Do you have your husband’s permission?

by Chandra Sundeep

Most of us have a bucket list of things we want to do before we, erm, kick the proverbial bucket. I too have one. There are a few items I have ticked off and many more waiting to be ticked. Not my fault, the list keeps increasing as if by magic! And to be honest, it keeps me going…

As a family, we love traveling. My husband and I firmly believe there is no better teacher than traveling. We love going on little trips as often as we can. We have done adventure-based trips, where we have spent hours snorkelling in pristine waters, or para-gliding amidst the clouds. We have fond memories of the trips wherein we spent hours getting massages. In the pre- Covid era, we used to go on vacations every three months.

My daughters get a long summer break, almost 2.5 months. My elder daughter would be off for college next year, and this is in all certainty is the last time both my children have holidays together. This was a reminder for me to tick off one item from my list–to go on a girls’ trip with my two best friends–my daughters.

I pinged this person, a travel enthusiast, to get some information regarding Meghalaya, the place where I wanted to go with my daughters. For the sake of privacy, let me call this person Ms. XYZ. She is a strong feminist, and one of the most well-travelled persons I have come across on social media. Her trips on off-beaten paths are so inspiring!

She mentioned she preferred talking over chatting and shared her number. I called her, armed with a pen, paper, and tons of excitement. However, her first question filled me with dismay and shattered the high opinion I held about her.

This is how our conversation went once we had exchanged pleasantries, and I had outlined my proposed itinerary.

“Do you have your husband’s permission?”

“What?!” I was sure I had not heard her clearly.

“I think there is some disturbance in the line. Wait, let me step out of the house.”

While she searched for a better signal, I searched for the words which seemed to be lost in the maze of my organs.

Ms. XYZ’s crystal-clear voice soon boomed in my ears. “Yes, so I was asking if you’ve got your husband’s permission?”

“What do you mean? Why do I need my husband’s permission?”

“Come on, you are planning a trip without him. Of course, you need his permission!” She chuckled, unaware of the storm brewing within me.

My skin prickled as she continued to highlight the importance of seeking the husband’s permission. She had the audacity to tell me it was the foundation for a strong marriage. I was seething with rage, but burst into laughter when she said I was giving the ‘wrong’ message to my daughters by not doing the ‘right’ thing!

I know women in many countries, especially from the middle-Eastern nations, still need permission from a male authority figure for even basic things we in India take for granted. I recently read a book written by an Egyptian woman who states that a Muslim woman in Egypt is her father’s property before marriage. After marriage, the rights are transferred to the husband. And in case of divorce or husband’s demise, the power rests with her son. This is India, goddammit! I wanted to scream at her.

But better sense prevailed, and I knew there was no point in further wasting my time, so I politely disconnected the call. Of course, not before giving her my two bits, in a polite and restrained manner.

Once I had let off steam, I could see the disconnect between the woman’s real and online personalities. It was appalling how a person claims to be a feminist but holds on to such archaic views? We are in the 21st century, and despite all the education and exposure, we hold on to regressive thoughts. This incident is not patriarchy at play, but a fellow woman exhibiting the same rigid mindset.

The not-so-pleasant conversation made me wonder about the world we are creating for our sons and daughters? Why should we tell our daughters they are lesser beings? Isn’t it vital they know their voice matters? Why should we burden our sons with the ills of machoism?

I just wish more women rise to accepting and acknowledging themselves as equal beings in every relationship. Be it work or home, we are important and our voice matters! The onus of bringing this change rests more on us women. We can cry and shed tears, blaming the world and patriarchy, but if we need to see the change, we need to become the torch-bearers.

I have been married for 18+ years now. It hasn’t been a smooth-sailing ride. There have been ups and downs. But then there has been a constant all throughout – we have always respected each other.

We are equal partners in this relationship, and my consent and voice matter as much as his. Can a relationship that is not built on equality really thrive?

I know for certain; the foundation of my marriage doesn’t depend on my submission to my husband. Of course, he is equally involved in our lives and in planning this trip.

But I don’t need his “permission!” Neither to live life as per my wish nor to tick off items on my bucket list!

This is the message we are giving to our daughters. Little pearls of wisdom we have collected along the way…

It is not wrong or selfish to put your desires first.

Submission is not the sign of a healthy relationship.

And lastly, you don’t need a man’s permission to live your lives.

My advice may seem ‘wrong,’ to a certain segment of the society, but I don’t care!

And to Ms. XYZ, all I want to say is, hope you find the courage to share your ‘real’ views with the ‘virtual’ world soon!



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