“I Moved To NYC After Marriage Only To Be Exploited As An Unpaid House Help”
- IWB Post
- September 13, 2017
I was going to the land of dreams with my Prince Charming, holding his hands tightly, the flight took off and it seemed like a beginning of my happily-ever-after. But, I was wrong! The foreign land welcomed me with shackles and chains and a sense of helplessness because I was all alone. I woke up from my fairytale dreams and realized it wasn’t a dream land, after all!
IWB’s section, “Censored,” features real women/men narrating real stories. Stories, which are usually censored by the society are given a platform.
There is absolutely no room for judgment or condemnation. Women/men can open up about their personal issues, reach epiphanies, inspire people all around the world, and seek an expert advice. Read on, and get your dosage of empowerment.
One of our bloggers received a personal message from her acquaintance requesting to share her story while maintaining her anonymity. 26-year-old Ruchika (name changed) got married 2 years back and soon after marriage she went to New York with her husband, Karan, and his family. Like many girls, she was also fascinated with the idea of marrying an NRI guy and it was upon her request itself, that her family never looked for suitors in their hometown, Udaipur. However, everything changed for worse as she went to New York and now, she yearns to return home.
My Bua who was settled in Canada always brought us branded clothes, watches, handbags, and so many other things. My Bua, Phuphaji and their three children would visit us every year, during our summer vacations. My younger sister and I grew up seeing our cousins enjoying all the luxuries in life and having their independent identity. They were been brought up in a very open environment unlike ours, where everything we did was governed by the “rules.”
I had never been to a different country before and we would be fascinated by the tales our cousins told about the life in the U.S., U.K., etc. I grew up believing that life in a foreign land was all about comfort, luxury, and individual freedom. Call me naïve but most of the girls from small cities like Udaipur, have similar ideas. Having lived with restrictions, stringent rules, and conservative environment, most of us grow with a belief that marriage is key to freedom and if you are married to an NRI, then your life is sorted, like a fairytale!
As I turned finished my graduation, my parents started looking for a match. Though I wasn’t opposed to the idea, I requested them to let me do Masters in Economics to which they agreed but with a condition that they’ll keep looking for a suitable boy and if they find one during the two years of my Master’s degree, they would fix it.
During my first year of Masters itself, dad selected two suitors for me and asked me to read their bio-datas. But, the problem was that both the boys were from Udaipur and lived here only.
“Mummy, I don’t want a life like you and if I get married here, I know I’ll end up having the same life. Look at Bua, she’s so happy. She has no restrictions, she can wear jeans, she doesn’t have to put all these bindis and wear chudis, and she also helps Phuphaji with his work. Please, Ma, I have studied so much, I can do so much in life, I don’t want to end up spending my life scrubbing dishes and raising kids,” I confided in my mom and hinted her that I didn’t want to get married in Udaipur.
It was during my last semester that one day my dad came home and asked for me. As I sat down near him, he told me about this match that a Bua’s friend had suggested to her for me. He told me that the boy and his family lived in New York and were very well-off. He looked very happy and suggested me to meet the boy once.
I stalked him on Facebook and already started imagining about our first meet. 15 days later, Karan and his family came to Udaipur and we all went to meet them at a hotel they were staying in. Our first meet was dreamy and as soon as I came back, I said yes to my parents. However, Karan requested to meet me again. When we met for the second time, he discussed how he doesn’t want a housewife and wants me to work with him after marriage. I was happily surprised and the jittery feeling that I had before meeting him again, had vanished. In fact, I was so relieved because that’s exactly what I had wanted in life. I assured him that I, too, didn’t want to sit at home and would love to work with him.
We came out of the room holding hands, gesturing our families that it was a big yes. Our big day was finalized for June 2014, keeping in mind that my last semester exams would be in April. Everything was perfect and our long distance courtship only added to our attachment and love. Both families were beyond ecstatic and literally didn’t spare any expense to make our wedding a memorable one.
I was to fly to New York just one week after our wedding and I cannot imagine now, how foolishly and hopelessly excited I was.
I still remember the day my parents came to Delhi airport to see us all off. I could see the tears in my mother’s eyes and I reassured her that I’m happy and that I’ll be fine. Sitting in the flight with the love of my life by my side and my new family awaiting me in a new city, the city of dreams, as they say, I took a deep breath and felt content.
Soon after my marriage, I had realized that everything that shines ain’t gold. Of course, I was told about the space problem in NYC which my friends had warned me about and compared the houses to the ones in Mumbai. And still, when I saw my bedroom, I was a taken aback. I cannot explain but it was just too small. The size of the kitchen was like a dressing room!
Anyhow, these things were all manageable and I was slowly getting into the routine. However, three weeks into my marriage, I could feel the pressure of work. Not only I had to do household chores but also had to go to the office and help Karan. You see, in NYC, helpers and drivers and other staff is very expensive and not easily available. From cleaning to washing to cooking, everything has to be done by you.
Fast forward to 6 months later, on the Christmas Eve, I was making dinner for 80 guests all by myself with just one attending staff who was appointed for just 4 hours. In one of the most happening cities in the world, I was living a life which was pretty much about work, work, and more work. Next day, I was scrubbing all the dishes as my mother-in-law came into the kitchen and told me, “Mrs. Singhal told me in an undertone that you weren’t dressed appropriately for the evening. Ruchika you have hundreds of suits and yet you wore such a shabby salwar kameez and tied your hair in such a messy bun. Why? You know na she’s a client of Karan. It impacts our status and work. I don’t want this in the future, understood?”
I went to my room and started crying. My legs were hurting from standing the whole day, yesterday, cleaning the house, decorating it, cooking, etc., and then wearing those heels, smiling to the whos-who at the party and yet, I wasn’t good enough. That night, I requested Karan for the millionth time to take me to Udaipur.
“Please let’s go for a month, please! I cannot stay here, it’s so suffocating,” I pleaded and shouted and poured down all my feelings in front of him, for the millionth time in 6 months. And for the millionth time, he gave me the same excuse, “Ruchika, there’s so much work yaar, here, I cannot just leave! And, I cannot also send you alone because then who’ll help me with the workload here, yaar. Please, we’ll go in the end of this year, pakka.”
It’s been 2 years and 2 months now; I’m still waiting to come back to India to meet my parents after my marriage. While on the outside my life would look perfect with a “big” house, all luxuries, and money, inside, it’s a living hell.
I wake up at 4 every day in the morning. Vacuum clean the entire house, Prepare breakfast, serve bed tea to Karan and my in-laws, prepare lunch, pack lunch for Karan and me, walk to office (because it’s just half a km away from home), work at office for 4-5 hours, return home, prepare dinner with my mother-in-law (if she’s not out at some get-together or kitty, which she usually is), do laundry, serve dinner, and sleep. On the weekends, it’s worse! Most weekends, either my father-in law’s or my mother-in-law’s or the building friends come for lunches or dinners, which means, I have to prepare a “five-star” meal for all the guests and after they leave have to clean up the mess and wash the dishes (because not all are dishwasher-friendly).
The Indian society here is even more closely connected which makes social gatherings more frequent and like the get-togethers in India, here, too, it’s all about the showing up the status quo and judging others.
When I tell my friends or confide about my issues to my mom, they all say that I’m thinking too much and that I have to adjust. They say that I have gotten everything one can wish for and I’ll get used to doing work, but, only I know how it feels. As they say, I have everything, a loving husband, a caring family, money, jewelry, career, luxuries, everything! Then why do I feel like a maid in my own home, not expected but bound to do everything alone without any appreciation, recognition, or even remuneration?
I might find a way out of it sooner or later, but, I always tell my younger sister to never fall into the trap of the happily-ever-after idea of marriage. To her and to all the young girls who think marrying an NRI boy will ensure freedom, please don’t buy this. Have your own identity and set your own rules from day 1, otherwise, be it in India or outside, the narrow mindedness of our patriarchal society will find you anywhere.
(Featured Image is for representation purpose only.)