Goodbye to ‘bidai’

Let’s jettison the idea that women accept their husband’s home as their own.

Written by Dipti Kulkarni | Published:October 31, 2016 12:15 am
bidai, husband's home, wife, in laws, british rule, sati, foreign domination, saas bahu, India, India news, Indian express news, opinion, columns The finality and severity of the daughter’s departure differs to a significant degree across households and regions in India. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Those who saw — long before everyone else — that the British had no business ruling in India, or that Sati was inhuman, saw something more fundamental than foreign domination or ritual wrong-doing. They saw that a different social reality was possible. The recent Supreme Court ruling granting divorce to a man from his wife who refused to share a home with his parents gives us an opportunity to talk about an issue that is as old as the hills but one which we have left unchallenged. Ask any parent who has raised and loved a daughter and they will tell you of the grief they felt when their daughter left their home and family after marriage.

The finality and severity of this departure differs to a significant degree across households and regions in India. It ranges from families where the bahu has to take permission to go to her natal home, if at all she must go, to the minority where there is no restriction on how deep her ties are to her parents. Irrespective of where families lie on this continuum, the expectation that the girl sever her ties with her family and adopt the husband’s family as her own is near universal.

The first family for every individual, male or female, is the family we were born and/or raised in and where we are loved for no reason at all. To expect the woman to sever or reorder her ties with this family and embrace an alien one is a cruel expectation. Despite all the pretence, it has never worked. This model is not working out for anyone and so it is time we jettison it. One has to only imagine the loneliness of parents whose daughters are married and are unable to attend to them. Imagine the emotions these daughters go through as they serve an alien place they have dutifully made home, while their own parents are yearning for a visit.

This model is not good for the son and his parents either. The saas-bahu serials wouldn’t be such a hit if it was. What this home sees is an endless tug-of-war of pleasing and being displeased. An endless clash of expectations from all sides. It’s not only the saas bahu who suffer from a lack of peace of mind, every member of the family does.

The alternative to the current scenario is not complicated. Let us celebrate the birth of every child, because no child, male or female is ever going to “go away”. When these people grow up and choose to marry, let the choice be between staying in an independent house, or the house of the son’s parents or the daughter’s parents — decided by all parties based on circumstance and convenience rather than rigid social tradition. And when it comes to the question of attending to the needs of parents is it not obvious that both sets of parents need to be cared for? This will require massive social, legal restructuring. But when what we want to achieve is in clear sight, everything that needs to be done to get there is just a step on the way.

The writer, 34, is an assistant professor at MICA, Ahmedabad

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  1. D
    Dalbir
    Oct 31, 2016 at 8:37 am
    I agree with your argument but considering the varied and complex structure of the society, which strata the author is referring to. 70 percent people live in villages, is this the model for them. Change yes, but for India, not a small chunk of urban poce. Let there be no two Indias, bridge the gap between the rural and urban and not widen.
    Reply
    1. D
      Dalbir
      Oct 31, 2016 at 7:10 am
      There are different ways of expressing the complex, one is this way. The author appears to have a fragmented childhood, difficult young age and currently frustrated. Plans to shape India on Western culture while having little knowledge or sense of Asian Values. India has survived over 5000 years without her imported advice and will survive long because of strength of its culture and traditions. In sum, little knowledge is dangerous. Better read Indian history, culture and philosophy and use her neutrons.
      Reply
      1. V
        Vish
        Oct 31, 2016 at 1:04 pm
        This is right. Courts should stop awarding automatic share of husband's home and ets, if the divorcing wife lives alone, or, is in relationship with someone, or the children are not with her.
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        1. A
          anil sharma
          Oct 31, 2016 at 4:43 am
          well done dipti you have said something that i have always felt strongly about. there is no need for the girl to sever ties with her parents after marriage. nor should there be any strings attached to her visits to her parent's home. this should be left to her judgment and we should trust that given this freedom she will strike the right balance. I have seen my wife exercise her discretion diligently for 30 years..
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          1. B
            bonumpraxis
            Oct 31, 2016 at 8:29 am
            There is a marriage called "misyar" in islam. Husband lives in his house and wife lives in her house.They can meet just like lovers in either one's flats.
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            1. B
              bonumpraxis
              Oct 31, 2016 at 8:20 am
              Total revisit of the concept of marriage and divorce is need of the hour. Gone are the days of house wife and obedient and working daughter in laws.
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              1. A
                Aditya
                Oct 30, 2016 at 9:47 pm
                Good point, we can discuss it.
                Reply
                1. P
                  Puneet
                  Oct 31, 2016 at 3:37 am
                  Totally agree
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                  1. M
                    Madhavi Reddy
                    Nov 1, 2016 at 5:25 am
                    @ Murthy... having mother-in-law/mother at home doesnt guarantee that babies are taken care off.I have seen many families especially g parents saying that their g children are not their responsibility.
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                      Madhavi Reddy
                      Oct 31, 2016 at 5:08 pm
                      Dipti....Its not a step on the way....Jettisoning bidai will work in few sections of society in India ( I appreciate if that happens)but there is a large section of society who wants to send their daughter away for many reasons( No further responsibility or Giving her away to a family higher than their status, money etc . so that she will be happy, secure etc. Its very complicated.This point again brings back to square one our country ,men and women doesnt enjoy the same status.
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                      1. F
                        farzi kumar
                        Oct 31, 2016 at 8:03 pm
                        feminism huh!!!
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Subbalakshmi Iyer
                          Oct 31, 2016 at 6:34 pm
                          I'm so glad someone said this. I completely agree with this article. It is extremely cruel to expect a woman to renounce her family and her name after marriage.lt;br/gt;Men should be encouraged to treat their in-laws as their own family. Parents of married women should never have to suffer from not having anyone to take care of them in their old age. Every human being should have the opportunity to take care of and live with their parents regardless of gender.
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                          1. J
                            Jeevan
                            Oct 31, 2016 at 8:11 am
                            Dear Dalbir, India lived several generations with 'SATHI". India lived several generations with untouchability. India lived several generations with education banned to a great majority of people. We lived several hundred years under different foreign rules. Would you pl tell me honestly whether you like your sister or mother observing SATHI ? Dalbir bhai pl try to understand that India survived only because it could adapt to and imilate change.
                            Reply
                            1. K
                              Kirit
                              Oct 31, 2016 at 12:16 pm
                              Wanted to know if that is not case, what will b woman's home?
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                              1. M
                                Murthy
                                Oct 31, 2016 at 10:46 pm
                                Yes, a new Family is formed between two young individuals, but their 'birth families' of the two cannot be, are not, entirely discarded. In patrilineal socieities the wife joins her husband's family, but in matrilineal socieities you get "Ghar Jamai" or "House Sons-in-law". Nothing wrong with either convention. But a convention is necessary, unless you go for "nuclear families". Leave the elderly parents of the husband and wife at 'Old Age Homes', Then for the young babies and children of the marriage, employ "baby sitters" or take them to "Creche" or "Day Care". So, the children spend more time with strangers than with their own parents or g-parents. Wonderful system, is it? In nuclear families the children loose out heavily.
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                                1. M
                                  Murthy
                                  Oct 31, 2016 at 10:49 pm
                                  You have a point. But it would have been more effective if you had also mentioned the husband's parents and their situation in their old age.
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                                  1. H
                                    HILARY
                                    Oct 31, 2016 at 7:09 am
                                    I would not mind accepting my husband's home as my own provided I am given ownership rights.
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                                    1. M
                                      Manish Kumar
                                      Oct 31, 2016 at 5:04 am
                                      I believe the same for very long time. Lets individuals to decide with whom and how the like to live, rather than by force of law or social norms, of course rights of individuals to be protected in all scenarios.
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                                      1. R
                                        Rakesh Kumar
                                        Oct 31, 2016 at 7:16 am
                                        I fully endorse the view of the author.But to change the old mindset youth have to come forward.
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                                        1. M
                                          M Jalem
                                          Oct 31, 2016 at 7:52 pm
                                          I agree with the writer. However, the economic reality is that in most cases the parents and children share a residence. Society has slowly been evolving to the nuclear family concept in the towns, but in the rural sector land is the cementing factor. Even in the towns real estate values make it very difficult for a couple to move out on their own. Looking after elderly parents is often the root of marital discord. Until social services are improved this will be a thorny question.
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                                          1. N
                                            NBR
                                            Oct 31, 2016 at 7:54 am
                                            The article is a sham. Don't know on what basis the author says women don't accept their husband's home as her own. Every parent is fond of his well raised daughter, but will not be happy to see her sitting in his home, without attending to the needs of her in-laws house. Yes, she should be free to visit her ancestral house whenever she wants and attend to needs of her parents. She should equally share her in-laws needs. lt;br/gt;And to say, the couples should decide where to stay after marriage based on decision of all parties involved is a very bad thought. This should be decided only by the couples involved.
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