed by mother-in-law acceptable? Was it okay for a MIL to hit or harass her daughter-in-law even if she is the 'vamp woman' in the house?
Saas-bahu conflicts in daily soaps and how it affects real life
I think, since its inception, daily soaps have been portraying the saas-bahu drama. Yes, these shows are inspired by reality and depict what happens in many Indian families. But then, in the age when we are working hard to attain equality in our homes, workplaces and streets, is it okay for daily soaps to cling on to the old same saas-bahu drama without being critical about it? Do we understand the impact these depictions can have in real life?
The role of daily soaps, which form a part of the life of millions of women, is far beyond depicting a 'fictional' story. Women watch, relate, cry and laugh. There is a process of catharsis that ends with comparing their own lives with the characters in the daily soaps. Imagine a woman comparing herself with the daughter-in-law on television who is hit by her MIL. Won't she normalise violence at marital home at the hands of in-laws? Won't she think that certain 'mistakes' account for a violent reaction from in-laws? Won't she be forced, even subconsciously, to live under the fear of her in-laws?
Harassment at the hands of in-laws common in India
Unfortunately, the violence of in-laws is not a new phenomenon in our society. Every second day we come across cases of in-laws assaulting their bahus. Even a lawsuit concluded that harassment at the hands of in-laws is a part of the "wear and tear" of marriage. Amidst these situations, it might not be fair to judge the daily soaps that show conflicts between saas and bahu. But then the question is about representation. Why can't the makers of daily soaps show the conflicts between saas and bahu as something that should not be encouraged? Rather than depicting it as normal in married life, shouldn't the saas-bahu conflicts be criticised by daily soap makers?
We are rapidly moving towards modernity. And it is appreciable that many films and daily soaps are riding on the changing discourse around gender and sexuality. But it just doesn't make sense for some of them to hold on to the older ideas of "spicing up" the show through &t=204s">saas-bahu conflicts. It is high time that we practice and portray saas-bahu relationships as a bond of love and sisterhood. Because saas-bahu conflicts are neither funny nor a medium to "spice up" the show. It is a serious issue that requires immediate action.
Views expressed are author's own