A girl born in India is fed the concept of DUTY with her mother’s milk. It is more often what her duties are and what is expected of her than what her family, her partner, her kids or society owes to her.
This is the story of my generation and it is still prevalent in many societies in India, especially rural and traditional households. A girl is taught everything with one goal in mind..how she will conduct herself in her parents-in-law’s house…in fact any mention of her life with her husband comes secod. Her behaviour is first judged on the scale of what her Mother-in-law would judge her by. You can’t do this is and this will be part of your duties is continuously dinned into her mind and psyche.
A wife’s duties began with her waking up before her husband and going to bed only after he went to sleep. She was expected to bathe, decorate the frontage of the home with a pretty geometric pattern called kolam or rangoli. Then she had to start the home fires, get the puja or altar ready, make coffee and tiffin or lunch. She served her in laws and husband and very often had just a bit to satisfy her hunger. Then the chores of the house would make time fly past and then it was the evening chores and dinner.
My generation of urban girls were educated and many took up a job teaching or working in offices. I am talking here about the middle class girls and now they had to balance the duties of a professional career and their duties as a homemaker, wife, mother and daughter/daughter-in-law. The husband’s needs and dictats were sacrosanct and many women did not even have the choice of saying what they could do with the income they brought into the family kitty. This was the stereotype though many women gradually established their independence to some extent.
Today’s urban girls are rebelling against this stereotype. They have been brought up to think themselves to be equal to boys and demand this balance. They are not willing to accept the fact that duties in the home and to family rests greatly on their shoulders. Many accept the fact that their mother’s duty to the girl’s father or in laws is in place, but they reject the idea that they will behave in a similar manner to their own partners or in laws.
A word about TV serials..many still try to keep alive this retrograde attitudes with independent thinking girls painted as shrews and villains. The viewers are older women and the mother-in-law—daughter-in-law negative vibes and issues find support in TRP’s. The younger generation have switched on to Western sitcoms or reality shows that focus on different subjects.
Girls in the rural milieu are breaking out of obedient, duty bound stereotypes. The strong grip of patriarchal panchayats (village and community leaders) on the girls, their behaviour and the choice of partners is desperately trying to cling onto their hierarchical and traditional authority. The tectonic shift in women’s liberation and demand for equality is spreading rapidly and fuelled by media reports.
The sense of duty is now being equally assigned to both partners. Women get up late and even go to bed early or at midnight! I do……