Thursday, April 19, 2012

Proverbs 31 vs. The Proverbial Indian Wife

I really love the discussions we all get into here on my blog and in the pardesi communities I'm a part of. So a while back when I was discussing some things with Kay in India I had the realization that this proverbial Indian wife so many of us pardesi's are used to hearing about is a lot like the Proverbs 31 woman in Christianity. Think about this with me. Both this proverbial Indian woman and the Proverbs 31 woman have extremely high standards of perfection that most cannot attain. Also, in their respective cultures women strive to even come close to these standards. While some are able to adhere to a few standards, it is a RARE woman indeed who can truly stick to them all.

I would like to clarify this proverbial Indian woman is something only pardesi wives hear about. I can't imagine an Indian man using this image and these standards to justify why his Indian wife wasn't good enough or to highlight the things she wasn't doing. After all, an Indian woman would probably just think he was stupid if he tried to tell her "an Indian wife would....." because she's Indian and adding in her ethnicity would just be ridiculous. Not to mention there's the understanding she was raised to be an Indian wife and knows the ins/outs of life here so she wouldn't likely fall for something out of line. Of course, he could tell her "my mother...." and compare her that way and piss her off. I still doubt she'd stand for it without some form or retaliation be it verbal or in the form of feeding him his least favorite food every night for a while, etc.

So back to this proverbial wife issue. Let's take a look at some of the similarities and differences of the Proverbs 31 to what some gori's are told an Indian wife would be like. Actual Indian women may not ever have heard of these standards. These are the standards imposed on pardesi wives and may or may not reflect actual Indian culture.
  • First and foremost, in Christianity is is well known that a Proverbs 31 woman is hard to find. In pardesi relationships it would seem most Indian men think all Indian women are the epitome of perfection.
  • The Proverbs 31 woman spends most of her time caring for her household and all matters related to it. So does the proverbial Indian wife (PIW). The difference would be that the Proverbs 31 woman is expected to help the poor whereas the PIW would be expected to help out her family.
  • Both women are expected to maintain full trust between themselves and their husbands with no mention of whether or not he's earned it or deserves it.
  • Both women are expected to only do good by their husbands. Never say one single bad thing about him or his family and only sing his praises.
  • Both women are expected to rise super early in the morning and prepare food.
  • Both are expected to be strong mentally and physically. 
  • One big difference is that the Proverbs 31 woman is supposed to earn money whereas a lot of gori's are told that Indian wives don't work after marriage.
  • The Proverbs 31 woman is supposed to only speak kindness and the PIW is supposed to keep the peace in the house. (Which by default means she's not supposed to speak negatively and dissolves arguments with sweet words, etc.) 
  • Both women's husbands and children are supposed to think of them as a blessing. One they don't want to live without. This is often misquoted as she should do everything for everyone and put herself.
I really must throw up the BS flag on a lot of these issues. Living here and interacting with the community (even in strict and very conservative Amritsar) I know Indian women who work and have children. I also know plenty that don't get up early to cook (including MIL). I see Indian women and Christian women both giving to charity and working toward the benefit of their home (even if they don't work outside of the home.) Being strong mentally doesn't mean you don't have emotions or feelings. I also know that not every Indian wife is the epitome of perfection that some gori's are led to believe.

Indian women are just like every other woman. Some don't cook, clean or do anything around the house. Some work all day long and still are never done. Some help out their families and some only think of themselves. My main point is that you can never attain any standard of perfection. Especially not if it's someone elses standard of perfection. You can only strive to make yourself the woman you want to be and stand up for your right to be her.

Here's the scriptures related to the Proverbs 31 wife for those who are not familiar with them. This is the New King James Version and it's well know that every version of the Holy Bible will word this slightly differently.

The Virtuous Wife

10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships, She brings her food from afar.

15 She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants.
16 She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hand holds the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants.
25 Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.


3 comments:

  1. I think every culture in the world has put certain high standard on women that every women are to attempt to achieve to be considered virtuous.
    the issue with us gori is that we are fed the virtue of Indian women by our in-laws in a way that hint that we are damaged good for not being Indian and that makes us want to try harder, until we realise that there is no point in doing so because pretty much like practically none of us in the west fir the proverb 31 wife, Indian women don't fit the PIW mould either.
    The mordern urban indian woman has pretty much realised that the proverbial wife is an antiquated, unpractical notion and lives her life the same way we do back home.

    I have a feeling that deep down many of our desi in-laws know that they would not get the goodie from an Indian DIL and bank on the cultural ignorance of their new gori DIL to try to inculcate obsolete notions that will make them feel like "Yeah sure we have a gori DIL, but she behaves better than how Indian girls behave nowaday"
    Plus in many cases the future in-laws make a lot of fuss when their son announce he is dating/planning to marry a foreigner that the gori in question is feeling like she has to go try to prove them how wrong they are and how nice and sweet and good she is, and take whatever Indian standard comes her way as face value and a role model to emulate.

    We've all been there done that at one point, and I know it never really last long, a year or two of this BS and the rebellion kicks in because then we all get to see India from a perspective closer to the one of an insider and realised we've been fooling ourselves into trying to becomes somebody we were not simply because someone told us that we could not be who we are in India.
    Sigh!

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  2. Exactly! I did my share of trying to fit in as I learned how to live here as well. I learned pretty quick though I was the only one trying to do these things. Being stubborn, I started rebelling early on but it didn't do much good.

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