I had a very liberal upbringing and had the liberty to choose whatever I wanted to do. After Class 12 I decided to move to a hostel and my parents agreed. After getting placed at a top IT firm, I chose Mumbai over Guwahati (closer home). Needless to say, when the chance came to choose a life partner, I was adamant.
He was a year junior, from a higher caste, and a different community. Both the families had objections but finally love conquered and we were married in 2011. I was truly happy and looked forward to a great life ahead with my soulmate.
Within a year my spouse got a better offer in Bangalore and we moved in with our in-laws. I also took up a job with an MNC. The initial few months were fine. I missed having non-vegetarian food (my husband and in-laws are pure vegetarian) but I compromised.
I made sure that I maintained cordial relations with my in-laws. I always thought that, with my husband by my side, I would be able to overcome all difficulties.
I was wrong.
A few months down the line, my in-laws made sure that I took over the kitchen and cooked for the whole family. We hired cooks, but my in-laws contrived that they left in a few months. Since my mother-in-law was old, I had to take charge. While they were never vocal about anything, with their body language and overall behaviour they made me understand one thing—that as the ‘bahu’, I have to do all kinds of household chores. So what if I have an MBA and work at an IT firm? So what if I earn as much as my husband does?
Related reading: Living with criticism from the in-laws
I’ve never been religious. Durga Puja for me meant fun and frolic and enjoying gala meals (mostly non-veg) with my cousins. But my mom-in-law gradually got me keeping vrats thrice a week and advised me to visit the temple every Monday. When things started becoming a little too much for me, I tried protesting, but in vain. I told my loving husband about it, thinking he would support me, only to hear, “If going to the temple once in a week makes mom happy, then why not? And anyway you know that I love you and I’m always there for you!”
Next came Karva Chauth. I told my husband that I wouldn’t be interested in performing such a ritual. He said it was perfectly fine with him, but I must seek his mother’s permission. And lo and behold! She didn’t agree. I had to perform the rituals by fasting the entire day against my wish.
Didn’t he say more than once that he loves me?
I knew that I’d almost lost my freedom. Those midnight walks on Mumbai’s Marine Drive holding hands, sitting on Chowpatty beach and staring at the sea for hours or driving down to Lonavla and Khandala on weekends – had become a thing of the past. Now, most weekends are spent cooking, cleaning or attending to relatives who drop in to get a glimpse of how the new bahu is managing the household.
My father-in-law makes it a point to ask every evening (after I’m back from work) how long I’ll take to make a dozen rotis. If I say 45 minutes he’s surprised. I see my husband resting in the bedroom and waiting for dinner to be served, while I slog in the kitchen with an already tired body and soul.
Related reading: Why I became happier when I stopped trying to please my in-laws
My social life has come to standstill; I can’t even meet my sisters and cousins who live in the same city. Though I don’t have to seek permission to leave the house, the in-laws’ utter dissatisfaction with me is evident in every move they make.
They’ve never uttered anything bad against me. I can’t fault them for misbehaving with me. They are sweetly moulding me into the ‘ideal bahu’ of the family who now has nothing to do but to keep house for them.
At times I feel blessed for having a job. The office offers a breathing space and it’s at work that I enjoy my bare minimum “me” time. My husband doesn’t want to relocate to any other city, given the comforts of his home, while I continue to secretly yearn for a life free of shackles.
I don’t know how long this will continue and where it will lead. If I choose to walk out, will it be the right decision? I wonder!
(As told to Sampurna Majumder)