As a part of my job, that is writing, I imagine a lot. Today, I would like you to imagine- life of a kid, not very old, about 5-7 years only. What do they do? Well, they just exist. Everything else is done by their parents. From making sure they eat on time to take care of what they wear and also who they meet and be friends with. Often, parents have to tolerate their tantrums and overlook their mistakes. But why? It’s obvious. They are too young to function on their own. They are yet to develop physically, mentally and emotionally. But when I watched this series Indian Matchmaking on Netflix, I was like What’s going on? Why are these men (to be grooms) behaving exactly like toddlers?
To be honest, I wasn’t planning to watch the series but peer pressure forced me to do this. Most of my friends were really pissed and couldn’t even dare to watch past the first episode. But I gladly accepted the challenge. And there’s so much I learned from the show. I know what you want to say. The series has presented India in bad light. Really? I think the whole process of arranged marriages has been whitewashed as if picked up from a Karan Johar movie. Just imagine- there’s no ugly talk about the groom’s income or what gifts the girl’s family is going to exchange etc. You would have to acknowledge the efforts being put in by Sima aunty who’s trying so hard to appear like an actual matchmaker and not a human matrimony site that is programmed to accept variables like caste, height, complexion, physique, presence of family values (read open to compromise unconditionally) and horoscope only. Everything else is “not important for a successful marriage”.
And I am not going to judge the series either as a regressive show or a mirror to the society. I think enough has been discussed on the topic and my point of view isn’t much different. But what I want to talk about today is the change we all need in the way we perceive marriage in India. I feel that the future of gender equality in the country depends on it and the sooner we make progress towards this change, the better position we are in.
Why should the girl move to the guy’s house after wedding?
This is not the complete question. Why should the girl move to the guy’s house after wedding? Why do both sets of parents not move in with the newly wed couple? Isn’t marriage in India about the union of two families and not about abducting a girl (in the form of daughter-in-law and also asking for ransom in form of dowry/gifts without returning the poor girl)? In my opinion, India has a beautiful culture that encourages family values and companionship but it saddens me to think that it favors patriarchy. Anyway, this write up is not about women, it’s actually about men-empowerment because watching the series, I realized how the patriarchy as a system uses men as pawns to keep the machine running.
Men as the victims of patriarchy
Women are weak both physically and mentally
A woman is a burden on her family that they get rid of by marrying her off
A woman is born to take care of her father, brother, husband, in-laws, son etc.
Women are best suited for home chores and taking care of children only.
A woman is her family’s property and should obey what they say
An ideal woman is someone who is slim, fair and beautiful
A woman can be very manipulative so men should never listen to a woman except their mother
A daughter-in-law if not controlled can break the home
Family traditions hold the utmost importance and the responsibility lies with the women in the family
Mentioned above, are a few of the tenets widespread in the society. This is something which is fed in the mind of girls and boys from a young age. I remember having grown up watching several ads on DD National with funny jingles that used to say that son and daughter are the same and daughter too can shoulder the same responsibilities. The negative connotation of this entire PR exercise was that it made people believe that by providing good food and education to girls, they can make their girls as socially significant as sons, as if men are some superior human beings. This is the reason why I always hate it when my father tells me “You are our son”.
And in this endeavor to change our daughters into sons, we forgot our sons in the cradle only. While watching the series, I actually felt sad to see Akshay who was emotionally blackmailed into getting married against his will. Did you all notice the significant difference between the men and women in the show? While the women across India and US were independent, confident, had their priorities set clear and knew what they wanted, men like Pradyuman and Akshay were totally the opposite. While the women drove the entire conversation around marriage and life partner, the men were shyly sitting in one corner, waiting for their family to take the lead.
Modern women are being encouraged to be independent while men are still being taught to fulfil family’s expectations
Ok, I know this might not sound entirely true. A woman’s freedom whether physical or mental comes with caveats like “be back by 7 pm”, “have a job till you get married”, “pursue your hobby by your in laws’ permission” and so on. But with so many movements around the world, us ladies are getting there. I admit it’s far from perfect. We juggle hard between job and family. Even after being independent and confident, we often have to listen to people’s rants and taunts and yet keep smiling but at least, we know what we are fighting for. But when it comes to men, majority of them still follow the age-old rule book: The boy has to act strong. The boy has to earn more. The boy has to be taller. The boy has to bring home a wife who can take care of the household. The boy has to ensure he doesn’t listen to his wife too much. The boy needs to have a steady and stable job. The boy shouldn’t do any home chores. While the girl is taught she’s paraya dhan and needs to leave the family home one day, boys are taught that they are ghar ka chirag, eternally bound to the responsibility towards home and family.
I will stalk you, call you, date you, romance you but would marry the girl of my mom’s choice
I am not sure if you too have seen this around. A number of my female friends from different age groups have complained of emotional unavailability of men they date. While a number of these women have been looking for a deeper emotional connection with a hope of future together, there is a lack of commitment from the other end despite setting the objective clear in the beginning. I have even seen one of my friends’ boyfriend severing all contacts with her suddenly because his family refused for the alliance. One of my male acquaintances went home and was forced to marry a girl of his mom’s choice while still being in a live-in relationship. Just imagine the horror of his girlfriend. I cannot really comment whether its a trend or exception but I remembered this observation when I saw Vinay ghosting Nadia.
What’s the matter with the ladke ki maa?
Ok, enough of talk about the men of patriarchy. Now let’s talk about the women of patriarchy. Women like Akshay’s mom who has made her sons so dependent on her that all they can think of is their mother. They want to marry a girl like their mother who can pack their tiffin, cut mangoes and feed them! They want a girl who is “flexible” enough to fit in the family. She’s supposed to be educated enough to match the guy’s intellect but sanskari enough not to choose having a career. I remember someone once asking my mother-in-law, “Why did you bring a daughter-in-law from other state?” It did sound as if I was an object that one gets in the market.
Enough of the rants but being a mother of a son is perhaps a ticket to getting the society’s respect. A woman who has suffered discrimination and disrespect as a daughter and a wife suddenly gets a privilege on becoming a son’s mother. She is relieved that she would never be judged on what sanskar she gave to her child. She would not have to teach her child to compromise everyday. She would not have to see her child living the same life she lived. She wouldn’t have to let go of her child after marriage. Instead, that space is filled up with insecurities now. The son is the flag bearer of the family name. He’s going to become the showpiece of the family, something to be flaunted and be proud of. What if he doesn’t take up a“respectable” career option? What if he marries a girl who threatens her position and her privilege? Perhaps this is the place from where all the mollycoddling comes. What do you think?
When will reality kiss the sleeping men?
I have often heard men around me say, “We hate feminists coz they hate us. There are girls being abused and killed but what feminists want is equality. It’s not that important. Feminists don’t acknowledge the good men instead stereotype the entire male population”. What they often don’t realize is that feminism does not consider men as the perpetrators but as victims just like women. The war is not against a gender but a system that manipulates and instigates the victims to be the culprits and this is a cycle.How do we break the cycle? That’s a very difficult question to answer but may be start by identifying and changing gender-based beliefs and customs. We should understand that culture can be celebrated and traditions can be modified without a particular section doing all the compromises. Why not begin with a little empathy?
- Men and children, when you enjoy the feast during festivals, just consider there is someone in the kitchen who’s investing hours tirelessly, all alone.
- Dependents of “the man of the house”, when you see him braving all the odds alone with a smile on face, just remind him that he’s a human too and is entitled to feel stressed, talk about it, cry to relieve tension.
- Husbands, when you see your wife juggling between office, kids and home chores, just remember it’s not only her job.
- Parents, when you teach your daughters how to cook, just include your sons too. When you teach your sons money matters, don’t forget your daughters too.
- Prospective in-laws, just because marriage is a relationship that’s not defined by birth, it doesn’t mean marriage is a shopping spree. Consider compatibility between the couple first before judging on skin color and income.
I know, most probably Indian Matchmaking was scripted and men like Akshay and Pradyuman were portrayed in a bad light to create buzz but I could not help but think of all the marriage alliances that have happened around me. I clearly remember how one of my close friends rejected a marriage proposal only because the girl didn’t know how to cook. When I asked him if he can cook, he said the question is invalid because he’s a boy. However, I am very happy that today he contributes equally in home chores. This is because five years ago, he was fed with some age-old rules of gender stereotypes but over the past few years, he actually understood the real meaning of companionship and partnership. And this is what many of us could feel watching Vyasar talking about his future spouse. And with this positive note, let’s hope for a better season of Indian Matchmaking (God forbid, if the show gets a nod from Netflix).