Rimi’s latest post amused me enough to post back in response. For one thing, I’ve got far too much to say to stuff into any poor little Comments box. For another, I disagree with as much as I agree. So read on, and don’t forget to check out the original, because I’ve only posted extracts here.
Practical Problems of Potential Young Brides
Experiences of Us Muchly-Marrieds
Life, ladies, is tough. Tradition demands you be pretty and he be rich, citizenship preferably marked in green. If you’re not pretty, buzz off. We do only the class act here.
I'm not pretty and V's not rich. We couldn't even make 'pretty rich' despite combining in a joint venture. And even in ‘love marriages’ everybody has an opinion. Comes down to the same thing. Nobody’s ever really happy with the chosen young man. (That’s till he becomes the jamai – the change only takes an hour, dammit – and then your entire family spoils him silly, be he rich or not.)
A quick surreptitious recon of the family and a few direct questions about banking details seems to please the older folks enough. Which just goes to show how little they know.
Which is why so many of them are (secretly) happy these days at kids deciding on own partners. The responsibility, thank heaven, is not theirs.
You can have mine. She has her points. And she wants a daughter-in-law who will live with her.
And let's not even get into the rest of the new family. I mean, haven't you seen enough Ekta Kapoor to know what I’m talking about?
Ah, but having married into a family huge enough to satisfy even Ekta Kapoor, what I learned very quickly was that in larger families fewer people pry. Not speaking in terms of percentages even, but in actual numbers. In my own comparatively smaller family, everybody feels lost if they don't know each others' businesses.
And so, thanks to the new cool mums-in-law, there’s this new trouble. Like it or not, you have the cares of a household landing *smack* on your shoulders. And you know how it is...
If you don't, you can always ask V. When the two of us set up household in April, I knew how to make rice and tea. For dal I had to consult the cookbook. Luckily though, I did know enough about running a household to buy the washing-machine and microwave even before I got the gas connection. With a washing-machine, a microwave, an electric kettle and some optimism, you can defy the world. For a while at least.
I’m, like most, an only child. Spoilt silly, as everybody unfailingly tells me. Sure, we’ll tell people I'm an old hand at the housewifely arts – but shall deftly overlook to mention small details like the relative lethality of my dals and the charred designs on my rotis.
*Huge grin* When my relatives ever got around to showing me off, they had to fall back on an average academic career and unspecified extra-curricular activities. I even heard an aunt say in resignation one day, "O onek kichhu kore beraye. Ki shob natok kore, shunechhi. Kagoje-o lekhe naki. Khub independent to."
[“She goes around doing a lot of things. Does some kind of theatre, I’ve heard. Writes in the papers too, I believe. She’s very independent, na.”]
Which, if you realise, is damning very effectively with faint praise. Particularly in the marriage mart, where independence is just not a substitute for fair skin. Especially not to mothers-in-law, no matter how much she might want you to live with her.
Speaking of tarts, dammit to hell, you're supposed to glide along life wrapped in stunning belly-button baring saris now, aren't you? Because whatever it is people say, sweetie, if you stick to those knee-length skirts and frayed jeans even after you're married, be ready for more than just a dozen raised eyebrows a week. And disapproving glances and corrective phonecalls from chiefly feminine moral tsk-tskers. I mean, hello, did you not read that paragraph about our culture and stuff? Us spoilt only daughters of permissable households, I tell you.
Allow me to (gently) point out that you spoilt only daughters of permissive households are not the only knots in the fabric of our great traditional society. Us spoilt daughters (with siblings) whose permissive mothers actually buy *shudder* skirts for our trousseaus take our place proudly alongside you in offering fashionably – and more importantly, comfortably – dressed targets to the moral police.
Which brings us to the feminist dilemma: to change or not to change the (last) name. First, you can make up for the embarrasment of marrying young (“but he was too good to let go!”) by retaining your own name. Making a statement, as it were. Second, he might actually have a surname that compliments your name better than your own. In which case you might just invest a little in stamp papers and sound prettier for the rest of your life.
Or perhaps your Rs are prettier than your Ns, and therefore, in the interests of good handwriting, not to mention having no wish to go running to the various government offices to have your name change recorded on your driving license, your passport and your voter id, you choose to retain your Roy over the Niyogy. This usually complicates matters at some point when well-wishers who only know you, and only met you after your marriage at that, call your husband Mr. YourSurname. I have yet to meet a man who sees the funny side of this. Ironic, na?
What about the being fruitful and multiplying angle, though? Is he... um, your kind afterall, or should you conceive quickly and turn the marriage into that kind of a relationship?
I do believe “that kind of a relationship” went out with our parents generation. All married people I know are either on contraceptives, trying to conceive or getting it on with somebody else. But sex is all around.
Singlehood suddenly looking a lot better, isn't it darlings?
Notabit. Try living by yourself, not with your parents/cat/dog, but solely with yourself. Then the prospect of having another human being sharing your space, however remotely and however occasionally, does get brighter.
And we haven't yet gotten to the bits where both of you prefer the same side of the bed, he snores-you're a light sleeper, you hate his dog, you meet his single and available drop-dead gorgeous cousin three days after the wedding because he just couldn't make it suring showtime, he keeps forgeting to brush his teeth before bed, his addiction to lesbian por... er, erotica…
That is when you turn to your female relatives and find out the methods they’ve evolved for coping with all these ‘little’ marital bumps. Those nagging aunts and nitpicking grandmothers finally come of use, and you’d be surprised how useful they are, approached right.
Sigh. Still and all, better than being left on the shelf – to borrow a phrase from decades past – I suppose. This way at least you have a whole new family to bitch about. We offer our thanks for small mercies, amen.
And also this: once you’ve become onyo bari’r bou, you really can treat your own family just as you like. They actually won’t have that old hold over you any more. You can finally tell them to go to hell and best of all – your parents can’t/won’t force you to take it back.