I spoke to a man for an arranged marriage meeting. Before telling me about himself or asking anything about me he told me that his parents would be living with us after marriage from Day 1. He said that he wants them around. Not because of any health condition. He just wants to “make them happy.” They feel lonely in their hometown.
For the past eight years, his parents have been living in the hometown because he was living with a roommate. But somehow, the moment he gets married, they will become lonely and helpless!
Very politely, I told this man that I would not be comfortable with this set-up. It will be difficult for me to adjust to three new people immediately. I said that during the first few years of marriage, the husband and wife should live alone because they are still trying to adjust to each other. He then told me that I will be “allowed” to wear jeans and that his parents are very nice people. As long as they are taken care of them, they will not “scold” me for anything.
I told him “No”. He later sent me a text message wishing me good luck in life, and that he is looking for someone with “family values”!
He also wanted me to “appreciate his honesty” because he told me about his expectation before marriage. I was honest too! Why didn’t I get appreciation for my honesty? He wants a woman to take care of his parents, because it is convenient for him. He gets to be Shavan Kumar by doing nothing for his parents except getting married. I refuse him, so I get to be a vamp!!
I don’t understand why this should be the norm. Let me tell you this is one of the reasons people still prefer to have a son. Because they can live with their son forever but not with the daughter.
When I say this, it is immediately interpreted as a rebellious, uncultured attitude. I want to ask these so-called custodians of Indian culture, are girls’ parents any less old? How come they manage alone? Or since they have given birth to daughters, they are so unfortunate to begin with that we don’t even count them as senior citizens?
Some men and even women say that “Yeah, but any guy with prefer to have his parents around. If you were a boy, wouldn’t you?’
Some even add, “Why do you even want to get married then!”
This statement is garbage. It reeks with chauvinism, and enjoying the benefits of patriarchy at a woman’s expense. This is how they justify dowry too!
No marriage is not about living with in-laws. People in the western countries also get married. They do not do this.
Please don’t get me wrong. Of course someone should be there to take care of parents in emergencies. In fact, if the parents can live in the same city, or nearby it is great. I know of people who even stay in the same apartment complex but in different apartments. That way, they are there when required and also have their privacy. Sometimes they stay together for economic reason. Some stay together for grandchildren. Living together can be a great form of support for parents as well as children. I am not saying they should not. As long as they are happy doing what they are doing, it is none of my business. I know of families where the girl’s parents also stay together.
What I am trying to say is in the Indian set-up, living with in-laws can become difficult because of high expectations. Especially in the initial years of marriage when the relationship between the husband and wife is not even stable. But no, it is not a wife’s moral obligation to live with her husband’s parents and take care of them from the first day of marriage! It is not a man’s birth right to demand it. If she is doing it happily, great. If she refuses, it is okay too. It is her choice. It is difficult to adjust to one person. And definitely more difficult to adjust with more people from another generation, especially when they come with a sense of entitlement and expectation.
I have a request:
Indian men, when the girl you meet at shaadi.com refuses to live with your parents after marriage, you don’t get to shame her. You respect her choice, and find someone else. Please do not tell her that she does not have “family values”. Unless you also want that her parents should also live with you guys. “Respect for elders” and “family values” apply to elders who have borne daughters also.
Parents of girls, please do not force your daughters in to such marriages saying “so and so is also living with in-laws. This is our culture etc”. You will not be there with her each day to maneuver her way. She will be alone there. Let her decide for herself.
And girls, please know yourself. If you are not comfortable with the idea of living with in-laws, then be sure about this point before you get convinced into such a marriage. It is your whole life ahead. Later on complaining about it will get you nowhere.
Seeing the comments on the article, about women being equally responsible for such upbringing or social conditioning, I am adding this quote of Ms. Kamla Bhasin. Thank you readers, you always provide the much needed perspective.
© 2017, Tanvi Sinha. All rights reserved.