I am the eldest of the three daughters and was raised by a single working mother. Being independent is not only a value but it runs in my blood. I was raised to believe I am no less than a man and there is nothing I can’ achieve. My growing up years were filled with brawls with my school boys, self defense practice and studies for earning money while I was growing up in Mumbai. There was also something else, which I can’t forget, a lot of pity from people. People who believed that not having a father or a brother made us helpless and hopeless. So I took the role of the elder brother and my mother became the father. So in our family actually it was mother and elder sister who were missing. But I guess no one realized that.
I would bully any boy or girl who tried to patronize my sisters and also bully my sisters into doing what I wanted them to do. Me and my mother became the patriarchs. I also created new story about my family structure just to ensure that I was not pitied by the society.
I grew up to be extremely successful in a man’s world, I made money, travelled the world and most importantly I was considered powerful. Since success of a woman was equated with dysfunctional marriage or no marriage, I proved the hypothesis null and void by getting engaged to a successful man of the same caste belonging to a extremely patriarchal family approved by the patriarchal society.
Now I was one with the society, my close family and larger family was awestruck with what I had achieved. I was now a part of the society and was trying to learn its ways constantly. But I was still not sure which role I was in my family.
Men will eat first, they need to be served, I need to wear a Saree and seek my in-laws approval, I shouldn’t sit on an equal seat as men…I started to mould myself to fit in. I was a coward trying to rebel from within my self, not knowing what is it that I looking for. I was torn.
My mother and sisters were shocked at my self transformation from a bullying teenage girl, to a powerful career woman, to a subservient daughter-in-law ( the patriarch in me believed, that is how it should be).
I became an unhappy and angry wife and started having issues with my husband. Latent anger and rage started affecting me physically and mentally.
In this story I am not the central character. The central character is my father-in-law the carrier of extreme patriarchy which took me 500 years back in human evolution. He and my mother-in-law became my teachers who helped me realize what I really wanted and what I will not accept.
My father-in-law’s conversations were degrading and disgusting. He spoke of women like slaves and objects. I started having deep feeling of abject resentment of myself when he was around. He would just sit or lie down the whole day, only getting up for his bath or defecation. During his bath or defecation the warm water had to be filled by my mother-in-law, she was an epitome of a great self sacrificing woman- always ready with “Garam-Garam roti”
Today after eleven years of my marriage my father-in-law continues to sit and order around while my mother-in-law serves like a chained slave. Now he believes that as he is growing older, she also needs to feed him, put water in his mouth, give him a bath and wash him after defecation. This man has no Physical issues, no diabetes, no heart problem, no cholesterol, no obesity. But my mother-in-law does whatever he expects her to do. It fills me with disgust when I see them in the act . I cannot relate with them. I do not want to relate with them, I seem to have come to my senses after many years of trying to learn “How to sacrifice self for others?”. It is like a cosmic jolt to my own camouflaging Patriarchy.
Who brought me to my senses? Do not be surprised, It is my mother in-law. These days every morning she comes to me with tears and pain in her eyes like a whipped animal, and says “Forty Four years, this man has ruined my life. God why don’t you just give me death.” This man calls her to serve him every five minutes, so she can’t be anywhere but near him. When he says “I have had a great life, I have done a lot for my sons.” I just want to shake him up with all my rage. This is a man who stopped working at the age of fifty and has been sitting or lying on his arse since then. He talks endlessly about morality and what a great man he his, how the coming times will be horrible, how the food we eat is horrible, how Mumbai will drown in a horrible Tsunami, how everything is horrible. This man for me is bedridden hopeless patriarchy within me, which is acting like a vegetable but its voice will be there for another twenty years, testing our hope for a bright future.
I have tried to detach myself from the voice but now I think this voice is my path to self acceptance.
I still don’t know what to do about my situation? but I know what to be….I will be myself, I will follow my instinct and wisdom in my daily interaction. If I do not agree to any statement I would practice courage. Although I know I will get to practice a lot about self preservation and self growth while they are around….but I still want them to leave my space…NOW!!