Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The New Indian Dahej (Dowry) : Bahu with a Big Fat Paycheck

Before we packed our bags and left all this behind us in the dust. We had a place that we could call home, and a life no one could touch. 

There is a lot of hype and hooplah about an Indian actress putting on an accent and calling her country "regressive" and "hypocritical" and calling the state of its women "depressing". While the papers are full of hate columns, somewhere in the corner is another column detailing the shocking statistics of domestic abuse of women in the country. Apparently we are the country with largest crime rate against women within the "safety of 4 walls of her house". And these are just the official statistics, for every one reported, there are several that go unnoticed. As an educated, independent woman of the 21st century, I have seen both sides of the coin. The life of freedom that a new age Indian woman enjoys and the abuse and ill treatment that Indian women have been facing for centuries. While the economic status of women has changed over the years, I think the condition and position of women has not really changed. Although more and more women today are juggling their personal and professional lives with great elan, they still are victimized by the same problems that their mothers or grandmothers faced. The percentage of women taking active part in the economy might have gone up but the percentage of crime against against women has not decreased.

Even today, the problem of dowry and domestic abuse is no stranger to most women. While in the past, a woman was  expected to fulfill the greed of her husbands family using her parents money, today the same greed is expected to be fulfilled by her earnings. As far as the man's family is concerned, she is the source and because traditionally a wife is expected to fulfill the demands of the husband and his family any failure to do so will put her on the guilt trip. In more ways than one a womans salary has become her nemesis. It is practically the new age dowry. She is tactically or violently exploited to meet the greed of her in-laws and she is rather helpless as she has no legal protection from the law. In case she protests, the society sees her as a selfish person with no concern to the well being of her family, a woman with no values of sharing whereas the reality is very different. Unlike in the past where it was her family that had to carry the burden of the son-in-law's greed, now the girl herself has to earn and save up for those EMIs for cars and sites. The boy loses nothing whereas the girl is left behind where she always was - helpless, dependent on the mercy of her husband and his family for her living although she is herself the provider for her family. Just goes to show that merely employment of women does not equal economic freedom for women.

Keeping in mind the changing times, its time we accepted the fact that a woman's salary has become the new age dowry and now is a threat to the very purpose it was supposed to serve - economic independence. Its also time the legal system in India recognized this change and made amends to its laws to protect its bahus from this kind of dahej.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Many Faces of a Mother: Are Moms Gods on Earth......

I am having mixed feelings as I begin to write this post. Afterall moms are worshipped all over as being next to God. Everyone must at some point have believed that God could not everywhere so He made moms. I am not sure I agree much with this adage when I watch Meredith Grey argue that she was raised by a surgeon and not a mom. The next moment I flip the channel to watch Maa Ki Daal where the anchor and his guests are busy worshiping moms and their culinary skills. This sets me thinking if moms are universally viewed as Gods or do viewpoints differ based on cultures?

Let me start with some context. Of late, I have been going through a rough patch in life dealing with abuse and subsequent abandonment,  making me question a lot of things that I have taken for absolute truth. The one stand out question lingering on my mind is the role of parents in general and moms in particular.

Moms as most have seen, are the first teachers - they are responsible for imparting good values to sons and daughters, the confidante, the selfless nurturer, the punching bag, the treasure trove of love and many other good things. It is only the few of us unfortunate people who get to see the other evil face of a mother - as the evil mother-in-law who is ready to shatter the dreams of her kids so that her ego is satisfied. As the greedy mother who is ready is kill, brutally burn another young woman for her greed. As a self-centered person who wants her son married only and only because she will wants a maid. As a woman who is ready to kill her own daughter simply because her kid is a girl. How can any person who is able to commit any such heinous crime be anything but bad? How can anyone as selfish be labelled "selfless" or "Godly'? What good can they probably be wishing for their kids while committing these misdeeds?

The general mindset of a large section of the society seems to be give birth to a son and your life is set. He will be the "warriss", the heir who has the power to directly or indirectly fulfill all your dreams. Forget all about making him a responsible citizen or a good son, simply worry about him marrying the girl of your choice. Once married care only about how much profit you can derive from your son and his wife with scant respect towards their happiness. I feel that most Indian parents view their sons as an investment for future. Give birth to them, feed them, bring them up and marry them to the girl of your choice. The last being most important cos that will decide the rate at which these investments will reap dividends. And if you think the scenario is very different with urban, educated Indians, you should read some relationship forums where tech-savvy MILs rant about how their "sons wives" want to have a say on how they spend their own hard earned salaries and so should be gotten rid of. So much for having their sons best interests in mind although I fail to understand how on earth the son is going to benefit.

The saddest part here is not just what reality looks like but its about how an ideal mother is depicted as. In a recent TV awards program that awards characters (not actors playing them but screen characters), the character that won the award for favorite mom was a mother who is almost always verbally abusive to her sons wives, puts her regulations and restrictions before the shared dreams of her son and his wife and is on a path of breaking her sons marriage just because she does not agree with the love and dreams of her son and bahu. In short she is any persons nightmare for a mom; straight from hell. The thought that she is an ideal mother for the country makes me shiver.

If this is what mothers are supposed to be all about, then I must say I am exceptionally lucky to have the mother I have because now I know that not all mothers are gifts from God.