This blog post is about a relative of mine, who, for purposes of this blog post, shall be called “Commie Uncle”. That name is intentional, for he is surely a commie. Ages back, he managed to land himself a PSU job with the help of a recommendation from his cousin’s wife’s cousin’s girlfriend’s cousin’s uncle. And no sooner had he got his appointment, he became prominent in the union, and started fighting against the very person who had recommended him for that job. About four years back, he had visited us, jubilant in the knowledge that the left would play a major part in the UPA government. My father and I had tried to drill sense into his head, but not to much avail.
Actually this post is not so much about Commie Uncle (I have told most of his life’s story in the first paragraph) but about his wife, who, for the sake of convenience of nomenclature, we shall call “Commie Aunty” for the rest of this post. I don’t know her political views, I’m not even sure if she has one, for I know that they’ve never subscribed to a newspaper. But “Commie Aunty” seems like a convenient name which will not end up confusing the reader.? If you can look at this post as a case – of the types that is discussed in MBA classrooms – let me tell you that the question posed at the end will be “What should Commie Aunty do?”. Even if you don’t like MBA-type cases, you might want to read on. And despite the tone of the post so far, let me assure you that this is a serious post.
Commie Uncle was a believer in the “cook cleaner whore” model for marriage. Maybe that’s what his fellow union-members convinced him. When he decided he wanted to get married, he shared his ideology with his mother, who readily agreed. A search was launched for an obedient and hardworking daughter-in-law, who would also remain loyal to Commie Uncle. I haven’t been told, or even bothered to ask, how long and how tough the search was. And the “qualities” that Commie Uncle was looking for weren’t exactly appropriate for putting in a newspaper classifieds. Or maybe, in that era, it was.
I don’t know the mechanism they employed while searching. However, I think the logical thing to have done would have been to establish proxies that could help identify the kind of woman that they wanted. After all, in an “interview”, one can’t ask the other party if she is willing to be obedient and not ask questions. If she is willing to be treated like a CCW. And similar such questions. At least in those days one wouldn’t be able to ask such questions.
And thus the list would get drawn up. “She should come from a family poorer than ours. She won’t have the incentive to run away to her parents’ place.” “She should have no independent source of income. In other words, she shouldn’t be working”. “It should be indeed very hard for her to find a source of income. She should be uneducated”. “She should not be good looking, else she might be able to elope with some other man”. I don’t know how long the list would have been, but however long it would have been, I think Commie Aunty would have fit each and every point. And trust me, I’m not retrofitting here.
I know this is an excellent buildup to a nice story. However, I’ll have to disappoint you and take a serious turn and cut the story short now. Maybe I’ll expand on this later. But for now, I think I’ll close the story and let you deal with the question. Commie Aunty was just the kind of wife that Commie Uncle was looking for. They have always seemed made for each other – though I’m not sure they’ve found the optimal equilibrium state. They have been married for a long time now.
Commie Uncle has got what he wanted from the marriage. And as expected, Commie Aunty has stayed in the marriage. There simply hasn’t been any other option for her. Once in a while, she manages to escape from Commie Uncle and talks to my mother. And my mother keeps saying “poor Commie Aunty. She has gone through this that everything… ” and I reply saying “Yeah but when I look at her, she seems self-selected for this role. Or for that matter, anyone else who would have been in her place would have had exactly the same experience, don’t you think? So the pity is not for the person Commie Aunty. It’s for her position”.
Ok I’ll add one more question now. Who is right? My mother or I? Should one feel pity for Commie Aunty or just say that she has been self-selected for the process. And the original point remains – what can Commie Aunty do?