Trade-Off Freedom or Safety ?

Society is a funny concept. It’s ironic how I do not understand some workings of society when my ancestors were the ones who built it. 

The situation mentioned below is one that I solved using the principle of economics- opportunity cost.

This is about the maid at my house who religiously comes on time, does all her work in a hurry only to rush off to another home, then goes back home late at night and completes all her house chores. The situation mentioned later below is about her.

But let me give you a background. She was just 15 when she was told to marry a 28 year old man. She had her only child at 16, “ thankfully” a boy. Or else she would have had to have another child under societal pressure hoping it would be a boy. Her husband was a drunkard even before they got married. So that was not a surprise to her. And last but not the least, she has never had any control on the upbringing of her spoiled child. 

 I would listen to the maid talk to my mother or me about how her husband would beat her after getting drunk in front of their only son . But the son would just sit there and watch . Almost everyday. She would proudly tell us about times when her son would keep sleeping till 11:00 am or when he flunked college exams. Pay attention to the point that I haven’t mentioned “complaining .“  And I just could not wrap my head around the fact that she was proud of her husband and son because according to her, “ it was a sign of masculinity.” It was the most bizarre proof of masculinity.

Now, here comes the point of all the details mentioned above.

 Why would any person tolerate things like these?So, I started to wonder what she could possibly gain by wearing a mangalsutra that was meaningless?

 The reason lies in the entire workings of the lower strata. I understood that Mangalsutra is the key word. It is desirable for a woman to get married early, because unfortunately without marriage social security cannot be guaranteed. Spinsters face a number of problems like being shunned by society, not getting financial help, abused physically, mentally and sexually by other men etc. Historically, in India widows have been forced to renounce all titles and wealth only to live the rest of their lives as an outcast. A lot of widows continue to wear sindoor because they want to maintain the impression that they are married. Remarriage was frowned upon.

Even today, a lot of family members think that maybe there is something wrong with the woman because no man wants to marry her. They are considered “ available” and “vulnerable.” 

 According to Addressing Domestic Violence Against Women: An Unfinished Agenda – PMC ( :

 Domestic Violence and its Health Implications

“Violence not only causes physical injury, it also undermines the social, economic, psychological, spiritual and emotional well being of the victim, the perpetrator and the society as a whole. Domestic violence is a major contributor to the ill health of women.

It has serious consequences on women’s mental and physical health, including their reproductive and sexual health. These include injuries, gynecological problems, temporary or permanent disabilities, depression and suicide, amongst others.

“Many forms of verbal and psychological abuse appear relatively harmless at first, but expand and grow more menacing over time, sometimes gradually and subtly. As victims adapt to abusive behavior, the verbal or psychological tactics can gain a strong ‘foothold’ in victims’ minds.” 

These physical and mental health outcomes have social and emotional sequelae for the individual, the family, and the society at large.”

But what stops the maid from straightening out her son? Retirement. She is not educated and she does not earn enough to support herself in  retirement. Her son has been given too much power. She cannot risk saying anything that might hurt his self-esteem because her retirement is dependent on his earnings.

She is fully aware that there are many who will help her if she asks for it but she doesn’t. And that as a society is something we have to work on. We have to make sure that not just domestic abuse but any kind of abuse is addressed and that no one is afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.

Till then, this vicious cycle will continue…Her son will be the same with his wife and then his son, then his son and so on.

So if you think about it, you can actually apply a principle of economics in this situation. Opportunity Cost. For those not familiar with the concept of Opportunity Cost, it is the next best alternative foregone. The opportunity cost of her freedom if she chooses separation from her husband is all the problems like embarrassment, social security etc. that she will have to endure all alone. Whereas, the opportunity cost of staying in the same marriage will be all the freedom that she will lose out on. 

And the opportunity cost of staying associated with the son will be a comfortable retirement whereas the opportunity cost of standing up to her son will be two things:

No retirement

Family estrangement for being a horrible mother

So the cost of a separation, divorce or leaving the son  will be much higher compared to the cost of staying married. 

                                                          Thank You!!

                                                                 – Tara Patwardhan

                                                                        FY (Bsc Division )

One thought on “Trade-Off Freedom or Safety ?

  1. Vinit says:

    hello, It’s a nice article, you raised a most important issue.

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