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  • Writer's picturePanchi

Chapter - II 'The Nudge Theory'

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

“Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up"
- Pablo Picasso

In the formative years of her marriage Queen never imagined that writing will be her only salvation. She found writing short stories was easier. An easier way to deal with her problems, a convenient way to vent out her frustrations and disappointments. She tried to bury her anger in words. As she sat in one corner of their bedroom and typed at her mobile, tears running down her face, she realised Abhinav was watching her keenly. There was something about her act of writing stories that disturbed him enormously. Expressing her thoughts in newspapers and magazines invited constant ridicule from her husband. Abhinav was vehemently against putting her pain into stories.

Time to time he spies on Queen's body language. The paragraph breaks, her finger movements on the keyboard, her right hand reaching up for the letter 'I' and down for 'C', her silent breaks of staring at the screen, that could only belong to another story. The page breaks devastates him. Almost making him feel guilty for what he did to her. Abhinav comes close to Queen and beseeches,

'No. Don't do this. Don't write about your problems so blatantly. Don't ruin our future together. If you out your feelings into your story, it will stay there locked up forever. It will be like a slow poison to our relationship, that will never let us move pass our problems, it will never let you forget or forgive.'

Queen could not come to terms with what he has to say. It is only human to express your feelings. If she cannot discuss anything with him, then writing was her only ticket to mental peace. To her Abhinav's words sounded perplexing, almost extra-terrestrial, to imagine that her stories will be the origin of future complications, that a story will prevent them from reconciling. Queen tells him,

'My writing story is the only way I can cope with our problems. It is the only way I can heal.'

Abhinav now shouts at Queen,

' No, you don't understand. You are only making it worse. Don't you get it, that it is customary for a daughter-in-law to accept a little nudge from her in-laws? This happens in every family. You should get over it. As compared to what my mother and my elder sister have suffered this is nothing.'

Abhinav's mother was subject to mental harassment by her husband and his elder sister Nina was exposed to domestic violence by her in-laws in the early years of her marriage. Nina was raised in a very comfortable environment. Her father was at a prestigious position in his job which came with all kinds of benefits, like a government bungalow, several servants, cooks, gardeners and drivers. She never had to lift a finger. But after she got married she was supposed to carry on all the duties of a house-wife. She wasn't allowed to wear anything but a simple mekhela chadar (a traditional saree of Assam) in home, she had to wake up very early in order to prepare breakfast and lunch every day for her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. They requested different items in the menu every day. She wasn't supposed to repeat an item next day. She was not at all used to the heavy manual labour. Arguments and brawls about who said what? , who was rude to whom? , started growing invariably in her home. There was always unrest and disagreements between Nina and her in-laws. And finally one day her husband decided it was best if they lived separately.

Domestic violence is deeply rooted and widely prevalent in our country. People don't report such things out of fear of embarrassment, fear of retaliation, financial dependency and victim blaming. In Queen's short life as a wife, she has participated in little verbal dance that happens every time she comes late from office or forgets to cook lunch for her in-laws. Enquires was now common in Queen's life.

Why are you late again?

What kind of work do you do in your office all day?

Why didn't you cook lunch today?

Oh, so you do know how to cook!

Our house helper does more work than you.

Nobody helps me in the kitchen.

Why are you so selfish?

These one sided conversations follow the same pattern. All pointing towards how inefficient a daughter-in-law Queen was. No questions demand a sincere explanation. Questions which are used to assess the credit risk of bringing a daughter-in-law to their home. What was her return on investment? What did she bring to their home after marriage? Was she a good labour or even a good wife?

There was one of the things Queen learnt in behavioural economics class back in college. She was surprised that this theory will be applicable to her life one day as well. It was the Nudge Theory which is a concept of behavioural economics that suggests positive reinforcement and indirect comments as ways to influence the behaviour of individuals or groups. This theory has two different approaches. The first approach is a default option which directs towards an option that a person automatically receives if he or she does nothing. The second approach is social proof heuristic nudge which is a commonly used theory that refers to the inclination for individuals to look at the behaviour of other people to help guide their own behaviour.

Abhinav wanted that Queen should learn a lesson from Nina's story and bring desirable changes in her behaviour by accepting the little nudges from her in-laws. Those nudges were the weapon to mellow her down, to deconstruct her mind and way of thinking, to subdue the voice she had within to fight back against any injustice.

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