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Is there Anything Shameful in Being a ‘Ghar Jamai’?

Living with a wife’s family is taboo and we ask why? What’s so wrong in being a ghar jamai?

Remember the last family gathering where your jamai raja came? Remember the utter sense of respect the entire family was given to him? Remember how everyone was adding a ‘ji’ to his name by calling him ‘jamai ji’ while addressing him? Well, that is the kind of respect that the patriarchal society offers to their jamai raja. But what happens when this jamai raja becomes a ghar jamai?

“Door Jamia, Teerth Samaan, Nasdeek Jamai Aadha

Ghar Jamai Gadha Samaan, Jee Chaheeh jab laada”

Baladutt Joshi (65) elates this ancient quote explaining that the jamai who stays far away is like a Teerth, respected and celebrated by all. The one who lives nearby is somewhere finely respected. And the ghar jamai is equivalent to gadha (donkey).

From Jamai Raja to Ghar Jamai, what all gets changed, tells Mr Joshi

According to Indian society, a jamai raja is a person who the society applauds. A man, who is ‘sarvagun sampann’. A man who earns well, looks well and practices all the masculine and patriarchal things. This jamai raja is the bread earner, one who takes care of the wife and children, who has a big house to keep the wife, who gives his heart and blood to become the protector of his wife and is an epitome of an ideal man. And ofcourse, jamai raaja is the person who has accepted the daughter of a parent wholeheartedly. Basically the so-called ‘krta dharta’ of any and everything. So, he should be given the utmost respect for what the perception of the patriarchal society is. And when this Jamai Raja becomes a ‘ghar jamai’ the situation becomes shameful for all. For the groom’s family. For the bride’s family. For the wife. And ofcourse, for the jamai raja himself.

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If we go on dissecting this idea, the first question that comes in is that when a woman gets married and agrees to make a compromise and leave her house, she is seen as the ‘adarsh naari’. If she takes care of the in-laws, does the household, and lives with the husband’s family, she is seen as the ideal woman. But when a man does the same, the questions around his self-respect start to linger.

Forget about the finances for a while, a man who is rich and well settled, if chooses to stay with the wife’s family, the news can become a gossip of many neighbors. The idea of a man living with the wife’s family is so tabooed the patriarchal society finds it really hard to accept. And the major reason behind the same can be the policing of gender roles.

Policing gender roles

The idea of ghar jamai is often used in a comical tone. The ghar jamai is often the person who is mocked and made fun of. The appropriation of the idea that women are the ones who should be leaving their house for the sake of their husbands is one, and the men are the bread earners and ‘karta dharta’ is the second. As society has defined gender roles for men and women, these appropriations are only adding to the subjecting which gender will do what.

Here, what we are trying to suggest is now reflecting that one should do nothing. Financial independence is independence and will help both men and women feel empowered. What should be noted and acknowledged is the idea that it’s okay for men to be a person living with the wife’s family.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.
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