Learn to make perfect round rotis, know how to cook a meal for 5-6 people, learn to adjust, compromise and respect your elders. Why? So that your future in-laws would be happy and would not question your upbringing. From the day a woman is tall enough to turn on the gas knob, she is literally groomed to appease her unknown future in-laws. She is made to think that she is a paraya dhan and the only aim of her life is to get married in a good family and serve her future in-laws. And if in the process of grooming and indoctrination, the woman mistakenly raises a voice or makes an under-cooked dal, she is gaslighted by saying that “What will your in-laws think about your parents?” Why does a woman’s goodness depend on how well she can cook? Why should she grow up believing that she should appease her larger-than-life in-laws and thereby prove how well her parents have raised her? Why shouldn’t she make rotis and dal so that she can survive on her own?
Why the burden of appeasing the in-laws should be solely on women? Are men not equally responsible to take care of their parents and their in-laws? Just what makes them different that they should not learn the basic needs of survival like cooking or serving their elders, except that our regressive patriarchal tradition deems women as the care-taker and men as the bread-earner?
Serve Your In-laws-Basic Duty Of A Bahu
The root cause of a gendered upbringing of a woman lies in the basic concept of the institution of marriage. An Indian marriage is not always about love but it is also a legitimization of the social roles that a woman and a man have been assigned by the patriarchal traditions. Once married, a woman is expected to leave her family and go to her in-laws and serve them. No matter whether the woman is educated and is earning a good amount of money. Her basic responsibility is to cook good food for her husband’s parents and take care of their health. If she fails to fulfil this duty, she is shamed for being selfish and unsanskari bahu who does not respect her in-laws. And in the case of a working woman, she is shamed for being progressive and negligent to her traditions. For the same reason, often all the working women are criticized as unfit for marriage and eventually, some families do not let their daughters or daughters-in-law work. After all, her obedience and submission to the gendered expectations of the in-laws is the only way to show how worth her life is, right?
Why Husbands Are Negligent Towards Their In-laws?
But, what about her own parents? It is often seen that Indian husbands are negligent towards their in-laws and avoid any interactions with them. And this is not even questioned because a daughter’s family is grateful to the husband for marrying her and respects him as a prince. If marriage is an allegiance between two people, Is it not the husband’s equal responsibility to take care of his in-laws or even cook for them? On the contrary, the woman is forced to choose between her parents and her in-laws. Besides, in Indian families, after marriage, only sons are seen as capable and responsible enough to give a happy life to their parents and so are allowed to live with them. While the daughters are sent to another family who will provide for her and keep her safe. Are these traditions relevant even today?
Time For A Change In The Idea Of Marriage?
Women empowerment has brought men and women at an equal position in terms of abilities, salaries and social responsibilities. Today daughters earn as much as the son and are capable of buying a lavish living for their own parents and for themselves. Both have equal education and work pressure. Then why should a daughter specifically be burdened with the responsibility of serving her in-law? And why only a son be responsible to take care of his parents monetarily? Both a daughter and a son should be groomed to be able to survive on their own; both should be taught to cook, to earn money and be independent in life. In fact, marriage should be about starting a new independent life with someone you love. Exchange of women in marriage between families is a continuation of an age-old custom when queens and dasis were gifted to other kingdoms as a sign of peace. Now since there are no kings and kingdoms at war, why should woman still go to other families? Rather, why can’t a couple start a separate living while sharing and fulfilling their responsibilities towards their parents and in-laws? Or at least, there is a need to normalise that it is both the husband's and the wife's responsibility to take care of their in-laws or parents.