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Curse of the Mummyji
January 1, 2014 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Mothers in law have long been a focal point of Indian society. With the modernization of Indian culture, their roles are changing for better and for worse.
posted by reenum (17 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Do you have a link that's not behind a paywall? Would love to read.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:00 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


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posted by languagehat at 8:14 AM on January 1


How horrible:
Among these unfortunates is Renubala, the woman who, as a bride in Tripura, had worshipped her own mother-in-law as a goddess. Her life straddled the transformation of Indian families and society, and she wound up suffering again when she became a saas herself. Sitting on the floor, she wipes a metal plate with the end of a grubby sari and calls her bahu a “tigress”. The younger woman was 30 at marriage (the average for Indian women is now up to 21). Renubala says she was denied food, prevented from speaking to her son, suffering abuse and violence.

In the end, she says, her son told her he was taking her on holiday, only to abandon her in Vrindavan, 1,400km from home. With a smear of mud on her forehead she now begs for alms, singing devotional songs and reciting the 108 names of Krishna. Her son won’t light her pyre, she accepts, though she sends him what she gets by begging. Asked to explain the changing fortunes of mothers-in-law in India, she says: “we are living in the time of Kali Yuga”, a mythical era of strife, when human life is only lust, greed, broken vows and violence.
The comments are really interesting and offer a more nuanced perspective on the matter.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:14 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


If paywalled, try opening the link in incognito mode. You could also try disabling all cookies for economist.com.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:16 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I forwarded this to my wife and told her it could be a lot worse. Every time they encounter each other it is a power struggle complicated by imagined insults by both sides.
posted by Renoroc at 8:31 AM on January 1


A few years ago one of my Indian colleagues was going back to India for a holiday, but was complaining that he'd need to spend most of visiting relations. I said "Don't tell them you are going" A look of horror passed across his face and he whispered "They'll know", "How" said I and another Indian colleague said "You don't know what the Aunties are like, you can't escape the Aunties they know everything!"
posted by lilburne at 9:06 AM on January 1 [8 favorites]


It is not just Indian families that have the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law problem. The comments in the article are interesting and ask questions that the article didn't, such as, "what about the father-in-law?"

I will say this, even in the US, the question about your in-laws is not inconsequential. Taking a quick survey of askMefi the word, "in-law", dings more than a few questions.
posted by jadepearl at 9:08 AM on January 1


Patriarchy twists human relations in strange ways. I feel bad for all the women caught in such a system. It's not really about the girls and women abusing each other, it's about a system that sees girls as a burden to be disposed of and sent away, instead of as a person with a future greater than that of mother to a son. I know there are feminists in India fighting for better, it would have been nice if the writer had bothered to ask their insight into the issue. Since they didn't, the piece lacks depth.
posted by emjaybee at 9:10 AM on January 1 [15 favorites]


The comments on the article were even more depressing than the article. Plenty of finger-pointing and blaming "colonial" whatever (and lots of smartassed remarks about western single mothers), little empathy for the other commenters who'd said they'd suffered similarly.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:45 AM on January 1 [3 favorites]


A few years ago one of my Indian colleagues was going back to India for a holiday, but was complaining that he'd need to spend most of visiting relations. I said "Don't tell them you are going" A look of horror passed across his face and he whispered "They'll know", "How" said I and another Indian colleague said "You don't know what the Aunties are like, you can't escape the Aunties they know everything!"

This is kind of an in-joke and not meant to be OMG horrible. I don't know about these people's families and all families are different, but in my experience this is usually meant to be affectionate.

You just can't go to India without visiting all the family and having endless cups of tea.
posted by sweetkid at 11:19 AM on January 1 [6 favorites]


Do you have a link that's not behind a paywall? Would love to read.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:00 AM on January 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


Try on tablet or mobile. I'm reaching it with no paywall issues there
posted by Bwithh at 11:43 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]


I know there are feminists in India fighting for better, it would have been nice if the writer had bothered to ask their insight into the issue.

At least Veena Venugopalan appears to be one
posted by Bwithh at 11:57 AM on January 1


Patriarchy twists human relations in strange ways.

Eh, this article is more of an example of matriarchy. Neither system (matriarchy or patriarchy) are particularly pleasant, just different ways of imposing hierarchy.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:43 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Since men control a family’s dealings with the outside world, running the farm or a business, women are left to oversee the home. The legendary ferocity of the saas can be seen as an effort to monopolise the little power that is available to her sex.

I'd say the author of the article feels it's mainly caused by patriarchy. It's not as if individual mothers in law are blameless for the way they treat their daughters in law, but there's no escaping the fact that the daughter in law is only under her mother in law's control because the system doesn't grant her even close to acceptable levels of autonomy from her husband.
posted by ambrosen at 9:26 PM on January 1 [5 favorites]


The unhealthy closeness between sons and mothers is very pronounced in India, and it leads to horrible things.
Having your MIL in the same bed! Eeeew sorry but just eeeeew!

It's not just India though. There was a case I read of in Yemen where a very young bride was held by the mother-in-law so her son could de-flower her. This was an arranged marriage. The girl was maybe 14. Not sure of the 'man's' age, but no real man needs his mother to hold down his new wife for him. The girl ended up fleeing and divorcing the 'man'.
This happens in patriarchal cultures.
Being a scary mean mother-in-law is the only time a woman tastes power.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:12 AM on January 2


Being a scary mean mother-in-law is the only time a woman tastes power.

This! :(

I can't think of a better reason why otherwise (seemingly) good people would be mean to their daughters- or sons-in-law.
posted by Neekee at 7:38 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


There was a case I read of in Yemen where a very young bride was held by the mother-in-law so her son could de-flower her

Rape by proxy.
posted by jaduncan at 8:07 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


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