How do I know what life’s like as a Hindi serial heroine? Allow me to explain.
At the risk of sounding extremely patronizing, I’ll say this – I seriously dislike Indian TV. Yes, I’m horrid and arrogant and unpatriotic and whatever, but it’s true. I’m happy with Star World, Fox Crime and Z Café.
My dislike obviously extended to regular Hindi soaps, though my sis and her friends used to watch them regularly (I know, I should disown her for this). When I heard them discussing the shows with so much fervour, I decided to see for myself what the whole deal was about. I’ve only read about Ekta Kapoor’s serials being regressive, but it wasn’t really specified in what way. Curiosity got the better of me and thus began my experiment.
I knew a few things beforehand: the ladies in general were overdressed, more so the ‘vamps’. Everyone lived in huge houses. People’s expressions were shown in close-up for several seconds, one after the other. To maintain a level of consistency, I watched only Star Plus shows.
And finally my findings; after months of toil and sweat, here is my understanding of what your life would be like, if you lived inside a Hindi Serial.
Note: Pleas excuse the quality of the pictures, good ones aren’t that easy to find :)
1. You will ALWAYS wear eye shadow
You could have been in an accident, woken up in the middle of the night, laying in hospital, cast out on the streets – whatever your circumstance; you will invariably be wearing prominent eye shadow – in a color matching your saree. Also, the amount of make up on your face will be directly proportional to how mean you are.
2. You will not respect or care for your body
You could be sick to your bones but when someone suggests calling a doctor, you immediately wave it away as ‘nothing’. ‘Doctor ko bulao!!’, shouts someone. ‘Nahin, nahin, main theekh hoon’ – should be your response, eye shadow and all. Any kind of condition that requires immediate medical attention – burns, fainting, deep cuts – all you’ll do is put some turmeric or something (after all, you do live in the kitchen). I am yet to see a serial actress who asks to see a doctor, even when they are on the verge of childbirth!
By the way, people in Serial-land always have friendly neighborhood doctors who visit you, you never have to step foot inside a clinic. Well considering all the women refuse treatment, the doctors probably aren’t all that busy.
3. You’ll stand by your husband – even if he’s abusive, distant or just plain crazy
A lot of Hindi serials start off with the hero as a negative character. He will abuse you, force you into marriage, hit you, taunt you, starve you and do everything to lower your self esteem. But should you react to this? No!!! Because you trust in the great institution of marriage, and that the Gods will respond to your prayers and that things will turn out all right some day. ‘Parivar’ is, after all, over and above ‘swabhiman’, you say. And since this is Serial land, you’re right – things do work out in the end. Too bad psychos don’t transform overnight in real life.
In the event that someone else stands up for you (read: another man), you’ll refuse his help. (For more details as to why you do this, see point 2). And you’ll continue to sit at his feet and literally worship him.
4. You’ll have a standard uniform – and you’ll work it (literally)
You and your serial sisters will all have to dress the same way – glitzy saree with an unpleated pallu, long straight hair left loose, arms decked out with bangles and a huge prominent mangalsutra hanging down your neck.
So you go from this:
Other than that you all look like clones of each other, it’s no big deal - but for the fact that you are expected to work all day – cooking, drying papads, caring for babies etc. – in an outfit that is clearly not designed with comfort in mind. At the very least, your pallu is a fire hazard in the kitchen, your loose hair a hygiene problem, and your bangle stack a plain inconvenience.
But should you dare to change into something more comfortable, prepare to spend episode after episode debating this with your Saas, Kaaki, bhabhi and other sundry (female) relatives. It is obviously a matter that requires much more discussion than the 2014 elections. Do you really want to deal with those disapproving stares?
5. You’ll say goodbye to non vegetarian food
I’m not sure what the reason behind this is, but every single household in
is vegetarian. Some even avoid onions and garlic, so be very, very sure before
you start cooking there. Don’t forget that the ever watchful eyes of your Mother in
Law are on you. Serial Land
God forbid you decide to make an egg mask for your hair – what are you going to do with the eggshells?? The disposal of said shells alone qualifies for an entire story arc consisting of several episodes. Also, if your household is more ‘traditional’, you’ll be the last person to eat. If you’re lucky you get your own plate; else your husband’s used plate beckons you to finish his leftovers. Read on while I go and barf.
6. You might not know your own husband’s job description
Hindi serials are accused of subscribing to patriarchal norms, although ironically, the men in the family hardly have any decision making power to speak of. 100% of decisions regarding the household and relationships are made by women, and in some families even business decisions are made by the businessmen’s homemaker wives. The men meekly carry briefcases and mobile phones and appear to be furiously busy, although they are home whenever any drama takes place, which is about….always. Oh, and they always wear suits, regardless of the current weather or where they live.
But their businesses are hugely successful as you can infer from their palatial residences, their multiple cars, the amount of jewelry their wives wear etc. Strangely though, they never seem to have enough maids or other house help – you and your serial sisters end up doing most of the work.
7. You’ll never have a private conversation again
Sorry honey, but it’s true. Every conversation you have will have an audience, either visible or hidden. For one thing, you’ll never lock your door, you’ll think aloud far more than necessary and then your family members never realize the need to knock. Eavesdropping is completely legal in Serial land, so don’t shy away from doing it yourself. Also, do not hesitate in intruding upon a private conversation and offering your two bits. Discussing suitable birth control methods with your hubby? Be ready for this:
Also beware of embarrassing interruptions:
8. Your Mother in Law owns you
Ah, the joys of living in a joint family!! Once you are married, be prepared to surrender all your autonomy to your MIL. The minute you’ve brushed your teeth, she’ll be ready with your to-do list for the day. She decides everything for you – what you’ll cook, when you’ll eat, if you’ll be eating at all (there are a lot of traditional fasts), when you’ll have kids, what you’ll wear, where you’ll go. If you need to do something as simple as get your eyebrows threaded, be ready for a Q & A session that could last an entire episode.
9. You will not stand up for your rights
Yes, not under any circumstance will you stand up for yourself. You are not expected to voice your opinions, or even have them, for that matter. It is immaterial how educated or emancipated you were prior to getting married; now you will submit everything to the rules of your new home (see point 8). Your choices in any subject do not matter. Your personal dreams and aspirations do not matter. And hobbies? Honey, your only hobby now on is ensuring that no one has any complaints. In case you face injustice, you will suffer in silence and wait for things to work out on their own. Good luck to you, then.
10. Your life is over once you turn 60
This doesn’t apply to the men in your life, only you. Once you’ve got grandkids and great grandkids, bid goodbye to all material pleasures. You now get into your ‘Grandma costume’ – Plain sarees with the pallu over your head, full sleeve blouses and a look of general benevolence. Your main tasks are going to be –
a) Cuddling little children and supporting older grandkids
b) Discussing the good old days with fellow seniors
c) Getting upset at all the bitching and politics that happens around you
You are not expected to do any work and are not allowed to have any other interests outside the ones mentioned above. Forget autumn years, your life pretty much resembles the dried out branches of a tree in dead-cold winter.
Wokay….that was a really long post. Just so you know I could actually go on and on – but then there’s a limit to testing your patience :-). So how do you like life as a serial heroine? Have you felt the same or are you a fan of Hindi serials??