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The in-laws of the land

  • Published at 02:11 am July 10th, 2018
A union that doesn’t always work BIGSTOCK

Why chain new relationships to archaic traditions?

The very essence of the institution of marriage is currently suffering from a crisis, and nowhere more so than in Bangladesh.

While I don’t always hold on to romanticized versions of marriage, as being the eventual product of romantic love (at least, not anymore, not usually, not necessarily), there is no doubt that its role as a provider of comfort and companionship for all parties involved has broken down. 

This is no diatribe on the “traditional values” or any such nonsense; whoever, in this day and age, considers tradition to be beyond the scope of doubt and reformation has never looked into history, not even in their own lifetime.

Yes, values change, attitudes change, and so have these when it comes to marriage. But, marriage has remained etched, almost permanently, into our lifespans as a definitive and necessary step towards progress. 

Nothing wrong with that. Except that it, in its current form, is unevolved and unsustainable, a womb of misery, that must seek active reform if there is any hope for the future of so many young (not always) men and women. 

Let me explain: A marriage is the union of two people. That in itself is not problematic (well, it is, but that’s a different argument for a different time). However, marriages as we see now are, at the very least, the union of two separate groups of people, two separate families. 

This, too, has the potential to create strength and unity, a safety net, a much-needed source of comfort. 

But, the problem heralds from the fact that, traditionally speaking, the wife must move in with the husband and his family. 

It used to be that brides wept tears of sadness at the end of her wedding day, because she was leaving her own family. Now she weeps tears of fear, for she is headed towards a family that is not hers, a territory where she owns nothing, has no power. 

While one might be tempted to think that, in the context of the myriad problems which Bangladeshis face, this might very well be a minuscule aspect in the midst of a wide-reaching and pervasive problem with corruption, disease, malnutrition, poverty, et cetera, et cetera. 

The “basic needs” problems in Bangladesh must be addressed, must be solved. No one is saying otherwise. 

But if there is one issue which we continue to treat with distrust and mock-sympathy, it is that of mental health.

What we have, currently running, is an epidemic, a disease as widespread, which feeds on the misery of familial relationships and related power dynamics.

Millions upon millions of wives enter foreign territory every day -- and in any space where two different viewpoints are forced to interact, they must surely collide. And the consequences must surely not be ideal. 

Let me explain further: What we have is a continuous practice, one which requires married couples to live with their parents, that fosters resentment between families. This tradition is not sustainable for obvious reasons. 

It removes whatever agency that a young (or otherwise) woman getting married does. That sets back concepts of equality by ages. It sets up a marriage for failure.

The number of miserable men and women, depressed and alone, surrounded by people who have their own agendas, own fights to fight, are uncountable, and as mentioned before, is nothing short of an epidemic. 

It is giving birth to a generation of miserable people who feel trapped, lonely, scared, unable to make a decision, or matter at all. It is giving rise to unhappy parents of unhappy children. It is creating a situation borne out of force, and nothing borne out of force pushes forth ideal outcomes.

It is no surprise that relationships between in-laws and their respective bors and bous sour so easily; so many factors, so many egos clash within the confines of the tiny space that we call home, with the wife never being able to call it home perhaps ever (not until those in-laws die; is it any surprise that we see so many murders involving family members every day?). 

We need to move away from these archaic ideas of elderly care. Family is sometimes best appreciated from afar. We may care for our parents but not at the cost of both our happinesses.

The priority must be the future, that’s what new things, new bloods, new generations do. Why chain them with tradition when that chain merely coils into a noose around their necks?

SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.