Monday, 27 May 2013

An American son -in-law or an American daughter-in-law? Any guesses, who Indians prefer?

Indians settled in the United States have a saying, "If you are lucky you will get an American son-in-law, and if unlucky,  you will get an American daughter-in-law!'

And in this statement lies the essence of India's traditions, so bound against the woman. An American son-in-law is welcome for he will behave like a normal human being, expect no  dowry, no special favours , and not expect to be treated like a demi-god. He will help your daughter around the house, and when he comes over for a visit or even a meal he will share the chores and  wash the dishes. What a relief in a country where there are no servants!

But an American daughter-in-law would also behave like a normal human being, not sacrificing her interests, or subjugating her will, or herself to her in-laws who expect to be treated as the most important people in her life. She will not let them take all her decisions -  what she should wear,   what she should cook for her husband, when she should have a child, how she should look after the baby, what food to give the baby, when she should visit her family and friends ... the list can go on. The poor in-laws! She has robbed them of all the pleasures they thought would be theirs when they became the parents of a boy, their ticket to lifelong security, salvation and a pretty gilded slave, to carry out all their biddings!

What is more, the American daughter-in-law doesn't even bring dowry, and worse, makes their precious son work in the kitchen and around the house. Indian mothers, as you know, cannot bear the sight of their sons in the kitchen.

So great is the longing for a son among Indian parents, that they do not hesitate to do away with the daughter. For in these days of high costs it is expensive bringing up a child and who wants daughters when they would rather have a son. So as Indian families become smaller, the girl is sacrificed. Like this father in Hyderabad tried to do. Even as I write, somehow calling him a 'father' seems so bizarre.  A person like him should be called a fiend and put behind bars. But no, in our society behaving in this shocking way against the female of the species is tolerated. The sympathy is with the poor man for being saddled with a daughter!

18 comments:

satchitananda said...

It is really sickening to think that people can still think in this manner in this age and era - disgusting indeed and one wonders when things will change, if ever. I can never understand the need people seem to have to control and dominate every aspect of another individual's life to such an extent.

The Wizard said...

Things are changing. Its slow but its in the right direction. More and more young people are getting out of these traditional moulds and the society is more supportive too.
Social changes take years to show results..I am sure things will better maybe in a generation from now.

Shree Venkatram said...

Satchitananda, You have used an apt phrase "control and dominate every aspect of another individual's life". It is sad that our society even today gives the in-laws of a woman that power over her.

Shree Venkatram said...

The Wizard, Yes, things are changing, but very slowly in this regard. Unfortunately, women are changing fast and this is creating tensions in society.

swati1012 said...

yes things are changing and yes again at a slow pace. For even today, the most educated in-laws prefer and want to control their son and daughter-in-law lest they leave them in their ripe old age. The dominance and control can be in any form.

Shree Venkatram said...

Swati, Very very true.Why are Indian parents so insecure? Even those who have adequate means and are not monetarily dependant on their sons?(I would have loved to use the word 'children' here!)

Anonymous said...

I ended up here via blog browsing,Yes inlaws try to control the DIL and son's life as much as possible. Being a educated and working women i have gone through this phase myself and belive me i regret my decision of sitting silent and going through all the pain caused in the due act. but i made a decision afterwards and havenot allowed anyone to interuupt my life decisions,

Shree Venkatram said...

Dear Anonymous, Welcome to my blog. Yes, Indian women must learn to speak up. But it is our conditioning, the way we have been brought up that often stops us from acting in a certain way. You have been brave and have taken control of your life.

Iniyaal said...

Sad... but true. I only wish people who think like this get American-ized daughters-in-law... Hope that compels them o change their attitude.

yinrenaissance said...

You're so spot on there! But you wanna know the latest twist to this one? 'Better he brings home a girl than a boy!'.. ;) And of course vice versa.. ha ha ha! Guess you could use this to scare the next person you hear speaking about an american son-in-law vs a daughter-in-law! ;)

cheers!

j.

Shree Venkatram said...

Interesting!

Shree Venkatram said...

Iniyaal,
You do have a great remedy. Life is indeed a great teacher.At least in my life, I have noticed what I dreaded happened, and I had to learn how to deal with it. So getting the dreaded Americanised DIL should bring about the change in one's attitude!

juzta mum said...

Aptly said..Sad but every word of your post is true...

Sangeeta said...

@Shree Venkatram: You make an interesting point--"why are Indian parents so insecure?" even though (compared to western societies) ours is the more integrated one (life in the average American suburb can indeed be lonely!). Perhaps an alternative remedy is called for--would things change, for instance, if there was institutional support such as affordable, safe retirement communities which offer the promise of company, multiple facilities, activities, medical care etc.? Might the knowledge that there is a safe, secure (and devoid of loneliness) option for them to spend the later years of their lives allow them to ease their vise-like grip on their sons?

Shree Venkatram said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shree Venkatram said...

@juzta mum, Would love to see the days when things are different!
Sangeeta, I think you have hit the nail on the head. Yes, if people were assured of security in their old age their grip on sons would lessen. I have noticed that when women who are economically independent, they tend to rely less, or should I say meddle less in the affairs of their sons and ensure their husbands do so too. If we had retirement communities, many couples may choose to be there.

Singing Pilgrim said...

I AM the American daughter-in-law. And yes, it's not been pretty. My in-laws are pretty westernized themselves, they lived in the US for 6 years when my husband was a boy. But despite that, much of what you have described has happened (at least opinions on what I can wear and where I can go) when we lived with them. We moved out after the first three months of marriage, but my mother-in-law still calls my husband to make sure he's being fed... sigh. We're still newlyweds (got married in Feb 2013) so the baby thing hasn't been broached yet, but I'm already nervous about it. Well, I did bring it up when I felt totally emotionally attacked by them. I told them that if they continued to treat me that way, they wouldn't be allowed in their grandchildren's lives because I DO NOT believe in allowing people who disrespect the parents to influence the children's lives (I would say the same to my own parents if they disrespected my husband- unless you respect him and never talk bad about him to my children, you are not welcome.) This of course, caused HORROR... especially as my husband is an only child. The frustrating thing is they thought it was a threat I meant to act on, when really it was a warning- you realize the consequence if you continue this way, right? Because I WANT my children to have two sets of loving grandparents. I LOVE my grandparents (one set is still living) and adore them. I want that for my kids.. but if they undermine my authority with my children, then that's that. And while my husband soothed his mom with "I won't let her do that" I also hope the fear was enough to make her realize that when kids come around Mom and Dad are the primary authority (after God) and grandparents are below that.

Shree Venkatram said...

@Singing Pilgrim It is good you stood your ground. Being from a different culture would make things easier in some ways, and tough in some others. The in-laws will not try that hard to impose their will on you as you are a foreigner. They would not want to displease you as you are their only daughter-in-law. Moreover, they would want to maintain a good relationship with their son. You see, Indians have a strange obsession about sons. Most Indians do not consider a family complete unless there is a son. A son is the most important person in an Indian family. Literally!
On the other hand, they (most Indian parents) would go out of their way to help and support their son and you if you ever needed their help. This could get overpowering. I read a very interesting article recently about Chinese daughters in law and American mothers in law. The Chinese culture is similar to India's in terms of the family and the son. I am posting a link. Hope you find it useful: http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90782/8087661.html

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