To The Geet Without Aditya Kashyap, and The Queen Without the International Vacation – Part 2

This is my second article in the series, ‘To the Geet Without Aditya Kashyap, and The Queen Without the International Vacation’. This is dedicated to the women who are going through a break-up, or a divorce. They may not have necessarily found someone else, or have the luxury to travel to discover themselves like our Bollywood heroines. How would they heal? You could read the first part here.

******

I was waiting in the family court.  As I looked around, I felt like I was the youngest person to be here. I probably was.

‘Why me!! Why does everything happen to me!! I don’t deserve this!’ I thought to myself or was probably screaming to God.

An older lady wearing a silk sari who looked very strict pointed towards my legs. I looked at my legs. Then at her. What was she trying to say?

Don’t cross your legs. It is considered disrespectful to the judge!” said a slim, pretty looking young girl sitting next to me.

“Oh ok.” I uncrossed my legs, embarrassed. “I did not know that!”

She smiled.

“You are here for…”

Yes.” I nodded. “You too?”

“Yes.”

“You have kids?”

“Oh no no! We were just together six months. You?”

“I have two daughters. Nine and seven years old!”

“Wow! You look so young”.

“I am 29!”

“Oh! Just three years older than me!”

“Yeah I got married very early.”

“Love marriage?”

“No Arranged. You?”

“Same! You have come alone?”

“Yeah. My father used to come with me.  But he has not been keeping well since last week. Ever since I separated, I moved in with them. My mother passed away from cancer last year. Since then he has become weak. He was hospitalized. Low BP. Past four years have been like hell.”

“Oh my God! You are going through a lot!”

I watched my parents outside the room, looking out for me protectively.

First time, during that day I did not feel like a victim. I felt grateful.

“Do you work?” I asked her.

“I have started teaching. Completed B.Ed. I was not working earlier. But since we separated I had to. Two children I have to support.”

“Was he giving any child support?”

“No nothing. That is why this process getting delayed. He is not agreeing to give a penny.  I have been struggling like anything just to survive!”

A man in a fluorescent coloured shirt walked in and spoke to my lawyer. The lawyer then came and said something to me.

“Is that your…?”

“That’s his brother!”

“What a bright coloured shirt he is wearing! Who dresses up like this in a court!”

“He is a very moronic person. Maybe he thought this is a wedding.”

She giggled. I giggled too. The lady in the silk sari gave us a sharp look.  We felt like two school girls being scolded by a teacher.

A hefty looking man entered. He looked very aggressive.

“That’s my…”, she said.

“Oh! You both look like a mismatched pair!”

She smiled. “Yes, you both too” – She said, looking at another man looking equally aggressive. “He looks much older than you too!”

After a moment, she said, “You know the Judge should grant us just by looking at their faces! They look like they will start hurling abuses here any minute! I mean just look at them! ”

We both laughed again.

“No they won’t. They would not take such a risk here. That behavior is reserved for the wife.”

“These idiots don’t realize how they ruined our lives. They deserve to be alone because of their behavior and actions! It was our horrible fate that we ended up with them. They will grow old and regret everything! We will find someone else!”

“They will too!”

“Isn’t that scary?”

We laughed again.

Doesn’t matter to us. We have to focus on our lives. You will be fine. You are a strong woman! And you have to live well for your kids. Have faith in yourself”

Yes dear. Everything will be fine! You too be good. We are getting our freedom today. This is day to celebrate!”

“Yup!!”

After the hearing, I stepped out of the room to have a discussion with the lawyers. It was time to leave.  I went back to the room to look for my friend. The stranger who had made the day light. Who made me laugh on a tensed day. With whom I shared hope. Who took away the loneliness.

Her hearing was about to come up. She was standing in the queue. She was also looking out of the door, probably looking for me. I smiled and waved. She waved back.

******

To all the Geets and Ranis out there, my two cents and non-expert yet tried and tested advice:

  • Count your blessings. There is no end to suffering in the world. Look around you. There are always people dealing with so much more. I get annoyed when people tell me the same thing. But it is the truth. It is also the only way to go on.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of small joys in life. Little moments help in healing. Be greedy for them and grab them all. Sharing a lame joke with a stranger, going out with friends, watching an old comedy movie, downloading the latest Punjabi number and playing it in gym, ordering brownies, binge-watching Friends and Seinfeld for the nth time, 2 am Maggie, playing with your niece. Do it all. When you laugh, you laugh. It does not matter if you were sad the moment before.
  • Remember why things ended. Either someone was not good to you, and you had to make the choice to leave or someone left. Either way, they choose not to be with you. And there is nothing you can do about it.
  • Keep loving yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the most important. Keep working on it! Only you can nurture it!

 

 

 

 

 

Why Do Men Get Annoyed When We Express Our Care?

I had received an article request some time back from a girl who wanted me to write about little things that women do, to express their care and affection for their husbands / boyfriends, which ends up annoying them.

Although she is married, I have expanded the scope here to include other romantic relationships too.

It took me a long time to write this, because I had no idea how to conclude the post. Starting it is easy. I can list the many  things we all may do for our significant other:

  1. Calling or texting to check if he has reached, left from work
  2. Calling or texting to check if he had lunch at work
  3. Sending good morning / goodnight messages
  4. Asking about his health repeatedly when he is unwell
  5. Expecting the same from him, and feeling upset when it does not happen

Now, doing the above is not only considered annoying by some men, but also being possessive, and not giving him space. Expecting the above is considered a ‘need to pamper her like a princess’.

I have tried to read articles about how men and women think and behave differently. For instance, men can keep aspects of their life in different compartments. Quoting from an article:

 We (men) like tools fitted just for a specific job and enjoy concrete delineations between activities: exercise happens at the gym, lounging happens at home, worship happens at church, work happens at the office, etc. Women on the other hand tend to mix information together: relationships, emotions, knowledge, past experiences, all come together to render a conclusion.

Women like to share their problems, and are more expressive than men. For example, a woman may be stressed about an assignment at work. She may tell her boyfriend / husband about her meetings, and how hesitant she is of her performance. The man at this point will try to provide her with a solution. (She may not be looking for a solution, she just wants him to listen). She may or may not apply his solution, but she will keep him informed of all the developments.  This may involve not applying his solution, yet continuing to complain about the problem. A man at this point may get annoyed and even feel completely useless, as he does not know what she wants him to do. Some may be more mature than others. A man who is not too mature will make it an ego issue that she did not take his advice well, as a direct attack on his capabilities to fix things for her.

On the other hand, a man who is busy / preoccupied with work may not share anything in particular with a woman. He would just appear distant to her, and resort to his man cave. The woman would then torture herself with a lot of thoughts – has he lost interest in her, is he seeing someone else? A confrontation would make things worse, as he would get further annoyed and defensive.

Also, women tend to give a lot priority to relationships. Even when a woman is on vacation / girls’ night out away from her husband / boyfriend, she would still call and text him at the usual times, following the usual routine she may have set. A man on vacation / office trip / boys night out may end up not communicating at all! He does not even feel the need to explain anything because it is obvious that he has been away.

But, irrespective of how different men and women may be, is there any excuse to get annoyed, and express anger, when a woman is just trying to take care of the man she loves? How many  other people in the world care about us anyway – parents, siblings, grandparents, a couple of best friends?

How many people will call and ask me if I reached home safely from a party? Maybe one person would whom I saw last.  But who would do it constantly, everyday?

Does it hurt to appreciate the person who does that?  Let us not take people for granted!! We never know how life would turn out to be. And unfortunately, we may realize the hard way, that people who care for us are rare to find and precious to keep!

The above may be a generalization, and I am aware that this may differ for every individual, and every couple.  This article was written as a response to a situation shared by a female reader, based on her personal experience. Any contrary thoughts, or suggestions are most welcome as comments.  

 

 

Arranged! Before society deem us apart…

Sometime in 2002-2003

I was in junior high school in the United States. The English literature class was going on. I do not remember the exact context, but the teacher was asking for the “Reasons why people get married.”

The creative class was coming up with all kinds of reasons – procreation, money, security, pregnancy among others. One guy said “for love” which was followed by a mocking “Aww!” in chorus. One girl said, “Pressure.”
The teacher’s eyes brightened, as this seemed the most interesting and novel reason so far.

That’s right.” She said. “In medieval times, some people were forced to get married.. Sadly, it is still happening in some parts of the world. It is called arranged marriages.”

I was completely offended. I wanted to raise my hand and correct her. No. Arranged marriages are not forced…. My parents, uncle, aunts, cousins are happily married. All arranged.

But I did not have the courage to speak up. I was afraid everybody would make fun of my accent, or even worse, my thoughts.

After the class ended, I brought up the topic with one of my classmates who was of Indian origin. She was the closest to a “friend” to me. She ensured to tell everybody that she was born and brought up there and was “one of them”. Although, her looks gave away her roots. She never seemed too pleased when I tried to associate herself with India. This time was no exception.

“Arranged marriages are ******. How can you marry a stranger?”

I tried to explain to her that all my relatives had arranged marriages. They are happy. Ultimately, marriage is about committing to each other and making it work. Every marriage is a risk no matter how long you have known each other. I also brought up the low divorce rate in India as a testimony to our wonderful marriages.

“Well, you don’t even belong to our generation.
” She snapped.

In my defense, I was only thirteen.

Cut to 2015.

I am now a writer. I am having a discussion with one of my closest friends (also a writer) on how arranged marriages have ruined our society. Our personal experiences, and that of many close to us have completely transformed our fundamentals. We are together working on an article titled, “Why arranged marriages should be banned in India?”

We ask some men who are in their late 30s, early 40s. They got married early in life, when their personalities had not even evolved fully (in their own words). Their wives are of their parents’ choice, who take care of the family well. But, they badly regret their decision. They were too young to know what they wanted then. Over the years, they have realized that they don’t have much intellectual compatibility with their spouse. (They don’t mind discussing other compatibilities / lack of it but we restrict the conversation. This is from the men’s point of view, I am sure their wives would have their side of the story. Or maybe they are too busy taking care of their kids and in-laws to give their views on marriage to random women…).

Some excerpts from the draft of our article:

1. Arranged marriages promote the archaic caste system. One of the main reasons parents want to arrange their children’s match is to ensure that they marry someone from a similar culture background – caste, community, language.

2. Arranged marriages do not leave any time for people to date and get to know each other. Some arranged marriages may work. But is that logic enough to do something as illogical as marrying somebody you barely know?

3. Do arranged marriages actually work or people stay in them because they are stuck and have nowhere to go to? The reasons these marriages work may be the same for which they happened in the first place – social / family pressure.

We even thought that just like dowry, there should be stringent laws that punish people who arrange marriages.

At this point we realized maybe we should not publish this article…

Present day

Dating is on rise in India like never before. In my previous office, I hardly knew anybody who had an arranged marriage. On the other hand, there are others who want a love marriage, but cannot find anybody. Or their relationships don’t work out and they get tired of trying.

Relationships not working out or not finding anybody is nothing shameful. Rather, something natural and universal. I remember the episode from Friends, where Rachael turns 30. She is already depressed because she is getting old and still single. To add to it, Chandler gives her a card calling her grandma. She then decides that all she needs is a plan, and comes up with a reverse calculation:

“I should have the first one (kid) by the time I’m 35.
Which gives me five years.
If I want a kid when I’m 35, I don’t have to get pregnant until I’m 34.
Which gives Prada four years to start making maternity clothes.
But I want to be married for a year before I get pregnant.
I don’t have to get married until I’m 33.
That’s three whole years.
Wait a minute, though.
I’ll need a year and a half to plan the wedding.
And I’d like to know the guy for a year, year and a half before we get engaged.
Which means I need to meet the guy by the time I’m 30.”

We Indians take this calculation pretty seriously. While Rachael had calculated the age where she wants her first child to be 35, we probably take it at 25. And the countdown begins…

The other view – in support of arranged marriages

Why wait for something that may or may not happen when we can arrange our destiny? What if it gets “too late”? Too late meaning inability to have kids. What if there would be a dearth of single people in the opposite gender as we age – so we may lose out on that precious chance of finding any companion. Plus, who will remain single in India after a certain age? Only people with previous marriages?

So, in order to prevent such a “disaster” in the lives of their loved ones, well-wishers arrange their matches. Compatibility, attraction (What’s that got to do with marriage?) are theoretical concepts that anyway fade with time. It is all about compromise, right?

(PS: I do not support this view)!

Dating and arranged marriages

Modern India seems to be enjoying both sides. People are dating. If it doesn’t work out, there is always have a “back-up” option.

Dating is complicated to begin with. We don’t know where it is going. But in India, to add to the uncertainty of the relationship working out is the possibility of the boyfriend / girlfriend conveniently getting into an arranged marriage the moment clashes / boredom creeps in.

A man may allegedly dump his girlfriend to marry someone who is a more appropriate “caregiver” fit to his family, caste and language compatible. A woman may find an arranged match who may be better suited to make her more secure financially. These are ofcourse stereotypes. Sometimes, people just don’t have the heart to go through the pain of another break-up so they just give up on the thought of “looking out” completely. They want to make sure this time around marriage happens. Either way, modern day arranged marriages do involve some amount of dating, and getting to know the person. A lot of them are facilitated through matrimonial websites.

Can I really judge them, in the age of dating apps?

How do people in other parts of the world survive without well-meaning family members, distant relatives and neighbors finding them a match?

If as a culture we were into dating (and not arranged marriages), wouldn’t we end up finding someone or another? Or atleast continue to look? If only there was no make-believe time bomb ticking away…

I don’t really have a conclusion to this post. I did not publish my original article “Why should arranged marriages be banned in India”, as I felt it was too prejudiced, and offensive to most people I know. Plus, if something is working for someone, do I have a right to judge?

I just wonder sometimes, how our society would be without it..

Where we are not told that we will end up alone and miserable, if we don’t marry ASAP..

Where we could date, with no age barriers and judgment…

Where companionship is not about producing healthy children together…

Where we are given time to really figure out what we want from our lives…

The legend of the frustrated, old, spinster / divorcee

This is going to be a confused post.

Even before you start reading, I would like to apologize that I have started writing, but I do not have my thoughts organized under one subject. Basically, this post is about women’s views on other women, their choices and lifestyles.

1. Widows are humans and have needs

I stumbled upon an article recently. A widow with a grown up son writes about how she has “needs”. She says that she may choose not to remarry for various reasons but does that necessarily mean that she does not have any desires also?

I absolutely loved her brave and honest article. At first, I thought that it would be some anonymous post, by an author who is hiding her identity and yet talking about empowerment. But no, it was from a real person – a courageous woman who said what so many would not have guts to say. If we have more people like her, maybe our society will change.

Another woman’s views on widows having needs

I also started reading the comments on the article. One lady commented the following:

“Yes its ok to have physical intimacy but With a willing partner for a widow taking due care it doesn’t destroy any home if the wife comes to know of that. I have a widow doctor friend who had same needs but she has broken three homes of her male colleagues by having extra marital affairs……

I have strong views on infidelity. It is completely unacceptable. I would never get into an “affair” with a married man. Nevertheless, I would like to say this to the lady who has commented:

The widowed woman did not break the homes of her three male colleagues. She was not having an extra marital affair. She was single. (No I do not support what she did). But the point is, it is the MAN who was married, who made the choice to cheat on his wife and sabotage his relationship. So, stop blaming the other woman!

Her second comment was as follows:

“……If sex was destined to be there in the life of this writer, God will send her a partner who will marry her, else there r so many risks involved in having that With multiple partners or unknown men.”

Her views reminded me of an episode of the TV series, Balika Vadhu. Sugna (one of the characters in the serial) had become a widow at a young age. Her Dadisaa (grandmother) was forcing cruel and inhuman rituals on her. When Sugna’s parents pleaded her to have mercy on the poor girl, the grandmother said that this was her fate…If God wanted her to be happy, he would not have taken away her husband. God destined to make her a widow, it is not like she (Dadisaa) was making this happen.

Sadly, a lot of regressive, controlling people feel that they have a right on somebody’s life as if they are carrying out God’s plan. No, God did not want her to be unhappy. People did!! Ordinary mortals who like to control other people’s lives!

2. The frustrated old spinster / divorcee

The other day, my friend was telling me that I must get married. She said that women who remain unmarried / divorced / grow into “frustrated, old, spinsters”. She gave me an example of her neighbor, a 55-year-old female professor who is always angry.

This is not the first time that I have heard stories about the “frustrated, single, old woman.” These legends are passed down by other woman. Personally, I see a lot of married women, and women with toddlers who seem very irritable all the time. I see them tired, exhausted, and perpetually yelling. Nobody says things like “Married women are so frustrated. Women with little children are always yelling.”

We accept that as normal human beings, they have a right to be angry sometimes. They have justified, valid reasons for their emotions. But single women? Their very existence probably makes them angry!!

3. I don’t want to be unmarried by the time I am your age

Last week, in office a young girl (21-22) year old joined our table (group of women in late 20s). I don’t remember how the conversation started about age, but she randomly mentioned how none of us are married despite being much older than her. One of my colleagues laughed and said thanks for reminding us. The young girl went on to say that she would get married in the next couple of years because she does not want to be “like us” – old and married.

I asked her why does she feel so. Is marriage an achievement? She said yes. My other colleagues then told her that I am a writer and that she would probably get featured in my next article!! This made her guarded and she quickly changed her statement. But the damage was done…

FYI this young woman has no professional qualification, nor does she intend to opt for further studies. Yet, she felt that it is okay to insult women who are much more well educated, and successful than her because they are still unmarried!

I ended the conversation saying that I don’t know what is the future of the country, if this is how young girls think.

Moral of the story

I really wish that the society would stop being so unkind to women who are widowed, unmarried, divorced – single for whatever reason. For some, it is their choice. For others, it may be circumstances. Either way, it is nobody’s business to judge her. Yes, she may be angry sometimes. Because she is human. Not because she does not have a permanent man in her life. Please don’t judge her lifestyle – whether it is her drinking, smoking or “affairs”. Yes, judge her smoking out of concern for her health, not as a benchmark of her morals and character. The alleged, immoral “affair” also takes two people. Don’t just blame her.

And lastly, life changes constantly. I want to ask the women who are so judgmental of these single women, what if they (God forbid) are ever on this side? Can they imagine their life in such a situation?

Please stop spreading the legend of the angry, frustrated, single, old woman. It is as stale, absurd and regressive as the witch tales!

Husbands are a liability for working women

A married, working mother of two has asked me to write an article on how husbands have become more of a liability for working women. Based on her experience, and that of most married women she knows, she has sent me a list of ways in which her life and her husband’s life has changed after marriage. I have tabulated her list below.

Even before you read this, my apologies to the good husbands / fathers out there. I personally know a lot of men who share all the responsibilities. So please do not get offended by this. It does not apply to you. For parents of such men, you have done a good job raising your son right. And finally to the wives of these husbands, I am happy for you!

Now for all the men who are described as below, please read this and be considerate to your poor wives!

[table id=1 /]

I had ended this article here originally. But seeing the comments on Facebook, I thought I need to write more in order to make it balanced.

I know that not all men / women are the way described in the table. This was based on the reader’s experience. The problem lies with the expectations of the gender roles in India. I would like to share the experience of a close friend of mine who was struggling in her new marriage, managing home and office simultaneously. She was being judged by her in-laws, her husband being absolutely insensitive to the pressures she was facing. Her husband’s salary was now being spent exclusively on the home loan that he had taken before marriage. Her salary was spent on paying for rent, and every other household expense. She would come back home to a grumpy husband and in-laws who felt she focused “too much” on her job and did not take care of their needs. Her mother-in-law told her that she is being “allowed” to work for her “social life”, that does not mean she can neglect the household work.

The girl went to a counselor, to seek some help in saving her marriage. She told the counselor that it is unfair that both the husband and wife are sharing the finances and only she is expected to do the household work. Sharing the the exact conversation that took place between the girl and the therapist.

“Why do you work?”

“For my financial independence.”

“So, if you were a millionaire, you would not work?”

“I would probably still work, because I like to. For my own confidence, intellectual stimulation etc.”

“So you are working for yourself basically. Your mothers, grandmothers did not work. It was their primary responsibility to take care of the household. Your husband and in-laws are allowing you to work, for your own enjoyment. The least you owe them is to ensure that their needs are taken care of. You can work as long as you take care of the house and them. I am also a working woman. If my husband wants food at 3 am, I get up and cook for him. From where did you get the idea, that if you work in office for your ego, he should also work in the house?”

And this was a certified therapist who does marriage counselling!! We can only imagine the mentality of an average household. A woman who works is made to feel guilty or grateful. A man who does household work or takes care of the child is applauded for “helping”. It is because of this inequality, that I feel compelled to share these articles.

I only feel resentment towards my in-laws and husband. There is no love left..

A distraught reader has shared her story. Although this article is inspired by her e-mail, I have written it in first person, and it includes my personal views.

I had a love marriage. We both belonged to different castes. I really liked him. I thought since he likes me enough to convince his parents for the marriage, he would support me all my life.

Some things went wrong here and there in the wedding, as we did not know the rituals of the other caste well. This caused constant disapproval and taunts from my in-laws who ensured that my family and I were made to feel worthless about the incompetency of organizing a wedding. Whether it is a love marriage or an arranged marriage, a newly married couple is trying to adjust to each other. Living with a person is difficult, and we were just getting started to get used to each other’s likes, dislikes and lifestyle. I wish people understood this, and left us alone instead of sabotaging our relationship from Day 1.

Nobody likes to hear things against their family. If somebody in school, college, office, streets spoke ill of my family I would have felt like punching them, and shut them up. But this is marriage, and I am a woman. So, what I must do instead is smile at them, remain quiet, polite and calm, serve them, take care of every need of theirs and not show any sign of discomfort and complaint. My parents are ignored and insulted as per the likes of my in-laws. My husband never calls my parents, unless I force him to although my life revolves around taking care of his parents.

I follow a daughter-in-law manual customized by my mother-in-law. It includes getting up at a certain time, cooking to the tastes of different individuals, praying to a certain idol, washing hair on a certain day and any other ritual which they may consider necessary for survival. Yes, I say survival because if I deviate from any of the above, it may result in threats to terminate the marriage!!

My husband is currently working in another city. Should I take up a job in that city and move with him, or continue living in my hometown are all decisions that are taken by my in-laws. It feels awful to be continuously controlled by somebody else. When I try to say something, I am shamed for being disrespectful, rebellious, for overreacting and being too sensitive.

My in-laws and husband are not happy with me. They feel that I talk to my mother much too frequently and that I have not truly considered them my own. I wish my husband understood that for me to feel included in his family, I must first feel included in his life. And that will not happen unless he shows some support and affection towards me.

Ever since I was little, I was told that getting married is important from my security. That a girl cannot live her life alone in this big bad world, and she needs someone to protect her. I guess I am secure, I live with people, so no outsider can come inside the house and attack me. As secure as a bird in a cage, or a criminal in jail.

But what is my crime? No matter how much I try I am told that I am a miserable failure. If my parents treated my husband the way his parents treat me, he would have never seen their faces again. But, here I am being ill-treated yet running after all of them and struggling to make everything right. But they are what’s wrong, so nothing will ever change.

I only feel resentment towards my husband and in-laws. There is no love left.

If Grandma could choose

My story that won ‘Muse of the Month’ on Women’s Web:

The cue for this month was from the movie Queen, in which Kangana’s reel granny tells her that instead staying back in the hotel and watching TV and feeling bad for herself, she should go out and meet people, go sight-seeing…who knows she might find someone interesting too!

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