The mother- in-law! Love her or hate her, can’t do without her. Whether sharing a warm friendship or nurturing a cold war she can not be ignored. Whether best friends or sworn enemies, she is ‘present’ in all marriages.
Whether living in Mumbai slums or a penthouse in New York, when a group of friends get together informally the discussions can include anything under the sun or below the earth but one topic might just be common- the mother in law. One can read and write realms on this omnipresent major figure having direct and indirect influence on ones lives. Men are known to shiver in their shoes at her thought and women have had sleepless nights. Movies, soaps, songs, poems, short stories, long ballads, fiction, non fiction have been dedicated to this regal being in all seriousness and in jest.
The mother in law came into my mind while at coffee with friends when one declared that she was playing ‘office-office.’ Seeing my blank expression she explained that with the mother in law visiting for a few months, she devised the perfect peace plan which entailed no weapons of mass destruction but only her being out of the house for the entire day. So despite being unemployed she left home all dressed up in business attire with precision at nine am every morning to return punctually in the evening after a ‘hard day’ at work. It is definitely hard to leave with clock work precision everyday, more so when one is not employed! She with all goodness of her heart decided the best way to cope with the new entity living with her was to stay out of her way. Another friend has the mother in law living with them since the time she came to help with the new born baby. The baby is a high schooler now but the mother in law is a permanent fixture and the duo have devised a perfect way to live with each other in peace and acceptance, sharing chores and having their respective days to invite friends over and even go dancing.
Marriage can be a long educational happy merry ride, but the wedding takes the cake. I had heard a friend accepting a marriage proposal on the condition that her mother would be living with them and the love of her husband was strong enough to welcome the mother in law as a constant in their lives. This, in India is extremely unusual and even today the practice of parents arranging the children’s marriage is highly prevalent. So what if the child is a thirty years old adult with a job and capable of making own decisions, the parents more often than not arrange the marriage after careful scrutiny of the prospective bride/groom from all perspectives literally including health, wealth, prosperity, family, background, education, religion, property owned and sometimes scaling new heights of investigation they would even check food habits and whether teetotaler or not. The groom’s mums would be keen to know about the culinary skills of the prospective bride while the bride’s parents would prefer the groom to boast of a fat bank balance and stability of employment.
Some mums in law cheekily take the liberty to inform the newly weds the list of likes and dislikes of their sons/daughters while few others might include some of their own favorite things too. Most mums in law are known to be all-rounders, having knowledge of everything, willing to dole out a word of advice, direction, instruction, suggestion, order, guidance be it on career, home, clothes, culinary skills, raising children and even on how to handle the spouse!
Mine is the hippest of all I say. Soon after marriage we were to go to our condominium ‘informal’ get-together and the mum in law and I came out of our respective rooms to join our respective husbands. While I stared in surprise at her heavily made up face, well styled hair, glittering gold/diamond jewelry and shining attire she seemed shocked to see my choice of clothes, make up and jewelry, saying, oh you aren’t dressed yet! Go quickly and get ready while I had thought I was appropriately dressed to the nines for the occasion with my chiffon dress, touch of lipstick and pearls. We have been part of each other’s lives for more than two decades now and have come to terms with our many contrasts, be it attire, thoughts, behavior, likes and dislikes but the sole similarity that binds us together is the love for the same man, her son – my husband.
Everyone has some anecdotes about their mother in law- all inclusive of the good, the bad and the ugly! Come on admit it! Have guts to share your story? Just so you know, my mother in law has no knowledge of this blog. And neither has yours!
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