Introducing: Ask An Indian Auntie

Friday, January 9, 2009
It's no secret that we worry about what people think. It's become the stuff of cliche that Indians are more concerned with what the Jones' are saying about them, than keeping up with (or surpassing, as the case may be) them. Our generation makes fun of our parents for their constant refrain of "what would people think" and yet--who among us doesn't have some amount of that instinct? The social and cultural landscape of second generation Indian women is hairy (in more ways than one...!) Especially during those times when, try as you might, you just cannot understand where your mom, mother-in-law, uncle, auntie, cousin, is coming from, in terms of protocol, etiquette, or life in general. Add to it the host of issues that motherhood poses and there are a lot of questions that go through our heads...

Indian Aunty is here to help! "Indian Aunty" is a collection of some of the funniest, wisest, most proper and most wonderfully improper Indian Aunties I have met--she will morph and change but what remains the same will be this: She will tell you what Saroj Auntie and Kamala Auntie are saying about you behind your back, she will not mince words and she will let you know when she thinks you're--well--completely wrong. And knowledge is power, no?

Welcome to Ask An Indian Auntie. Send your questions to or leave them in the comments section here.

Q: Dear Indian Auntie,

I caught my husband looking at Indian porn. For some reason it bothered me more that it was Indian but that's not my main issue. My main issue is this: He always has claimed to be, and seems to be, pretty "traditional." Doesn't looking at porn fly in the face of traditional Indian values? And should I care? I think it's kind of disgusting but he isn't hurting anybody, he's a good husband, a great father, we are happy. Has this always happen?

-Paused by the Porn, San Francisco, California

A: Dear Paused by the Porn Beti,

Thank you for your writing! This very thing happened to me when I was a young 21 year old bride. I was making the dinner when I noticed that my husband was not sitting at the table, like he always was. He would sit there, smiling, impatiently yearning for his dinner. But tonight, he was missing!

So, I walked upstairs and realized he was in the bathroom, with the door closed. He never closed the bathroom door! I thought something was going on. I'll never forget the moment, when I knew what was going on. I could even smell it.

"Why are you eating chicken tikka masala in the bathroom!', I shouted. "I have only been working all day, cooking that very dish for your dinner!"

Later, I talked to other women and realized I was not alone. All men want to sample the cooking of other women sometimes.

In these modern days, the type of pornography may have changed, but men and their yearnings have not. So I wonder, what if, on that day, he was eating eggplant parmesan? Cheeseburger and fries? Cous-Cous?

I think I would have felt the same sense of confusion and fear. You see, the problem is not the type of food. The problem is the appetite.

When my husband came home from work the next day, there was no dinner. I told him it was simple. If someone else is feeding him, my work is done, no?

Email to me when he stops. He will.

Love you Beti,
Your Indian Auntie
MIL thinks she is Dear Abby said...

This is hilarious! And I don't even fully understand the advice which kind of makes it even funnier.

I got one: How can I get my mother in law to stop giving me advice every single second about what to do with my newborn?

Ten Million Issues said...

Okay here's one: Why does it seem like our generation has so many issues about regular baby things (sleeping, eating) and our parents are now saying they didn't have the same issues? I get the feeling from my mom that she thinks I am making it up when I say I didn't sleep all night and then she tells me that I was sleeping through the night at, like, one day old. I would love to have no "issues" but sometimes I feel like I am made of them!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is uncanny: I can remember when I (first) caught my husband (then fiance) looking at porn and all of a sudden the "traditional good girl" in me came out and I was appalled (even though I am not sure I was really appalled!) This advice is hilarious.

Let's Talk Like Normal People! said...

Riddle me this: Are there any Indian Aunties who actually want to talk to you at a party? Or are they always looking for the next person to walk in the door or the newest victim to gossip about?

My family is a bunch of children said...

I am at my wits end I have never even posted to a blog before (though I am a lurker here) but help me out: How can I get my in-laws and my parents to stop fighting over the children? I have 2 kids and I actually feel like I have 6 because they are always bickering (in typical desi passive aggressive style, as well as the more western out in the open manner how evolved of them) over time with the kids, who gets to see them more, why we don't visit. I could go on and on. All advice very very very much appreciated I am at the point where I seriously consider moving to another country.

Some Girls Suck said...

How do you manage to maintain friendships with women you don't really like but that are in your circle of friends, have kids your age etc etc?

deepa said...

Had to post what my friend L emailed me this morning (with all due respect to our beloved Indian aunties of course). It is her advice...on the advice you get from aunties:

"Here's my rule of thumb on indian auntie advice:

dilute by 1/2
discard 1/3
use with caution

Anonymous said...

Great! Here is some more

What do I do with MIL/FIL who are so symphatetic to their daughter cause she is "working so hard and their son in law does not support" but who easily turn around in their son's case when they complain that "their bahu should let their son work late cause now "he" is working hard! Daughter in law should now support?


Why is it that a daughter in law is never as good as their son, while their daughter is always much better than the son in law?

Anonymous said...

This response is hilarious. I think we're going to get a kick out of Indian Auntie! Seriously though the issue of porn is kind of interesting isn't it? I wonder how many of our husbands look at it. I remember I was shocked when my husband told me he looks occasionally, and how he said it like it was no big deal and he wasn't ashamed at all. I HATED it. He told me all boys do and in my head I thought that's not true but it's not like I've done a survey or anything. ANyway my husband seems too busy even for porn these days which i guess is the silver lining of the busyness!

Missing My Mom said...

Here's one: Ever since I got married, I feel like my mom has become more of a confidante with my sister than me. It used to be pretty equal. I feel foolish for feeling "left out" but I do! It's like an entire structure of our relationship has changed. I'm pregnant with our first child now and I had all these images of bonding with my mom over it but it isn't happening. I can't figure it out, but she views me differently now or something that I am married. DOes this make any sense or ring any bells or sound familaira i any wya?


Advice has been known to cause headaches, dizziness and disorientation. Side effects include loss of sleep, loss of appetite and the occassional pain in the buttox. Do not use with alcohol. USE WITH CAUTION.

JDutta said...

I want to second the question about the double standard between daughter and daughter in law, son and son in law. Where does it come from? And are we allowed to point it out to our in laws? My husband's sister's husband can do NO wrong and yet I could serve tea and spring ten million male heirs from my head and I would never be "good enough"!!

Mallika said...

Ha! Another question for auntie. When is it okay for me not to wear a lehnga or a sari to a family gathering at nani's house? I'd like to wear jeans sometimes or even slacks and a nice sweater - but I also don't want family to think that I can't wrap my own saris.

V said...

Oh come on, ladies. Don't you ever look at porn? Maybe you and your man should start tasting the chicken tikka masala together. Who knows, you might like it!

And then you'll feel less isolated and rejected by his occassional peep.

single desi said...

I love this! Okay, dear auntie: why are my parents more impressed with the girl who is married with kids than they are by the grad school educated daughter they raised?!?

Dhrumil said...

Deepa you are awesome!

deepa said...

These are awesome questions ladies and Indian Aunty is chomping at the bit--she will be back next Friday, look out for her!

New Reader said...

This is an awesome blog just found it through a link at the nytimes mothering blog. Never have really found something so focused on younger, not to mention brown, parents before and I really love it. Linked to the post about "hairy situations" and laughed out loud at the photo, tell me that is somebody you know! Looking forward to reading more and reading more about Indian Aunty. My question:

How do you go about raising your kid with "Indian values" and "Indian culture" if you really didn't grow up with too much of it yourself? I am married to a non-Indian and I would like my kids to know where they come from but at the same time it doesn't feel right to be all super Desi when I never was before. Show me the way Indian Aunty!

Furious Nari said...

Why do men need porn when they have real life women living with them that they can gaze at and get off on?

How would they feel if they caught us stashing magazines with hugely hung guys? Wouldn't they feel insecure and jealous if we didn't think THEY were enough for us?

More...More...Shoes... said...

That's the rub. Most women I know wouldn't get off on photos of "hugely hung" guys. I mean, they are happy if their guy happens to be "hugely hung" don't get me wrong. But if looking at a theoretical 2d image in a magazine? A dress or a pair of shoes are more orgasmic than beefcake to the girls I know. BUt now I think I am going off into territory that may not be good in an post about indian aunties!


More Shoes, Indian aunties have libidos too, you know....

Anyway, even if there are some women out there who would not find photos or DVDs of hugely hung and muscular guys gaze-worthy, I think we should all start PRETENDING that we do, and go out and buy a few copies of PLAYGIRL, just to see how are husbands react.

I mean, this porn business has gotten way the hell out of hand. I know marriages that have been ruined over it.

Let's put the shoe on the other foot and see if they men get just as annoyed as we do.

Rose Water said...

I disagree that women don't like to feast their eyes on beautiful men. There is a reason why soap operas around the world are so popular--from Korea to Latin America: it's because they have beautiful men in them. Granted that we are wired so that we need to see the beautiful men in caring or sexy situations, but the idea that we are not turned on by beauty is ridiculous. I know that I turn to look at a handsome young man.

I think men would feel VERY threatened if women started actively sexualizing beautiful men. I think men in our lives would be jealous, start feeling inferior, etc. I know of several cases of husbands of friends of mine who had crushes on male stars acting overtly jealous and annoyed.

By the way, porn has gotten way out of hand--primarily because women are being programmed to act like it is no big deal and to accept it as a way of life. Girls think that accepting porn is a way to appear empowered--when they are actually collectively being dehumanized. It is much more empowering to say that porn is unacceptable--especially in this day and age when women are so much more than just sexual objects. Also, the women in the porn industry are exploited women, and are often women from abusive or broken homes. The fact that our men are indirectly supporting the exploitation of unfortunate women is even more unacceptable.

Internet has made porn into something so accessible and so much a part of everyday life that I worry about the psychological impacts on our younger generation.

Anonymous said...

You added a photo to the site! Nice to put a face with the name I have been reading these months. I pray I look that good after 3 kids!

Want to throw my 2 cents into the ring. I found myself nodding as I read "Rose Water"'s comment, and then I felt ashamed at myself. See, I often espouse the "it's no big deal" philosophy of porn even though I really detest it. Part of it is picking my battles, part of it is not rocking the boat, and part of it is just not wanting to be seen as the squirelly neo-nazi feminist. But as Rose Water says, it has become seen as "empowering" or modern to see porn as no big deal. I am revising my soapbox on this one because at the end of the day, I did and do find porn dehumanizing, demeaning and utterly unnecessary. I know my fiance looks at it sometimes. And its not like we are going to break up over it. But I realize I am allowed to not like it. So thank you for that, especially to Rose Water.


Rose Water makes a good point; it does seem that we are programmed to accept it. But if it doesn't feel good to you on a gut level, why do you have to accept it? Who says we have to accept it? Shit, if they ain't paying my rent, I don't gotta listen to them!

Anyway, for all the women who are indeed annoyed by it, go out and buy y'all some man porn. Or maybe buy a vibrator and leave it in a conspicuous place where your husband will just happen to find it, and when he asks what you need that for, tell him that he isn't enough to get you off.

See how that makes him feel.

I am so sick of men thinking it's normal for their wives to adjust to the fact that they are not enough for them. Now let's see how they feel when the tables are turned!

deepa said...

I think this is a topic that deserves debate, and this is a great start. "SUPER FURIOUS NARI," "Rose Water", and the Anonymous Poster who responded to Rose Water: Thank you for adding passion, nuance and thought-provoking questioning to the dialogue. I have an idea for a longer feature on pornography, is presence in our culture, its implications in marriage. I'm thinking some sort of "point/counterpoint." SUPER FURIOUS NARI, ROse Water, Anonymous Poster: If you guys --or others reading this--are interested in writing a piece on this (the details of which we can discuss more, of course), please email me at

Nari With a Plan said...

Why don't we implement a contest of sorts, for those of us who have porn indulging hubbies.

Let's see how long it will take before we break him of his porn habit due to our own porn habit.

Let's go out and buy mags, DVDs, vibrators, anything that will stir up his jealousy. We can even hang poster boys over our beds so that when he wakes up in the morning he comes face to face with what he is not.

Let's see how insecure we can make THEM feel for a change.

Any ladies up to the challenge?

Anonymous said...

To Nari With a Plan: Maybe this is a novel concept but have you considered talking with your husband? About how angry you obviously are? I mean it, do you think he knows how much you disapprove?

Anonymous said...

Nari With a Plan: I hate that my husband looks at porn occasionally. But I can't see how photos of naked boys above our bed is going to change anything. Then he will just be my husbadn who looks at porn and thinks his wife is childish.

Practical Nari said...

Or maybe you will develop a taste for porn yourself and it will enhance your libido and equalize the relationship?

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