Diary of a Feminist: The Ties That Bind

There is something get­ting on my nerves day by day: it’s hypocrisy in our society and our life. Above all, in familial relation­ships. It makes me sick and I dread the day when it would rob me completely of my trust and pride and good feelings I have for the ‘family’.

The ‘family’ of the East has been so glorified and its accounts so studded with adjectives like ‘love’, ‘warmth’, ‘cohesiveness’, ‘stability’, etc., that it’s almost a sacrilege to point out any flaws, glar­ing or subtle. You can only talk about ‘the good’ and dare not contemplate ‘the bad and the ugly’.

And the last thing you can question is the parent-child rela­tionship.

I accept whole heartedly that parents really care for and love their offspring and think of nothing but their welfare. But something goes wrong somewhere in the pro­cess and when the child be­comes an adult, an individual in his or her own right, the picture changes.

Perhaps it happens when the parents start feeling they have sacrificed their lives for the children and the children begin to wonder if they would ever be able to repay the ‘sac­rifice’. The air becomes loa­ded with ‘I’ve-done-so-much-for-you’. A sort of lament – silent yet pervading.

I suspect it is ‘sacrifice’ that plays the villain and alters the relationship: love swaps with unfulfilled expectations and responsibility switches into duty.

And that is the worst part.

Because duty is something imposed upon one from the outside, whereas responsibi­lity, in its true sense, is an en­tirely voluntary act; it is your response to the needs, expres­sed or unexpressed, of an­other human being.

And when you care for somebody out of sheer duty how can you call it love? I don’t say love dies at this stage. I just say that love re­mains no more the governing factor in the relationship.

Mind you, I am not against the sense of duty. It’s some­thing which makes us distinct from animals. And a sense of duty and lack of love is defi­nitely much, much better than the absence of both. But call a spade a spade.

This altered relationship happens more frequently in the mother-son bond. And I think the mother-son bond in our soci­ety is so complex and strange that we really need to explore it.

Remember Nancy Friday exploring mother-daughter relationship in the western society in My Mother Myself? I wish a discerning male from our society would study and document the least explored of human relationships. I don’t want the mother’s – the woman’s – point of view but of the son’s, the man’s.

And why don’t I particu­larly go for a study on mother-daughter relationship? Be­cause it’s crystal clear. You can see through it. The close­ness, the life-long support, the empathy between mother and daughter in our culture. Even the ambivalence, the love-hate is not vague but clearly etched out.

A friend of mine, married, playing the role of daughter-in-law, says that instead of the concept and practice of daughters’ rukhsati after mar­riage, it should be the son’s – married off and leave the house with fanfare, tears and dignity after rukhsati. The daughter should stay at the parents’ house after marriage and the son-in-law be taken in.

She has a point. And if you really delve deep into it you’d find this suggestion if put into practice would make our fam­ily life trouble-free and smooth. I have come across a few girls whose husbands have become ghar-damaad and believe me, they are so happy (the girl, the boy, and the girls’ parents) and I have come across so many girls who live with the in-laws and they are so miserable (the girl, the boy, and the boy’s parents).

After marriage, the son’s re­lationship with his mother un­dergoes a change. So why not cope with the change in a bet­ter way? Why the hypocritical values, hypocritical life styles? Why not be honest?

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