India is multicultural and multi-lingual country and in many cultures in India, which are predominantly Hindu, the son-in-law is addressed as “Jamai” and is often called as “Jamai Raja” which when translated means that the son-in-law is a king.
In fact, many years ago, a Bollywood movie was also released named as “Jamai Raja”. This article is inspired by that movie. The crux of the story of the movie is the constant struggle between the son-in-law (the hero of the movie) and his mother-in-law (the villain of the movie) which appears to be a very commonplace theme.
However, in this movie, the mother-in-law is a very vicious, greedy, manipulative, egoistic and arrogant female who constantly tries to not only harm her son-in-law, who is a poor honest person with firm values, but also tries her level best to break the marriage of her daughter by demonizing the son-in-law and makes several attempts to trap him in false cases and also makes an attempt on his life.
The mother-in-law has also deserted her own husband. He could not bear her torture and led a life of solitude, away from his children, who grow up in a fatherless family, being raised by a single, abusive and feminist mother. The son-in-law traces the father and brings him back to the family. As the story progresses, he also unites the entire family and breaks the ego of his mother-in-law.
However, what’s important here to understand is that in the entire movie, the son-in-law undergoes so much of torture and harassment at the hands of his mother-in-law, risking his entire life and career that it really makes me think – Is the Jamai really a Raja?
The nature of abuse that is shown in the movie, though there are a lot of comic undertones to the presentation in the movie, is not unreal though. For many men, marriage is tumultuous and they mostly suffer at the hands of the mother-in-law who constantly attempts to prove her son-in-law wrong and keeps on instigating her daughter against the son-in-law.
Given, the huge number of men who suffer silently in their marriages, the abuse of son-in-law shown in this particular movie resonates with their wrath and espouses their concerns. The son-in-law takes up so much of responsibility in the movie, both for his family and his in-laws family, that it perfectly reflects the condition of Indian Jamai Raja’s who are often burdened with the responsibilities of extended families from both sides and they keep on taking the pressure upon themselves.
Let us now have an alternative view of the world. Imagine a story wherein a mother-in-law is out to abuse the daughter-in-law and is constantly making attempts to break her son’s marriage. First of all, such a movie would never be a comedy movie. Secondly, the son would be the prime target of abuse in this case as he would be expected to balance his wife and mother.
However, in this particular movie – Jamai Raja – the daughter never faces any problem at all; in fact, the son-in-law ensures that his fight with mother-in-law doesn’t affect his wife adversely. Hence, we see that in both the cases, it’s the husband who is expected to maintain balance and is supposed to protect his wife.
It’s this forced protector role on men, which is the root cause of abuse of men and also a major reason why crime happens. And this social pressure also explains the huge numbers of married men committing suicide in India. Every year ~ 64000 married men are committing suicides in India which brings the tally to one every 8.5 minutes!
And, yet, as a society, we are indifferent to abuse of men in marriages. As a society, we enjoy movies like “Jamai Raja” as mass entertainers, which in reality depict the despicable condition of Indian men in marriages and how much stress a man goes through, just so that his marriage keeps working and how much of a risk he needs to take, even endangering his life.
And even after, doing all this, all he gets in return is – abuse, blame, complaints, male hatred, anti-male laws and a stressful life.
So much for being a Jamai (a son-in-law), he is burdened more than the son of the family and is an unsung hero who suffers silently for the sake of his family.
Is he really a Raja (King) who just enjoys power without responsibility and has a pool of disposable males at his disposal for obeying his orders?
Whereas, our revered Jamai has a pool of expecting relatives who shower him with orders and the poor soul, soulfully obliges.
The phrase “Jamai Raja” is like an oxymoron and is another attempt to create an illusion that it is a respectable position so that men keep marrying and keep working for the family and the society. The gravity of the syncretism with which this phrase is used to deny personal space to married men is only condemnable at best.
The Jamai is not a Raja. And somebody with the mentality of a Raja can never become a Jamai. I guess, its time, we revisit our social notions and do away with such concepts as “Jamai Raja”.