I am quite an adaptive person. I believe in accepting people as they are. Neither wants them to change their way of life for me nor do I want to change my way of life for them. And I always thought it was cool, until I got married.

The moment I finished taking the seven vows, people started pestering me for my culinary skills, my home-keeping skills and the hush hush..the” keep your husband happy” skills. While I always thought that being happy was most important, I never knew that according to societal norms, keeping the husband and in-laws happy tops the list.

The Rules of the New House

The tyranny began when I entered my “new home”. I was welcomed with strange traditions and unrealistic expectations.  Unrealistic for me, quite obvious for others. There was no knight in the shining armor, there were no roses on the path, there was no love in the air, neither was my love anywhere in sight. There were just random and unfamiliar faces with their discordant chanting. Clad in a really heavy and uncomfortable traditional dress adorned with the heaviest of jewelry I was like a sleepless zombie who longed to get into something comfortable and retire. Engrossed in my thoughts, I never knew when hubby dearest stood next to me. Probably it was time for some other tradition that required team play. However, seeing him didn’t help me relax, instead, it made me feel more pathetic. He had comfortably changed into sando and shorts, and here I was bearing the burden of traditions.

It was all too Uncomfortable and Disturbing for Me

This may sound overdramatic to some and one might think, what’s the big deal, ye to sabhi karte hai(Everyone follows this). But for someone who had always condemned the atrocities of patriarchy, hardly accepted gender biasing, all this was really perturbing. During our dating days, I already conveyed my ideologies and my rebellious thoughts to my would-be husband and I believed he respected them. But it was only after our wedding did I realize that he was following the age-old mantra, “Shadi ke baad sab theek ho jayega (Things will fall in place once you get married).”

Though I missed my pajamas and tees badly, but still followed what I was expected to during my initial stay at in-laws. I remained the ideal saree clad, sar par pallu wali bahu and followed the complete checklist of a married women’s adornments. Problems started when I was expected to follow all the norms even on my subsequent visits. This continued for almost a year. It felt suffocating. I felt trapped. I remember, once I wore a Chinese collar salwar suit and the dupatta slipped my head only to leave a furious father- in- law who skipped his lunch as he was ‘upset’. 

The Last Straw for Me

I was labeled as an impudent and immodest daughter-in-law. That’s when I decided I needed to turn the table, one step at a time. It was time for them to know that being righteous is not impudent.

How I Changed the Norms and You Could Too

For those of you who are sailing in a similar boat and wondering how to change the norms, here is some advice.

  • Respect yourself first: The biggest mistake we women make is we don’t speak for ourselves. We accept things as they are and consider it our fate. Instead, be bold and firm and stand up for yourselves. When you will respect yourself, only then will others respect you.
  • Communication is the key: Women have a tendency to almost always overthink and often assume things. It is therefore important to stop assuming and start speaking. Let others know what’s comfortable for you and what is not.
  • Live life on your own terms: You don’t own your life to anyone. You married to have an equal partnership. When you show love, care and respect for others, those feelings should be reciprocated. You have full freedom to live the life that suits you.
  • Try to strike the right cord: You will have to get into each family member’s shoes in order to put across your point. Each has a different mindset and a different temperament. You will have to strike the right chord at the right moment with each one of them.
  •  Take baby steps: Although it is important to lay down your rules, it is equally important to take one step at a time. Going all out will only give you some bad labels and will be too difficult for others to digest.

After several disagreements and a series of rebellious processions later, things are changing, slowly but steadily. Yes, I was name called, there were some bitter moments, but all this was worth it. Now there is only mutual respect and love for each other in the family. Not only my husband understands me better and respects my choices but I have also got big support from my mother in law. She was adamant at first but now she is living a life of her choice too. As for my father-in-law, he too is trying to amend things.

Previous versions of this post were published here and here

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