Ever since my introduction to the desi blogosphere a couple of months back, I have been devouring one scintillating blog after another. Many of them are so good that you want to visit them again and again, themadmomma.blogspot.com is one such great blog that has me hooked. This young mother of two writes about her life – her family, work and most of all her two darling babies in a breezy chatty manner, yet her posts are thought-provoking and most palpable is the love this woman has for her family.
Which is why I was shocked to read her latest post about her troubled relationship with her in-laws. I fail to understand how her in-laws can treat this woman so shabbily, this wonderful woman who gives her all to make a happy home for their son and grandchildren! Don’t they recognize how their behavior might hurt their own son, destroy his marriage or scar the minds of their innocent grandchildren? Don’t they care?
I can understand they may not like her as a person and might have their differences of opinion with her. There could be a pronounced cultural gap between the two families, or she may not be the kind of woman they would have chosen as a wife for their son. I can even understand that because of a Catholic daughter-in-law they might have to put up with an undue share of petty gossip in a conservative small-town Hindu community. All this I can understand and to some extent even sympathize with. That these things don’t really matter if the two persons getting married are good human beings and truly love each other is true but beside the point here.
My point is, if you cannot be tolerant, fine, but at least learn to be pragmatic! Why continue to make an issue of these things four years and two beautiful grandchildren later? Why not make peace with the situation and learn to live with it gracefully? After all, isn’t the young wife (who is far less mature with respect to age and experience, and is facing an equally challenging situation) struggling to do the same?
I know I am guilty of speaking out after hearing only one side of the story. The parents-in-law might have their own very valid point of view. But I am inclined to believe otherwise. I refuse to believe that a person with a guilty conscience would be able to write in such an impassioned manner.
I have seen or heard of many more real-life saas-bahu dramas, albeit conducted in a more low-key manner, myself. (Thankfully I have never had to participate in one, and knowing my mom-in-law, I know I never will!) My nani and my mami were at loggerheads throughout the ten-year period between my mama’s wedding and my nani’s death. More accurately, barring the first few months after the wedding when they were just getting to know each other, I doubt if they exchanged more than ten sentences in all those years. They stayed together during the entire period but cooked separate meals in the same kitchen at different times. Each had a long list of complaints about the other and most perplexing for us bystanders, both of them seemed to be perfectly justified in their individual viewpoints. Why then couldn’t they ever reconcile their differences?
The only reason I can think of is that neither was able to look at the big picture. Most mothers must feel somewhat threatened when they face competition from a strange woman for a place in their family, in their home and most importantly in their son’s affection. Similarly, many young women I know feel apprehensive about adjusting to a new family, new people and new customs. If only both sides understood this basic truth and tried to reach out to the other!
Differences crop up in every relationship. When these same differences are found between the husband and wife, we are advised to celebrate the differences. Opposites attract, we are told. But when the m-i-l and d-i-l have a difference of opinion, it is made into a big issue. Haven’t we ever disagreed with our own parents, found them old-fashioned? As a parent, how many times have you found your child lazy or spoilt or wanting in some vital quality? And how many times then have you given up on the child and branded him as a ‘bad’ child? Why then, at the slightest provocation the same person is ready to brand the bahu as a ‘bad’ bahu? Isn’t it a case of ‘in-laws as out-laws’ stereotyping?
On a lighter note, a friend of mine recently shared an amusing anecdote with me. My friend’s in-laws who live in India often visit them in the US. During their first visit after the wedding, the m-i-l saw my friend washing her hair on a Thursday. ‘Beta, hamari family mein Thursday ko hair wash nahi karte’, the m-i-l cautioned her. Eager to please, my friend readily accepted this diktat and was careful not to wash her hair on a Thursday, especially when the in-laws were visiting. On a subsequent visit, they were supposed to go to a dinner party on (you guessed it right) a Thursday. The m-i-l wanted to dye and wash her hair in preparation for the party. ‘Par mummy-ji, aaj toh Thursday hain’, my poor friend reminded her. ‘Toh kya hua beta, India mein toh Friday hoga na’, the m-i-l was quick to reply. Needless to say, my friend was not too happy with the double standards but she chose to keep quite and happily ignored the Thursday-rule herself thereafter.
The perpetually bickering saas-bahus could learn a lot from this story. My friend could easily have made a big issue of this incident since the m-i-l was clearly in the wrong. But what would that have accomplished? After all, if her own mother had done the same, she probably would have laughed it off and simply teased her mother about it life-long. So why not give the same slack to your in-laws too?
Very few of us are like the evil scheming reel-life saas-bahus at heart. I think if both sides approached the relationship with an open mind and a willingness to leave some room for differences, the ‘in-laws as out-laws’ stereotype would disappear in no time. But then, what would Ekta Kapoor do for a living?