The Toxic Culture Around Daughters-in-Law Hurts Women

Trigger warning: domestic violence, sexual assault

As a beti of the house, I had always heard my grandma say, “jitna bhi padh le, shaadi toh karni padegi. Coffee ke mug toh dhone hi padenge.” As a young child, and then as a teenager, I was confused about why marriage was considered more important than education. It was even more confusing because the women in my family experienced so much abuse in their marriages. I often asked myself, “would I want to get married?” After all, there is so much excitement around marriage, and your parents grant you a certain level of freedom because you are finally considered an adult.

I thought getting a good education meant that I wouldn’t have to endure the abuse that the women before me did. However, after becoming a bahu myself, I soon learned that abuse comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times, it suffocates you because you cannot find room for your feelings or emotions.

Sanskari Bahu” is inspired by and dedicated to the women in my family who went through so much, without saying a word. This poem is also for the women who have gone through similar experiences. I see you. Please know you are not alone.

[Read Related: An ode to all the Women In the House]

Sanskari Bahu

We are taught from an early age
a sanskari bahu does not talk back
to her husband or her in-laws

My cousin kept quiet when
her husband hit her
because he was drunk
She concealed her bruises
saying she had tripped
if we ever caught a glimpse

My aunt complied every afternoon when
my uncle kicked her out of their room
so he could fuck the maid
She held back her tears every time we asked
why she was sitting in the verandah under the hot sun

Another aunt obeyed when
my uncle ordered her to stand naked outside their bedroom
as punishment for offending him
She hid her shame in the dark
as she prayed for Mother Earth to engulf her body

My mom didn’t fight back when
my dad slapped her
because her cooking wasn’t good enough
She tried to convince us every morning
that our dad was a good man

I had seen too many failed marriages
and should have known better
but like they say
Love is blind
If it’s not the husband
then it’s the in-laws
telling you that your feelings
have no space in the
box they created for you

[Read Related: Revisiting old Scars, old Houses and the People of our Past]

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By Taniya Gupta

Taniya is a poet, who has been writing since she was young. Writing down her thoughts on paper was her … Read more ›