Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Desi Bahu...or the Indian Daughter-in-law...

Those of you conversant with what's going on in India are probably familiar with the Baba Ramdev drama. In the midst of all that hullabaloo, one line struck me forcefully as one of the many ridiculous things that continues to drag our country down. His remark about Sonia Gandhi - "She is the daughter-in-law of India, she doesn't understand her mothers and sisters".

Let me analyze this line in its entirety as it does not make sense to me...

Sonia Gandhi has made this country her home for a zillion years now, she is clearly a citizen , albeit of foriegn origin and was a prime ministerial candidate who gave up her chance to lead the country  to Dr. Manmohan Singh. To begin with, she is an individual in her own right...not solely a "daughter-in-law". But then, despite her high profile status in the country, whenever there's a political issue, she gets branded as "the daughter-in-law". If someone of her exalted status is still open to attack as the "daughter-in-law" by an equally exalted yoga guru no less, is it any wonder that women continue to suffer because of their gender in this culture?

"Daughter-in-law" of India...I am sorry but Baba you need to get your facts straight, she is not the daughter-in-law of this country, she is the daughter-in-law of the Gandhi family and an ordinary citizen of India, an "individual" who also happens to be the president of a major political party.

"She doesn't understand her mothers and sisters".....????What? Now here, I am completely lost. Why does it become her responsibility to understand the rest of the women in this country? How many people in the sphere of political activity and social activism  including Baba Ramdev himself have tried to understand this group categorized as "mothers and sisters"? Oh! Since they are not the "daughters-in-law of this country", they don't have any duties in that that it?

Ever heard of any person, political opponent or social activist, taking on the government at the center, at any point in Indian Political History, attack each other saying, you are the "son" of this country, you don't understand your fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, dogs, cats, parrots, snakes....etc etc?

(I am leaving out the "daughter" tag because it's gonna get too tangled to explicate...for one, there are not that many compared to "sons"...for another...I would have to unearth their history to determine whether they should be referred to as "daughters" or "daughters-in-law" - because that matters right?? and it's beyond the scope of this blog article)

So who or what on earth is the concept of a daughter-in-law and/or a woman in Indian culture? An individual with the normal rights, duties, emotions and limitations that go with being a human being or a human ball of clay to be formed and reformed according to the ideas put forth by all these babas and swamis and acharyas or whatever...the so called "learned men" who wrote all those nauseating tomes about the rightful "position" of women in Indian society?

Any thoughts anybody?

P.S Women moving back to India, brace yourselves for some discomfort coming from having to negotiate with a culture that is still deeply androcentric, beginning with shamelessly demanding that women include marital details while filling out forms but does not require men to do so...etc etc.


  1. Interseting read...Well, in India and the rest of the world, a daughter-in-law or mother, or wife or any woman under any of these titles exist for just one purpose. That is to make others life easier. It is that simple. And what roles you have to play or what forms you have to take depends on the situation that the woman has to improve. It is that medieval and ironic even today. It was blatantly demanded in the days of yore but now it comes veiled under more sophisticated guises.

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