Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gentle Reader

Who do I write for? You, gentle reader? Yes, I do. At least, I write about what interests me, and mostly, I try to write about it in such a way as would appeal to you. Gentle reader.

Why do I use that antiquated term? Perhaps, like Ruskin Bond, I apreciate the feeling of intimacy it engenders between reader and read. Perhaps, again like him, I like the idea of writing in gentler, more peaceful times. When time goes on, but one still has the leisure to follow one's interests. If you think about it, most of us regular bloggers are very proactive about carving out this little time to ourselves. Those who write as well as those who read even when they have nothing much they want to say in their own blogs.

I like choosing my words as I write. Some of my posts are written in a hurry and never proofread, so they are left with typographical errors. In others, I go slow and savour the language, such as "writing" being both noun and verb in the previous paragraph. Or spelling out t-y-p-o-g-r-a-p-h-i-c-a-l.

So, when the whole idea of blogging is to build a bridge where I can meet people who I may not otherwise meet or with whom I may not have much in common, I don't think I appreciate people barging in and throwing their opinions about without taking the care to read the post through, to see if their accusations and questions have already been addressed. I'm lucky in this respect because I hardly ever have people like that, but two such landed up at Rohini's place the other day and I found them both pretty annoying. If you disagree with what she is saying, feel free to make your case, but shouldn't it also be your concern to ensure that you actually have a case?

We are rarely that open with our opinions when we are face to face with real people, and I suspect that is because we are scared of actual response, or ridicule. I have a problem with all anonymous commentors, actually. You can always sign your name under the comment if you don't have a Google id or a link to your site. Why would you not want to be identified with your beliefs? Do you not think they stand up to scrutiny?


The other reason I am writing this post is because of a response Dipali made to a critic of my Survival Guide.

MB said:
No way. I sympathize with you but there is no way I would give this advice to a young woman. The whole compromise mentality is what makes women feel unbearably guilty if the in-laws start playing up. And that leads to more DIL harassment and whatnot. And the men who say nothing about this are equally to blame.

No, what I would do is to really really talk to the husband to figure out why I'm getting ill-treated and what he can do about it. If he loves you, provided you are reasonable about it, he will listen. If not, to hell with him. And he SHOULD stand up to his parents. Its only mummy for crying out loud!

We would probably collectively agree that hte best thing for all of us is to move out of the city or country. And then maintain polite-but-distant relationships. So they'll be unhappy. Mummy will threaten suicide or shed great big crocodile tears. Let her. Daddy will badmouth you. Let him. They're just pulling rank and bullying you because they're older. Fuck em.

And then live your life happily ever after.

Yeah, thats what i would tell them young girls.

[later, in response to Squiggle's Mom asking why men don't have the same issues]

1. Because parents of desi girls are so grateful that someone married their daughter that they look upon the SIL as the collective Knight in Shining Armour. On the other hand, parents of desi boys always think that their son sold out cheaply so the DIL has to go through the entire song and dance (sometimes titled Compromise, other times titled Slavery) to convince them otherwise.

2. Because SILs don't care to ingratiate themselves with wife's parents whereas DIL's care. Because we've been taught to as part of our "good women" role, along with the "don't drink, don't smoke, don't have premarital sex, don't study math" bit.

3. Because its still the default in Indian society for parents to be looked after by their son and so given the physical proximity, the DIL would be hopelessly impractical not to go out of her way to be nice to them. SILs don't have the same issue.

4. Because even if they do, i.e. he has to look after their wife's parents and the parents were nasty to him, men have the financial independence to walk out of a bad marriage and the societal sanction to marry again after a divorce. Double whammy.

5. Because desi men just won't tell their parents off (esp mothers) when parents are cruel to the wife whereas desi women will fight with their parents (esp mothers) for everything.

Go figure.

I definitely appreciate Sue's willingness to understand the psyche of all parties concerned. She is not speaking of the entire demographic of Indian women, but of a miniscule number who have entered into marriage out of their own choice and to a partner of their
own choice, and not out of economic necessity either (though many of her guidelines apply across the board). She also comes across as a person with a deep commitment to her marriage and family. As a mother of a son, it is clear to her that the mother-son bond can be very strong, and mothers often feel threatened by the daughter-in-law's arrival on the scene. Enriching her son's life by enabling her in-laws to interact often with their grandson is something also very positive. Tackling issues as they come, with solutions found with love as their basis rather than with one's ego as the basis seems to be a far more inclusive, win-win kind of situation. A mother-in-law also needs to learn to become a good one- it is as new a role for a first-time MIL as it is for a DIL.
More than anything else, physical and mental space, the learning of one's territorial limits, plus essential love and goodwill towards one's child (as distinct from possessiveness)are the determinants of these relationships. I see Sue making a valiant effort at having a more inclusive family, and yet keeping her integrity intact. More power to you, Sue.
My one addition would be that a new bride needs to be a non-critical observer for a while, as she becomes familiar with the routines and mores of her new home. A slow introduction of any changes she feels she must make would probably be more acceptable to her new family.

I wanted to make a post out of Dipali's comment and would have, had I not had to take a break.
of a miniscule number who have entered into marriage out of their own choice and to a partner of their own choice, and not out of economic necessity either (though many of her guidelines apply across the board).
I thought I wrote for a fairly small section of women, but on second thoughts, I don't think I do. You see, when I write I usually end up expressing opinions I have at some time discussed with my friends. And my friends are from different cities, different social, economic and cultural backgrounds, and they face the same problems in very different forms. Obviously, the same solutions do not hold good for all. But, given that you are reading my blog, I take for granted that you

1. have had a good education. Finished your schooling at any rate, or are interested enough to read widely and try to make sense of what you read.

2. are a family person. By that I mean that whoever you consider family (actual blood ties be hanged) is important enough for you to make concessions for them, to make the effort to understand their point of view.

3. are mentally independent. I.e. even if you are dependent, as am I, on another person for your basic necessities, you retain the right and ability to think, choose and decide for yourself.

I'm afraid if you do not fall into all three of these categories you will not get much out of reading Sunny Days.

When I write about wives I am not thinking only of women who married the men of their own choice when they wanted to. I consider my own marriage arranged, to some degree, the only thing being that I arranged it myself! (Although that is another story and one best left untouched.) The problems I have faced because of this marriage are no different from those faced by countless women who got married before they wanted to, or to people they didn't want to marry. I am writing of and for women who got married, and want to make a success out of it. We all have problems and all of us have needed a shoulder to cry on and somebody telling us those words of wisdom we don't really want to hear. My pointers may not apply to all, but most of them apply to most of us.

Dipali -- Since I never did respond at the post itself, I just wanted to thank you for the balanced way you put it all. Yes, it's true I have had problems but to my way of thought, nothing is entirely about me any more, and if I have to consider Rahul, then I compromise more than I might have otherwise. I totally agree about mothers-in-law needing to learn their roles. I think mine is getting around to her job at about the same pace as I'm getting around to mine. (Slow, but steady.)

And yes, one cannot be too non-critical. Not critising does not mean suspending ones own judgement, and if that is understood, then I think the compromising becomes less of a hardship.


First Rain said...

DIL ... MIL ... SIL ... but "not study math!!!" Most appalling! :O

Sue said...

First Rain -- Yeah, I do try to avoid those, but now and then I give in. :)

"not study math" was not my line. It was MB's.

Tushar said...

Got your point mam
and tht post was unexpectedly long
god bless you

Squiggles Mom said...

While at some level I resent that as women we have to compromise I also appreciate that it is the practical option if you want to have a more peaceful and content life.
I have a friend who has always been at odds with her MIL (my friend is very blunt and outspoken and her MIL is very traditional who doesn't know what's hit her with her newest DIL)! My advice to her has always been that if she really loves her husband then she will make an effort for his sake. Because if we truly love someone then we want them to be happy. She's tried it and it's working though it's slow work.

Pixie said...

I love the balanced way you write! Your posts are thought provoking and this one is more so...
I wouldn't agree with everything you said on this, but I wouldn't disagree either.
Compromise is essential in a marriage - but, not at the sake of one's happiness.
Will make a post on this -instead of hogging your comment space :-)
Will keep visiting... Loved your blog.

Middlest Brow said...

Sue, Dipali: I didn't come to this until today and so didn't see Dipali's response to my replies. Apologies for the late reply - I feel as though I rudely departed a conversation.

Dipali, your response is very thoughtful and I'm sure Sue is a bright, independent lady who has figured out how best to make her relationship work. At the same time, I did want to make the point that there are other ways to deal with errant in-laws while preserving one's own sanity. Someimtes standing up for yourself, negotiating your way into a relationship, speaking your mind can be better for a relationship (even if temporarily more difficult) than compromising.

I feel that young women are often given so many messages about being self-sacrificing, compromising, going the extra mile to ensure the happiness of everyone that they end up internalizing guilt when things in their house don't go well. Thats why its especially critical to tell young brides to adjust yes, but also to stand their ground and not get bullied. Marriage is after all the meeting of equal minds and both parties have to adjust in the new relationship.

On the other stuff, while a lot of it is hyperbole (my strong point!) the essential point is that young men are far more financially independent and societally advantaged than young women which is why they often don't have issues with their in-laws.

Sue, I hope Middlebrow suffices for a nom-de-plume and you won't club me with those ugly trolls (one can only hope!). As a bribe, you can write to me at and I promise to spew the same vitriol at you gentle blogger ;). We can even collaborate on the "Definitive Guide for Young women - the sweet (Sue) and Sour (MB) Way to Proven Success in Your Marriage"!!
- MB

MiddlestBrow said...

Oops Sue, I got my own email wrong: its


Rohini said...

Sue, all well at your end? Hope first birthday is all that's keeping you from blogging and mailing...

Sue said...

Tushar -- Yes? You too, my son.

Squiggle's Mom -- Yes, I resent it too. But I think it's stupid to think you can marry a man and leave out his family (if things don't go so well with them). So that only leaves one with the compromise.

Pixie -- Sure, will drop by and read it. Am offline because of connectivity issues, but I'll drop by when I'm back.

MB -- I think we are talking at cross-purposes here. If you read the post once more, you will see I'm talking of negotiation too. Compromising means giving a little, but it also leave room for taking a little.

Any name, even yours will do, so long as you give one, that's what I meant. :) And yes, I think a collaboration of ours might turn out to be a funny read.

Rohini -- No, connectivity problems!

First Rain said...

Oh I just had to post this link for ya math lovers: :D