The days of joint families are termed by a section of social researchers the perfect halcyon times in Bangladesh. The younger generation of scholars disagrees. Yet, extended families comprising grand old men and women and a large number of their grown-up offspring, the sons married and having children, a couple of daughters married off, the younger ones in the line, were once the common spectacles in the villages. It was a common scenario even 40 to 50 years ago. The families were normally large with the number of members reaching 30 on average. A striking aspect of these joint families was their preparations of food in a single kitchen. With the passage of time, these extended families began disintegrating. The kitchens also continued to disintegrate, which saw separate cooking arrangements. The days of having meals together, with the patriarchal grandfather being the centrerpiece, eventually started dying away. By that time a few male members of the big family had started taking preparations to settle down in the cities after completing their higher studies.
One fine morning they set out for Dhaka or the other cities along with their newly-wed educated wives. Thus Bangladesh began witnessing how the tradition of nuclear families took root in this land. The slow disintegration of large joint families in course of time invited many urban family-related scourges to the rural and suburban areas. The prominent of them are conjugal maladjustment, domestic violence, separation and, finally, divorce.
Like in the once-idyllic rural landscape, the worst of the victims of rifts in conjugal ties in the cities turn out to be the children. As day-to-day urban family realities get harder, stoked by self-assertiveness and clashes of ego, relations between husbands and wives go on to get frayed. In the nuclear families, charged emotion and impulsiveness often lead to fits of domestic violence. In fact, many types of low-scale violence continue to vitiate human lives. In the broader social perspective, a few of the violent acts are often kept underrated. They are normally related to communities, neighbourhoods and other social groups. Distressingly, those occurring in the conjugal life receive wider focus than that involve the other sectors. They receive focus of the researchers when they are viewed in the context of socio-psychological realities. Normally, the issue of this particular violence is parried in our society. Different pretexts and alibis are used in these acts avoidance.
In all societies, domestic violence is defined as an insidious one. On most of the occasions, it remains under a veil of hush-hush. In spite of it being a regular affair, domestic, conjugal to be specific, face-offs are found to be on the backburner. Only the people close to the domestically unhappy families can glean a detailed picture of these sour relationships. Meanwhile, the bitterness in conjugal relations sometimes borders on physical assaults. Most of the time, it is the male partner who takes the role of the assaulter. As reality dictates, conjugal maladjustments in Bengalee families are eventually made to wear a deceptive guise. With the issue of women empowerment gaining momentum, educated females in the cities have started to raise their voice.
In the past, the males were regarded as the culprit; the females were viewed as silent victims. Those scenes have begun changing with the latter's assertive stance. Yet the overall picture goes in favour of men. In societies where males call the shots, women in general still find themselves marginalised in consideration of the basic privileges. Except for those spearheading equal rights movements, both educated and socially backward women appear to be vulnerable to male aggression. It causes women to remain stay put with their feeble voice.
Domestic violence with roots in conjugal disharmony is, however, a different issue. Apart from uneven social, familial and economic statuses, it is also inextricably linked to prolonged conflicts of personality. A woman in this situation is not supposed to be an opponent weaker than her conjugal partner. Like the oppression of women, the rift between husbands and wives exacts a heavy toll on family peace. The other family members finally emerge as the affected class.
Married couples not on speaking terms for 15-20 years in a row are not too uncommon in this society. Few outsiders have the faintest inkling about these nearly-broken relations. But husbands and wives somehow manage to live under one roof. A breakup remains an anathema to both of them. In such situations in the West, couples seek a divorce after passing through a number of tormenting phases. In the East, including Bangladesh, married couples try their best not to go for a divorce. Ironically, these sham conjugal ties, according to sociologists, get the seal of approval of the people around under an unwritten agreement. The acquiescence to this tormenting, loveless life apparently results from a concern about grooming up the children. As has been seen in many such unhappy lives, the children emerge as the worst victims --- clearly for no fault of theirs. Traumatised and psychologically shattered, the children from unhappy families are normally found going astray. In the taboo-ridden and male chauvinistic societies, girl children are found enduring silently the lethal fallout of parental rifts.
A male child finds himself being pushed into an abyss of desolation. Finally, many such children love to spend a major part of their time out of home. They feel comfortable to be in the company of friends. As a consequence, many of these boys from the nearly broken families find themselves sucked into the world of drugs. Most of the school and college dropouts from middle and upper-middle classes nowadays come from unhappy families.
In the 21st century, both husbands and wives have their own worlds. Those belonging to the middle class and are highly educated can manage to create their respective friend circles outside their homes. This relational bonhomie outside home confines enables husbands and wives alienated from each other to go ahead with improvised ties outside. They put on deftly built masks of normality hiding their dislike and rancour for each other. Complicated conjugal relations of one type or another continue to dominate many lives in this society; since social mores value privacy and secrecy more than other instincts, these bitter ties are made to remain out of the view of others. This propensity to hide the troubling facts of conjugal rift overwhelms the other normal human traits. It's a reality now found among the relatively enlightened classes in this fast advancing society. On the other hand, this is an episode that crops up frequently in all social classes.
Social psychologists present a long list of factors which can be held responsible for strained conjugal lives. As seen in the lower strata of society, poverty plays a great role in driving a wedge between a husband and a wife. Moreover, due to the general lack of respect for the institution of family and the values that accompany it, both men and women in this class nurture the common tendency to divorce one another on flimsy grounds. It's almost a common practice in the slum areas. In the educated middle class, the problem begins with the clash of egos. The assertion of individualism is initially seen in petty family affairs. Upon gathering force, these negligible matters create greater crises to, finally, end up being an insurmountable one. The sparks of a festering fire fly in from nowhere. The couples have few options except trying to make do with a corrosive unhappy life in silence. However, a section of others try to forget their acrimonious chapter, and try to begin life anew.
According to social and familial experts, conjugal ties become more strained during the times of external crises. The ongoing period of corona shutdown is one of them. During these trying times, domestic tensions allegedly turn into ugly feats of quarrel for no convincing reasons. Broken ties offer a good read in fictions. But the real-life characters bleed ceaselessly under their tormenting pressure.
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