A TV show- ‘Bhabhiji Ghar Pe Hain’, which took comedy on Indian television by storm is set in Kanpur and revolves around two neighbouring couples. Both the male protagonists, bored of their married lives try to woo the other’s better halves, resulting in a hilarious turn of events which shows how the men to great lengths to insult and put the other down.
The bhabhis here of course, are not of the biological brother, but a neighbour. However, the concept of the Indian bhabhi has been explored at length in various television shows and movies. The bond between the ‘devar-bhabhi’ has always been portrayed as one of the simplest, cheeriest, and un-complicated relationships, where each has the others back, and become their go-to person in case of anything. There have been other shows or films where the downside of this equation has been portrayed- leading to a promiscuous tryst between the two and the hell that breaks loose. However, that is seen or heard of rarely, and we as viewers have mostly been treated to a warm and understanding relationship between the two.
So what makes Indians love their Bhabhis? I have a couple of male friends with older married brothers, and I see from their Facebook and other posts how much they adore their bhabhis! They feel that they’ve found a sister, mother, and friend at one go, and go to great lengths to ensure that they are happy in their new home. The ladies too shower their brothers-in-law with a lot of love and ‘good food’ which they had probably learnt just to impress their in-laws! From sharing secrets, to going out for parties, conspiring behind the husband’s back, to having a shoulder to cry on- the devar turns out to be one of the biggest supporters of the new family member. Salman Khan and Renuka Shahne’s ‘Hum Aapke Hai Kaun’ will remain my fondest portrayal of this relationship.
But can we say the same for two women as well? The devrani-jethani? Or The nanad-bhabhi? I think that depends entirely on the people involved. Television serials have always shown two women living under the same roof as sworn enemies, and we have, to a great extent believed it as well. But being an optimist, I feel that the same love and camaraderie as described earlier can exist between the Bhabhi and her sisters-in-law too. After all, she makes all the effort to adjust into a new home, among new family members, so she deserves all the love and support!