In the 2006 Aishwarya Rai-starrer, Provoked, Rai’s character gets married to an NRI (non-resident Indian) and moves to London with him and his family. Slowly, she starts getting abused and raped by her husband. This was based on the true story of author and activist Kiranjit Ahluwalia. In the 1997 movie, Judaai, Urmila Matondkar goes from ‘modern’ girlfriend to ‘traditional’ bahu straight after marrying Anil Kapoor. Because, of course, marriage gives every woman a sanskaari makeover, no? And if that doesn’t work then there’s always the in-laws who can step-in to make their daughter-in-law ‘behave’. An Indian-born US resident, Devbir Kalsi, seems to have taken a leaf out of all regressive Bollywood movies. According to a report, Kalsi flew his parents in from India to ‘tame’ his wife, Silky Gaind.
Gaind was locked up in a room in Kalsi’s home in Florida for days without access to a phone and was repeatedly physically abused by him, her mother-in-law Bhupinder Kalsi and father-in-law Jasbir Kalsi. Her infant was also locked up with her. Through great difficulty, she managed to secure a phone to contact her parents in India. They immediately alerted local authorities, who went to rescue her.
The officers reported that they found severe bruise marks on her neck, face and torso and also found a bruise mark on the infant’s cheek. Gaind and the baby have been taken to a secure location, while all three Kalsis have been arrested. They now face charges of domestic violence, violence using a lethal weapon, denying access to 911 and wrongful detention. They are also likely to be deported.
The grounds on which Kalsi detained his wife and thought it okay to bring in his parents to ‘control’ her have not been mentioned in reports, but the story’s all too familiar. In 2012, a man named Vishal Jagota and his parents were arrested for physically and sexually abusing his wife in their home near New York for three years. His mother and sister were also charged with trafficking.
Indian parenting unrelentingly believes in having a stake in every decision their child takes. This extends to believing they have control over the women their sons marry. The patriarchal mindset doesn’t shift with shifting geographies. Abuse for dowry aside, abuse to control behaviour women reflects just how deeply we think we can take liberties with women’s bodies and freedom. We hope the Kalsis of the world get their ghar vaapsis to prison sooner rather than later.