India, the land of a hundred kingdoms and a thousand different villages, towns and hamlets. With the variety in its culture and traditions, everyone gets to celebrate life,togetherness and festivals in a different way. Wonder what the Indian women does. After all, they do represent a little less than half the population of India. The woman does what every ideal Indian woman is supposed to do: cook, clean and look after the family with no complaints. But once all the work is done, what is she left with?
Enter: saas-bahu soap operas. A melodramatic, over-exaggerated, Utopian household with at least twenty to thirty members living under the giant roof of nothing short of a palace. A family so perfect that they every Indian woman out there dreams to be a part of it. Lets take a look at these women centric yet male dominated soap operas which call cash in on the sheer amount of women who watch such shows.
Bahu (The Ideal Indian Woman) : The ideal Indian woman is the one who is willing to give up her career for the sake of the honor of her new family. She is the one who is shown to bear everything in silence and never complains about anything.She is supposed to suffer in the hands of her mother-in-law and the sisters-in-law too. All this whilst she tends to look after the household and the family. All this seems like a bit too mush of burden, doesn’t it. It doesn’t even let the woman relax and spend some time just for herself.
Saas (The Cruel One) : The mother-in-law is the one who heads the cruelty committee apparently. She is always armed with a set of chores to keep her daughter-in-law busy at all times. Thus ensuring that the new woman is treated like a slave as long as she lives. I wonder why all MILs have to be so cruel at all times.
Beta (The Dominant One): The son is the one who is supposed to marry a beautiful, educated, hard working woman who is ready to give up every thing she enjoyed until now and suffer at any cost under the saas. He is seen less often as the soap is about women and he’s just there to bring command his wife as to what she should do. He is one more reason for increase in the amount of sufferings to be borne by the bahu.
Sisters-in-law (The Other Cruel Ones): Just in case the saas gets tired of making life hell for her, there are wives of the saas’s other two sons. And they are just happy to add another woman to their family to share the burden of house keeping and cooking. They’ll also be jealous of her beauty and thus won’t behave as anything less than the saas herself.
Padhos (Neighborly neighbors): These are women (and men) who drop in occasionally to keep the household updated on the neighborhood gossip. Usually, these are middle-aged women who seem to be hyper-active at all times.
House (Palaces): The family usually consists of up to twenty of even more members living under one giant roof. Such families are rare these days in India. But on the silver screen, these families are very much alive and their palaces, always clean and well-maintained.
Festivities (Celebrations every now and then): Every soap opera family is seen celebrating all sorts of festivals and ceremonies. After all, the bahu does need her happy time in her miserable life. And festivals are the time to do exactly that. The moment a ceremony or festival is finished, the women of the house are seen preparing for another one. Its like they don’t have a life outside the palace.
Kids (Future): Kids are shown rarely in soap operas unless the main female protagonist has some or have to deal with them. The ideal Indian woman is the one who can produce at least one male heir to the great dynasty. Kids are usually there to show that the male protagonist (and female ones too) cares a lot about kids.
Clothes (Costumes): The female family members are prohibited from wearing non-traditional clothes. They wear sarees and certainly cover their head with the end of it. All of them wear clothes fit for royalty even whilst they are inside the house doing chores. Celebrations bring in a whole new set of exaggerated clothes and are usually designer wear. Men can wear anything and have no restrictions. Jewelry graces every female and tons of make up too.
The real Indian housewife is nothing compared to the ones shown on the silver screen. Yet they aspire to be like the lead female protagonist as they think that this is how life is supposed to be. There are tons of soap operas with the same theme and plot. And these are popular among the house wives.