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Think of how much more time and energy we would have to focus on other things that matter if we weren’t so busy surviving. ~ from Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

This is from Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. Now here’s a book I’d like to quote from every few sentences or so.  I might too, in future posts. But for now I share the above, reading which I had to stop and think. The effort, women (one half of humanity), put into surviving violence in various forms against them could have been put to better use, the author says. How very true.

Some years back I read a letter from a woman published on one of the blog pages. It was about the difficulties she faced at her in-law’s place. Well, what’s new?! In this particular case, life was made hell for her by their constant insistence on her kowtowing to their decisions in everything, even about her work, visiting her parents etc. Readers of the blog offered solace through comments, urged her to stand up for herself, and also gave specific advice on how exactly she could go about dealing with particular situations.

In the same letter she had also mentioned how her cooking and eating habits were also sought to be controlled. Interestingly some of the comments (obviously from men, no surprises there) dismissed this aspect of her letter as not worthy of attention. According to them it was a non-issue, a minor thing which she could solve by talking one-to-one.  I mean who could stop anyone from cooking and eating what they want, the ignoramuses put forward. The underlying message was pretty clear: These silly women! They make an issue of every little thing.

Yeah, right….. because you see, the man who comes and sits at the table at meal times and is served lovingly (and with servility) by either wife or mother, and always proffered food that he likes, is the one who understands the predicament of a woman in a strange -to-her kitchen in a new home, and HE is the one qualified to give advice on the topic.  My eyes have just rolled off the top writing this.

This HE who doesn’t ever have to move out of his parents’ house, change his lifestyle one bit, HE who still eats the same food cooked the same way, HE who could and would bring the roof down otherwise, HE who has been given the God given right by society to insist on what he wants and gets it, that ‘HE’ has the audacity to dismiss the problems a woman much lower in the hierarchy faces in a kitchen in a new environment as of no consequence? Give me a bleddy break.

I stepped into one of them houses (and eventually the kitchen, because that is where your in-laws and the society think you belong) while still a naive young girl. Having grown up on less spicy food, may be because my father has a delicate stomach or because that’s how food was cooked in my home, that’s what I was used to. But in the house I stepped into as daughter-in-law, spices were liberally used, the curries looked enticingly red and were really, really hot, making their presence known to the body from the time of entry to exit.

The food itself was tasty, my MIL being a wonderful cook, I cannot deny that. I relished what I ate, only that I ate lesser quantities of everything because the amount of chili used set my mouth and insides aflame. So there I was, enjoying the food, watering nose notwithstanding, not complaining, not asking to cook less spicy fare (would I dare?!), but was it good enough for THEM? Nope. I was constantly criticized (for not eating more), the ways of cooking in my natal home made fun of and food even piled on my plate without my permission. In short, mealtimes were a total disaster for me.

If I go by the male advisers of the blog, I should have insisted firmly and my MIL would simply have had a change of heart and adjusted the menu for my sake, or let me cook my own food, right? That’s the sort of thought that spring from the minds of pampered (and privileged) males with rosy glasses on their noses who have convinced themselves grandly that a woman’s place is equal to their own in their ‘blessed’ home and those of their brethren. Ideally it should be of course, but unfortunately it is not. So, Hello! Wake up to the fact, bros! You cannot see beyond your long noses and your obvious privilege.

But I have digressed.

What I wanted to say was this. Exactly what percentage of a woman’s life is ‘wasted’ just so she can live life her way in the place she calls is forced to call home? (She would naturally want a home of her own, but how many men dare stay separately, away from parents?) How much does all this animosity in their place of living (twenty-four hours a day!) cost her mentally and physically, time she could otherwise have used fruitfully, for herself, for family, for humanity?

Why should a young woman who is a guest, yes she IS a guest till she is integrated into the family as a member, be treated shabbily and then expected to stand up and fight for herself, even unto her right to cook and eat what she likes? How did we even come to this stage where people assume this is all pretty normal and mundane and okay?

©Shail Mohan 2018