I yesterday explained that a western woman marrying an Indian man and living with him in his joint family will have a few challenges to face. One of these will most probably be her mother-in-law and the decision until which point she will let her interfere in her life. Another aspect is the one that I would like to write about today: how far will you, a woman from the west, accept religious and superstitious actions. Will you follow them?
Again, as always, the questions that will come in this area depend a lot on the individual situation. Where did you grow up, how religious were your surroundings, which belief do you hold yourself and how far are you willing to practice a part of another religion just to please someone? At the same time it depends on your partner and his belief as well as his family and how strong traditions run in it!
One thing is for sure and you always have to remember: you don’t have to do anything you really don’t want to do. Nobody can force you to perform religious actions that go against what is deeply rooted in your heart. Always know this and if your partner tries to push you further in a direction you don’t want to go, it is time to consider whether it is real love and worth this struggle.
This being said however, I believe there are most often other ways to deal with such situations, as it is your love that keeps you together and makes you respect the other one deep within.
There are questions for daily life like the following: the meal is ready, you have helped cooking and your mother-in-law gives you a plate, directs you to the altar and tells you – or shows you, if you don’t have a common language – how to first offer every eatable thing to god before you eat it yourself. Will you not only stick to this rule but be the one to do this offering?
Then there are questions for once a month: in India, women are not allowed to enter the kitchen when they are menstruating. Still today, many don’t even eat together with their family on those days. They are also not allowed to do so many other things in daily life, like washing clothes or do the dishes. In some families women sleep in a separate room during this time! They are not pure during their period. How strict is your husband’s family with this tradition? In my opinion it is pure nonsense and a woman should not be degraded for something which is simply a biological, natural process of the body! If you feel the same, I would suggest you make your husband understand that this process is part of the cycle that one day brings sons and daughters – and nothing dirty or impure! It is your choice in the end how far you want to go in accepting or refusing such a superstition – but you should be prepared by having asked yourself this question!
So while you probably won’t mind joining the family’s ceremonies on festival days and while you will most surely go along with a lot of small things, there will be other aspects that bother you. I just want to ask you to please not keep such a problem inside yourself. You have to talk about it and your husband has to be open to hear and consider it. I am sure you will find a way that is comfortable for the two of you – regardless of the opinions of other people around you!