But before I could respond, Philip walked into the room and politely said, ‘No, I think it’s the other way round. Jyoti’s parents have raised her to be honest and respectful.

How Jyoti and Philip ‘Arranged Things’ With In-Laws

I was getting ready to go out for a movie with friends on a Sunday when my mother informed me that a boy and his family were coming to see me for marriage. ‘But Mumma I have already paid for the tickets’. ‘It’s okay, consider them wasted, and don’t argue,’ said my mother. 

So I already resented Philip, even before I met him! 

Arranged marriages in India need to be modernized, don’t you think? It’s like we are still living in the 80s’ Philip tried to make small-talk on our first meeting. ‘Hmm’ I replied disinterestedly. ‘I mean imagine if our parents would have just sent us to watch a movie like PK instead of meeting at home, it would have been less awkward and like a date too!’ He said jokingly. 

‘PK?’ I exclaimed. ‘I was supposed to go for that film today, and my mom made me cancel the plan because…’ I paused and we both giggled. ‘Would you like to watch the film with me, this Friday?’ Philip asked - and that’s how we entered our six-month-long courtship.

Philip was an amazing partner, but his parents were very strict. They wanted a traditional and religious daughter-in-law who would always stay at home and take care of everyone. I, on the other hand, wanted to work, hang out with friends and have fun in life. So after we got married, I would get very upset when my mother-in-law wouldn’t allow Philip and me to go out for parties or late-night movie shows. ‘Are we school children or what?’ I would ask Philip.

Being new in the family, I did not argue or voice my opinion, and I did not want any conflict, but the restrictions made me feel like a prisoner. He used to feel bad for me and encouraged me to express myself honestly to his parents. ‘But they’ll think I am being disrespectful’, I would say to him. ‘If they think that then I will clear the air’. Philip believed that if he keeps arguing with them then they will think that I fuel him, and he was right. 

As newly married women, we often think that speaking up can be misunderstood and put our husbands at the forefront because they know how to deal with the family, but that leads to more confusion and causes a grapevine, thus jeopardizing multiple relationships. 

So I tried my husband’s suggestion and spoke to my in-laws directly. I told them that since I have had an arranged marriage I want to be able to go out and spend more time with my husband, get to know him better and live an independent life. This obviously did not go down well with them. 

‘Is this how your parents have raised you? To be confrontational?’ my mother-in-law asked. I got scared. I knew I would be misunderstood. But before I could respond, Philip walked into the room and politely said, ‘No, I think it’s the other way round. Jyoti’s parents have raised her to be honest and respectful. You should understand her rather than judge’. That evening, his parents got upset with both of us, but we realized what partnership was - doing the right thing and standing by each other. 

We both knew that we tried, and vowed to keep trying forever. They were our parents, they might not always agree with us, but they would understand sooner or later. Indian parents want their children to get married but they don’t want to treat them like adults. And I have seen a lot of marriages getting bitter because of lack of communication with in-laws or unsupportive partners. And even though in the beginning I thought Philip was not standing up for me, I now understand that him encouraging me to speak up for myself was a wise move. 

We’ve been married for 8 years, and we still have disagreements with my in-laws. Be it about raising children or me getting late at work, and I still clearly communicate why what I do is right for me, like I would - to my own parents. We have great moments as a family too, and we focus on cherishing those. Till date, we have never considered moving out of Philip’s parents’ house, because we believe that if you can’t make it work with parents, you can’t make it work with anyone.

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Teesta Rajan
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