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Hyphenated male-female relationships

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G.NARSIMHAN analyses scientifically the manner in which family relationships change when adult children get married

The infusion of the term “in-law” into inter-personal relationships is the natural consequence of a legal contract between a man and woman to live under the confines of a husband-wife association; hence it adds specific flavour to such a kinship. The flavour could be agreeable or disagreeable depending upon the “sex” of such a kinship. In general, the male-in-law relationships are congenial while the female-in-law relationships are tinged by suspicion and acrimony.
The origin of such an unpleasant flavour can be directly linked to the canons of behavior enjoined by the sage Atharvan, the author of the Atharva Veda, more than 2000 years ago, as the newly wedded wife entered the home of her husband. I quote below the verbatim translation of the appropriate hymn, which originally appeared in Rigveda X, 85, the main theme of which is the ceremony of marriage, in general and more especially, the wedding of Surya, the daughter of the Sun god. She is regarded as the typical bride whose nuptial ceremonies are to be the pattern of marriages on earth.
Atharva Veda, Book XIV, Hymn 1: Verse 43: (Ralph T.H.Griffith. The Hymns of the Atharva-Veda, D.K.Publishers Ltd., Delhi, 1916)

“So be imperial queen when thou hast come within thy husband’s home. Over thy husband’s father and his brothers, be imperial queen. Over thy husband’s sisters and his mother, bear supreme control”.

While the sage anticipated that the relationships with the male members of the joint family would be built on mutual respect and love, he had foreshadowed the certainty of the occurrence of suspicion and enmity in female-in law relationships and had advised the bride to take adequate precautions to preempt the development of such sentiments. “Take immediate control or you would be treated as a slave” would have been his advice.
I shall now embark on an analysis of the psychological atmosphere that suffuses a typical household when the children are unmarried and remain within the domestic fold. The typical family consists of the father (F), mother (M), two daughters (d, D) and a son (S). The mother rules over the household matters and the father is like a caged tiger, seemingly ferocious but in reality, helpless. The son is the eldest and the elder daughter comes of age and is to be married. The mother always sees part of herself in the daughter as they remind her of her own state some twenty years in the past. The bond M-D is very strong and M dreads the day when her daughter would move away after she is married. When this state is realised, she remains tense and emotionally drained. One can represent the five-fold relationships of the family, a stable one, by the tetrahedral configuration of an organic carbon, C, standing for the Mother as the controller, C, in a stable chemical compound like CFCl3, the formula for fluoro-chlorinated methane. F stands for the father and the 3 Cls are the children, the clones. The marriage of the daughter to the chosen husband H can be likened to the following equation:
CFCl3 + H(husband) >>>C*FCl2 (=C*FdS) + HCl (=HD), where Cl2 is actually ( d,.S )
C*F d S represents the activated psychological state of the family after the daughter moves away from the home where she grew up for some 18 years or so. The heightened state is due to the mother who is under the spell of an emotional void, C*.
Sometimes later the son (S) ties a holy knot and a daughter-in-law (W) enters the household. The interaction of the activated complex C*FdS with W leads to interesting results. What is expected of the outcome of the reaction:
C*FdS + W >>  ?
Would the product of the reaction be a new stable compound CFd(WS), a harmonious household or an accentuated unstable complex C** W*S.Fd,  indicating that the mother is under the influence of aggravated two-way emotional stress?
The Rig Veda had predicted that the latter state would prevail and had recommended that W take adequate precaution. The undercurrent of hostility between the new entrant W and the mother C arises on account of two inter-related facts. The first is that W, a stranger, has entered the closely-knit family and started sharing intimate moments with the son, with whom the mother has had exclusive emotional attachment in the past. Secondly she starts to compare the qualities of the heart, the mind and appearance of the new comer with those of the daughter who has left the fold. Hence C becomes doubly distressed, C**. W, the new entrant, accepts the unspoken challenge with determination and becomes W*.
The son, who happens to be a silent witness during the C-W altercation would need to have an explanation ready when W joins him on the connubial bed in the night.
“You do not seem to have a back-bone altogether. You saw how unfair your mother was this afternoon. At least for once you could have come out openly to my support instead of hiding behind your mother’s apron…”
S agrees with alacrity in order not to forfeit the anticipated privileges.
The future forebodes only greater C-W stress when W becomes pregnant in course of time while the married daughter is still feeling her way around. It is almost axiomatic that grandchildren, so fondly awaited by eager grandparents, acquire a marginally higher degree of attachment if they happen to be the offspring of a daughter! Thus the resentment that the daughter-in-law is soon to become a mother while her daughter is still barren is doubly irritating and the C-W relationship becomes C***W*, a most unbalanced setting ready to explode. Indeed in many cases it does and as a consequence, W demands of her husband that on her return from her mother’s home with the baby, they move out to live outside the joint family milieu. D, the wedded daughter who is still barren resents that W has become pregnant. She also might face an identical situation when in the role of a W in her adopted home she also has a starred relationship with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. While potentially explosive situations develop in the females-in-law relationships, {CDW}, the males-in-law relationships {FSH} move on an even keel with incumbents having a grand time together, sharing adult jokes over tankards of beer, while watching AFL matches on the TV screen!
The all-daughters family is blissfully free of daughters-in-law problems although elsewhere the siblings could take on the role of wives in a joint family and contribute to the stress; the all-sons family seems to have relatively a lesser degree of stress. The parents wish however that they had a daughter or a son. To be a male is thus a most agreeable state, don’t you agree?

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