“No” should be a default answer and “Yes” should be a weapon

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Many people have said through twitter, WhatsApp and facebook- why do I care about Karvchauth? Thankfully, I don’t belong to the North and don’t have to deal with such regressive mindsets. Why is it any of my business? If women choose to blindly follow traditions, mera kya jaata hai? It is not like there aren’t any other regressive fasts or traditions or festivals that women follow. Why this only? I was thinking about it on my run today and the answer came to me.

Because I am disappointed in my generation. The last few years have seen a huge change in our lifestyles… we are richer, more outgoing, have more freedom, more educated etc etc; shouldn’t our mindsets also change at the same pace? What is that makes people hold onto traditions instead of creating new ones? While one half of India is celebrating Halloween, the other half is fasting for their men? I am not saying Halloween is good. I don’t give a shit about it but atleast it is fun and has some logic behind it. I don’t understand the dichotomy. Why would a smart, intelligent woman who has willingly married a guy follow a tradition nobody expects her to? Would these women give a presentation at work which says “Let’s do this because we have always done it in past”. If they can apply logic to their work, why not their own lives?

But my bigger concern is for women who cannot say “No”. What if a woman cannot stay hungry and thirsty all day? For example, last year my colleague told me she is fasting because her mother-in-law expects her to. This year she is 7/8/9 months pregnant and was on fast yesterday. Obviously, she has been pressurised into doing it even though it may harm her body.

For most of my life, my default answer to everything was “Yes” because it made my parents happy. Saying “No” meant a lot of conflict, fights, tears and what not. My first taste of what life can be like when you say “No” was when I was a kid. My mother would force feed us some ayurvedic churan which tasted like shit but was supposedly good for health. My sister and I hated that stuff but as a girl you have to pick your battles. You’d rather fight over education and marriage than some churan. One day I got tired and puked it out. My immunity was low so I would keep falling ill and it was a lot of hassle for my mom. By then I was capable of puking at will but this was the first time I used the tactic. It worked. I was given a pass from taking it while my sister still had to take it.

Over the years I realised that the more I said “Yes”, the higher the expectations from me and the more I said “No”, the easier it was to get my way. This was surprising because I assumed (like everyone else) that you would get rewarded by “freedom of choice” if you did what your parents wanted you to. Apparently, that doesn’t work even in the corporate world. X was the guy I reported to for a few months and everyone hated him. In a team of 8-10 people, only 2-3 people spoke their mind and stood up to his bullying ways. The others tried to mould themselves according to his views. He would leave the people who stood up to him alone and make the lives of the others miserable. I think that is human behaviour and it took me a while to learn this insight.

When I got married, I was relieved that now my parents’ expectations from me would be zero. Unfortunately, it’s a circle… you go from your parents’ control to your husbands’/in-laws and in case of a divorce, back to your parents (according to them). There is no real freedom if you are a woman. You just get passed around. I have tried the whole- live your life according to your parents’ wishes thing… I even met guys for an arranged marriage even though deep down I knew I would end up murdering him and not even feel guilty. Unfortunately, I like to question stupidity and so the Indian joint family, in laws, relatives, arranged marriage shenanigans will never work for me. In fact, money is also not a big motivation else I could have married an ugly, fat but rich guy for financial security and to improve my standing in society. Also, I don’t believe in the concept of society.

Since my marriage I have had to stand up to in-laws for every damn thing. Don’t get me wrong… I did “try”… like, I have sat through 2 pujas which is 2 more than I did for my own parents. The 1st puja left me in tears because the pujari was unnecessarily rude to me. I, even, wore the ugly mangalsutra for 1 day after which I promptly removed it and am waiting for the right time to sell it off. I have even tried eating Marathi food though it is the complete opposite of Sindhi cuisine. But certain things I decided to nip them in the bud:

  • Touching feet. In Sindhis, women (I haven’t seen any and I was never asked to) don’t touch feet. The 1st day after the wedding, MIL’s work friends had come to see the ‘bahu’. I said my hi hellos and went inside. She walked in and asked me to touch everyone’s feet. KC wasn’t around. I told her I have never touched anyone’s feet and wasn’t about to start any day soon. She requested me to do it this time. I told her it is not done in Sindhis and I would like to follow my culture *cough* *cough* A perfect excuse in an inter caste marriage. Please notice how KC was not asked to touch anyone’s feet.
  • Wearing mangalsutra. MIL asked KC if I wear the mangalsutra ever. He told her nobody these days does. Waiting for the day when I tell her I sold it off.
  • Changing surname.
  • Learning to cook Marathi food. This wasn’t said directly but hinted upon. I asked MIL to teach KC instead because I know how to cook Sindhi food.
  • Learning to speak Marathi language. Not knowing the language gives me an excuse to stay out of the conversation. I can’t think of one good reason to learn the language.
  • Wearing sarees. MIL wanted me to wear a saree when I visited her on weekends when KC was in town. I told her Sunday is my only day off and I like to dress in casuals. Plus, I cannot drape or own or drive in a saree. But logic has no chance in front of traditions. I was forcibly gifted a saree. I promptly gifted it to the maid.

So on and so forth. Basically, if you are a woman everyone expects you to say “Yes” to everything. Like, Karva Chauth… a woman is expected to fast while if a man does it, everyone starts appreciating him. Fasting is a choice as a man but a compulsion as a woman. If you make your default answer “No”, people will be grateful when you finally say “Yes” to something.

Women- No should be your default answer and Yes should be a weapon.

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