I am married to a highly traditional north Indian family. In North India, particularly among the Hindus, a nose piercing is one of the “solah shringar” (sixteen adornments) for the bride and consequently, in a few orthodox families, it is considered essential for a married lady too.
I never liked the thought of getting my nose pierced and neither did my mom.
However, my old school mother-in-law couldn’t comprehend the fact that her daughter-in-law doesn’t wear a nose ring. As she had the official title of a ‘Mother-in-Law’ now, she felt it was alright to have the following conversation with me.
Mother-in-law (MIL): “Tumhari naak kyun nahi chidi hai?” (Why isn’t your nose pierced?)
Me: “Kyunki mujhe pasand nahi hai.” (Because I don’t like it.)
MIL: “Tumhari pasand ke bare me kaun pooch raha hai. Iska khayal to tumhari maa ko rakhna chahiye tha. Tum choti thi tab hi chidwa dena chahiye tha. Hosh nahi tha kya unko.” (No one is asking about your choice. Your mother should have taken care of this. She should have got your nose pierced when you were a kid. Where was her mind then?)
I stood there in disbelief. I was dumbstruck. It was beyond reasoning for someone to bring my mother into a non-essential conversation and then start speaking against her. Soon, I gathered my senses and realised that she was trying to show me that she was the ‘Mother Of The Groom’ and my mom, ‘The Mother Of The Bride.’
Before anyone jumps to a conclusion, my mother-in-law is otherwise a nice lady and we share our special love-hate relationship. Probably, she’s been waiting for this day all her life – when she could act like the mother of the groom and misbehave with a meek, submissive daughter-in-law.
Unfortunately, her dreams were shattered, for she got me as her daughter-in-law. I have always been a supporter of equality, so how could I tolerate any inequality in the name of being an ideal daughter-in-law?
To some I may sound overdramatic, making a mountain of a mole-hill. But, honestly, if I had let it go considering it just a mole-hill, it would have become a mountain someday.
So I replied, “My parents always believed in giving me choices even when I was a kid. Marrying your son was a choice I made, not my parents. To prove my choice right, don’t you ever bring my mother unnecessarily in conversations or speak ill about her.”
Well, as you can guess, another family melodrama followed soon after as to how the nayi bahu (new bride) talked back to her sasuma (mother-in-law); and how my mother has not taught me anything about behaving with my in-laws.
But I decided to keep quiet this time, because I thought it would too much to handle for them in a day. And there was a lot of melodrama already, so it was time for some peace.
However, I did give them a piece of my mind and a told them a thing or two about equality during my subsequent visits. Many such irrelevant conversations keep happening time and again. I keep taking a stand for myself.
Then, the question: does it really matter? Will things really change in society at large? Is it really advisable to go to lengths just to be labeled bad names? In the end, always the daughter-in-law will be labeled as impudent.
Their mindset will remain the same, that the daughter-in-law isn’t equal to their own kids. They will still feel appropriate to say or do nasty things to the daughter-in-law as if it were their birthright. So is it really worth it?
Well, it certainly is. It is important to define boundaries. It is important to make a choice for ourselves. Giving in to their choices will make things no better. So, it’s better to live life on your terms and hear names rather trying hard to please other people and then hear names.
In order to gain respect from others, we women need to respect ourselves first. We should not let ourselves be treated just as someone’s pride and/or possession, or their “ghar ki izzat” (the home’s/family’s honour). We should learn to treat ourselves and fellow women as an individual and a human first.
Remember, every drop fills an ocean. Every question we ask today, each voice we raise today, every action we take today, is taking us a step closer to a better tomorrow.