“We love you so much. We have given you the best education. There are parents who don’t spend any money on their daughter’s education. And, now look at you. After everything we have done for you, how could you put our family name and honor at risk. Atleast think of what people will think about us? What people will say about your father?”
Doesn’t matter whether it was wearing a short skirt or dating a boy or going out with my friends or refusing to be married to a man that they chose for me; my parents made sure that I knew how I was failing them!
It was heart-breaking how my educated and well-reputed parents had different rules for their son and their daughter. While I was shamed into doing things that they wanted me to do, my brother was encouraged to carve his own path. While I was shamed to be a rebel, my brother was celebrated for not following the set path.
My brother was encouraged to be himself, to make choices for himself, to make mistakes, and learn from them. But, I was told to follow the path of being sanskaari. They felt they were protecting me from being disgraced in the eyes of society. But, what they were actually doing was to protect themselves from being perceived as a failure. Because our society hails men for being a rebel, while it shames and punishes women for not following the rules.
Please don’t get me wrong. Like many Indian parents, my parents love me a lot. They made sure that they treat me and my brother equally. But sadly, they couldn’t see the hypocrisy:
When my brother is allowed to wear any kind of clothes, but I am shamed for wearing what I want. My clothes not only make me characterless, but apparently put the whole family’s honor at stake.
When my brother is allowed to say things that he believes in, but I am shamed for speaking out aloud my views about Indian society and their regressive behavior.
When my family is okay with my brother’s sudden burst of anger, but apparently me showing my anger in public makes me characterless and unsanskari. Hence, I am unfit for marriage!
My brother is allowed to get married at an age when he feels comfortable, but me telling my parents to get married only once I settle down in my career makes me a child ungrateful to my parents and their desires.
But that’s not only my truth. It is the truth of many Indian daughters who are raised to be obedient. They are pampered and loved till the time they follow the set rules. And, once we are ready to carve our own path and live life by our own choices, we get:
“We have worked hard for you, loved you to the moon and back, sacrificed all our life for you and this is what you give us in return? We did so much for you and you are ready to ruin our family reputation! Have you ever thought what people will say?”
So in return for their love, many Indian parents push their daughters to make sacrifices: marry at the age when we don’t want to; marry the man we don’t want to; become mothers when we don’t want to; stay in an abusive and toxic marriage when we don’t have to!
And for the sake of keeping parents happy, many daughters choose to suffer; they choose to make choices that they never wanted to make in the first place; they choose to sacrifice.
It is the conditioning how many Indian parents make their daughters believe that it is ‘normal’ for them to make sacrifices. This conditioning makes her feel obligated to make sacrifices for her husband, her in-laws, her kids – forever. Unlike men, she feels selfish if she prioritizes her own desires and dreams over her family!
Dear Indian Parents, please stop burdening your daughters with the idea of good and sanskaari beti. We are tired of making sacrifices for the sake of family honor. Stop extracting an emotional payment from us against your love.
Please stop raising daughters to make sacrifices; Stop making them feel guilty for choosing a life different from society’s expectations. Stop expecting them to make sacrifices of their own wishes for family, for you, for society! Stop making them feel unworthy of your love and your sacrifices just because she made a choice for herself that society doesn’t like.
The confidence that this type of upbringing instills in a daughter will take her a long way in identifying the balance between giving to her family and receiving from her family – a value that will empower her to ensure her own happiness. Without this fundamental empowerment, all the dresses in the world mean nothing in the end.