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Now I got my own victim-of-gender-discrimination story

May 11, 2009

Rarely have I been slotted into a category because of my gender and rarer still have I faced any discrimination.

Infact it takes a weird turn for me. People tend to assume that I will hate/not be good at what are called the traditional duties, more in tune with my gender.

But simply be told, I love cooking and I don’t mind kids  (teasing them mercilessly that is. Right now my niece is at the receiving end. If I am not biting her bum, I am simply pinching her or getting her to pull her own hair and generally messing with her mind).

I hate driving but I also hate shopping. I am not good at numbers but neither am I good with cosmetics. I donot remember birthdays or anniversaries but if I do, I will insist on presents been properly packed with white satin ribbon and the whole works.I hate post-coital snuggling (to the extent that I immediately roll over to my side and doze off) and I believe some would say the argument ends here and I am after all from Mars.But I will never split the bill on the first date, if I am asked out.(and I am too shy and egoistic to ask someone out.The rejection would shatter  my already low self-confidence).I guess that doesn’t quite make me the poster girl for the feminist camp.

Of all the arguments my parents have used,not one started with “Because you are a girl…”.  I never personally faced any discrimination based on my gender and barring my last company, I have never actually witnessed anyone making any disparaging remarks against women in a professional environment.All the guys I have dated were pretty gender un-biased ,including Sid.I guess I was just lucky.Hence I steer clear of all feminist arguments as I have nothing much to contribute and wonder what this fuss is all about.

If someone says something funny to you ,you punch them on the face.Unfortunately not in the adult world, to which I have been reluctantly pushed.

The point of this long ramble, I guess, is to ask you guys if it is OK, if the mother of your live-in boyfriend  for some weird reason assumes that both of you are sleeping in different rooms (am I that unappealing?) AND asks questions like

“Did all his(Sid’s)  shirts come back from the laundry”?

“Accha beta,maine na saare masala yahaan rakh diya hain”.(Ignore grammatical mistakes, if any)

“Accha beta, fridge mein na saaman aise rakho”.(what is this north indian fascination of calling people of both genders ,beta?I though beta = son.Atleast that’s what Miss Sudesh Verma taught us in school.And with her flabby cheeks and huge belly, I dare not doubt her)

“Beta, aap,daal mein thoda ghee dalo kabhi kabhi.”

And on and on.So everything related to kitchen/maid  is directed to me and rest (electrician ,cable connection) to my male roommate ,my dear ol boyfriend.

So, here I am un-employed ,directionless, desperately looking for ways to earn money in a way I want to (whatever that means), pretty much stuck in a rut ,not doing much yet have my finger in many pies.Trying to figure my next move.

AND I FUCKING DON’T give a flying fuck if somebody’s fucking laundry is back, all in order. Hell I don’t even care if he parades naked in the house.I forgot the last time I brought some thing nice for myself. I don’t care if the fridge is in order.To hell with the mixer and grinder.Do you mind if I sort my life now, maybe the masalas can wait..a few decades??

To which the BF  who almost became an ex with this classic   ” Oh ,that’s because she think I am too careless and can’t manage things on my own”. (OH HOW SWEET. Excuse me while I hit you senseless with this iron tong.)

This,btw, is from the guy who makes me tea every single day, learnt to cook everything including chicken for me and takes care of everything including  his girlfriend,her bills and her whims.My dad thinks I am irresponsible, immature and just a burden on others. I donot recall him asking any of my boyfriends about my laundry and my dietary preferences.

And the What-the-fuck question of the week?

“Beta (groan), you should learn to cook his(Guess whose) favourite dishes.” Which includes ,for anyone who cares , this round little thing ,called tinda. A vegetable I got introduced to today and which I initially mistook for the Green Apple.

Tinda

Green Apples.Presenting Monsieur  Tinda)

So I just about managed to collect my jaws from the ground and reply “I hate Tindas and  I don’t think I will be cooking them anyday”.And I hate rajma, chole’s, arbi,any other daal other than masoor and tur (and that too cooked the Assamese way). Ok to cut it short I hate North Indian food.Its too oily ,spicy and heavy.I cook what I like to eat, and I generally cook for whoever is in the house.If they don’t like ,there are always take-aways, you know.So I guess, like the rest of us,mere mortals,somebody has to learn to cook his favourite dishes .Why? Because my brain is hard-wired into not doing the one thing that I am supposed/ought to do!!

This post actually spawns three major questions

1) Am I been discriminated against because I am currently at home? And it doesn’t matter that I am trying to get some work done. In which many of us are guilty-of assuming that just because you no longer go to a ‘office’  , you are doing nothing and hence have all the free time(who am I kidding? I have all the free time,but lets not talk about me now). I know quite a few who have inadvertently fallen prey to this, including my sister.So ,obviously, his mother will ask me all these inane questions,since I am conveniently around. But would it have been the same had Sid been at home?Would a guy be asked the same questions-given the same gyan?

2)Am  I over reacting or there is something sexist in the above instances. Many females I know are facing a similar situation, with a tiny difference that they are all married. With all my maturity ,I brushed off their concerns as over reactions and my usual response was.”Notice your husband,see how distant he is from everything. Do that.”.You donot see sons-in-law having such problems,maybe because they ,slyly,maintain a zen like attitude in such mundane family matters..Problems with in-laws are things that happened to ‘women on Zee tv, with straight hair and horrendous make up’. Not MBAs,not award winning novelists,not film stars (ya i know one too),not the girl I got stoned with in college. How come it is happening to all these smart ,educated ,ambitious ,funny easy-to-get-along-with women .Why is it that I have heard only females say, (or rather try hard to convince themselves) “My father-in-law/mother-in-law is so cool..they have no objection to me wearing shorts/drinking (with them)/<insert any random basic human right>? Aren’t you selling yourself short?

I eat my words now. It is difficult to be that zen either.I cannot.I have mentioned, endlessly, how I am basically an escapist when it comes to difficult social situations.If I am uncomfortable I simply walk away.I will not confirm,neither will I attempt to make the other person see sense.I donot adapt easy and I definitely am not wasting time adapting to somebody else’s family, tradition,religion,surname,food.Regarding moving in with the spouse’s family,unless it is the Buckingham Palace you are talking about where we can avoid bumping into each other,it ain’t happening.I can’t even stay with MY parents for more than a month.I won’t do anything for the sake of maintaining ‘peace’ and just because ‘they are elders and they are set in their ways”.(Casteism is set in some people’s minds,mostly the older generation).And I value my privacy more than anything else.My room,my space,my time.

3) Or is this a very North Indian phenomenon? Sid’s mom otherwise is quite a nice lady. Showering us with gifts, feeding us and shopping for us. According to Sid, most North Indians are very traditional so I ought not to get too hassled with this. (though I have seen similar scene in south Indian families too). So should I be glad she didn’t raise any fuss when we moved in together.Why should I ? My parents didn’t say anything-not that they had a chance, I moved in and then invited them over to stay with us :-).Am I making another sweeping generalization?Though it will be a rare case indeed if you find any Assamese woman (ok fine, north eastern woman) asking her son’s girlfriend (not a fiancee’, mind you),to make his favorite dishes.

So according to the mom, I am not sharing the bed with this man but I am supposed to be cooking his favourite dishes.Do I look like the role model for Ms. Ekkktaaa Kkkpooor’s next epic?

I desperatly need some words from the married lot!! And the single lot, just cool your heels till this gets sorted out.The scene looks murkier the other side.There is blood and gore.

And un-sorted fridges.

And masala dabbas.

P.S.  : Anyone cares about my favourite dish?

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35 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2009 5:45 am

    I understand your angst but I still enjoyed this post.
    coming to your questions.
    I think everybody responds to these situations in their own way. If my inlaws were to live with me even I would be ranting like this.
    The first thing my MIL asks when I talk to her on the phone is..what did you make for breakfast today… get it!..

    I quit my job couple of weeks ago(to figure what I want to do next and take a break) and yes sometimes people do assume you have lots of time and I do cringe when I have to cook all by myself but I do it! for whatever reasons…
    ultimately you have see what makes you happy and keep things that way..without causing others a lot of discomfort …goodluck….

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 11, 2009 6:35 pm

      u quit too?? Now we are unemployed comrades in arms!!! ..
      So, what did YOU make for breakfast today?I hope it was his favourite dish!!

  2. May 11, 2009 12:56 pm

    Hmm I see!!!
    Now quite clearly this IS the first time you are facing such gender discrimination, (this surely is nothing else than gender…whatever). This exists in every household (varies in degree from family to family) across the country, except for the matriarchal societies in the North East. I am not one of the ‘feminist camp’ either. I believe in individuality. Like…I do what I want to do, come what may. But I also know that it’s not easy to change people and some people do not adopt the ‘escape when face a difficult social situation’ policy simply because they are not programmed that way. However its true that systems can be changed. And it’s also true that to change a system you need to stay inside the system. (Err…my individualism is getting merged, or rather, confused with socialism 😛 )
    Anyway, I still can’t understand why you HAVE to let yourself be preached by your boyfriend’s mother. Return her favours immediately and give her a piece of your mind if you want. If not, than continue living your life as if she does not exist. You won’t have enough time and patience to acknowledge her existence and then change the way her brain functions. I guess you have other things to do, so move on…

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 11, 2009 6:38 pm

      but see its my boyfriends mother,not my mil.so I really can’t be rude.Plus she IS a nice person – just can’t help being obsessed with her son I guess.
      Plus its like I met them after a year and dont know when I am going to meet them next, so I guess as you suggested I am ‘moving on’

  3. blinkandmiss permalink
    May 11, 2009 2:04 pm

    Firstly, I think you have been very polite and nice for listening to all this “masala and fridge” stuff, considering you’re not married!!

    Secondly, I can literally see all women nod in unison over the “learn to cook dishes for him” thing.

    Actually I am for people who learn to do special stuff for their partners, but when a third party tells you to do that, it just ruins it so badly that you never want to learn that dish or whatever, even if you were planning to do so earlier!!

    The only lesson I’ve learnt so far is that the key to good relations with the ILs is limiting the interaction time. It is hard to hate someone who you see just for a weekend, once in 3 months. Things start souring with the increase in interaction time. I sympathize with you regarding the working from home bit. You’re a sitting duck!!

    Also in general the society makes women feel rewarded for having a son over having a daughter. Also a lot of the earlier generation women were housewives and they create these pseudo critical situations which only they can handle, hence making them feeling important. Things like “son must have hot fulkas right off the flame or bad stuff will happen to him” or “son must have his laundry pressed and laid out on the bed when he’s showering or the world will turn upside down”.

    What makes it difficult is like you said a lot of ILs are sweet people, except for the unsolicited lecturing that starts out of nowhere. It just makes it difficult to reply with a rude retort.

    Ok bhaashan over.

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 11, 2009 6:41 pm

      Whew!! I better steer clear of this whole marriage thing till I can learn to deal with such stuff without getting a shock every time..
      Oh Hot Fulkas he wants?? Maybe with a dollop of home made ghee..
      You are so right about that. Now on I am so not making anything for Sid even as a romantic gesture..So there.

  4. May 11, 2009 2:58 pm

    Oh, this is tough. Can’t you tell her to shut up really rude. No you can’t 😦

    Ummm…next time she says something like this, just tune out and give her this really blank ‘yeah whatever’ look or change the topic. She’l get the hint 🙂

    Hope that works.

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 11, 2009 6:42 pm

      I started looking at Sid when she talks about all these stuff , who, I have noticed would studiously stare at his laptop when his mom starts talking about such stuff

      • May 11, 2009 7:17 pm

        Men are notorious when it comes to their mothers. They’r the little baby boys. Look blankly away or read he newspaper or something n when she finished her monologue, give her a blank look or start telling her what you like and how your mother is going to teach Sid the dishes you like to at and start telling her enthusiastically about them 😛

  5. Devlina permalink
    May 11, 2009 4:23 pm

    Babe….i missed reading your posts. And i actually spent quite sometime today.
    Now I not gonna comment on this post in particular…but man, u rock totally!
    I’v rarely enjoyed reading even a book of fiction as much as your posts!
    You’ll go a long way baby. Just hope I’ll know u even then….. 😉
    And about the potential/future (???) MIL….ignore her!

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 11, 2009 6:43 pm

      Babes the last line ‘about single people holding it for some time’ is just for us..u me and d.

  6. Anu permalink
    May 11, 2009 5:04 pm

    Ignore it, is a key ! I too hate those northy veggies like tinda, arbi, potatos and lot of others. Never heard about some of them before I stayed in Delhi. Am happy to cook meal full with green veggies, the local ones. Oops can’t imagine being stupid potato eater !

    And of course the annoying habit of saying beta, over friendly or something.

    People take you for granted when you don’t have job/work.

  7. Anu permalink
    May 11, 2009 5:14 pm

    And am thankful for not being trapped into any north and south “traditional conventional” family. uffff…

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 11, 2009 7:28 pm

      Yeah ,I have noticed you are managing pretty well!! 🙂

  8. May 11, 2009 8:03 pm

    ok… long comment! 🙂

    i’m married, but i know i don’t fall under the general category of girls who have monsters for MILs. my MIL is a rather smart woman, who is not in the least sexist!
    she knew when we *vin and i* decided to get married, that i couldn’t even make egg. so any other cooking was WAY out of the question. she asked if i’d “like” to learn or we’d manage. i said “we’ll manage”. she said fine. i learned to cook by myself – asking friends or relying on google baba.
    she visited us last year… and not once did she sound sexist abt anything. she was very surprised that i’d bothered to learn to cook.
    while here, she insisted that vin also do chores around the house.
    i can’t cook anything maharasthrian… coz i don’t like it much. she didn’t “object”, neither did she ask me to learn it… she cooked it herself.
    as far as learning to cook his fave dish… well, i learned it by myself coz i wanted to surprise him once. kinda makes me happy to cook something that he’d like. i dunno if that makes me sound like a doormat… but it’s free choice. if i’m told to do something, that’ll never get done.

    all this said, she doesn’t really like it if i wear shorts or skimpy outfits with her… but she doesn’t say anything. which is why i avoid wearing them. it’s mutual respect, i guess. also, it’s not that i’d die if i don’t wear a tiny halter dress for a few months. she DID have issues with me not changing my name or not wearing a mangalsutra. but she told vin abt it… and he handled that.

    and yes, ppl DO presume that since u don’t go to an “office” u have nothing to do the entire day. i’ve put up with it long enough to know.

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 12, 2009 9:57 am

      Hey, when were you not working??
      Oh jeez I forgot about that whole name changing, mangalsutra,no kids clause that I have …I am no mother’s ideal daughter in law I can safely assume!! 🙂

      • May 12, 2009 11:32 pm

        as long as it’s clear between u and the guy, i don’t see how it’s anyone else’s business!
        but yeah… ppl WILL be nosy. it’s something u live with and blog about 😉
        i AM not working now. did u mean to ask “when were u working?” 😀

  9. May 11, 2009 8:07 pm

    i am curious about your tavel firm-what exactly does it do? great article on HT BTW…i am proud of you as a fellow Assamese.

    As far as my take on this one-you sound just like me. Fortunately I have wonderful IL’s althought there are times when they get on my nerves as well. But what I simply do is ignore their comments or actions, try not to read in between the lines unless it is a direct attack on my integrity. These are moments when I focus on the big picture, try to put things in perspective and not get het up about the minutiae.

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 12, 2009 9:53 am

      You will get to hear about the travel firm soon!! Yes I guess to ignore is the best option

  10. kopili permalink
    May 12, 2009 1:35 am

    Fact of life is this, baby, that if you have to live with your BF for the rest of your life, or at least a while longer, you cannot ignore his mother. Coz he is not going to ignore her. Parents become old, they need care, etc etc.. and then all of a sudden, what do u do? U have to figure out a way to handle the situations. u cannot change your parents, can you? the BF ( or husband or whoever) cannot change his either.
    Having said that, again from experience, it is very very tough – really! But if you make your point clear ( i am not interested in kitchen work, or i’d like to go out everyday evening with my friends even when you are around), then things work out.

    Actually, only one thing works – being yourself, and letting your MIL also know you. She may hate you after that, or love you, or accept you, but there is no pretense anymore.

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 12, 2009 9:58 am

      Your last sentence must be the smartest thing you have said-in sometime :-).
      Being myself and let them hate me if they want to – that precisely sums up my relationship with the whole world, as of now.I think I can manage that

      • May 14, 2009 12:21 pm

        For me it wasn’t even those occasional visits, they moved in with us for good. Wont call it a battlefield but I was losing all peace of mind till I found a formula which is Ba’s comment and Kamala’s put together. Mug ’em up like they do the ten commandments. And thank god it is just a small trip!

      • lostonthestreet permalink
        May 15, 2009 8:45 am

        Really when did that happen.Whats the scene now at your place.

  11. Kamala permalink
    May 12, 2009 9:57 pm

    Ok more gyaan, albeit a little late:

    1. Accept them. That’s how its going to be no matter who you marry. Each pair of out-laws come with their own quirkiness.

    2. Never break your back trying to please them. It will never work. So might as well be who you are and a little less stressed out.

    3. Don’t expect them to accept you. If they don’t accept you for who you are then they will accept you for you aren’t and really they are both the same.

    4. Never disrespect them. Don’t have to cook, but order in what all of you like. Don’t like something they said, walk away, making it clear.

    5. Never get the BF or DH in between. They are his parents and there is nothing he can do about it.

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 12, 2009 10:44 pm

      Point 3 ,very well thought out.What’s with elder siblings and hitting the nail on the head.
      And heyyyy, regarding point 4, in real life I am real polite,to the point of being a pushover.

  12. Galadriel permalink
    May 13, 2009 1:12 am

    I’m not sure which category I fall under.. I have lived with my boyfriend’s mother long enough to know that friction is natural. You cannot stuff two people (who aren’t sleeping together) in the same house and expect them to get along like a house on fire.

    The good thing is, my future MIL knows that too. She likes me and I like her. She’s very affectionate towards me, which makes me feel bad, because.. well, I’m just not big on expressing my love for people, I just don’t know how to.

    The boyfriend knows how to deal with his mom, I don’t. He is always there when I need to tell her something but am feeling uncomfortable saying it.

    I like cooking for him though, especially considering most of the times he has to rely on take-out or his own culinary talent. I am not a good cook myself, but with my mom’s home made masalas, even I end up making food that tastes halfway decent. He’s happy, he tell his mom that he’s happy, which makes her happy. Ultimately it’s all about maintaining that dynamic with her. She loves her son, and so do you. To me, that is the bottomline.

    @rayshma: It’s the other way round for me. My MIL wants me to wear backless cholis and strapless blouses. I simply refused. 😛

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 13, 2009 10:59 am

      we fall under the same category..Boyfriend’s parents 🙂
      Yeah this expressing love bit is tough for me too..I generally shuffle around with a silly grin- and hope that conveys the whole gamut of emotions!!

  13. May 14, 2009 2:17 pm

    I dont have pearls of wisdom to offer

    ….just like to say tht I enjoyed reading ur post;-D

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 15, 2009 8:44 am

      And that was the main intention of the blog 😉 the questions merely rhetorical .

  14. Vincent Wega permalink
    May 14, 2009 5:36 pm

    Easy Easy…..
    BTW…I do know some of your fav dishes & that you liked Melody :-))

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 15, 2009 8:43 am

      Shhhh!!! Don’t reveal it all.And dude ,someday I might have to kill you.You know much too many things about me 🙂

  15. May 14, 2009 11:31 pm

    First Miss Jean, now Sudesh Verma… Which batch were you? I would have passed out in 1998, but I changed schools in Class 9…

    And hey, I just quit my job too take a break too!

    • lostonthestreet permalink
      May 15, 2009 8:40 am

      You would be 2 years junior to me!.You shifted out of ghy?

  16. May 15, 2009 2:15 pm

    Yeah, for a couple of years.. I was so excited about your St Mary’s reference that I forgot to say anything pertinent to this post…

    My suggestion is to show your lack of interest in household matters, or give some hints such as, “I don’t know… Let me ask him if the clothes are back from the laundry.” Or just smile vaguely, or something.

    • lostonthestreet permalink*
      May 30, 2009 6:30 pm

      how about baring my teeth menacingly! 🙂

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