'Dear men, don't expect your wives to naturally play the role of maid, cleaner, babysitter, a working professional and be nice to your parents.'
'It's her choice, and if she chooses not to, she may have her reasons too; that doesn't make her bad or less 'pious' as the Supreme Court pointed.'
'If you are looking for a full-time, unpaid maid or caretaker in your life partner, you do not understand marriage at all,' says Divya Nair.
I couldn't sleep last night. I kept revisiting a verdict announced by India's highest court and tried to make sense of it.
A Hindu son can divorce his wife on grounds of cruelty because she tried to pry him away from his 'pious obligation' to live with, and provide for, his aged parents, the Supreme Court verdict ruled.
I tossed and turned. I thought about a dear friend who, a few days ago, had confided in me about the helpless situation her married brother was in.
Her sister-in-law, a homemaker, did not want to take care of their bedridden mother. Her brother, the sole breadwinner, was struggling to make ends meet and had tried, in multiple ways, to keep his wife happy -- he hired caretakers for his mother, all of whom were sent away by his frustrated, abusive wife.
She even filed a police complaint against her husband and mother-in-law, stating they tortured her. Her claim was busted when the couple's young son told the police how his mother had become violent and abusive in the past year. She received a warning from the police and was told that, unless she mended her ways, she could be arrested.
It did not make not make sense for my friend's brother to divorce his wife; she wanted to retain custody of their son and claim a handsome alimony though she was aware her husband would not be able to fulfil her demands.
My friend's mother did not want to stay with her daughters (blame it on our patriarchal system that considers daughters paraya dhan) and prayed she would die than be the cause of suffering for everyone around her.
I could sense my friend's pain and helplessness as she cried bitterly. The Supreme Court's judgment made sense in this particular case. Or maybe I was seeing the situation from my friend's perspective... a daughter's perspective.
A few days ago, in the Navratri spirit, I was humming Main To Bhool Chali Babool Ka Des, Piya Ka Ghar Pyaara Laage.
Suddenly, I started thinking about the lyrics. Does a girl really feel her husband's house is better than her maternal home where she grew up?
I quickly realised the lyrics were passe. The three of us in the room -- two daughters-in-law and one married daughter of the house -- nodded in agreement.
That night too, I'd wondered.
How much easier it was for men to get married. They continued to live, post-marriage, in their comfort zones, in their own twisted and perceived versions of events, and made provisions to make their wives comfortable in their new abode.
They expected the wives to accept their parents as their own, which may or may not work out eventually for reasons best known to the couples and their families.
Either they may separate, move on or convince themselves to accept and accommodate.
How many stories of divorces, hatred, suicides and depression, really get noticed or reported or solved?
How many times have we dug deeper to understand the term 'irreconcilable differences' between a married couple?
I know of friends who struggle to deal with their mothers-in-law every day because they are seen as competition. No matter how hard the wife tried to bridge the gap, there will always be an element of competition, jealousy and discomfort in the new relationship.
This is best explained in an article, 'How To Avoid Mother-In-Law Problems' published in HubPges (external link), that states, 'Austrian psychologists believe that, subconsciously, the mother-in-law believes the daughter-in-law is a rival who has kidnapped her son and taken him by force.'
'Here, besides the jealousy, there is an aggression triggered by the female spirit to protect the partner of the opposite sex. Like any woman, she defends her child from any intruders. Thus, unconsciously, some mothers-in-law may adopt a hostile attitude that leads to conflict.'
I thought and thought about this.
There could be only one solution, the way I see it. After marriage, let the groom stay with the bride's parents. Since men consider themselves more accommodating, this arrangement would work in more than one way.
The wife would be at peace, since she's used to dealing with her mother. Besides, it would encourage parents to have a girl child and educate her well so that she can be self-reliant and independent enough to care for her family.
The son may visit his parents as much as he deems fit and contribute to their economic comfort every month. And if the wife feels her husband is trying to come between her and her parents, she can divorce him.
Does this thought make you feel uneasy or do you find it convenient? I am sure most girls in India would prefer this arrangement to being forced to be nice to the in-laws. But it may not be the best solution yet.
The patriarchal system, flawed as it is at many levels, needs to be tweaked.
More and more women are becoming independent and may want their freedom. I have a brother and I have told my parents not to expect much from their future daughter-in-law and to not force their son and daughter-in-law to live with them.
I upheld the court's earlier verdict that orders daughters to take care of their parents after marriage.
At the same time, both as a daughter and a daughter-in-law who lives with her in-laws, I find it necessary to tell men to not force the patriarchal system on their wives.
Dear men, do not expect your wives to naturally play the role of a maid, cleaner, babysitter, a working professional and be nice to your parents.
It's her choice, and if she chooses not to, she may have her reasons too; that doesn't make her bad or less 'pious' as the court pointed. Or someone who can be judged and dissected for, at free will.
If you are looking for a full-time, unpaid maid or caretaker in your life partner, you do not understand marriage at all.
In a successful marriage, there has to be a way for the two of you to collectively contribute to the family.
Every time, a relationship and responsibility is subtly forced on someone -- be it the wife, husband or the parents -- there will be conflicts that can turn disastrous, maybe even fatal, if you are not alert.
Please note: Lead image only published for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Ojasvi Soni