Even if our television sets are now turning smarter and smarter, most of the shows on Indian Television still revolve around an ‘Adarsh Bahu’ and her family problems. A serial might start with a girl’s dreams of being a dancer, or an officer, or whatever, but it speedily leads to the same old theme of the Adarsh Bahu.
And who is an Adarsh Bahu as per our television shows? Here are some of her chief qualities:
- She knows all traditions and rituals: An Adarsh Bahu is nothing, if she’s not super traditional. Even if she is to be shown ‘modern,’ she adheres to all the traditional values and customs without a fail. She knows and strictly follows every ritual and fast. If she slips in following any traditional norm, it must be to save her family from a grave danger like an icchhadhari naagin. Even a naagin automatically feels compelled to adhere to all traditions when she becomes an Adarsh Bahu!
- Dress and Jewelry: She wears heavy sarrees, weighs herself down with loads of jewelry and never, ever separates herself from her mangalsutra. Even when she is at home alone, she never wears anything like a capri or a T-shirt. Such clothes have no place in the life of an Adarsh Bahu, no matter what the weather. But if she needs to wear western clothes to save her family, she can go to any lengths in shortening her clothes.
- Solely responsible and capable of dealing with all troubles: An Adarsh Bahu is a Super Woman. She can do anything. She can fight with spirits, she can arrange a grand party in an hour, she can defeat criminals, she can even revive a dead husband just by her intense love. No matter what trouble falls on the family, the Adarsh Bahu takes it on herself to solve it because any other family member must not be put in danger. Any bahu who falls short of such prowess and courage is certainly not an Adarsh Bahu.
- Sacrificing: I once heard a dialogue in some Hindi serial. “Ek adarsh bahu apne ko bhula kar apne parivar ko sambhalti hai.” That is, an Adarsh Bahu forgets herself in taking care of her family. Her needs don’t matter. Her desires don’t matter. Her ambitions, her aspirations are all useless. She sacrifices everything for the happiness of her family. Any woman who cannot be so totally self-sacrificing is surely not an Adarsh Bahu. Any woman who cares about her own dreams must be selfish and bad. The family, of course, has no need to spare even a thought for her dreams and aspirations.
- Best Cook: Every Adarsh Bahu is an awesome cook. She never makes a mistake in cooking and can prepare a feast within minutes. Cooking alone for the whole big family never tires her. If a woman is not a master chef in her kitchen, she is automatically disqualified from the honor of being an Adarsh Bahu, no matter how great her other achievements.
- Dutiful at most, no matter what: Even if she is insulted, disgraced or submitted to most false blames by her family members, the Adarsh Bahu remains her dutiful best. However, this dutifulness extends only till her marital family. Her parents and siblings have no claim on her and must be forgotten to the extent of becoming non-existent.
- Most intelligent, most perceptive, skilled in all arts: An Adarsh Bahu is the most intelligent member of the family. She is the first one to suspect a treachery, unless it is being targeted at her. In that case, she dutifully turns stupid. She can do anything that is required, from dancing to singing to dress designing to cooking to even spying! She is expert at everything.
- No matter what injustice she faces from her husband and relations, she is ready to die for them: She is the favourite target of all sorts of treacheries. And the husband who loves most ardently when it suits him is most prone to get blinded by the treacheries and turn against his own Adarsh Dharampatni. But his Adarsh Dharampatni and his family’s Adarsh Bahu bears all the insults and suspicions but raises not a word of protest. Because, of course, the husband is her God. And when need comes, she is still ready to die for those who threw her out of her own home. She is an epitome of forgiveness and bears no grudges towards even the vilest of vamps in the family.
- She has no social circle of her own: An Adarsh Bahu has no friends. She has no life of her own, so of course, no social circle either, unless needed by the story of the serial. Then a bosom buddy suddenly materializes from thin air, only to vanish back into thin air again when the plot doesn’t need her. Otherwise, an Adarsh Bahu spends all her time with her marital family members and feels no desire of having a friend and confidante of her own.
- Her parents rarely become the part of her life after marriage: Once a girl becomes an Adarsh Bahu, her parents and siblings have no longer any importance in her life. Even at events like the Adarsh Bahu’s child being in danger, she and her marital family doesn’t think it necessary to inform her parents.
- She is not supposed to have a career, unless needed by the family: The Adarsh All her time is needed to cook for the family, save the family from all sorts of dangers and to cry bucketful of tears at every little event. She has no time to step out of the home and have a career. And whatever aspirations she had, they all die the moments she steps into the marital home as a bahu.
- She is best and most capable mother: She knows exactly how to raise children. She knows exactly how to inspire them, how to pull them back from danger, how to control their tantrums and how to set them at right path if, despite all her maternal perfections, her kids step into the path of wrong. Nobody else in the family has such capabilities. The Adarsh Bahu and mother has no parental weaknesses and confusions. She is as perfect a mother as she is a perfect bahu.
- She is super hospitable: She does not mind guests. The distant relatives might come and settle in her home with their entire family, and she doesn’t break a sweat. She welcomes them all to her home and heart and is as ready to sacrifice for them as she is to sacrifice for her husband.
- She is willing to give any tests to prove her worthiness: Despite all her perfections, hard work and sacrifices, she might be made to give a long-drawn test to prove her innocence, trustworthiness and whatever. She does not mind being submitted to even the most ridiculous or insulting task. Never for once does she think of protesting at the injustice of being submitted to such insults despite all her devotion towards the family.
In short, Indian televisions shows prove that an Adarsh Bahu must be like a robot, possessor of super powers, capable of fulfilling all her duties and never ever demanding anything for herself. A woman has no chance of being considered a good bahu unless she can attain such perfection and become an epitome of virtue, sacrifice, forgiveness and endurance.