Monday, 30th October 2017

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Master's degree in marriage

Indian women have always been trained to be ideal wives. Bhopal’s Adarsh Bahu course just makes it formal

By The Editorial Board
  • Published 22.09.18, 10:51 PM
  • Updated 23.09.18, 2:20 AM
  • 2 mins read

A good wife and health are a man’s best wealth, goes a popular saying. The order is important here. Getting hold of a good wife, would, it can be expected, automatically ensure good health — the best wives take the best care of their husbands, after all. Patriarchy cares little about the health of the woman. Much to the chagrin of society though, good wives are not easy to come by, especially since women have discovered, after much toil, that they too are entitled to basic rights. But this is nothing that a little education cannot fix. Perhaps this is why the Barkatullah University in Bhopal — the alma mater of the Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan — is starting a course that will churn out “adarsh bahus” or ‘model daughters-in-law’. (Clearly, it is not enough to be just a good wife in India, a country where marriages are more about families and less about individuals.) The three-month course aims to tackle the “evils” which are “breaking” families and society in India. Last year, a study found that one of the primary reasons behind the growing number of failing marriages is the economic independence of women, who no longer need to depend on their chauvinist husbands for sustenance. An independent woman’s mind, it would seem, is no less scary than the devil’s workshop, it spins dreams of equality.

Psychology, though, is just one of the aspects that the course will cover. The sociology department, too, has been roped in to make the course comprehensive. Awareness of the social “mindset” that treats marriage as sacred — as the women and child development minister had once put it — is the key to keeping families together. How else can a woman be taught to carry forward the golden tradition of silence, that speaking up about things like marital rape can tear the household asunder? There seems to have been a bit of an oversight though. The only eligibility criterion for the course, reportedly, is a high school degree. Given the number of responsibilities an ideal daughter-in-law has to juggle with — childcare, hospitality, healthcare, finance, human resources and so on — one would expect the course to require more advanced qualifications. There is not much need for these though, since housework is rarely considered ‘real work’, never mind the fact that it contributes around $612.8 billion to the gross domestic product. In fact, qualifications could be counterproductive, sowing seeds of autonomy in women. Heaven forbid that an ‘ideal’ daughter-in-law starts imagining that she can juggle a profession along with housework. The latter has become inextricably linked to womanhood. A failure on this front invites accusations, wrath and guilt.

Apart from being bizarre and regressive, the ‘adarsh bahu course’ offers nothing original. It seeks to impart ‘knowledge’ that has been relayed to women across generations in India. The course just accords to the coaching a more formal status. Could it then be seen as a blessing in disguise? Surely the fact that being a model daughter-in-law requires vocational training would mean that the work she does afterwards is a full-time occupation?