Responsibility of a son

'Life in India' photo (c) 2008, Hiten Mistry - license:

I’m sorry I haven’t been around for a while, I was lucky to have the opportunity to spend 17 nights on board Babu’s ship, and prior to that was working like crazy to get my work tied up before I went.

Unfortunately because of the way his shifts worked, we didn’t get a great deal of time together, yet the time away from my everyday life nevertheless served me well, it put life into perspective once again. Getting away always does good for me however unfortunately the fresh outlook on life I received last time I was away 6 months ago diminished somewhat since, perhaps this time I will try a little harder in making the changes my life so desperately needs.

There are a few things I would like to share with you but I will take them one post at a time.

The first one is the biggy. Me, Babu and what seems like our impossible future.

He was telling me about how, ever since he was a child, he has been shouldering the responsibility and expectation put upon him by his parents and society.  The most part to be able to provide for and look after his parents as they proceed into what is considered to be old age.  More so he was telling me of the expectations there would be of me, should we marry and me join their family home.

He told me I would be expected to get up early and ensure everyone was fed, ensure the house was cleaned top to bottom every day, cook lunch, a snack in the afternoon and dinner.  If there were children, of course I would look after them too. OK.  So I take a positive (well, different) point of perspective on this and think about my own family and other British families. In fact, this is probably the norm in most families, I think that it is merely be the fact that he is saying it as opposed to it just happening that freaks me out, maybe it is my rebellious “don’t tell me what to do” side! realistically you will virtually never see my dad cook dinner or clear plates and suchlike. Although at the same time I do query with Babu whether it is a wife or a home help he needs, whether it is a relationship or a free worker.

I told him how even though it sounds much, in reality, I thoroughly enjoy cooking, and the other bits are just part of daily life.  For me I wouldn’t be able to eat that food every time, but as long as there are eggs in the cupboard ill be fine, but then he tells me that a few days a week eggs cannot be eaten because they are non-veg – well, I know that an egg that has never been fertilised was never life, but apparently it isn’t seen that way.  I queried that he does not follow this, however he tells me he behaves differently in his home, and follows the practices of his parents.  There were a few more “you would have to do this, do that, don’t do this or that”s and then I flipped out asking why he is with me and not “Miss generic Indian girl A” if I would be expected to change my whole self for a future in his family?! He tells me he is with me because he fell in love with me, but that doesn’t change the expectation of his parents, just like he conforms to them I would have to also. He told me I would be expected to leave behind and forget everything I know or have ever known, it would be the easiest way to settle, otherwise he thinks I would always long for what I used to have and eventually go back to it – personally I disagree. I guess this is the reason why he keeps telling me I need to think REALLY hard about what I want for the future – with him or not.

Knowing for him, that if it weren’t for the responsibility put on him from his parents his life would be led quite differently, this is all rather hard to swallow. basically leaving us both, mostly me in a very difficult situation.

For me, the idea of staying in the UK, doing my job, living this life, is not what I want, and a new life in india has a certain amount of appeal to it but, not this life he describes, something in the middle however could be ideal.

I asked him if perhaps his thoughts on what his parents expectations would be where maybe inflated and distorted in his mind, he seems to think not – but I also know when we over think things they can sometimes become a little inflated.  Short term, i think the most important thing for me to do is factor in a couple of days for my trip to india to visit his parents at hos home, and get a first hand view of his reality.

Like I said to him last night – the most easiest thing for us both would be to let go of each other, but as far as I am concerned, and him, this isn’t going to happen, I don’t give up just like that!

So for now we have no choice but to bumble along as we are, hoping and for him – praying, that something might change. Things will change, a lot has to change in the next few years, I need to leave my job, I need to leave home, Babu will have to eventually finish working on the ships, and whatever else may be around the corner – our fortunes may change one day – who knows.  All we know at the moment is that we love each other and we just need to sit tight for a while, carry these weights for a little longer.

And who knows – this could all be a storm in a teacup, there’s still time for a happily ever after yet…..


6 responses to “Responsibility of a son

  • American Punjaban

    Just my own take on some things. I lived in a joint family as the choti bahu. IMO it seems like most Indian males think of the role of family caretaker as being more difficult and hard than it is. They’re not all wrong but it’s tainted somewhat by their view of their mothers. They are raised to feel like she slaves for them and has a hard life. She does but not to the extent they feel. Doing any housework in India is harder than in the west.

    As for getting up early to ensure everyone is fed, in our home MIL got up about 6:30. Food was made from scratch meaning she cut up all the veggies, sauteed the spices, etc. So she fed FIL his meal about 7:30. This was only on workdays. On non workdays, she may not feed him till around 9. From my own shopping experience I know there were things available that could make this morning task much easier. But, your family has to be receptive to it. I saw pre-chopped veggies in the grocery store and there’s also alternatives. I cooked hash browns (shredded potatoes) several times and I also made pancakes. Typically, some families will accept whatever you cook while others will be pickier. Just as families would in the west. You may have to factor in heat as well depending on your individual kitchen. The hardship in being the caretaker lies in time management. Can you get it all done in a day. Yes, I’m confident you can. It’s really not that different than in the west, just there’s more physical fatique involved. You will be viewed as a vital member of the family, but at the same time you may not be allowed to have an opinion of your own. It’s different in each family.

    Sorry, this is becoming a book but I really believe women need to know what they’re getting into and it doesn’t seem the men can accurately describe it lol. Men are clueless the world over right? 😀

    From his reaction (and what I know of how my husband views/feels these same things) I think he may feel a little overwhelmed. A lot of Indian men seem to feel this way because of the perceived weight that is put on their shoulders upon marriage. They are basically kids until that day and then life changes and it’s scary to them.

    Had I not gotten so sick in India myself, I still feel like I could have had a decent life there. I feel like I would have gotten over the drama and moved on and just dealt with it eventually. All families have drama and India is not immune to it. You’ll deal with some drama as well. Your survival depends on how ready you are to face it and how much you can learn about dealing with it so you can keep your sanity.

    There are going to be days (no matter where you live) that you just don’t know how you’re going to get it all done. That’s life. So when you move to India, just plan for things that are important to you and how you will address them. Take note of your life now. Can you imagine living without a washer and dryer? If not, then start researching models available in India now. How about a dishwasher? Same thing. Find what you need to make your life tolerable there so that while you’re adjusting, you aren’t completely frustrated with everything else.

    Oh, and I had to get a whole new FB. There were tons of ppl with your name. I would like to be FB friends again. Here’s my link.

    And I’m always available if you ever have questions. I know I vented a lot of frustration on my blog but I swear I’m capable of being objective lol. 😀

    • ria

      “Men are clueless the world over right?” yup!

      I appreciate the book! Greatly reassuring, as I was pretty sure there was a bit of amateur dramatics involved in his account of the life of a bahu! I get that there will be hard days, and like you say that can happen wherever you are in the world, or whatever culture you’re living in, I think it is how you approach them that matters.

      And taking note of life right now – as long as I have the internet, my phone, my netbook and some eyeliner, there’s not much else I think I want or need in life materialistically, I’ve very much learnt that all that doesn’t bring happiness.

  • Mani Dhillon

    As long as you are doing or thinking cooking or cleaning as just a burden, you won’t be able to cope with whatever you are getting into and you will regret your decision of marrying an Indian. Neither you should think of it as a plain responsibility of bahu. Indian girls do it out of respect for elders and doing so alone is not compulsory. My Maasi(Aunt) has big family. She has two daughter in laws but she always wakes up before them and help both bahus in all their work.
    As for food and cleaning work in morning I had heard it first time from American Punjaban that there is so much to be done in morning unless you have such a big family, I am a Punjabi and sometimes I cook in morning too though I am not married :).
    Only 5% families eat Vegetables in morning, everyone likes light in morning, and thats true for all India. My friends, India and Indians have changed a lot.
    Dinner preparations takes more time than any food in the day.

    No one will dictate to you that you can’t use a washer and dryer if you can afford that, that I believe you can. My mom is of older generation, she has no education but still she bring half prepared veg, spices and food home and it is easily available everywhere.
    And Ria I don’t think your family is big enough for you to worry about these things.

    There is one point where I agree with American Punjaban, that men and women too often exaggerate the difficulties and duties of Indian wife. Indian in laws are portrayed by NRIs and foreigners as being too strict and controlling, believe me thats not the case. All and everything depends upon you, how you are going to accept things and how will you relate with your in laws. Relate to them as you will to your own parents, they are the one who brought your love into this world.

    Believe me it is not as much difficult as it sounds.
    Though these are just my views, what I feel living here in India and as an Indian.

    • ria

      Mani, I really thought that would be the case. I think what he is perhaps trying to do is give me the worst case scenario, like I said before, he keeps telling me i need to REALLY think about the future – I think there is still that underlying niggle of the popular belief that firangi wives will come to India, not fit in, not adapt to the culture then give up and fly off back home with a divorce landing on the husbands doorstep a few weeks later! His dad also gave him this warning, and since I know how much he values and respects his dad’s opinions I should imagine it is playing on his mind a lot.

      The only reassurance I can give him is that I would never continue with a relationship if I could see it ending somewhere. And oh boy – I do a LOT of thinking, ALL of the time. I’m pretty sure though that if I wanted to abandon ship I would have done it already, but instead of running away from the things that confuse me/scare me/just plain freak me out, I make a point of learning more and embracing them! And you know what – I think I am a better person for it – having him in my life has caused me to seek knowledge that before now had never seemed relevant.

  • pseudointellectualviewpoint

    There is a responsibility for every child towards his or her parents. Not only does Babu have this responsibility, but so do you towards your own parents. Make a wise choice regarding the whole thing because ultimately no body would like to be slave labour anywhere.
    It is hard to generalise but i believe you should be skeptical. It is a good idea to visit and meet the people you will be living with and relating to in the future. But dont take everything at face value. Babu has been excellent to have been forthright because there are cultural difference that need to be taken into account.
    Ultimately a lot has been said about adjusting but i view this as rationalization. When two people come together they should be better off and not worse off. So any talk of compromise, adjustment etc should be nipped in the bud because you will be sliding deeper and deeper into doing something you really do not want to do but end up doing by rationalizing about it.
    Finally, the direct approach needs to be adopted. You must outline as to what you are willing to do and what you are not. what are your expectations and what are yours. It is of course said that in India when you marry, you marry the family not the man. Ultimately the winner is one who takes all precautions and clarifies his/her position right from the beginning.

    • ria

      Sound advice, I have always outlined my expectations and any issues, always upfront and so is he, I guess that is why sometimes everything seems to be such a big deal as we are both careful in making sure everything is highlighted in such detail to the other – sometimes unnecessarily – sometimes I think we need to relax, chill out and just enjoy each others company, as ultimately that is why we are together in the first place!

      On adjustment though, ultimately if one day I do move to India, I will certainly have to adjust as it wont be as simple as moving my life from one continent to another, I get that, but I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing, neither compromise, since I don’t think you can be in a relationship without a little compromise here and there – as long as the party involved is willing and comfortable with it. I wouldn’t however be pressured or forced into anything against my wishes, I’ve made those mistakes in previous relationships, never again, and if anything Babu may be suffering the consequences of my past misjudgments as I occasionally still find myself in the self defense mode that was very much there when we met.

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