In support of free speech

I’m re-posting the comment made by Shaheen and liked by Renu as as a mark of solidarity for them and in support of free speech.

 

A dozen things to discuss before tying the knot for desi couples

I started to write this list after reading the past few posts on IHM’s blog, but was really inspired to finish as a response to this post. While I do agree that the best way to really know about someone is by living with them, which most Indian young men and women cannot even dream of doing before marriage. In my opinion the next best thing one can do is talk and by talk I mean discuss the 12 topics which cause disharmony in a relationship. Here they are in random order.

Living arrangements

  • Nuclear family or joint family
  • If nuclear family, then how far away or close to the in-laws should you want to live. This only applies to couples who live in the same city as their parents
  • If living in a joint family temporarily, then what’s the time frame to move out

Parents

  • Expected behavior towards SIL or DIL
  • Their level of involvement in your marriage
  • How to handle disagreements
  • Who will handle disagreements
  • Money and gift giving
  • What to do in the event they cannot live by themselves anymore

Finances

  • Spending habits
  • Saving habits
  • Debt and loans if any
  • Contribution towards the family  expenses
  • Planning for retirement, education, vacations etc

Children

  • When
  • How many
  • How far apart
  • How will they be raised

Job and Career

  • Ambitions
  • Discuss the other person’s job requirements  i.e. travel, work hours etc
  • Define what is a non negotiable job or career change
  • Time off from work, sabbaticals, higher education, relocation etc

Household responsibilities

  • Expectations from each other
  • What is a fair division of labor
  • Hired help

Religion

  • How to incorporate each other’s faith if belonging to different religions
  • The customs and traditions you will be comfortable following from the other person’s faith
  • Which religion will the kids follow
  • Even if you happen belong to the same religion /caste/ sub-sect do discuss the customs and practices that you are aware of and are comfortable following
  • Level of involvement with religion

Health

  • Major surgeries and genetic conditions
  • Communicable diseases
  • Wishes you need honored when something unforeseen happens

Food

  • Food allergies
  • Food preferences i.e. vegetarian, non-vegetarian, kosher, halal, vegan etc
  • Types of food that can be cooked or served at home

Culture and Personal Habits

  • The similarities and differences between your background, habits etc
  • The things you’d be willing to incorporate into your life from your partner’s culture
  • Things that you do not agree about your partner’s culture
  • Daily habits i.e. cleanliness, hygiene, toileting.

Sex

  • How much and how often
  • What is okay
  • What is a complete no-no

Misc

  • Pets
  • Political beliefs
  • Hobbies

I am not suggesting by any means that one has to print a copy of this post and read from it when meeting prospective grooms or brides for the first time, but if you feel you like the person across the table and would like know if you could fall in and be in love with them for the rest of your life feel free to discuss any and all of the points mentioned in the post.

Life for the wife left behind

Hello everyone,

This post is about the lives and difficulties faced by those women left behind by their husbands who work abroad, most of the time with the guy’s parents.

There was a time when I was growing up that to get a groom for one’s daughter who was working abroad ( at least in my community) was considered the ultimate parental achievement. Everyone would congratulate the parents of the girl on finding the ultimate match.

This was because it was believed that the men who worked abroad would make more money than the men who lived and worked in India.  Now this wouldn’t have been too bad a thing if only these men could take their wives with them. But often they were left behind, as the man either did not make enough to support two families meaning his wife and future kids abroad and his parents and possibly siblings back in India. Sometimes, even if he had the  so called “family status” and could afford to live with his wife where he worked, she wasn’t allowed to accompany him. The reason for this being someone had to take care of the saas and sasur. So the bride would have to stay back with her in-laws while her husband went back to work after the 3 or 4 week vacation came to an end.

Day to day life for these women consisted of taking care of their in-laws and house hold chores. Since, I’m talking about times before email, social networks, mobile phones, the only communication they would have with their husbands would be a monthly letter addressed to his parents, or a phone call for 10 minutes at neighbors house. The in-laws would read the letter and inform the wife that the husband had written and that he was doing well. The MIL or which ever in-law accompanied her to the neighbor’s to take the phone call would admonish her saying that she was wasting her husband’s hard earned money (which  he supposedly could save for her and their kids) if she talked to her husband beyond the allotted time.

 A woman I know, who lives in India with her two kids, while her husband works abroad once told me that, when she was newly married, her husband once wrote a letter to her and when her MIL got a hold of it while she was visiting her parents, all hell broke loose. She was asked by her MIL to not return, it took her father a few trips to the in-laws home and her begging for forgiveness after which her MIL relented and allowed her to return home.

These women were never considered as human by the in-laws. They were  just free laborers. They had to cook, clean, wash all the in-laws’s clothes, be the first to wake up and the last to eat and sleep. If they did anything else apart from this  it was to wait for the 3 weeks of vacation  time when the husbands would visit.

Now this time too was not a happy peaceful time for the poor woman either, the man when not out visiting relatives or friends was supposed to spend quality time with his parents first. The wife would have to wait until it was time for bed, to spend time with her husband. If the husband wanted to visit his buddies, he could just leave, but if he had to take her out to the movies, then the in-laws would have to be notified and permission sought well in advance.

Another side effect of the husbands visiting every year would be the wives getting pregnant, so many of these women would have kids every year or so until the in-laws decided that she had had enough and put an to her reproductive capacity. Now if she did not get pregant, especially if there were no kids yet and it had been a couple of years since the wedding, or if she had a girl before she would be taunted and harassed.  Intimate details  about the possible working and non working parts of her reproductive system would be freely discussed with neighbors, relatives and anyone willing to listen.  New reasons will be conceived for her not conceiving and the poor woman many times will face threats of being replaced.

In short, these women lead lives like pseudo widows. The worst part is that this still happens in 2012 in some parts.

So, what do you think is the fascination with grooms who work abroad? Would really appreciate perspectives from those who’ve come across women/ situations  like this.

What to do when a wife forges ahead

Hello everyone,

Again this post is a reply/ comment to this email from a husband who was unsure on the effect of wife’s promotion on their relationship at and outside of work. I am going to answer this question in three parts legal implications, relationship at work, relationship at home.

Legal

I have a few questions for you, How big is your company? Most of the companies these days, at least here in the US require you to disclose if you have a close relative working for the company. Did you/your wife disclose this information? You did not mention if you both worked in the same department earlier, if you were working in different departments earlier and she became your boss as a result of the promotion, then its her duty to inform the management ( not because she is a woman, but because she holds the higher post now)  about having a close relative report to her and either find another department to head or have you report to another manager.

This will solve a lot of problems

  • Although your wife will still rank higher than you on the company’s corporate ladder, you and her will not have to deal with each other day in and day out.
  • The good work you do will be judged purely your ability to do it and not due to the fact that you sleep with the boss every night.
  • Will reduce gossip and claims of favoritism by the other members of the team, many people still doubt this, but if people don’t get along when working towards a common goal the end product suffers.
  • It will save you / your company  a lot of money in lawyer’s fees and time if the other employees in your team decide to sue for sexual harassment ( sexual harassment is  not just physical, it’s inclusive of something called as ” hostile work environment”  simply put it means that the a coworker/boss/company intentionally makes it difficult  or impossible for a person to do their job).
  • Apart from the criminal complications you might also be at risk of being sued in civil court.
  • Will help you in the future by not being a bad mark on your employment history.

Implications on your relationship at work

You did not mention anything about your wife’s qualifications or job experience or even how well she did while at your company, during this past year. I also realise that sometimes people who work in departments that create products and services which make money for the company do get better rewards than those departments which cost money. Sometimes excellent workers get laid off, just because their department was no longer deemed necessary and some not so hardworking people ride the train to success on the backs of other successful people. Now I’m not implying thats the case with your wife,but it is to make you feel better knowing that these things happen fairly regularly. And, it could even be the case that your wife is was at the right place at the right time.

I agree  when you say that the dynamics of your relationship will change with you and your wife going from co-workers to boss and subordinate. Let us say that your wife was truly deserving of the promotion she got and, the only way to avoid, you not reporting to her will  be to deny her the promotion she so deserves, then both of you need to learn how to navigate this new relationship.

Even before your wife accepts the promotion, both of you need to have a chat about how your relationship is going to be at work. You have to realize that earlier just being two co-workers you could share information or even inside jokes. But,  going forward your wife might not be able to share everything about her work with you,  even if she wants to.   No, you cannot ask her what happened during meetings, the decisions she makes etc, as it would make it difficult for her to do her job and she might even resent you for it.  You need to know that in some jobs maintaining confidentiality is of utmost importance,  and it is also an ethical and legal requirement. It does not mean she does not love you or care for you.  Its just a new  job requirement for her.

I think you should address your wife just like how you used to address her before she became your boss, but you should respect the position.  She is the boss, she may/ will have the final say sometimes. You have to respect that.  If you undermine her authority, so will the other team members. You have a choice here, to make things awkward for you, her and other team members or to appear confident and comfortable in your wife’s success and actually may be even proud of her. If it makes you feel any better, just as the saying goes that there is a woman behind every successful man, maybe its your love for your wife motivated her to do her best work. Maybe she did not want to fail you.

Changes on the home front

Your wife should definitely discuss her job offer and how she intends to proceed, with you. Although the final decision is hers to make, she should take your input, feelings and the way your relationship will change  into consideration. This is not because she is a woman and she needs your permission, but because you both are a  two person team working towards the goal of a happy, healthy and harmonious household, any decision that effects both of you should be made jointly. The same rule applies to you too.

Finally, you also need to keep the following in mind, that although women have made great strides in the past few decades , the average woman worker earns less than her male counterpart for the same job, takes more time off due to childbirth illness etc, gets fewer promotions and has to struggle or work twice as hard to achieve what the male can, even easily sometimes. Often times when a man refuses a promotion stating his family as the reason, he is seen as caring and people feel pity for him. He is seen as a martyr. But if a woman refuses a promotion or is unwilling to say travel often for her job, stating her family as a reason, then she is seen as unprofessional and at times it could even be the death knell for future promotions and career advancement.

Please discuss this with your wife, given the way the majority of desi women are raised, she is probably more conflicted and confused and does not know how to approach you. You mentioned that you loved your wife dearly, so don’t let this become a road block to your relationship.  All relationships change over time, sometimes we notice the change and other times we don’t. Make your relationship stronger by becoming more confident  yourself and letting your spouse shine.