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Not Allowed Out!

There was a very interesting comment from fellow blogger Charmine of My Favourites and Travel It's Fun on my last post. She was saying that among the families of the upper strata of Indian society, the daughters of the family are generally not sent out to celebrate feasts in other houses. This was in reference to my post on the Durga Puja festival, when Durga devotees need a quorum of nine girls and a boy to feed in honour of Maa Durga. From the time my daughters were born, and at least a year old, I remember I have always been inundated with invitations for the girls to come and eat the sacred meal (prasad).

I always found it extremely odd that when any of our neighbours came to invite the girls to the feast, they always insisted on speaking to no less a person than my father or mother in law. They would adopt an extremely humble attitude, beg permisson of my in-laws to invite their granddaughters and my in-laws would graciously acquiesce. I would wonder why they didn't ask me! Or at least my husband. Except that he is very seldom in the house when visitors call as he works very long hours. Why, I thought, are they asking the grandparents and not the parents?

I understand it quite well now. In Hindu joint families, traditionally, the ultimate authority rests with the elders. Moreover, it is a very big deal asking someone's daughter to come to your house. This is why, if the elders are living there, it is they and not the parents who must be asked for permission to send the girls over. Charmine's comment makes perfect sense!

My children have always had plenty of company at home and generally never needed other children to play with. I have four children, two boys and two girls. My brother and sister in-law who live in my house have two sons, now grown up. And the grandchildren who don't live here often come in the school holidays. But now, the children are starting to move out. Neil plays cricket in the park with boys who live nearby. Mel is a student at one of the most exclusive convent schools in north India (it just so happens! I'm not bragging about it!!!). So Mel, who has no friends living in the immediate vicinity, is friendly with girls who are spread out across our city. She has a close schoolfriend, Anandita, who is the daughter of a Government officer, living a couple of miles away. Anandi often comes by car to collect Mel to bring her home for a couple of hours if they have some spare time, or to attend the birthday parties and get-togethers of the girls in their class. Mel's father is not often available for driving duty as he works in the neighbouring city and has a long commute!

I know and trust Anandita's family and I know that their driver is a trustworthy employee. However, imagine my surprise when Mel's grandfather, my father-in-law, called me one day and said that Mel was no longer to go to Anandi's place, as he did not like the idea of the girls being driven by an employee. He declared that girls from good families stay at home and don't "roam around here and there." Those were his very words! And his word in our house is law!

Naturally, Mel was very upset. I had to explain to to her that that her grandfather had her best interests at heart and that she should not be upset about it. I could understand where he was coming from, but I could see her point of view too. If she couldn't meet her friends after school, that would be very sad as everyone needs to relax and have some fun from time to time.

I did feel however, that Mel's grandfather should appreciate that Mel's father and I are quite capable of discerning who is trustworthy and who is not! Having said that, it is very difficult to change someone's point of view when they are in an advanced age.

Nowadays, I just quietly drop Mel off at Anandi's place myself if I am in the vicinity doing any work. I don't have a vehicle, I use public transport to get around unless my husband is available to drive me. Or else Mel's father drops her and picks her up if he is around. If there is something particular like today, a birthday party at a schoolfriend's house and no lift from home is available, I just quietly send Mel along with Anandita, and say nothing. Well, I always inform my mother-in-law where the children are, she is reasonable enough!

I don't mean to deceive Mel's grandfather, but what can you do? If the parents are sure that the girl is safe, that should be good enough for him! And she needs to meet her friends, after all!


  1. Gaelikaa, you are a very strong person to cope with that situation. I would have blown my top years ago. Easy for me to say since I never had in-laws.

  2. I'll have to comment later on this post when I have time to read it...but in the meantime there is an award waiting for you to collect over at my blog xx

  3. Is there still something like Upper strata of society existing in Indian cities? Earlier it was based on the caste system and then it came to where you work!
    Today, I guess it depends how much wealth you have accumulated! Only Money does the talking!
    It’s unfortunate but one evil is always taken over by another evil. Elders are generally a bit over protectionist when it comes to the girls and women. That perhaps is because women are still vulnerable in our society. We are changing but it will take a bit of time and till that time.....
    I liked your post and I would also like to inform you that I have collected the award from your post! Thanks!

  4. Thanks for coming back and clarifying. We always tend to miss out a few thing as we read something. Lost in translation! It was a general comment from me with a message that the prevailing stratification of our society has to be ignored and done with.
    To be honest with you we ourselves felt (were rather made to felt that way by the people around) that we belong to some upper strata. As our father was a IAS officer and posted in a relatively small city, there was lot of respect, authority and recognition and lot of those used to drip down on to us, the kids. But as we moved on and went to college we realized that one is what one has within him, in his character.
    Today we should respect one only for his quality and nothing else... that is my message to all

  5. It's a difficult situation Gael, but I think you can be forgiven for disoberying your father-in-law. It would be very sad if Mel was deprived of her friendship. It's much the same here that the patriarch of the family has the last word. It's all about control, which I find very hard to accept. And I'm certainly learning a lot about this aspect of Turkish family life as our in-laws have been here for the past 9 days, and Mr Ayak has been unable to be here except for a fleeting I have had the chance to discover for myself what my father-in-law is really like!

  6. Oh do please excuse typos...I wish we had an edit button on comments!

  7. It sounds as if you're handling the situation well. I'm glad your mother-in-law has good sense!

  8. This is a very tricky situation and I appreciate the way you are handling it. It cannot be easy but your way is the best.

  9. Gaelikaa,

    I can't imagine how difficult it would be to have to listen to someone else regarding your children.

    It would definitely take a great deal of patience.

    I admire the way you are handling it!

  10. I can't believe how calmly you handle this! It must be stressful sometimes living with so many of your extended family. You seem to cope with it really well!

  11. Pop on over to my blog. I have an award for you:)


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