Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Surreal Conversation

"I can't believe this is happening in this day and age" - have you ever heard someone say that? I guess it means that when we have progressed in so many many areas, it's difficult to fathom how some things never change. I had one such conversation today

S: I wanted to talk to you. I might have to take some time off from work

Me: Is everything ok?

S: Well, I got my daughter married to a "nice boy" last year and had a very grand wedding, as you know (I went for the wedding. It was indeed "grand"). Everything was fine for a while. And then my daughter's mother-in-law (I'm calling her MIL from here on), started abusing my daughter.

Me: What? What kind of abuse? (I was thinking does it matter?)

S: What else? Dowry, only. I gave so much and I also spent so much on the wedding. But still MIL was very rude and shouting at my daughter and said I have to give her property and whatnot.

Me: You should report her to the police.

S: What's the use? If I do, and she and her son are put in jail for 7 years, then it's my daughter who will suffer. I spoke to the lawyer who said not to do that now.

Me: Hmm.

S: I think if they have a baby everything will be solved. But MIL will not let them. She calls her son correctly at 7.30 pm when he is just come from work and keeps him on the phone. Sometimes she asks him to come to visit her late in the night, and says she has some problem. She says she will throw my daughter out if she comes between her and her son.

(long pause)

S: MIL hit her so much that my daughter had to be taken to the hospital. Whenever the son is at work, MIL beats up my daughter and makes her do demeaning things.

Me: What about the boy's father? What does he say?

S: He's just a "dummy". He just sits there - just a namesake father.

Me: I still think you should report to the police. If more people thought about the crime, maybe it wouldn't happen. When you are scared that they will take their anger out on your daughter, its difficult to see the crime taking place.

S: Anyway. My health is suffering. I wish she will get pregnant then everything will be okay. I hope she does not send my daughter home.


The conflict. Doing the right thing vs. the well-being of your daughter. I can't believe this is an actual conversation I had this morning. S is a high-grade manager, making a decent amount of money, educated. Daughter is educated (with an MBA), and married to a successful banker.

Are you shocked? Or are you saying "Yea Yea This Happens Everywhere"?

46 comments:

Cilantro said...

I agree this happens even today inspite of the girls being educated. There has to be a social awareness mostly among women. I also beleive that the society is changing for the worse as time goes by.

There were days when the bridegroom`s family paid for all the expenses and gave in some gold in marriage. Now it has become the bride`s family responsibility.
Let`s all hope for a change in our society.

ms said...

Im not shocked, but it certainly demands action. Surely that boy is an invertebrate if he does not even observe the physical evidence on his bride. Should one remain married to an invertebrate? Marriage and life has many crises and how we handle this gives a measure of our character. And to have a baby on top of this? Changing tradition needs a million small mutinies, there wont be a grand singular revolutionary sweep ever.

Jamie said...

Arundathi, oh my goodness. Why does she want her daughter to stay there if she is getting beat up? I know that there are cultural things at play here that maybe I don't understand, but why would the mother want her to stay? Why would an educated woman stay and let herself get abused? And one more questions, what is the husband doing about this? Doesn't he care?

Bubli said...

I am shocked

"then it's my daughter who will suffer"

Isn't her daughter suffering right now?

In this case more than the mother daughter should take some actions.. there is no point enduring this.

The Self-Proclaimed Wordsmith said...

You have to be f***ing joking! How can this friend allow her daughter to be treated in this manner? As the commenter before me points out, the daughter is suffering right now. I mean, for God's sake, she's been taken to hospital for wounds.

Besides, your friend's assumption is that once her daughter has a baby, everything will be all right. However, I'm really not convinced that'll be the case (of course, I don't know any particulars, so treat my comments with a grain of salt). Why would the situation change just because the daughter gets pregnant? The MIL seems like a complete psycho. Is she stuck in the Middle Ages? Asking for property, saying the dowry wasn't enough - that's just unbelievable.

I think your friend should file a criminal case against the mother, if not the son. 7 years in prison for dowry + criminal charges. I don't know how the daughter could suffer any more than she already has. Living in such a household seems like Hell on Earth.

Rain said...

did ever cross ur friends mind to ask the girl what she wanted????

And yes...im shocked....i understand there's alot of mental abuse...but physical...wow!! I wish the girl had more spunk and kick them in their faces mil and the son!!! And baby is bad bad idea now!!! If thongs get worse she wont be able to leave lest the baby be estranged from her father...!! Pathetic!!

Arundathi said...


Cilantro - I agree that there has to be a change but I doubt it'll be collective effort - it has to start with one person.

ms - I agree that there will not be a sudden sweep. And the boy is definitely an invertebrate, but maybe doesn't want to anger/ hurt his mother either.

Jamie - Actually it was the father of the bride that I was talking to. And yes, I too cannot understand how you can stand by and let your daughter continue to get abused. But it doesn't look like the daughter wants to leave either. She's hoping things will right themselves.

Bubli - Yes she is suffering, but I guess the father thinks she will suffer even more when her husband is in jail. Don't ask!! Crazy!

The Self-Proclaimed Wordsmith - The thing is, people aren't shocked by this story (ie the majority). These things are almost common in India.
My colleague thinks that the baby will bring the couple together and hence solve their problems (maybe hoping the husband will start taking the wife's side instead of his mother's?).
It's just unbelievable to me that you can sit by and wait for your daughter to leave an abusive household.

Rain - Yes my colleague did ask his daughter what she wanted. The daughter wants to stay and said she will let him know when she can't take it anymore! But, as parents, aren't you supposed to keep your child away from harm?
Yes, having a baby is a bad idea - especially if its just to sort out family issues!

Bharti said...

I have to say I'm surprised. But then again, I have been away for so long. Actually I guess I'm surprised because these are educated working professionals you are talking about. That's a horrible situation, to say the least, because no one is standing up to it. I mean of all the the things, the mom thinks a baby will solve the issue. How???

Arundathi said...


Bharti - I too was hoping that education will cure most evils that exist in Indian society today. That educated women are more likely to stand up for their rights. But this proves tradition and social "acceptance" is far more important.
In their mind, the baby will bring the couple closer together and have the husband on the wife's side. They're not thinking of the baby.

Superchef said...

im not exactly shocked at the incident, but shocked that such an educated girl is not stepping up and defending herself. Its after all a woman against a woman, so physical stregth advantage and, if at all any, it is with the young girl!! and the husband should have the nerves to protect his wife as well!! i would say not worth being marrried to a guy like that!

Arundathi said...


Superchef - Yes, I agree. She should be able to stand up for herself, and have the support of her husband. That would be in an ideal world.

Ranjani said...

I'm shocked! but I can't say I'm entirely surprised...I feel sorry for the girl, but she needs to stand up for herself. what will a baby do to an already turbulent marriage and family relations...god forbid the baby is a girl, that'll start another war!
My mil actually had the nerve to tell me I should have children since I haven't been working for the past month..and forget about having a career, and raise a family because it'll snap me out of my overall gloom and give me some purpose...can you believe the nerve of that woman?!! and she has been in the US for the past 30+ yrs...I guess some things and some ppl never change and clearly education does not make people less tolerant of social evils. MIL's suck period.

Arundathi said...

Ranjani!! Omg -I've missed you! where have you been?

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I'm not shocked. I have friends who've grown up with me. More educated than me and they take it. They take it all.

Some don't tell their parents. And the ones that do are asked to adjust.

And then they even talk of : all this will go away in sometime. What is surprising in this case is that they seem tohave a nuclear family not living with their in laws?

Considered counselling?

e t e r n a l said...

education and money all that matters even till date. still there are MIL's who treat DIL in such a way... calling others for help is of no use. i feel, gal should something for herself rather than going for help. and the guy seems to be useless dummy one...

wish, ppl change soon!

Arundathi said...

Nandini Vishwanath - I don't think they've considered counseling. Maybe they don't know whom to go to? Or maybe they think they can resolve it themselves.

Eternal - Yes I think it will all change only when girls help themselves. There's only so much other people can do

j k said...

well i thought of rediscovering chennai, but found more about you. great blog and i m surprised to find that you been blogging for years

Arundathi said...

jk - lol! Yes it is definitely Chennai through my eyes. But I guess this is my blog, so... :)

Israa said...

It is indeed awful.
I'm a crisis counselor for victims of rape and sexual assault including domestic violence in the U.S. and I also run a support group. These things definately do happen everywhere (especially in those shame-based cultures), and this is all the more reason to advocate for the survivors. I have never actually lived in India for a long period of time, so I'm not sure how the police would even react to it (if at all?).

Malar Gandhi said...

I not shocked at all...it happens everywhere...

Though not beeting part, most of the time..,somthing called home politics/verbal abuse...

MIL's are always greedy creatures in this world.

Raaga said...

I'm not surprised... irks me still, but I'm not surprised.

I bought an apartment when I was 25 and have worked really hard to pay off the loan. When I got married, my MIL actually thought I should sell it... because as a couple we needed the money... and her other idea was that I should make my husband the co owner... or better still transfer the apartment to his name... now why in the world......... who cares... she's the "boy's" mother you see.

Raaga said...

Of course I must mention that before I could say anything, S shut her up. So that's her bigger issue... son of 30 years, full love for her and all... now suddenly taking wife's side and asking mom to shut up... HUGE issues.

Arundathi said...

Israa - I want to believe that the police will help but I'm sure the truth varies from one police station to the next. The cynic in me says that the police can be "paid off" or bribed to turn a blind eye. But if we don't have some belief in the police enforcing the law, then what hope do we have?

Malar Gandhi - MILs are not always greedy creatures. But yes a majority are.

Raaga - LOL!! Change it to his name? What was she smoking?! Any MILs reading this - Let your sons go!!!

workhard said...

That is just so sick, it is very surprising to know how educated people can bend to that.. the woman should just walk out cause her husband is not man enough to deal with and take care of his wife properly


Haiku Poems

Arundathi said...

workhard - I guess the woman can't walk out without making sure that there isn't another choice.

Anonymous said...

Hi Arundathi,

Just stumbled onto your blog - what a refreshing read!

This makes me sad. I know someone who lived overseas, and was abused by her husband. Marriage eventually broke up. To this day, she and her family feel so much shame over it the breakup!! She should be commended for surviving that marriage, not embarrassed.

And a baby will fix it???? Create custody issues, more like!

Arundathi said...

Anonymous - Yup, a baby doesnt solve bad marriages. And your friend should definitely be glad to be away from an abusive relationship - nobody deserves that.

Sudhanthira said...

"The conflict. Doing the right thing vs. the well-being of your daughter."

I am not even sure if this is the conflict. Its not like the daughter is going to have a happy life after a child right? It is exactly for the well-being of the daughter that the MIL must be handed over to the police. I think the conflict is more to do with doing what's best for your daughter vs what's best for society approval.

BTW, good blog here and nice post!! Enjoyed visiting :)

Cheers,
Christina

Arundathi said...

Sudhanthira - I find that societal approval lords over most other objectives, especially in India. And especially with people who live in villages.

Kay said...

It's just sad. :(

And no, this doesn't happen just in India. I do know that in some sections of US women are asked to suck it up and put up with mental and physical abuse. Well educated, financially ok women!

As long as a woman doesn't stand up for herself, nothing will lever change.

so glad to have found your blog.

Arundathi said...

Kay - thanks for stopping by. I can imagine there are women all over the world (and maybe some men too?) who are being abused and aren't able to stick up for themselves. I don't think education has anything to do with it. It's values, and inner strength and opportunity and timing and a million other things!

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Rathna said...

Hi Arundathi,

I was actually reading your food blog and then landed here and ended up reading your post 'Surreal Conversation'. The particularly large piece of conversation where 'S' describes of 'MIL's techniques like calling her son over phone @7:30, asking him to visit her late at nights made me write this comment. Two points to note - (1) 'MIL' calls her son on phone everyday at 7:30
(2) 'MIL' asks her son to visit late in the nights 'coz she has soem problem.
Now a few questions:
(1) So, is the 'MIL' & son not living in the same house?
(2a)If they are not living in the same house, does 'MIL' visit the son's house to beat up her 'DIL' (Daugher-In-Law) and make her do demeaning things? (2b) If they are in the same house why does 'MIL' have to call her son on phone!!??

Maybe you should ask 'S' about it! Just my 2 cents!
And btw, your food blogs are great!

Anonymous said...

Oh my God!a baby only makes things worse, though there isn't a baby yet, I already feel pity for that baby. She needs to get out of that marriage. Today. It is domestic violence and a crime.

Arundathi said...


Rathna - I think they live separately because the MIL was beating her up. Not completely sure though.

Anonymous - I agree. A child will only make things worse, and the poor child will suffer in the end.

Preethi said...

I am shocked!! in this day and age?? Whats wrong with these people.. the girl is educated.. why would she put up with this? and what is the husband doing? I think she is better off living on her own.. having a child would be a big mistake!!

Arundathi said...


Preethi - I agree - educated women need to stand up for their rights. But its easier said than done esp in India where societal pressure plays such an important role.

Anonymous said...

Nothing new happening in chennai to write about?

- Chennaite living abroad, who visits this blog to keep up about stuff happening in Chennai

Arundathi said...


Anonymous - Lots happening but haven't had a chance to post anything! Will do! And thanks for stopping by.

M said...

Arundathi... ideally speaking, I think you should report the mother (your friend), and the in laws to the police! The mother deserves to be in jail as much as the in laws! Not only did she commit the crime of GIVING dowry, she is probably even obstructing the reporting of another crime to the authorities.

I just hope the MBA girl comes to her senses soon and does something about it... like not let her husband/MIL beat her and if they still do, she could just walk out! even by working in a call center she could easily support herself! and yeah, if she does get back her lost senses, then not only her in laws, but she should give a piece of her mind to her mother!

It's because of such in laws and such MOTHERS, that it is so difficult to get rid of ONE social evil!

But yeah, all the above said would be right to do only IDEALLY... in reality, nothing will happen... you obviously and very understandably would not want to create any problems for the mother... the mother will continue being the same, probably the in laws too... the girl, listening to her mother, will soon have a child in an attempt to make her life better! But how better can it get really?? Does domestic violence (dowry harassment too) ever end... just by itself... without anyone doing anything about it, apart from brining kids into this brutal situation?

Sangeetha said...

Hi Arundhati! I came across this blog looking for something on Chennai. Nice blog!
I am shocked to read this post. I totally blame the girl. One for allowing your parents to give dowry. Two, not having the spunk to stand up against MIL and husband, especially when you are educated. 3. Reporting all this to your old mom?
I am sorry that I cannot be more sympathetic. Women need to stand up for themselves. I hope she i able to get out of the situation.

venkat_(n)ever_thinking said...

Hi Arundhati, I'm a random visitor to your blog just as the person who commented before me.
Wel, its really really shocking that things like this are endured in middle/upper class social circles... I mean i thought such things exist nowadays only amongst the poorer people.
I disagree with your friend about her thinking that it will be alright after they have a kid. A kid is infact a trap into that family. After the kid, the girl wil endure almost anything "for the sake of the child"
Although I don't know the girl, my sincere prayers to her!

Anonymous said...

Hi, googled lettuce leaves in chennai read Ur article on Maison de gourmet and ended up here :)
A friend of mine went through a similar situation ...was also forced to quit her job just to make her financially dependent. Flash forward =>she did have a baby .,, obv. Didnt help matters and now she can't wait for a divorce!

What happened next ???? Did the girl in ur article get a happy ending?
Girls ought to mandatorily learn martial arts just to drop-kick the psychos out there.

Niranjan said...

I also know many who have hoped that a kid would change things like magic. Nothing changes but since they have kids they dont want to break-up. They just live whats left of life for the kids and the society.
Life isnt any better for girls who got separated unless they get a very understanding second husband

Chickoo said...

Arundati,
My sister can be that MBA girl! Her MIL would ask them not to close their bedroom door as she had issues that her son would have sex with his wife! Her MIL bitch also poisoned her food when she was pregnant and ended up aborting her baby. My parents went and lodged a complaint with the police, they arrested the MIL and FIL. They still live under the same roof, she is still married to that impotent bastard. But, now, her Inlaws are shit scared. They are not abusing her now. And,yes, she has a baby, but that did not help her in ANY way.

Deepa

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