I met RJ and she stuck out to me due to her ability to stand up for herself amidst intense societal pressure living in India.
She was 27 when I met her. Two things that made me admire her were
- Her family was meat eating and she decided to become a vegetarian. When she became a vegetarian, they tried to force her to eat meat but she refused under intense pressure.
- She had been living in India and still had resisted marriage pressure and continued doing research which was great.
Then she got engaged to this guy, of course chosen by her parents. Then the groom’s extended family came to her parents after the engagement and demanded that they better give a lot of jewellery and money.
– It usually is the groom’s extended family who demand dowry. Is it so that the guy can claim that he was unaware of the entire matter and that he did not ask for dowry? Why do the girl’s family ensure that this kind of news never reaches the groom’s ears?
– Also a point to note is that the trick is to demand money/ jewels only after everything has been fixed and the girl likes the guy and now anyway the family will not back out from the marriage and end up giving dowry as breaking the match would lead to them losing prestige/ respect in society.
RJ told us that “Though I know my parents can’t afford all that and they are spending a lot on my wedding already. What can I do? I like the guy. I don’t want to leave him. Why let him go just for this money and he demands his relatives made. He does not have a mother. There are so many expectations on me. I am going to be the mother to all of them (meaning husband, FIL and SIL) and look after them.”
-That’s what we delude ourselves with. The guy did not demand dowry. His relatives did. But no one tells the guy his relatives demanded dowry. Why? If he is going to be your life partner what is the point if you cannot share these things that bother you?
– So, just because he does not have a mother does not mean we go about mothering and doing all the work of looking after the husband, father in law, sister in law. This kind of pressure on the Indian woman is wrong. Why are they expected to hold up this traditional, cultural, cooking, maid, all sacrificing, looking-after-everyone-without-rest image? Aren’t the men grown up? Can they not look after themselves? Cannot the grown up sister look after themselves.
I know what movie comes to mind when I think of this situation. The ideal woman/wife and the ideal family according to Hindi movies
I felt so bad that even when women insist on feminism and all those rights, when it comes to marriage in Indian society, all the things they ever stood for, just remain words nothing more. When I insisted that I would not marry a guy who demanded dowry or when his relatives did, I would inform him first, they just laughed at me and said that that’s what everyone says but when time comes, I would break my own principles. You can’t go against our societal rules, if you want to be happy.
Is it so? No, I doubt it. RJ seems happy in her marriage according to Facebook but that is never a good measure. Our society prevents us from talking about bad marriages and keeping up the image for society. At least I know I would not have been happy compromising my principles.