If you are born an Indian girl, rest assured, however, sad or excited your parents were about your birth, in one of their first thoughts was a flash of that mandap where you are sitting with a handsome lad clad in Manyavaresque clothes. In fact, the Manyavar advertisement is their dream of an ideal boy to introduce to their daughter when they are done with graduation. As Indian parents, at some point, while educating you through observance of customs or reprimands, they have felt pride or disappointment as trustees of an asset. This is a parental concern perpetuated through obsessive social implementation whereby you cannot survive alone and unless you snag a partner in your primetime, you will die in shame as a spinster (which, by the way, is a derogatory term for a bachelorette, which is taught as the female rendition of a bachelor in primary schools, because if you are not married, you are condemned to die spinning yarns).
So, the target demographic for an Indian daughter seems to be a suitable reputed family with an appropriate boy (basically a scaled down version of a Disney movie). Though all Indian parents are generally extremely concerned about their child's academic welfare but one’s credentials are nowhere close to their actual concern, the purity of their children's loins. It will give them a heart attack to have a DDLJ like situation where they are forced to submit your loins full of possibility, to a vagabond like Rahul possessing god-knows-what sort of genes. Even if you might manage to have a shameless life without academic achievements, your parents are sure to object to your copulative decisions if they are truly bred in the sub-continental culture.
So let us now see, what a perfect Indian daughter is, according to the conservatism index (1-10) and highlight points that make them perfect.
Conservatism scale 1-2In such families, the parents are supportive about everything that their daughter does. They are willing to send her abroad educating her to be successful as an individual. Their concerns are focused more on the current events than on future planning. Hence, if you belong to one such family, you are indeed lucky. It is unlikely for you to face discrimination. These parents treat their daughter at par with the son, albeit with extra protection. You will be provided with all the comforts and will be faced with marriage only in your late twenties or early thirties. Your parents will not object to your choice of clothing or friends or your late night activities. Such parents usually have a liberal and protected upbringing themselves, characteristic of the modern mindset. They will provide you with the same fighting chance.
To be a perfect daughter in such a scenario, you will not need much effort. You can effortlessly concentrate on your area of interest while your parents secretly eye a friend’s son suitable to be your date. They keep it to themselves giving you a choice, in case you get lucky. Else, they will slyly introduce you to people they deem worthy of their genes. They are too invested in their daughters to let them go after marriage, so the dynamics generally remain unchanged after marriage. But those daughters will now be invited as members of a different family, under a different patriarch’s name. You may, generally, keep your name after marriage.
Conservatism scale 3-5You are still in good hands. You are given opportunities to flourish. Such families generally have a more liberal matriarch compared to the patriarch. Hence, the daughter, under the influence of the mother and the liberal views of the loving father, receives a good education. However, the protectiveness is slightly higher in such cases. The daughter might have to miss certain after school activities which are inconvenient for her parents.
But all in all, she is loved and cherished. The father may look at other girls in kurtas and rue the weird clothes on his daughter, but he will only chuckle to himself on such matters. The parents might have conservative relatives who may comment upon the lack of sanskar. But you will be protected in such scenarios. Your parents will slightly rebuke you for insubordination, but not for your views. To be an ideal daughter in this scenario, you need to know certain tricks. You must know how to dress according to occasions. You should be attentive to your father’s needs and score well consecutively in a few examinations when you need his permission for that road trip. You must learn sarcasm and patience to tackle those snarky relatives. Most of all, you must know, never to bring up the topic of marriage. If you do get married, you may not expect invitations to most occasions concerning your extended family because you no longer belong to the family in which you were born (according to your relatives). However, you may keep your name and continue your usual life after marriage.
Conservatism scale 6-8You are born to be married to another man decided by your family. You are expected to keep a long mane characteristic of a woman. Once you hit puberty, you are expected to wear decent clothes to keep your assets secret. You are not expected to have male friends or at least, be close to any of them. You are expected to learn how to cook well so as to carve your way to your future husband’s heart through his tummy. You are expected to be respectful to elders and not speak against any of them. You are expected to have a deadline and inform your elders regarding your whereabouts every hour. Love is treason to your elders who reserve the right to play matchmaker and try their hand at eugenics.
When you are married, you assume the role of the daughter-in-law. To be the perfect daughter-in-law, you are not to wear anything but sarees (as observed in daily soaps), with an occasional salwar kameez on tours, but with dupattas. You are to wear sindoor and mangal sutra to indicate that you are taken. You are to be loyal to your husband and his family and pay attention to your kids. You were born to raise them as their natural governess. You are expected to leave your job should your kids require more attention. You are not to complain if your husband misbehaves with you because you are rightfully his wife (the word woman is a derivative of the phrase wife of man). You are expected to observe unhealthy yet highly spiritual fasts and rituals for the welfare of your husband and his family. And you are no longer a part of your old family and thus, you are to prioritize your husband's family over them.
Conservatism scale 9-10To be an ideal daughter, you should rather spare your family the risk of paying dowry and incurring the expense of raising a daughter and die in the womb.
So, now that you know the secret of being that ideal Indian daughter your ideal Indian parents so longingly yearn, save your parents the disappointment of having an undutiful female as their daughter by emulating that ideal. The directions are subject to market risks. Please adjust to your parental temperament properly before practicing them.
As women, we are burdened with contradictory societal expectations as reflected in the practices of our families. We are expected to live up to the supposedly empowered position created by the feminists of days bygone and yet be exemplary daughters, wives, and mothers. When we are born nomads to be transferred to a different home on maturity, let us be selfish and take our own bridles to run to our fullest potential before affiliating to another identity. With the odds of expectations and customs stacked against us, let us be renegades and start breaking a few illogical norms so as to initiate a new trend for others. It is only the homeless who can consider the world their home. Since we are supposedly born drifters without a definite family name, let us not be conscious of the societal repercussions in going against the flow and taking chances to be someone worthy of just the name, and not the surname.
And to parents, please stop teaching your daughter that her matrimonial home is her only real home and her identity is with her husband’s family. While the feeling of home is subjective, please let it not be for the lack of one. Please stop identifying with the ideals set by saas-bahu soaps. At the end of the day, it would really be futile to speak about equality of genders if our progressive mindsets cannot accommodate equal treatment for our children.
Written by Sayantani Saha
Writer, dreamer of world exploration and lover of high fantasy