Book Review: Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum
Authored by: Dr Rachna Arora & Deepika Sharma
Released in 2016 by Authors press, New Delhi
Rating: Four stars
Today, March 8, the world celebrates International Women Day and it is important to reflect on the place held by women in society who makes several choices that defines their life, career and issues that plague them in juggling family and professional life. The book, ‘Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum’ assesses issues faced by women in their married life which is often dictated by a patriarchal society that treats the ‘fairer sex’ as inferior and roles they are expected to play in society. Often, religion, rites and rituals get the upper hand where women face the ire of misplaced rules in society. The author addresses several themes pertaining to relationships, expected roles for women, stereotyping and equal values which seems to wane by the day. The issues treated in the book is timeless, relevant during the bygone era, the present and the future where it seems dogmatic views has not changed an iota no matter how much we shout hoarse about equality in society. In short, ‘Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum’ serves as guide in terms of practicalities in offering first-hand account and is a small bible that has explored in-depth the role of woman in their married life. Let’s analyze the focal points.
“Post marriage, my life has become miserable because of constant interference from the family members. I am expected to take permission from my in-laws before buying clothes for myself. Privacy is an alien concept in the house, as my sisters-in-law walk freely into our room at odd hours.”
Authors Dr Rachna Arora & Deepika Sharma use first-hand accounts in exploring the situation of women who often lack the support of their respective husbands in several instances and points out at the so-called happy and long-lasting marriage. Pride is taken in a society like ours where divorce is taboo. Unfortunately, many of us prefer to evade the grim reality and we proudly wear the veil of seeing everything hunky-dory but had we chosen to look behind the curtains, a box of Pandora would unveil right in front of our eyes. In this book, the right questions are asking on the role of mother in-laws in the way they treat their daughters where honest questions and assertiveness is recommended for the woman so that she is not taken for granted.
The role of extended family is also being addressed and the courtship period where the mandatory six months is recommended before a woman takes the plunge. The authors recommend on the need for a woman to put things in perspective and not succumb to the pressure of tying the knot. Oh! The famous log kya kahenge and if needed call off the engagement off if the ‘stone-aged’ influence of doggedly keeping rituals, customs and traditions arise.
What I like the most in the book is that it has several Dos and Donts, checklist on how to gauge a prospective groom and aspects where a woman can work it out or cannot compromise with in-laws. I think before getting married each and every woman must have a checklist before going ahead. The book has a must have list that addresses pressing issues such as a realistic approach to marriage, knowledge about laws and legal rights and financial security, among others.
The uniqueness of women should be celebrated in all its forms and it whittle down to personal choice. The hair style, choice of jewellery, weight or shopping shouldn’t be a matter of seeking approval on the eve of marriage. These are simple things but something which the authors deemed right to remind women whose individuality are often lost in translation.
The book points out at life post marriage where a woman suddenly finds herself at the cross-road with labels such as bhabhi, devrani or jaithani. A strong message is sent: Treat us like a daughter and give equal treatment. The main points are often on the need for a daughter in law (DIL) to be answerable and boosting the image of an ideal bahu or the fact, she will learn and manage on her own. The authors explore the various issues and discuss communications as an effective tool for a healthy relationship. It’s about the need to engage directly with in-laws and be assertive when things go awry. It’s important to accept new relations which is often tough, taking into account that a girl is leaving her comfort zone and ‘privileges’ at home. It’s a two-way traffic, I’d argue. Be assertive and learn to say No matters above everything else not to crush the self or individuality.
A whole chapter is devoted to patriarchal nature of society where the father-in-law expects his morning tea and owing to the protocol for DIL in India, whose parents never get special treatment. It serves as a great contrast, as the authors rightly figure it out, how women don’t make demands to the Jamai Saab. It’s a tragedy in today’s time how parochial and patriarchal our society is ingrained in rules dating back to the dark age. Or, the preconceived notion when it comes to arranged marriage where the woman is controlling the man and this cliché that she is too independent.
There are passages like, ‘The girl is too cunning, that is, why she has brainwashed our son… He chooses a girl he loves, she would not want to live with us after marriage…This boy is married to a girl from the hills. These girls are so cunning and into black magic…He has married a different culture girl, these girls are mithi churi.’ Sounds familiar!
In the chapter, ‘Self-Empowerment: The Key to Happiness’, the authors points at common stereotypes where women grew up with rules such as women don’t laugh loudly, a shame to play sports, your rightful place is in the four corners of the home or a woman is respected after marriage because of her husband.
The authors make a great pitch for parents to instill equal values among girls, urging her to say no, curfew applying for both women and men as well as addressing the much-dreaded menstruation which is treated as taboo. It’s no secret in many homes girls going through menses are treated like outcasts and it’s time to throw out such illogical and ridiculous practice where society, albeit parents are to be majorly blamed. A woman going through menses is a normal being.
The authors devote an entire page in the form of a chapter to in-laws, reminding them of shared efforts in a household which is not the sole domain of a woman, the need for reciprocal relationships, keeping a check on personal boundaries and avoiding comparisons. It’s much-needed tips for parents-in-law in today’s times.
The husband or hubby to be is also urged to take a stand for women and it’s his responsibility as an equal partner to voice out against social injustice or helping during the adjustment period.
Honestly, I am not going that route in pointing out at flaws in the book since it’s a scholarly product where the authors have used extensive survey, much to their credit and case studies to support their claim on something obvious. It’s a worrying aspect in the way we treat women as second-class citizens after marriage where she is expected to fulfill social obligations without reasoning.
The work of authors Dr Rachna Arora & Deepika Sharma in Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum must be lauded for their in-depth analysis and critically assessing the position of women in the marriage sphere. This book should serve as a reference point for organizations such as National Commission for Women and the case studies as a guide in drafting legislations to protect women, upholding their rights in society. A brilliantly explored scholar work that serve as a guide to the Government, academic institutions, NGOs and helping to spread awareness, raise mass consciousness and educate. Full marks to the authors for urging us to question rules that discriminate against fellow human beings. Such nonsensical rules should not only be questioned but chucked out. It’s written in a simple and direct language, that makes it easy to understand minus technical jargons. Go and grab it.