The Domineering ‘Saas’ – (Mother-in-Law):
An omnipresent and utterly overwhelming feature of Indian TV – the Saas! This is a lady, anywhere between her late forties to early sixties; who, having finally overcome her own miserable ‘bahu-hood’, finds herself in the advantageous position of being the owner of a son of marriageable age. And no, that ‘owner’ was not a typo. Apparently this state of existence signals to her, a divine sanction for unleashing her heretofore hidden Hitler-ish tendencies upon the hapless soul who enters her household as the newly-wed bride of her aforementioned son. Be it in the form of ‘taanas’ or rejoinders regarding her DIL’s cooking abilities, her family background, the dowry her parents did or did not pay, or simply her taste in lipstick colour, the ‘Saas’ must leave no stone unturned in her holy quest of harassing her ‘Bahu’. It’s rather like a college senior determined to rag the freshmen as a transferred revenge for his own rigorous ragging a few years ago. The ‘Saas’ must have vengeance for the tyrannies meted out to her by her own ‘Saas’, ad infinitum. Nothing showcases this vibrant tradition of generational bullying better than the title of one of the most popular shows ever aired on Indian TV – ‘Kyuki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahi Thi’ – or, ‘The MIL Was Also Once a DIL’. #TrueStory
The Obedient ‘Bahu’ – (Daughter-in-Law):
Social BDSM at its best, the ‘Bahu’ is every dom’s wet-dream – the sub that never gets tired of subbing! The ‘Bahu’ exudes submissiveness as thoroughly as Lalu Yadav exudes corruption. You just can’t miss it.
Want someone to belittle and scream at to relieve your day’s frustrations? Want someone to make you tea on demand, which you can then throw dramatically across the room, shattering the cup to bits and staining the walls, because you didn’t quite like the tinge of adrak in it? Get yourself your very own, brand-new, hymen-sealed, completely unused Bahu! The Bahu’s job description, apart from impersonating Anastasia Steele mid-social-coitus with a middle-aged woman, mainly involves crying. Her wages depend chiefly on how many bucketfuls of the salty liquid she can produce per hour. The more the merrier. If she can mix in a bit of simpering, whimpering and overall imitating a wet – and rather stupid – kitten abandoned in a rainstorm, she can even hope to win the award of the best onscreen Bahu ever! It won’t be easy though. She’s got plenty of whimpering competition!
3. The Annoying ‘Nanad’ – (Sister-in-Law):
Ever watched Mean Girls? This woman is what would happen if Regina George had been raised in a traditional Indian household. She’s mean, she’s bitchy and she seems to find no purpose in life but to make her Bhabhi’s life in her matrimonial home a living hell! Why she derives such acute pleasure from an essentially pointless activity (considering that she will soon be married off and kicked out of the house herself), is anybody’s guess. Who knows, maybe she’s just having her bit of fun lording it over the hapless sub before her own days of simpering submission begin. Whatever her motivations might be, the fact remains that, from pouring salt into delicious pulao and ruining her own dinner, to overheating mommy-dearest’s bathwater to get bhabi into trouble, the nanad does it all! Singlehandedly. All the while getting it on with bhabi’s little bro on the sly. And you say women can’t multitask? This young lady shall shatter all your delusions!
The Spineless ‘Swami’ – (Hubby darling):
And make no mistake; this man is not the unemployed hobo down the street who still lives in his mother’s basement. Nope. Apparently this gentleman is the CEO (or some such) of a multinational company prosperous enough to finance the billion dollar jewels perpetually worn by the females of his family. You would expect him to have a bit of a spine, wouldn’t you? To not get pushed around by every trade-union leader who ever cried for a pay-raise three days after the last one? Well, you’d be wrong. An alligator has more of a spine than this dude. (Hint: it doesn’t.)
With the personality of a wet dish-rag and the social relevance of a type-writer, the ‘Pati-Dev’ exists to do…exactly nothing. He is a businessman who apparently never has to do anything even remotely business-like. So he sits around the house all day long memorising the newspaper until called upon for the holy task of taking his mother’s side in a domestic squabble. Even this he does with extreme reluctance, and the vocal strength of a rabbit with a cold; presumably because he really does love his wife, or at least feels some distress at her constant sniffling. Yet, he demurs from ever taking her side. Why you ask? Why, ‘sanskar’ of course! What sanskari young lad would take his wife’s side over his mother’s? Scandalous, I tell you! Scandalous!
5. The Dharma- Religion
No, not Karan Johar’s glitzy production house. This is the real deal!
Cultural proselytisers couldn’t have found a better brand ambassador if they tried! Not an episode goes by without at least two rounds of aarti, one round of kirtan and at least five boxfuls of sindur being dumped on someone’s head. And this is apart from all the mythological allusions; crying, singing and dancing in front of random hapless murtis; and swearing by the Gita that is part and parcel of the trade. You couldn’t move a stool on the sets of one of these shows without holding a yajna for it first! If God was remembered half as much in real life as He is in TV serials, we’d probably have paradise on earth right now. A paradise of women in ‘ghunghats’ and men in saffron ‘dhotis’ singing bhajans.
What are the family stereotypes on TV that you love/hate the most? Let us know in the comments below!