Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shunning and Disrespect Work Both Ways

I told myself for the longest time I was above such childish behavior. I held out pretty well considering. But I'm tired of the crap and done with the bullshit. I put forth a very strong effort for 16 months to be respectful toward family members, guests and to heed the household rules, even against my better judgement. I strived for peaceful resolutions to all conflicts between our cultures and it got me nowhere. And in an effort to leave this place without holding a grudge against all the bad things that have went on I put all of my differences aside and let go of just about everything that bothered me.

Hubby and I had come to terms on some things I felt I needed to change so that I could continue living here. It was going great. Then the same old selfish bitch bullshit crept up and now I've had it. It's absolutely crap and no Indian would would ever put up with this and I told them so.

Though it seemed like it at first, they clearly did not welcome me into their home. (I'm speaking collectively for all that has happened this year.) At least not the women in this family. FIL has been the only person who has made me feel at home. He always speaks to me when we pass each other in the house. He makes sure if I need any groceries that they are picked up. So I have no ill feelings toward him but the rest of this family I'm done with.

Apparently it was going to start a war for chachi to clean her old junk (junk that isn't used) out of the kitchen so I could use it for my last few months here. She already has to clean it out in a year or two for two cousins to move in so she just can't handle any more trauma of having to share the house. MIL backed her up and then FIL offered to build me my own kitchen. So I'm now shunning ALL of them (except FIL). It started last Saturday evening.

Then on Sunday some random guest showed up who I don't know. I was on the phone with my family and hubby explained to them I was not coming down and I was not to be bothered. He ran out to do some errands and low and behold MIL brought the woman to my room. I was on the phone, internationally (obviously) with my mother. I wasn't about to hang up, it's mother's day and I wasn't ditching my mother for someone I didn't even know and had never seen. And no, calling back later wasn't an option either because my mother has a life and had plans for the day.

So MIL and this woman walked in, sat down on my bed with their backs turned to me and started talking to each other. They kept getting louder and louder and so I got up and walked out to continue my call. Yes, that is disrespectful to them but they were also being disrespectful to me. Given the fact I have no good feelings toward them right now, I don't care how offended they get. I'm done being the token white girl. It's utter bullshit. If you can't be bothered to include me as part of the family on a daily basis, then I won't be your after dinner entertainment for guests.

This isn't all I've done. I've effectively removed any and all reasons for MIL to enter my room. And I'm doing it spitefully and publicly - just as they would. One example, I've taken over my own laundry - MIL's absolute favorite chore and her main excuse to come into my room. I will be packing up my stuff from the kitchen as I can use it up. I am determined to make this statement as bold as possible. So when I leave, they will know it's not on good terms and if I choose not to come back until right before hubby's interview then they'll know for certain I have no interest in living with their crap anymore.

Yep, I'm now back to being undecided as to whether or not I should come back and it sucks because I love my husband and he's doing right by me but our relationship is being strained by his family. It's amazing how so many Indian men let their families cause tension in the home just to force his spouse to try to bend herself to maintain peace - that's supposed to be the DILs job. Sadistic bullshit, that's what I call it. The United States Marine Corps uses just the same tactics to break down entrants in boot camp and remold them into what the military needs them to be (only on a much faster scale). Since I am not military, I have no interest in having my character ripped out and replaced with the Indian version of a choti bahu. I will always be a living, breathing human being with my own thoughts and emotions. I don't want someone elses. I like my own just fine.

Yes, I realize these are cultural differences but if they're not willing to bend an inch, then neither am I. I've bent enough to try and keep the peace and all it got me was disrespected, shunned and rejected. Well, those behaviors all work both ways. So when in Punjab, act as the Punjabi's do.

Oh, and just so ya'll know. Chachi is the youngest wife in the entire family. So that means when she came here, she was given free reign of the house, she took over over half of the space and has dominated it for about (my estimate) 17 years now. Obviously, someone got their choti bahu bullshit twisted somehow. MIL is the elder wife and she backs down and doesn't assume the lead wife role.


  1. Hi, this is my first time here and I have just read a couple of your posts. I am an Indian woman who got out of a
    claustrophobic and  verbally-abusive joint family situation, after trying very hard for 2 years. I am so sorry
    you had to go through all this.

    I don't know if it helps in any way but
    this is more than me and my friends (city-bred, modern-ish South Indian
    women) would ever put up with. Most of us tried hard to live with the
    in-laws for a year or so before moving out separately.

    I hope it all works out for you. Best of luck.

  2. You're right. No one would put up with half the crap I've had to deal with. The only thing that keeps me going is knowing my husband stands by me and supports me and he is actively trying to change things. It's a very slow process, too slow. Right now I'm just hanging on until we get out of here permanently. I won't live here forever, that's for certain. I'm sorry you had to suffer through these same kinds of things. It's awful. I'm glad you go out, I'll be getting out soon too.

  3. I don't live with my in-laws, fortunately! But you came to the same realisation I came upon a long time ago, my MIL doesn't want to like me enough, she always find reason to not do so, she does sweet things too, but I think most of them are out of obligations rather than genuine interest and like, she had had her sadistic moments, when they come visit, or we go visit, I used to try hard to make the peace in the begining of my married life, dress Indian, cook Indian, try to make small talk in a broken hindi, bend and touch feet, be the "token gori" and been shown around town to relatives and stay in sight the whole time, but then I realised that no matter how hard I tried, how perfect my chapati were, and how I would slave 6 hours a day in the kitchen, MY kitchen in my own tiny 600 sq ft flat by the way, only to be told to do things differently or that i was bad, and that I should cook this and that because that's what we have for dinner, only to have to trash then whole complete 8-10 chapati I made because nobody wanted them and wanted rice instead, plus all the time MIL complained about my lack of being Indian to DH I just said SCREW IT. I don't have to be Indian, I don't have to near perfection to redeem whatever sin my MIL decided I commited falling in love with her son, I don't have to stay the whole time in my in-laws living room when they have guests that came over to see them in the first place simply because suddenly then my not being Indian is something to brag about...after all even DH and BIL sneak out. I don't have to know every single indian dish in the world and cook them to perfection to impress far I tried and she refused to be impressed, for all I know right now she is the one who need to impress me, and she refuses to do so, she constantly call my culture useless down to my native tongue, always think my being a westerner mean I have no family values and that I need to be educated on that boot camp way (and yes you are right, the military uses similar techniques to break new recruits), I'm not enrolling for perfect submissive desi DIL...and it's not being an evil westerner pushing my culture before Indian one, because I know way too many Indian women who didn't even do one tenth of the adjustments I tried to go through. DH supports me fully in ignoring the BS, I owe my in-laws politeness as long as they behave, I don't owe the extra mile to them simply because they are older and I am young and should bend and adjust for them.

    So now I often dress Indian in their home, but dupatta while cooking get lost! If I want to wear a trendy short kurta with very decent well cut western style pants which is what I love wearing all the time at home unless it is scorching hot, then be it, because frankly I don't see how stretch churidars have anything superior to slim cut pants, or why well cut flowing ankle length linen pants are evil when salwaars are considered appropriate, it's not like I go walking in my underwear around the house, or team  a kurta with shorts that don't even cover the butt cheeks! I also refuse to go down in the kitchen at dawn just because that's what good Indian women do, good Indian men apparently can snore the morning away on can I, I believe in gender equality in the household, so if a woman can make chai and cut veggies so can the man, and if a man can watch cricket the whole day and laze in bed if he wants to then there is no reason why a woman should not do that too!

  4. Though I know your situation is shitty and terrible, in the normal-ish, amritsari family hierarchy you have it pretty well.

    I say this not to take away from your suffering, but to remind you of the women that are beaten, verbally abused, refused any money and expected to do all of the chores in the house. 
    Joint families consider the collective need (which is decided by whoever is old enough and loud enough) so for them the kitchen issue is a non issue, they don't see why you need it - so you don't.
    Be thankful that you are in a position to get out, because many Punjabi girls who are abused escape only in death.

  5. The thing is Kristy, you are not a Punjabi girl, you are American!!! And you will be returning back to your home country permanently day soon. You should not be expected to act or behave like a Punjabi girl as you were not raised to be one. I'm like you, just because people here expect you to change to fit in with them, doesn't mean you have to. Not at our ages, we are well developed socially and economically independent women.

    If some one told you to jump off the bridge because that's what they do here, would you? Of course not! So I don't beleive in the phrase, when in rome do as the Romans do!!!!

    Using ones brain and common sense makes much more sense to me.

    You have every right to be shitty!!!!

    Nicky Singh.

  6. You Go Girl!!!
    I went through all the same crap as Cyn & you- 'till I figured out there's no way to win.

    Yes, I've met many Desi women who have suffered the same BS at their in laws' hand. One very good Desi girlfriend of mine is a Harvard educated physician- she was even required to hand over her entire paycheck to her MIL & receive only a meager allowance out it!

    At first I felt bad making my DH choose between me & his family- but then again his family chose to treat me like crap. I think that was the low point of my entire life- being verbally abused by my in laws when I was pregnant and helpless. How could I as a 40 yr professional woman be in such a situation? To top it off as we were leaving my 26 yr old nephew told my husband that he should beat me. Who the hell are these people? Even my husband was completely aghast.

    You know what though- My Indian in laws respect me more now that I refuse to put up with their crap. I know it sounds weird, but it is true. I think the same will happen to you if you don't put up with their crap.

    If Chachi wants trauma and drama over moving stuff remind her & everybody else all the trauma & drama you've had to make uprooting and moving your entire life to India. You've already sacrificed a lot.
    I'm sorry but I'm not buying the 'cultural differences' rubbish either, this isn't a 'culture' it is bullying and nastiness. 

  7.  Hi Kristy, I am a south indian married girl who has been living with her inlaws for the last 3 years since my wedding... My inlaws have built a seperate house for us on top and apart from meal-time that we have together inspite of having two kitchens :) the husband and I have our own space and privacy in our home and my inlaws are non-interfering people who do not question my cooking/housekeeping/budgeting skills or expenses. Perhaps that is the only reason it is working for me.

    I am not sure any Indian bahu in this time and age would put up with all the crap of the joint family that you are going through in that house. Do get out soon for your own of peace of mind.

  8. Yep. I said I wasn't going to change myself before coming here and I wound up changing anyway. I don't want to be someone else, I don't want to be Punjabi either. I'm just tired of people trying to make me that way. Sadly, I have to stoop to their level to get things done. Eh, thank goodness I'm leaving soon.

  9. That's right, I'm not and I don't want to be. They don't give me the benefits they would a Punjabi girl so I won't act like one. It's a give and take situation, they get back what they put in.

  10. I'm not asking hubby to choose, I'm asking him to be fair. I never encourage him to take sides and I let him tell me if/when/how I'm wrong. He doesn't always get it but that doesn't mean I have to continue to deal with this. He always swears that his parents treat me so good yet, in the US my mother would treat him far better than this. My mother would do his laundry, ask him exactly how he wanted food cooked before cooking - as opposed to having food just shoved at you that you can't eat and people getting offended when you refuse it. My mother would clean the house thoroughly and not expect to be treated like a Goddess because she rinsed the dishes. I blame myself. I believed the lie that Indian families are so much better than western families but I've yet to meet a single family here that makes that lie true.

    I know you're right about the respect. If you let people walk all over you, they won't respect you.

  11. Thank you for justifying my stance. I tell hubby all the time there's not a chance in hell an Indian woman would put up with this crap. I dare him to find me one. The closest he's come is this one girl Sia who lets her husband manipulate her into eating non-veg or drinking alcohol. Still, even she doesn't put up with crap like this. I won't be living here much longer. He's just lucky he's worth it or I would have already been gone. After my visit home I won't have to be here much longer either.

  12. 'I believed the lie that Indian families are so much better than western families but I've yet to meet a single family here that makes that lie true.'
    Ain't that the truth. I'm lucky my husband can't even stand his own extended family. Actually they can't even stand each other, meals are served in 3 different rooms due to animosities between BIL's, SIL's, nieces and nephews. Pretty bad when they can't even stand themselves.
    I bet your mom & my mom wouldn't break, 'disappear' or ransack through your husband's stuff either!
    I wouldn't blame yourself too much, you were lied to.
    Live and learn, oh well.

  13. My mom never touches anyone stuff. Not even her unruly foster kids. I'm looking forward to having my junk in their house, out in the open without it being touched lol.

  14. Hi.  I've read a number of your posts and it appears that you mistakenly adjusted too much or compromised yourself too much in the family.  Why did you do that?  Had you drawn your boundaries from early on then you may not have to be so angry now.  Sure, it may have seemed if you did that that the family would "accept" you but they would have eventually adjusted to you more and actually respected you more.  Goris make a huge mistake when they over adjust to their Indian in laws.  They think it will benefit them in the end but it never does because the family doesn't APPRECIATE it, its something that they EXPECT.  Goris also have a tendency to overromanticise Indian culture and family life from Bollywood films which results in them being too open, too nice and too eager towards India and their inlaws instead of being cautious and a bit skeptical, which is healthier.

  15. You're right. A lot of goris compromise too much. In my case I was raised to be that way and it was to my own detriment. I did set boundaries before I came but it still took me a lot of fighting to get them respected. Before india I never fought for anything. Now everything is a war it seems. Its not the lifestyle for me at all. Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone