Luckily, I wasn’t brought up in a neighbourhood where we are given free advice, by all the elders around, right from when we begin to understand things. My mother was a pretty cool parent who concentrated on disciplining us and protecting us. She never really stressed on the fact that our main aim should be marriage, for either my brother or me. While some of my friends got married in the 10th grade, I was still learning about life and having a good time with friends.
Eventually, I found someone to marry and shifted base to India. But, life here turned out to be totally different for me. I found it hard to connect with the lives of many wives. As I was a woman with a mind of my own, I couldn’t relate to or understand many rules. As time went by, I found my tribe of womenfolk and learnt a lot of things, about this topic, from them.
After pondering upon it for years, I finally concluded that these are the 12 rules and regulations for an Indian woman:
MARRY BEFORE YOU’RE 25: Several Indian women are not allowed to have any freedom, especially if they are single. It is very common for old Indian women to pester younger ones until they marry and leave their mother’s homes. Many of you would have been hounded, or are still being hounded, by the she-wolves in your lives. Not that the hounding will stop once you enter your ‘sasuraal’.
GET READY FOR SACRIFICE: Just how a goat is fed and taken care of prior to its slaughter for the festival of sacrifice (Eid-al-Adha), likewise, some of us are elaborately decorated and pampered just before we are sent off to a place where most of our dreams are shattered. It is drilled into our heads that we have to sacrifice our aspirations for the well-being of our families. Perhaps, a little of our goals are unachievable after marriage but do they all have to be crushed? Have any of you felt this way? Were you forced to abandon your ambitions?
PASS THE VIRGINITY TEST: One of my friends told me that, on her wedding night, she was made to consummate her marriage on a bright white bed-sheet in order to prove to society that she was a virgin. Okay, what’s with informing the world every time the first blood comes out of us? (Puberty, Virginity, Delivery)? And how is the man’s virginity established?
ALWAYS BE DRESSED & AVAILABLE: Once you are married, you are not allowed to take a nap or even sit and read or work whenever you please. You are supposed to be dressed up with bangles and bindi at all times, even if you are unwell. You are supposed to be available for your in-laws and husband whenever they are awake because they may need a glass of water or faint, who knows?
DISCIPLINE HIM: Some parents think that it is a good idea to get their ill-mannered sons married to a ‘nice’ woman so that she can discipline him. Don’t we women have our own kids to take care of or more interesting things to do with our lives? Are we rehabilitation centers for their half-done parenting jobs? Even if some of us do succeed in sudrofying (improving behaviour or habits of) our husbands, I dread to think of those who don’t. God bless those women!
WAKE UP EARLY: You are supposed to go to sleep when your husband is ready to go to bed. But you have to wake up before everyone in the house, so that all the housework is done and dusted and the house is ready to be used and dirtied again. How many of you have the weekends off from this rule?
KEEP HIM AWAY FROM HOUSEWORK: If by any chance you ask your husband to wash the dishes, the ‘saas’ (mother-in-law) will look at you bewildered because you have committed a sin by asking her precious son to do a little housework. Is it written somewhere that men are not supposed to help with any housework even though it is we who have the manicured nails?
SERVE & ACCEPT HIM: With a ‘pallu’ covering your head, you should serve your man and his family all day. Even if they yell at you, neglect your feelings or make fun of you, you are supposed to respect them as long as you live. Only after your man eats are you supposed to satisfy your hunger. If your man wants to go astray, swallow your pride and accept him the way he is. Also, you should keep your vagina tight and exclusively for him. Oh and don’t forget to serve him a glass of milk in hopes for a pleasurable night. So, a question here. Do we serve them milk every night or only when we are in the mood? Who decides that?
KEEP COOKING: I have often heard that the way to a man’s heart is his stomach, but I didn’t know that we, Indians, take this very seriously. Besides, I definitely wasn’t aware that this included the father-in-law and the mother-in-law and all the other in-laws too. And even though some of us try our best to cook despite our overwhelming culinary skills, the ‘rotis’ are thrown aside if they are a tad bit cool. More than respecting us, I think some people need to be taught to respect the food they get to eat.
TAKE PERMISSION: This is one awful rule that most of my girlfriends have complained about. Taking permissions to go shopping or on a date with the husband or to their own parent’s house (maiyka). How can a woman feel at home if she has to take permission every time she wants to get out of the house? And why does she need permission to check on her own parents?
WEAR A SAREE TO THE IN-LAWS: In case some of us live in a nuclear family, we can wear whatever we want at home, on the streets or on social media. But, while visiting the in-laws house, we should wear a saree whether we are comfortable in it or not. A simple top and denims, that cover us almost completely, WILL NOT DO, but wearing a waist revealing traditional outfit is the law.
GET PREGNANT ASAP: Firstly, you will be told to have a child immediately as the in-laws need a boy child to take the family’s name forward. It doesn’t matter if you are ready or not. After having a child, you will be harassed to give that child a sibling. And then there is a whole new chapter of rules for during pregnancy and after delivery for Indian women. While you are pregnant, there are several rules I couldn’t figure out; Don’t sit on the floor, eat foods that will let your child become fair with thick hair on the head, look at pretty baby pictures, eat lots of ghee, you have to have a normal delivery otherwise you are not a real mother, etc. And then rules continue after delivery too. Don’t eat foods you love, eat for two people, stay at home for 40 days, pinch the water out of your baby’s nipples, don’t sleep with your husband, don’t sleep while feeding your baby, wake your baby up to feed him, caesarean section is not a real birth, etc. and the list goes on and never ends. Post-Partum Depression is not even on this list.
While many of us follow the above faithfully, the rest of us choose not to. Personally, I believe that a woman should carry out her duties according to her comfort and happiness. She should not be forced to do anything she isn’t ready to do. Even if she is interested in learning certain things that she isn’t good at, she should not be looked down upon or abused mentally or physically for it.
After all, we are partners and mothers, not doormats which are stepped on and crushed. We are women and human too, not slaves to be treated with disrespect all our lives.
What do you think of these rules and regulations? Are you a victim to any of the above rules?
Cindy D'Silva, besides being a mother of two angels, is a belly dancer, writer and photographer. She loves partying, bowling and eating sushi. There is a detailed biography about her on the ABOUT ME page in case you would like to know more. :)
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