Damaad – a pain in your butt if you have a daughter

Sonali Mukherjee

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Our maid looked dazed and in a complete disarray, as she came in for work today. One glance at her demeanor and you could tell, something was wrong.
I am not one of those who would let it be, when they see such things, so I asked, “Kya hua?”.

The other maid replied on her behalf, “Pati ne peeta!”.

True for a lot of Indian women. True in general all around the world. There is a ton of domestic violence and it’s happening everywhere.

Let’s just call them with their names, so that it’s easier.

Rajwati got hit and Urmilla told me about Rajwati’s story.

Now, Rajwati, her husband (who works as a mason) and their four kids (3 daughters and a son) left Bihar a few months back to find work outside. As Shagun and I learned, they were neck deep in debt, from the weddings of two daughters. Yes, dowry. That’s how they got themselves into trouble.

For masons/daily-wage labourers, finding work in the rainy season can be very tough. Now, that we are in the thick of the monsoon season here in Dehradun, Rajwati’s husband is having trouble finding work. And with his drinking habit to support, the family is struggling. Rajwati’s work brings some money, but not enough to stay afloat.

Their eldest daughter is married and settled in Delhi. Their son-in-law (read Damaad, in Hindi) is a tailor by profession and a very decent and likeable young man- this I have been repeatedly told by the doting mother-in-law – Rajwati.

“Damaad” (son-in-law) – the word is quite a power-packed term, here in India. “Damaads” enjoy a somewhat demi-god status here in India. They are both worshiped and dreaded by their in-laws. They command tremendous respect just by the sheer virtue of their relationship as the son-in-law. They get what they want. And they usually want a lot. If you know the Indian culture, then you know very well what I mean. A “damaad” can be some serious piece of work.

So, now when Rajwati’s damaad was visiting her, she wanted to cook something nice. You know you are bound by an invisible law of the Indian culture and its dictates to keep them happy and pleased. Rajwati’s husband being a daily-wage worker and one out of work for a while, there wasn’t money in the house to cook grand food.

Many Indian women live on the edge of their sanity, because of an alcoholic husband, who maybe spending his meager wage on alcohol and who doesn’t want to have anything to do with his kids’ education and their upbringing. But ah these husbands, sure would like their women to be subservient- have food ready before and upon their arrival from work; clothes ready to wear to work; ever so waiting upon him; at his beck and call and yeah ready to have sex with him upon his command. Indian men could use slaves instead of wives.

So, what must an Indian man do, if his wife were to ever so remotely raise the issue of him not earning enough money? Well, there are plenty of options here. Let’s see:

  • he could slap her in the face,
  • he could slap and kick her and not know when to stop,
  • call her a whore and accuse her of sleeping with a neighbour, a friend, the autorickshaw driver, the local shopkeeper, Tom, Dick, Harry…
  • claim that the children she bore him are someone elses,
  • scar her face with acid,
  • say “nice” things about her parents,
  • remind her of what little her parents gave him in dowry, and then consider burning her alive or stabbing her, or doing something ghastly, for insufficient dowry warrants such actions and should never go unpunished,
  • draw inspiration from Taliban, especially from their flamboyant history of torturing women,
  • kick her out of his house,
  • do all of the above and do them repeatedly.

So Rajwati’s husband chose to hit her. Easy. That settled everything. How dare a woman complain about the abilities of her husband! These low lives.
And if she does, then quite obviously she needs help, to rectify her situation. And we Indian men, are ever so ready to provide the right help, should our wives astray from their paths.
I know of many horrid stories of men being everything but men of honour to their wives. Treating them like scumbags.

Not having fancy stuff in the house to offer God when He visited, was a matter of extreme shame and humiliation for Rajwati. Perhaps a decent “damaad” could allay some of the worries of his in-laws? Perhaps he could eat less if there was less in the house and more when there was abundance. Perhaps he could exhibit some love and humility? Perhaps he ought to act more like a member of the family (which he is!)? Perhaps he could be fair and just? Perhaps he could be a man? He should be one.

So what about his wife? Just think for a moment, his in-laws are his wifes’ parents! Is it OK for him to see them struggle, in order to please him? Is it OK to know that someone lives and act as if in an eternal obligation and encourage that behaviour? How do women feel when their parents are subjected to dowry? How do they feel when their parents are humiliated?
How can a man live with this? What are these men, these things?

Would you not want to be helpful to your in-laws if they were struggling? Or would you rather choose to hurt, torture and play games if your unqualified, unjust and unrighteous demands were not met?

The truth of man’s existence is, that after all the mastery of our wills, shall always prevail. Knowing what right from wrong is only a step. Choosing then to do right, consummates a righteous thought. God, too cannot coerce us into loving Him. We must choose to love! That’s how powerful our will is.
If the low nature of man can choose not love God, what chance does the paltry creature – man, stand of being loved by another man?

Rendezvousing to our the main point, when it comes to your daughters, you wish for decent “damaads”, don’t you? Men of respect and honour.
Question is, did you play right when it came your wifes’ parents, to whom you are “damaad”, and with & through whose daughter you now have a daughter, waiting to be married to the right man?
Or, were you equally a pain in their butt?

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