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‘Shaadi Ke Baad Sasuraal Me Rehna Chahiye’: Sexist Advice I Got From Passport Officials

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Submitted anonymously.

I don’t know where and what to start with. I have always been proud of being an Indian, don’t know why some bitter and rigid thinking in our country proves me wrong and throws dirt on my country’s reputation.

I am a girl who was raised in a family that believes in gender equality. When I was younger, it was easier to believe in the concepts I was taught by my parents, but now that I’m am older, the world comes to me in contradictions.

Till the time I was single – things seemed pretty simple, as most of us know, it’s mostly about freedom and independence in life, recognition and acknowledgement at work and vice versa.

You have an identity that is rooted in all the ideals that you’ve been taught and brought up with, but this often undergoes a certain amount distortion once you get married. I have read so many articles about how girls deal with this sort of an identity crisis, the kind that happens when one transitions from being a daughter to a daughter-in-law.

I belong to a normal middle-class family, so does my husband. We got married last year. We work hard and lead a respectable life. He lives abroad, and I work with an NGO here. We are two people who really want to stay together, but our careers are what kept us apart. I currently live with my parents. Thankfully, I am a part of two families who don’t make a big deal out of where I live.

It was in the month of June when I started the process of adding my husband’s name on my passport. I had to listen to lectures at the Passport Seva Kendra for wanting to use the address of my residence instead of my in-laws’.

I understand that what I’m going to say won’t be received well in the kind of society where a woman is ‘supposed’ to live with their in-laws after marriage. It doesn’t matter what I believe in, to the society, the rules it has made are the most important.

Patriarchy has seeped into our thinking, and that reflected so well when I was forced to hear lectures on what I should be doing right from the Passport Seva Kendra employees to the police officer who visited my place for verification. They very well ensured that I realise, that a woman is a product that needs to be transferred and separated from her home to her in-laws’ home. According to them, it was the best advice they could give me.

On the website and the policy documents at the Passport Seva Kendra – They ask you to mention your current address. For the officials at the PSK, the ones I engaged with, it was technically wrong for me to write my parents’ address and that I should try to change the permanent address to that of my in-laws.

I couldn’t have used my in-laws’ address even if I wanted to, the address on my husband’s passport was that of his college.

In July, at Section B of the PSK at ITO, Delhi, I spent hours arguing with the officials about the above-mentioned, bone of contention. I do remember how the passport officials argued with me and said, “For boys, there is no issue, even if they don’t add their wife’s name. But madam, you are a girl, and I am only advising it for your better future.”

He said to his colleagues, “Dekhiye aaj kal ki generation…shaadi ke baad sasuraal me rehna chahiye…yeh aapki bhalayi keliye keh raha hu…. Isiliye address bhi aapka sasuraal waalo ka hi hona chahiye”. (Look at this generation. One should be living at the in-laws’ house after marriage. It is in your best interest to use the in-laws’ address.)

That was the day when sexist comments came my way for the first time in my life. I was shocked and surprised to see that people still thought this way.

It was only later that senior officials suggested that it was best to use my current address where I was residing if I didn’t have any suitable address proof for the in-laws’ place.

The police officer who came for verification tried to explain to me why I should’ve used my in-laws’ address even if I stayed there for a few days every month. He went on to say, “Yeh toh galat hai beta, apki bhalayi ke liye keh rah ahu, aap apne parents ke saat rehte ho, yeh tho aapka pyaar hai par shaadi ke baad tho aap vahi rehte ho… yaha rehne ka kya proof hai”. (This is wrong. I know you’re living with your parents out of love but you should be living with your in-laws after marriage, there’s no proof of you living here.)

It’s really disappointing to see how a set of people are trying hard to change rigid thinking in our society and on the other hand, we have people like these guys who never hesitate to reiterate the dominant perception of women as dependent and powerless.

I am reaching out to all the women in India – Believe in yourself and your values, be strong and fight patriarchy!

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