Saturday, September 13, 2008

The spice of life

I think I am missing something that had been part of my life till recently. The ‘nok jhok’ with MDH. Those who don’t understand what MDH stands for may quit reading further. This is a ‘Wives only’ post and you may not really appreciate it. You may not be married or even if married your relationship may be as formal as with acquaintances. My mother for one was married and yet not married. I had never heard her rave and rant about my dad’s mood swings, late hours and a hundred other things that husbands are accused of.

Twenty years back my mom was on a visit to our house and she happened to over hear a conversation between my husband and me.

“Pick up some refined oil on your way back from office. “ I said.

“I bought two kgs of it 2 weeks back. What happened to all of it?” I thought or rather I was sure that he stressed on the ‘all’ part of his comment.

“I felt thirsty and drank it up.” Was my reply.

My mother was shocked. I was certainly not the daughter she had raised. But the shock was such that try as she might she could not raise her own voice to scold me. She protested by maintaining an annoying silence. I had to literally coax her to scold me and get her displeasure out of her system. According to her no one spoke to their husbands like that.

“Times have changed and my mother in law actually encouraged me to protest when he was being unfair. Had she been alive she would have taken up for me.” I tried to reason but she refused to relent.

I agree I am just being funny. My husband and I take turns to initiate those small tiffs that add spice to a marriage. One Sunday afternoon I got up from my afternoon nap when he asked for a knife I gave him one.

“Where is the one with a red handle?”

“Why don’t you use this one?”

“Why not keep things in their proper place?”

I started looking for it but it had been put to wash in the sink.

“When are you going to learn?”

“Never in this lifetime. Pray for a better life partner in your next birth.” I certainly was not giving in.

I looked for all the knives in the house and tied them up together and put them alongside his set of screw drivers and said
“Pick up the knife of your choice and place it back after use in your toolbox. I am not taking responsibility for any of those. I am getting myself a new set.”

Within an hour the entire set returned to my kitchen. They certainly did not walk back.

While I agree that we quarrel and patch up like children in their pre teens, these little ‘nok jhoks’ have actually helped us bond. He is the one who wakes me up and accompanies me on my morning walk. I beg to be allowed a little more sleep but he treats me like an overgrown schoolgirl and refuses to give in. I try to find excuses to return fast. He insists on a full hours of walking though I am the one with BP and sugar.

However, jokes apart, there is one aspect of married life that leaves me wondering. The mantras recited and repeated during a marriage ceremony clearly state that a wife ought to be considered a ‘sakhi’ or friend and yet Indian women far from being treated as equals are trained to smile even when abused. I have a friend whose husband provides well for her and gives her a lot of freedom. Yet the slightest provocation, not necessarily by his wife, has him hurl abuses at her. He drags her parents and her upbringing into the conversation. She does not say a word in protest and justifies his behavior by saying that he is otherwise good but does not realize what he says when he loses his temper.

“I do point out that his behavior hurts me. He accepts his mistake and apologizes in private. I can’t expect him to do it in public. It would be far too humiliating.” This is her explanation.

Was it not humiliating for her when he insulted her in front of others?

“Men are like that only” ---------

This is an accepted fact. But are they? I may be wrong but I feel society expects them to behave like that just as it expects women to take abuses and insults in their stride.
A girl in our neighborhood rang up a social activist at 11:30 in the night to say that in a fit of uncontrollable rage her husband had beaten up his parents and came chasing after her. She had managed to flee to the terrace and locked the connecting door. He was banging the door asking to be let in. She had the good sense to carry her mobile phone with her. The social worker lived some 10 kilometers from her house. Luckily the DSP had been briefed about her case and when contacted he sent a constable to their house and the situation was brought under control. The husband apologized the next day and the girl was asked not to provoke him when he was angry.

Why is it that we advise our daughters and sisters to be patient? Why not advise our men folk to treat the ladies in their family with respect? While I enjoyed the books by Amy Tan and Khalid Hosseni both the books dealt with violence against women in two Asian countries and left me depressed for days. There are cases of women ill treating their men and sons ill treating their parents. I wonder if the arrangement in Western countries is better.

I started my post in a light note and have ended it on a more serious one. Women education and empowerment was meant to bring about a balance in society. But has it perhaps disturbed it more than balancing it? Is society not yet mature enough to address the social, financial and emotional needs of a woman?


Mampi said...

HHG, I think we are not waking up to OUR needs and are not making them felt. Society is but us. We, at times, sacrifice too much and either condition ourselves to not complaining, or live with dis-satisfaction for the sake of children, for the sake of appearances.

Jaya said...

HHG, society will keep changing being in someone's favour all the time. Ultimately I think it depends on us how much we are ready to accept and protest. Did you read Monika Manchanda's last post on how dowry laws are getting misused by women?

Few decades back, society expected women to be home, then the feminist movement started and women started working. Now I read somewhere that more women have started to be home again.

Ultimately society is view of people. Either I agree or disagree with them. I think I need to make myself strong enough to fight them, no use being dependent on them.

Sugar said...

I love you!!!Muaaaah!!!why is it that wwe teach our girls to be patient and not the boys to be nice to their wives? bang on!!!why?

Anonymous said...

a lot of wat u said in the first part happens here too... quarelling, making up and then quarelling is like a daily routine.. kinda fun too...

now abt the seriuos part, a lot happens due to EGO issues... everybody wants their own views and rights to accepted... clashes happen when both sides resist to give up a bit :)

Anonymous said...

Hi ,

Love you. Wished I had Mother/mother in law like you. My mother is such a confused woman. She gets abused by my mother till today (though I love my father, I hate his temper tantrums and verbal abuse). Now she has become one like my dad too. They quarrel the mintue they wake up they quarrel till they go to sleep. Mine was love marriage and the main reason I fell it love with him was his character. He is such softie and we both are good friends even after decade and half of married life. But my mother gives me non stop advice and she blames me for disrespecting my husband even if I had funny tiff with him. She thinks she is atharsh women who allowed her husband to verbally abuse her and also her two girls. I kind of developed a inferiority complex because growing up I felt unworthy since my dad verbally abuses us infront our neighbours, friends, driver etc. Everybody used to say that we are going to have good married life since we are good girls. My sister seeing this abuse her turned just like my dad. She is really abusing her husband and kid with her controllable anger and words.

It is really sad that cycle of abuse continues for generation if it is not stopped or controlled. I always used to say to mom I would have walked out of my relationship if I had husband like my dad. Lot of my time, I have thought we would have been better off if they were divorced .

Reading your post kindled my memories and make me angry and ashamed that I grew up in such family who fought constantly . I made a promise to myself that I will never be like them . I turned out to be a loving person who has lot of patience and hates to argue even for fun.

Prats said...

It is indeed the society that makes or breaks such rules. Like Joy said, yes, there are times women misuse these laws too..cos now they feel more powerful. BUt having said this I still condemn the acts by men who humiliate their women and elders ...there are cases of emotional abuse too which goes unnoticed....hopefully one day respect for living beings will take over any kind of law and make this palce a better one.

Preethi said...

lol at the first part.. that was so cute.. as for your friend.. I have seen some women put up with public humiliation.. in this case it was a far smaller issue and a much milder display. But still irked me and MDH! But then some women do like to put up with it.. maybe they rebel in private but whats the point if it repeats itself?

indosungod said...

HHG, I do agree the small tiffs and give and takes are what makes life pleasant. I have always wondered about the role of women especially Indian women and you express it so well.

The education of girls was meant to be empowerment but sometimes I wonder if it is that! Men have to just work, the women have to work inside and outside the house and we seem to be carrying twice the workload. Our generation, we are called the Generation 'X' are much better than our parents but still have a long way to go.
I see this is a direct result of upbringing. Boys/sons told they don't have to picth in the house work while the girls/daughters of the same household have to help around the house.

Unless this cycle breaks and this is the thing I don't understand it is moms who bring up these sons!! Contradiction.

Renu said...

why dont we teach our sons.......,so here also responsibility comes to the women only, not because we are subservientbut because a mother leavesa much more lasting impact than a father.
i know a lady, who has been economically independent from the bverybeginning and had alove marriage, but now only marriage is left, where has the love gone,nobody knows. her husband, thoyugh highly qualified and respected by everybody in his profession and personally also has always been very rude,unkind and unsupporting to her.I as an outsider cant judge anybody but find it vey surprising that a lady of her calibre has taken all that and stayed in .
personally I laways give lots and lots of luv to my DIL and respect also and tell the same to my son, as she is the grihalakshmi of my home, and I always believe that happiness comes to those houses only where women are respected.
and I am sure people like us will certainly make a difference in the long run, my motto always is...justice for everybody,irrespective of gender.

Tys on Ice said...

i know this a girls only post; but i want to put my two bits; if only to stir up things a lil bit...

my question in are the mothers bringing up their sons?

its funny when u think abt it..the single most important influence in a boys life is his mother..if thats the case why are there still men out there who disrespect women?

pls dont think iam passing the buck..but wht iam saying is that cant the future generation of men be taught to see all genders as equal?

Aarabi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aarabi said...

HHG! im an iyer girl just come to holland and i find the attitudes here so liberating!!
Guys in electrical engineering here are not intimidated by my speech or ideas in class.
They help wash up after dinner and treat me as completely equal.
They're downright adorable when they're like that!

Ugich Konitari said...

HHG, seems to me that we are the "sandwich" generation. Our parents lived lives with precisely defined boundary conditions. My childrens generation, combined with an entire generation of outgoing,educated,active women, has kind of blurred the boundaries.

We are in between. Educated by our parents on one side, subject to mothers-in-law-educated-sons who are encouraged to cling on to some old cliches and attitudes, which are suitably brought up from time to time...

The older generation was very "exact" in the recipes; the future generation may not even cook; no wonder we look for some spice in our lives.....

Anonymous said...

HHG, so well said. While these little arguments spice up life, they work well only when both partners know that neither is likely to abuse their power...

Monika said...

lol !!! i loved the first part and was rolling in laughter, dragged my MDH to read it too :) :) and now the more serious part its the women... the mothers and the mother-in-laws who are instilling this in our girls thankfully the situation is improving (atleast in the cities) as the educated and open people are coaching their daughters and daughter-in-laws to be stronger and equal....

Monika said...

I have something for u at my blog... come over and check out

Hip Grandma said...

mampi:It is not easy for a woman to stand up for herself.Education helps to some extent but by and large women are not helped by their own kith and kin let alone by society.

joy:'Now I read somewhere that more women have started to be home again'
Is it because her family refuses to recognize her ststus of being financially empowered and she has to play the dual role of a home maker and a working woman?It can be quite tiring to cope with this double responsibility.

edita:Please read renu's comment below.How right she is!!The responsibility of teaching their sons to respect their wives is again a woman's job.If a man treated his wife with respect wouldn't the son automatically learn?Thanks for recommending monika's post.This is the other extreme side of the relationship.

tessie:Yes ego clashes are often the reason.But in many cases the woman is not considered worthy enough.If as you say ego is the reason I'd feel that both partners are to be blamed.this is not so in the examples cited.

anon:It is unfortunate that many menfolk treat their wives with contempt.I am glad you found an understanding life partner and may you have several years of togetherness.

prats:a small correction to what you've written.we should condemn all men and women who humiliate a fellow human being irrespective of their position in life and/or gender.

preethi:'But then some women do like to put up with it.'
Well said.I hear there are a group of battered women who actually feel neglected and unwanted if their husband's don't beat them up.They suspect that he has indeed found another woman.

indosungod:Mothers alone cannot be held responsible ti instil respect for women in their son's mind.As I said in an earlier response in families where men treat women with respect son's automatically do so.If not in all cases at least in most.But if he grows up watching his dad abuse his mom physically or emotionally his own behavior may either be too aggressive or too mild.

renu:There are many more like the lady you mention.Education and empowerment seem meaningless in many instances.Other factors play a role.An inferiority complex also could be a reason.

tys:in my opinion society has impressed upon women that boys ought to be pampered and girls made to work and adjust.This is because the girl is trained to deal with an entire set of relatives after marriage while the boy brings home his wife who has to mould herself according to his family.So the intention is not to spare the son and train the daughter.They do not want their daughters to suffer.But in doing so they unintentionally encourage their sons to be dominating and unfeeling.Times are however changing.Boys are better adjusted now thanks to their working mothers.

aarabi:Even Iyer boys help out when in foriegn countries but the moment they head back to India they will not lift a little finger.

ugich:every generation is a 'sandwich' between their parents and children.Our children being more vocal this is more obvious.Don't worry their children are going to be worse.Brutally honest.

apu:I remember an acquaintance mediating between her 75 year old grandpa and 70 year old grandma.They used to have such cute quarrels.

monika:I wish I could agree with you cent percent.Educated men and women holding respectable positions in society are subjected to physical and mental torture and their education prevents them from speaking out.I sometimes feel that the so called villagers are better off.Their society is not surprised when they protest.Times are changing but the pace is slow.BTW I've done the tag and your piece on misuse of anti dowry laws was a good read.

hillgrandmom said...

My 2 bits on this--well I'm the kind like your friend who never argues.I deal with a lot of tough issues on my own too, rather than have my husband go into a tizzy and get angry. But that is me--because I am a person who finds it very difficult to hear an angry tone and never finds quick repartee at the end of my tongue. In the final analysis, we can only change our own behaviour. Any marriage where one hopes that better times will come only when one's partner will change is in big trouble. Then too, each one of us who stays in/keeps quiet in a difficult situation may be getting some kind of personal gratification which we are not completely aware of.
About young men being respectful of their women--I agree with tys on ice that the way a mother deals with her sons and daughters goes a long way in making young men respect women. Of course, as you say, the treatment the father gives the mother also makes for unspoken lessons.
Will stop. Almost a mini-post! Sorry

Hip Grandma said... was joy who recommended monika's post.

Anonymous said...

"But if he grows up watching his dad abuse his mom physically or emotionally his own behavior may either be too aggressive or too mild."...Perfectly said. I experience this in my life.

Anonymous said...

This post has hit a sensitive spot with my current state of mind. I come from a home where my dad and mom fought all the time. I grew up determined that I will never repeat that in my married life. So whenever arguments with my hd turn even a little bit heated, I shut up. I sometimes reason with him when our minds are a little cooler or just leave it forever. Now my hd comes from a family where boys are worshipped and girls are expected to serve men. I am a professional, working mom with two small kids. But my hd never treats me equal, often putting me down in front of guests. Well there is no abuse or anything but whenever I tell him that I don’t like him treating me like dirt he just laughs it off. There is no romance since he thinks romance is shown only in movies. So we lead parallel lives living under the same roof. I don’t want my kids growing up looking at him/us thinking that this is the way married life should be. If there is no love or affection between us now, will it come when we grow old? The memories you share through your life is what makes the bond closer as we hit our old age.

Confused mom

africanfragments said...

yes society has evolved to ensure that women can be more respected, however will the male hegemony allow it.

Renu said...

My friend had a love marriage:) outside her caste.
MU husband had a joint family..big one and there he saw that womaen nevr bother about their food as they ate in the end and in such a big family quantities cudnt be monitores, and so, was so considered from the very beginning about what I am eating, he nevr liked to be given the VIP treatment, I used to give ( Istill give it, not because of anything els,in my life everything happens or works due to love, no force, no pressure:)

Reflections said...

Men are a more enlightened lot nowadays. They are more caring, considerate & do watch what they say. Sometimes they do lose their temper but then in tht case woman are worse...its just tht when men lose their temper they sort of come across as more threatening.
Seriously Tys has a point....women who bear the atrocities of their husbands are still raising their sons in tht age old traditonal then who is to blame????
For my part...I have to say tht my husband is a thorough gentleman who thinks 10 times b4 he says a harsh word. I always maintain that he is the better half of both of us.

A joke I remember abt my parents in the nok-jhok category:
Papa: where's my watch???? I'm late, where's my watch?
Mama: Oh I saw it walking towards MG Rd just a few minutes ago.
My sister & I hooted:-D. My fathers face had a tiny grin on it & he quickly turned away to hide it.

Hip Grandma said...

granny123hillg'mom:'In the final analysis, we can only change our own behaviour'
you are right but it is also true that finding excuses for atrocious behavior only encourages it.i may come across as a quick witted female in my blogs but in reality I also become tongue tied when I am really hurt.The liberty i take with my husband is only over non issues.So I am just as much a part of the problem as anyone else.

anon:I require a very strong mind to remain balanced and grow normally under such circumstances.i've known a few who have but they are a minority.

anon: '...don’t like him treating me like dirt he just laughs it off.'
The sad part is that most men don't even realize that they've hurt the wife and vice versa.and who is to explain to them that simple acts like surprising the wife with a cup of tea when she is tired or little chores like arranging the closet together can add to the romance in a seemingly routine life.But times do change and the bonding becomes more as one ages.

african fragments:It is in their interest that a man realize the worth of his wife and respects her for what she is.There are plus and minus points in everyone and this simple realization would go a long way in making any relationship successful.

renu:if a woman chooses to pamper husband for the sake of convenience like eg. husband's style of working is not liked or she is less or more organized or is territorial and feel insecure if anyone messes around her kitchen or is simply demonstrating her affection for him there is no problem.But we have wives running temperature and the husband won't even take out his food from the fridge and expects to be served on time.This is being insensitive and we have many such examples.

reflections:welcome here.You are a lucky girl and thanks for sharing the story abt your parents.

Hip Grandma said...

aarabi:welcome here.

Lucky said...

Very good post. I was just thinking all what's happening inside me just today in the bus. I have admit that my Mother is a mirror image of Patience. My Father and mother never fight because she does not know any world other than him. He is everything for her. my Grandfather came from scratch and lived with lot of fame and lots of money. We were croes and croes of ruppes. But from what I heard my Grand father never treated my Grand Mother. They always had fights.he has weakness in the ladies side as for as know. The same habit followed my father. He does not have any other habits . My grandfather died very early and because my Mother is the only daughter , my MOM and DAD become husband and wives.[my MOM was married when she was 13]. For her she knows only home. She never asked a word to my father for his actions until now. Now he's very good . He's a good father also us.But I always think my mother never lived her life.

I donot want to repeat this in my marriage. I am a professional. When my family lost everything and came to the streets , I worked hard and finished sister wedding, brother studies and helped them settle in life. Unfortunately the man I married also has some ego issues. For his family he has to dominate me . he's always a instructor even to bring up my kid. I have to act as per his wish. Thats it. I need to say YES to what he thinks and what he says. Initially I was fighting with him. But even after three days , he'll never try to compremise. I need to go and give up. He always think I am nothing. Now I have a daughter. I never argue with him just because I want to give a healthy enviornment to my daughter to grow up. We are very good parents. But the life between us , are we living it fully , I cannot say YES from the heart. But he cannot be accused for anything else. Taking care of the household, helping me in all the activities.... Good person. But always want to be the decision maker and instructor

Donot know in which generation it'll change.

Rohini said...

Don't even get me started on this. We know a woman who is deeply unhappy in the home she has married into but her parents have told her that she should put up with it and that these are the tests of strength of character that you have to go through in life... WTH!!!

Hip Grandma said...

lucky:Men like to be in control or at least like to be allowed to think that they are the ones in control.Even if they allow their wives a good deal of freedom,in front of others they would behave as if they are the ones who decide for their wives.This is because of the cultural tuning they've been subjected to.Things however will eventually change.

rohini:welcome here.I am afraid that what you say is true.With divorces becoming common parents advise their daughters to adjust but never are their sons or sons in law advised to treat their wives with the dignity they deserve.