Science of Adjust and Jugaad

This is India. Women of India function with two great tools, Jugaad and Adjust. I guess if you give Jugaad a good hard look it turns out to be the cousin of Adjust. As a woman one encounters Adjust often enough. Somehow women are viewed as brainless and malleable. We are stuff to be moulded, and if we protest, then we are suppressed strongly.

So what is Adjust? It is something a girl child learns very early in life. I learnt it when I was six and was trying to stand on my head with my legs waving in the air. My frock was around my tummy and my panties were in full view. My shocked mother ran out of the house and hauled me indoors for a lecture. I was a girl and I had to adjust. I could not behave like my brother and cousins. Ma said, “Little girls have to be tamed so that they can grow into good women.” That is also the first memory I have of jugaad. I implemented it. I started wearing my brother’s shorts.

Jugaad as per urban dictionary :To arrange for something that will help accomplish a particular task.

Hindi: Yaar woh website ka login chaheye, kuch jugad lagao!

English: I need a login to that website, do some jugad

As per Wikipedia “Jugaad” is also a colloquial Hindi word that can mean an innovative fix, sometimes pejoratively used for solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as such or a person who can solve a vexatious issue.

As I grew up, I started encountering “Adjust” in all spheres of life. I could not fly kites, play football or cricket, even marbles and gilli danda. These were games I loved. I hated hop scotch, cowries and other girly games. But I had to adjust, I was a girl. Jugaad came to my rescue. I went out with the girls but then slipped away to play boys’ games. Curfew was set at 6 p.m. for me, I learnt how to climb walls and jump in from windows or climb up to the roof.

Marriage happened, and I still continued to be … well, me! In-laws screamed at me, got husband to scream at me too. I was a daughter in law and could not wear jeans, sleep late, had to cook their meals or wash their clothes, (all this prior to reaching the school I taught in early in the morning). I hired cooks and servants as jugaad. Sigh, in-laws love to preach but don’t like to practice. I hired, they fired and the slanging match continued. Then they wanted me to give up my job. I did the ultimate jugaad. I chose to live separately. What can I say? That did not work either.  I had too many issues by then, and he thought he was doing me a big favor by granting me the permission of setting up my own home.

Well “Adjust” only works if both sides adjust. Otherwise it is just a pretty name for suppression. The moment someone says “Adjust” I hear sirens of ambulances or fire engines. My mind starts working overtime, looking for a suitable jugaad.

I have a question I’d like to ask every person who has asked his spouse to adjust or tried to get a high spirited daughter to adjust. Why do we educate girls, empower them to think for themselves, earn and compete with boys if we want them to be tethered to outdated customs? Why do we give them half-freedom? We tantalize them with a whiff of fresh outside air, and then say, “No, you can’t take a touring job”, or (as in my case) “You can go to work, but you will have to cook breakfast and pack lunches for every one, including your stay-at-home mother in law, and the two dogs, before you go to school at 7 a.m.”

Other strictures of the ‘adjust” kind include, “You have to cover your head in front of male members of the house”, “You have to wait until every one has eaten and then eat”, “You have to turn in all the money you earn” etc etc.

And then they say that women are sly. You made us compete with boys, you made us believe we are equal (of course we are!) and then you tell us ADJUST!

Of course we are sly! We have had to lie, manipulate, coerce, use wiles to even breathe that fresh air that you of the previous generation tantalized us with.

Women’s Web has organized a contest entitled The Great Adjustment Story and has also given us 3 Adjustment Stories. Do check them out.

This post won the second prize in the Women’s Web Contest.

Thanks Women’s Web!


73 thoughts on “Science of Adjust and Jugaad

  1. This is a super post. I have always believed that even the feminist movement was used by patriarchal societies as a weapon against women. Even in literate states like Kerala, women are sent out to work and expected to pay for their entire extended family. Despite being higher-paid or better-educated, the standards at home are so much higher and physical abuse is used as a means of control. So education or employment, per se, make no difference if they are mere instruments of torture.

    • They are instruments of torture! When we bring in the money, why cant spouses pitch in to do the house work? Even if they cook one meal and iron some clothes, it helps! But no! We have to slave at our jobs and also at home!

    • In Kerala they want the women to go out to work and bring home the moolah, slog at the housework, own lots of property (a house or a couple of them), have cash and gold jewelery (enough to put gold shop ads to shame) in her name. She also has to wear traditional clothes and put husband and family before all else. Education and employment… hmm… they seem to have helped someone, certainly not the women.

  2. Excellent post! Would be great if you could post the link over at the contest page, on Comments – we’re using that to keep track of all entries plus we’ll need your email to get in touch if you win 🙂

  3. >lol @ wearing brother’s shorts 😀 good idea !

    >Oh I love gulli-danda,kabbadi, gend tadi…and thankfully have played them all 🙂 along with hop scotch too 😀 …wow you jumped and climbed roofs to get inside home? How I wish I had get a chance to do it all 😉

    >Hmm @ cannot wear jeans et al post marriage…I too had this resistance coming from the MIL but touchwood the husband is by my side so I wear what I think I should 🙂 and/or what hubby likes to see me in 🙂

    > Well “Adjust” only works if both sides adjust. This is so true !

    > lol @ My mind starts working overtime, looking for a suitable jugaad.

    Unfortunately lot of females don’t know how to stand for themselves and where to draw the line of adjustment…they just give in..I feel for the ones who are educated and can fight for their rights but are too much bogged down by the societal dogmas and beliefs ! sigh !

    Loved the post Ritu 🙂 Wonderfully crafted and so truly stated !

    • Sure one has to adjust, the thing to watch for is

      1. Does it hurt you and make you angry? If so why?
      2. Does the other person also make an equal effort to adjust? If not, you need to think

      3. Is it taking your own sense of self worth away?

      If so, it is suppression

      • totally agree and trust me I watch for these things in the scenario when I’m asked to or supposed to adjust..and the fact that I’m not a ‘gaaay’ [cow] to just nod to everything told to me I stand for myself 😀

  4. Brilliant.. Echoing Indian women around the country. This is what being a woman in India is all about. For the majority anyway. super post Ritu. I love the no-nonsense and unpretentious quality of your writing.

    • LOL! At my home, it is me who cooks … but it does not make me angry any more. That is because I do it of my own free will. My DIL does not cook. My elder son cooks quite often. But there is no compulsion. If I work late, they will happily eat Maggi or Cornflakes or make sandwiches.

  5. While in general I do agree that women have to “adjust” especially so in the Indian society; I think we are slowly overcoming this sort of jugaad-baazi 🙂
    Many men “adjust” too.
    Everyone feels he or she is the adjusting kind; but it is a two way process. If one feels that the other person is not adjusting, well – it can well be the others point of view too.
    Good post, as always – thought provoking.

    • I agree. Young ladies of today are a much more empowered lot. Times have changed too – often for the better. Husbands adjust, more so in nuclear families where they do not have parents to skew the balance

  6. Had a good laugh. If it is not too late I’d like to take lessons on this jugaad business from you. At my age i too need to adjust with my grandkids generation so I need to become a jugaadu grandmom even if only to survive. But you are right. All this advice regarding adjusting only makes one think of alternates that almost border on manipulation as you have rightly pointed out.

  7. U speak your mind and the echoes you hear is from several others who go through the same. My mom did this adjustment drama to keep the family together for years and expects me to do the same. Even though she has given me the best of education and I’ve a great job that I love, she expects me to do this … and this bloody adjustment drama continues. I’ve friends who are doing much better in life than their dear hubbies and still go through this sham… Kudos to you for such a fluid read…

  8. Hi ritu,
    I am new to the world of blogs..but have been lucky to read a few good ones..right from the start, and i must say that you are the best around… love all your posts and each seems better…
    the jugaad is like every woman’s ‘gehna’ today.. sometimes the jugaad bit can work wonders in one’s relationship…

    • Perola, welcome to my web. No I am not the best, there are plenty of other bloggers who write great things. But thanks for appreciating me. Jugaad is practical and since it is non-confrontational, one can implement it without too much unpleasantness.

  9. Totally agreed with every line Ritu. My two years in a joint family were pure hell…it’s taken me years to recover from the drowning of my spirit and freedom. I fail to understand why we need to respect elders and traditions…when they do nothing more than stifle and smother…sometimes to death 😦

    I was brought up ‘liberated’, but then my parents expected me to adjust in a joint family. It’s not even half-freedom…it’s a failed project. Bring up the girl to think for herself…then tell her she has to stop thinking because she’s married.

    • Respect is earned not granted by age. I hate this very Indian way of kow towing anyone with grey hair. I think one can only follow customs that are open minded and can only respect people who respect you and do not diminish your sense of self worth

  10. So Ritu a post! 🙂 You were a handful I must say. After reading your post I wonder about myself. Neither was I a tomboy, nor high-spirited. I adjusted to everyone and everything of my own free will (because I knew no better). What did it get me in return?? Nothing, absolutely zilch. Not even a good word, not a single one.
    So what’s with all this one-sided adjustment we talk about?? All b***s***. Being your own person is the only thing that works. Let people accept you as you are. Why should only you be expected to accept your in laws/husband/whoever as they are?? After all it is give and take, not just give, give, give like some heroine in some soppy movie or soap.
    Respect for in-laws (and all those grey-haired persons) have to be earned. Adjustment is two ways, by older people and the younger ones. If not, its going to be an utter disaster.

    @Renu, Is there anything wrong with a mother in law cooking for a DiL?? If she can cook for her son and daughter (and son in law) she can and should cook for her DiL as well. And it is not just a DiL who should be expected to cook and care for the in-laws. Their own daughter also has the obligation to do the same if it comes to that.

    • Love this comment! Ma would have taken me to your place and said, ‘Why can’t you be like her? She is so feminine!’

      Grey hair does not make a person wise or infallible. Even asses grow old!

      Daughters can not abdicate from parental duties because they are daughters. I really feel so.

  11. Hi Ritu.. Nice post.. i agree with what you have written here but giving some credit to men these days… i guess lots of changes.. i dont know how many people stay in their own homes after school and so everybody is used to doing their own work.. WE ( women) spoil our men by waking them up when tea is ready in morning and blah blah…

    i guess i have been lucky here to have a husband who does not have any qualms about doing any work whether is washing clothes, cleaning kitchen, doing dishes… & he is not ashamed of that since he has stayed alone and understands…… the KEY is calling it WORK & not “household work”… it takes same or more amount of time and effort to do all these activities and i am no magician to manage everything on my own… there is no harm about asking help….. so WOMEN do ask for help if you need some… there is no ego issue about it and dont try to be i can be on my own and i can do my work types… doesnt help….i have friends who would iron clothes for their partners, will take plates from dining table once they are done…. WHY even encourage this behavior/ expectation…. nobody is going to hell for asking her pati parameshwar to help in work…. So stop pretending that you are a superwoman with 10 hands and PLSSSS if you have a son…. tell him he is no different than girls… its nobody else but MOTHERS who spoil their Ladlaas…..& Mother in laws who want DILs to do all the work!!!!!!!
    So eventually its our attitude that needs to change first…

  12. this is very true case of jugaad.
    jugaad actually is an innovation seeded in india. people used this as a concept to save resources and time during there work. this is a creative concept.

  13. Hey Ritu,
    I loved the post. I am a student of engineering college in Gandhinagar. I am writing a research paper on JUGAAD as part of my course. I would like to know more about the term, how you interpret it. Seems like you have done quite a bit of research on it. I would love to talk to you regarding the same if possible!

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