The moment a girl is born adjustment is the first thing she has to learn.
” You must learn to adjust. you are a girl , what will happen when you go to your in-laws home?”
Well , this is the story of women everywhere especially in the society we live in and even after so much of awareness about women’s rights etc the tragedy is that most women from all walks of life still keep adjusting their lives to make the others comfortable which leads to compromises and then to suppression of all sorts.
How much adjustment is good for a healthy relationship? No one can answer that correctly but I feel till the time your dignity is not compromised and the adjustment is from all sides it is alright but if that’s not the case then one needs to think.
It is a fact with Indian married women that most of them are fatalists . They take it as their destined role to adjust to any length to keep the marriage going even if it means complete submission.
The first is about an educated young woman married for 20 years now and leading a life which she calls ” life of adjustments”.
An educated woman whose married life began with silent treatment and ” make her life difficult ” attitude by her in-laws leading to a point when she was practically thrown out of her home along with husband and little daughter.
They settled in Delhi and she began to adjust to her new-found life .Shuttling between her child and husband, her low paying job and siblings who depended on her.
She made adjustments to accommodate everyone and worked hard to provide for them , in a way compromising her own dreams of opening a physiotherapy clinic , buying a home etc .
As life progressed amidst all the struggle she managed to find ways to keep things going with no help from anywhere. Her husband ,a strong able-bodied educated man , decided to leave work and stay at home. It became a habit with him to find a job, earn a bit, spend it all on alcohol and do nothing.
All along she made adjustments to bring up her daughter in the best possible way. He began to abuse , first verbally then physically and got himself sterilized so that they don’t have more kids. ( without her knowledge) .
The daughter turned out to be a rebel and hardly cared about her mother who was working from 8 in the morning till late night visiting patients in heat,cold and rain.
She took the beatings, paid for the alcohol when her husband demanded( he stole too) , devised some ways to keep the family together.
There were times when she had to call the police ,she even turned her husband out but then the same old thought about ” I have a girl who will marry her? who will guard her now that she is grown up? How can I keep an eye on her and work too? ” made her adjust a little more to her useless husband. She allowed him to come back as a stay home hubby with certain conditions applied. The chap sits in front of the TV all day doing nothing. She doesn’t give him any money unless very urgent. Does all the outside work herself and has assigned some household work to daughter and husband. This adjustment works well for sometime and then the volcano erupts again compelling her to make fresh adjustments and find new solutions.
When told to leave him and move on she sighs and says.” it is an adjustment I have made with my life. To tolerate him as a guard ( chowkidar) to my daughter . At least he sits all day at home to see if my girl comes on time and keeps an eye on her activities. you know it is difficult when you have a girl child. People will talk. ” Scared of social stigma that may supposedly ruin her daughter’s marriage prospects and other things , scared of being alone in a big city with no backup, scared of being called names because her husband swears to create trouble if she takes any steps against him, she “Adjust” in all possible ways .
This is not all, she made huge adjustments ( and I use this word because she does. Not realizing the thin line that separates adjustment and compromise) to educate, marry her younger siblings, to help them in getting jobs , to cope with their new-born babies and much more. Adjusting her time, finances and in a way her life among them. They used her and went their own way leaving her alone again.
Though her strength is admirable I still do not understand what makes an educated, self-sufficient , financially independent woman to adjust to the point of suppression.
” I have a teenage daughter ” is her reply.
“If I had a son I would have left this man but where do I go with a young girl who will be of marriageable age in some years an who doesn’t understand my plight and stands for me”? A question worth pondering over. She has no strength to take on the social pressure. She continues to work all day to provide for a good for nothing husband and daughter.
Recently to add to her responsibilities her mother has come to live with them. The old lady has no place to go and this daughter says,” I got to look after her .After all she is my mom. When I can feed these two I will adjust her also.”
I watch this troubled soul everyday and think about her ” life of adjustments” wondering how fair it is for a woman to bury her identity, shut her dreams in a box and adjust to this kind of life.
A question she doesn’t want to think about and sidelines with a weak smile. A question I ask to myself and wonder how I could have dealt this . I guess if financially strong , I would have moved on but then coming from her background it would have been a tough choice I bet. So adjustment it is for her ..for life.
A woman who has made difference in many people’s lives can not for some reason best known to her continues to adjust , compromise and live the daily battle called Life. Do middle class women find it more difficult to shed the social pressures and adjust more than others?
The other story comes from the jhuggi jhopdi cluster. Soma , my domestic help is a young woman of 35 with three small children. Two girls and a boy. She is the only earning member so to say. Husband , “a decent man with no bad habits” works on daily wages now and then. This woman is a strong-willed one who has managed to make the right adjustments at her place and does everything to make them work. She is faced with all the problems that women of lower-income group face but she has learned to adjust. The finances are divided . one pays the rent and committee money ( a kind of saving scheme) the other gets the grocery and pays the school fee etc.
She wakes up early morning and manages her time and work in such a way that she is able to do some house work and then come for work too. After long persuasions she made her grumpy MIL adjust to the fact that she needs to babysit while Soma is away. Her husband , a devoted mamma’s boy , tries to adjust his delicate situation swaying between the two women in his life.
Soma says , women need to adjust more and even compromise because ones married they have no other life than that with in-laws ” She feels adjustments should be made by all but to keep peace it is women who tend to make them often and that sucks but there is no solution so why crib.
In her kind of life every woman irrespective of age makes adjustments but the younger lot especially the daughters in law have to adjust more. She says adjustment is a better word than compromise and maybe the right one .
Soma says she learned that there is no escape from adjustment. She has been doing it since she was knee-high . Adjusting with aunt with whom she lived as an orphaned relative, adjusting with cousins who looked down upon her, adjusting to being cold and hungry , adjusting to her MIL’s constant bickering and her husband’s silence. “How would I live if I don’t adjust “,she asks. “I will go mad.” , She laughs.
She is someone who knows there is a limit to adjustment but takes it all with a pinch of salt. She has devised ways to lessen the impact and where is can’t one can see the exasperated look on her face and hear her ranting ..a soliloquy in my kitchen.
She is uneducated but well-informed.
On one occasion when she was distraught and faced with a catch 22 situation, I asked her if she knew about her rights and how she can benefit from them, her reply left me speechless.
” You know about women’s rights don’t you , So? Her eyes fixed on me.
I looked at her blankly.
She has been with me for long enough and seen it all ( well most of it) to ask the question. (Domestic helps have a greater network than any news channel. Nothing escapes their praying eyes.)
I had no instant reply to offer.
For a woman whose entire live has been a sort of adjustment in various ways I just left her to scrub the floor.
I read somewhere
If someone wants to be with you , you adjust
when you want to be with someone compromise
Relations are like quicksand , the deeper your attachment and dependence , the further you are sucked in. It sometime becomes difficult to draw a line and stop a “little adjustment” from becoming a big compromise.