Recently I got married to my girlfriend. Only when the both of us were left alone that we felt normal like we used to feel.
Marriages in India are a huge thing, the families are united and there are a lot of functions and rituals. Even though it was considerably minimal in our case, it still made us choke especially my wife. I could feel her uneasiness whenever she was faced with a set of standardised questions and so called “facts of life”. Let me share some of those… what have you cooked after you went to your husband’s home? Did you even prepare a cup of tea for your husband and your in- laws? What sort of dishes do you know to prepare? And the facts went like: “you should take care of your husband”, “you should wash his clothes” and so on. I was disturbed but I was the type who never showed public discord unless my temper gets the best of me; so I was a silent observer to all these madness. I felt helpless, and I understood her helplessness, fatigue and the mental torture she faced. She was highly disturbed and I understood the need to be supportive at this stage rather than becoming angry at her unexplained moody behaviours and tantrums in our only private space for many days – our bedroom. I wondered how it would impact and influence thoughts of a man in case of an arranged marriage having no past experience of knowing each other; the thing that made me wonder so was talks from everyone when we were visiting them; that she doesn’t know how to cook, doesn’t know how to take care of a family and so on. To be honest, it was nothing but a portrayal of how incapable she was, a woman I know to be entirely opposite and how I admired her for being capable of a million things.
Well then let us talk about how people behaved with me; my parents were normal and I was at the comfort of my house. Everywhere else I was like a prince, being fed, taken care of, discussing “manly” things, telling me to make her do things. I was highly uncomfortable as I was raised to wash my own plates, my clothes (of course my Mom used to wash it when I was young, after which it was just orders to wash them), clean my own room or live in a dirty room and so on. I was allowed to prepare food in the kitchen to loiter around in the kitchen and observe the process of cooking, there were days when I would prepare some dish for the family too. Which in turn led me to an interest in cooking, I can say that I would be able to prepare a whole meal for a family or when friends and family come over. Now let me highlight the importance of this background history about me which I just shared. I was shocked to hear from my colleagues and friends that their mothers still do their laundry, the ages of the people I mention here ranges from 25 to 28, I understood that many of my male friends were not allowed into the kitchen saying that it is a woman’s place and cooking is the “duty” of women. I am no psychologist but I don’t need to be one to understand the attitude of these kind of male children when they become men and I believe I don’t have to explain it here.
Suddenly it struck up on me that it was indeed the “prince and the maid” as my wife mentioned earlier and not the fairy-tale version that we read while growing up. This doesn’t mean that only girl children are treated in a different way. Male children are raised in a terrible manner too, the usual words we hear are “don’t cry like a girl, only girls cry”, “don’t run like a girl”, “don’t walk like a girl”, “don’t talk like a girl” and so on, whatever is negative (the word don’t) has been associated with a girl, portraying them mainly as physically and emotionally weak. After a certain age I found it quite amusing as tears would form in my eyes if I see a movie scene where a son and father hugs, yeah talk to me about not crying! I used to cry a lot and it made me emotionally strong rather than weak, there is a magic to crying, with the tears your sadness seems to flow away too. What children observe are their mothers waking up in the morning, making tea, breakfast, and lunch, pack it in boxes etc. and that is irrespective of being a working or non-working mother. Working mothers seems to have no personal time of their own except on holidays, that too for a few hours. A male child sees a woman as the one who does all the household chores, father as the one who decides everything and be authoritative in every aspect. Let me ask you one question, who doesn’t like being a boss, having an authoritative power over other people? That is precisely what a male child learns to become until he starts to think for himself or unless he is not observing the above mentioned trend.
Going into a marriage a man expects a million things from his wife, coupled with that, in case it is an arranged marriage what option does women have? Take a moment and just imagine being in their shoes. Imagine that after marriage you are supposed to stay at her home, you are expected to wake up early, make tea for everyone, do household chores, do your wife’s laundry, iron your wife’s clothes, prepare and pack lunch for your wife and in laws, get ready after that, tell sorry to your wife and family for making them wait because you got ready late, go to work, get exhausted, come back home and prepare tea for everyone, cook and clean the utensils and after everything, when you are tired and you just want to rest no matter what, your wife is lying in the bed demanding to make love and forcing herself on you when you have to do these things the very next day.
Another thing that always amused me were the wife jokes and memes that floats around in our social media. When the woman in question is a man’s mother, she is seen as dignified, provider of love and care, the warmth and so on, as soon as she’s on the other side and is a wife, things just change; she is nagging, short tempered, overly possessive etc… From what I have observed throughout my life so far are women sacrificing their dreams and career so that a man can pursue his. I am in no way saying a man shouldn’t, but if there needs to be some sacrifice, shouldn’t there be a balanced approach to that too.
I for one want these to change and I strongly believe there are a lot of people who are on the same boat as I am. In my opinion, for these to change each one of us have to change so that the next generation can visualise and learn from us, at home let the husband and wife share the work, let your children (both male & female) get involved in activities, tell your children to clean their rooms even if you have a maid, tell them to clean the dishes they use. Teach them how to wash clothes, to help in cooking, cleaning and household chores. Let your children observe and learn that a husband and wife are sharing equal responsibilities in a household.
I would also like to add on that it is quite easy to give your smartphone/ tablet/ computer to your young ones so that they won’t demand too much attention from you. When they demand phones, put it away and go play with them, play board games with them, read books to them, just repeat what our parents did to us in this aspect. A particular emphasis on this point is required as the content on the internet and television is just nothing short of trash these days (I don’t deny that there is good content but a major chunk of today’s entertainment shows/ cartoons/ videos are too stereotypical and short sighted). Above all, let your children know how to be a good human being, because that is not something good grades and rich lifestyle alone can fetch.