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This is about a girl, a very dear friend of mine, whom I have lost to the wonderful social system we have.
My friend is a very vivacious girl, the happiest person I have ever known, confident and courageous.
Rather, she was -- till she got married.
She works for one of the best companies in India. She is good at what she does. She has a wonderful career ahead of her.
But she is not happy.
The only time she is not depressed is when she is in her office. She dreads her mother-in-law's acidic tongue. She would rather not go home. But, at the end of the day, she has to.
She was married three years ago. Born in a brahmin family, she grew up imbibing traditional values about family life. Among those, the 'responsibilities' of a daughter-in-law.
Every morning, she wakes up at 6. She has a set of morning chores -- prescribed by the mother-in-law, of course -- to tackle before she can leave for office. She works through those like a maniac, takes a hurried bath, a snatch at breakfast, and leaves for work at 7.30am.
In office, there isn't room for people who do not pull their weight. My friend is an efficient, reliable, untiring worker. She slogs through the day, and gets home by 8 or 9 or 10 in the night, depending upon her workload.
You would think that was the end of it. But no, whatever time she gets home she has chores to finish before she sleeps. Irrespective of how tired she is. The responsibilities of a daughter-in-law!
So she wades through those, like an automaton. And that's what she seems to be to her in-laws -- a non-human, who doesn't need any consideration, or a kind word.
Her only solace is her parents. She calls them from telephone booths; she is not allowed to call from home. But how much can they help?
Her husband is blind and deaf to her ordeal. She has begged him to take her out of that house. He refused. He would rather not make people talk, he said. He is afraid what other people would think if they began living separately. He is afraid of what tradition prescribes than what the girl whom he married, the girl whom he promised to stand by at all times, wants.
So, inevitably, she has changed. Sunk into a state of depression. If her husband has noticed it, he has done nothing.
It is because of spineless men like him that women suffer. Why is that we pay more heed to traditions and society than to human feelings?
My friend's husband knows the cause of the problem. But he does not want to address it. He knows the solution. But he doesn't want take it. Why is he trying to run away from his duty towards his wife?
Is concern for society more than what you have for your wife? Is it so much that you would rather let your wife drown in depression?
I want my friend back. I want the vivacious girl whom I have known for years back. I cannot bear to see her like this. Do we need this institution of marriage, which, together with spineless men, victimizes a girl so? Isn't it time it changed?
I wish men would stand up and say, "It is my responsibility to make my wife happy."
I am sure there are thousands of women like my dear friend. If there is a problem, there is a solution too. But the solution can come about only when men stop thinking about themselves.
Stop being so selfish. Give the woman in your life what she needs. She is not asking you to kill someone. She is only asking you to protect her from being killed by depression.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
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