If there is a debate which is probably older than the “Which came first, the chicken or the egg”, it is “Who do you care more about – your wife or your mom?” I don’t even know if there is a right answer!
I had a love marriage. My father broached the topic of my marriage in a very roundabout manner (I do not belong to the ‘Hi ma and dad, I have a girlfriend’ sort of family). He told me that since I was fast approaching the marriageable age (is there really a number?), I could tell them if I had someone in mind. They would be totally ok to give it a shot.
Once the question was popped to me, I grabbed the opportunity to tell them that I indeed had someone in mind. I distinctly remember my mother quietly disappearing into the kitchen. I followed her and found her quietly sniffling. I had taken the ‘single most important’ decision of choosing a girl for me from her and flung it to the four winds.
So much for them being ‘totally ok with it’.
The initial days were not without hiccups. Once the wedding bit got done, more things (read expectations) started coming to light. From “She will change her surname, won’t she?” to “She has to wear the marriage symbols all the time”…the requests were quite a few. My mother, who was married young, was passing on the legacy from her mother-in-law. My wife made it pretty clear that these would not be particularly followed. I assented because I thought she had complete freedom to choose what she wants to follow and what she doesn’t. But there was a catch.
The onus of communicating this to my mother was on me.
The typical Indian husband will often find himself in situations like these. Through some unwritten directive, we have been assigned the role of being the carrier for the most explosive messages that are exchanged between the two most influential women in our life. Sometimes they are not even real messages – just ‘cold shouldering’ that you need to absorb.
Though such conflicts have gone on since time immemorial, neither is wrong, however strange that may sound. We are direct results of our experiences. My mother changed her surname and chose to follow things that were dictated by my grandmother. As a result, she thought it was completely fine to pass it on to her daughter-in-law.
My wife, on the other hand, comes from a matriarchal setup. Having been exposed to a whole different set of experiences from early on, she differs from my mother like chalk from cheese. While her dissent to my mother’s asks hasn’t been overtly vocal, it has been noticeable. And my mother, to her credit, has taken it all in her stride. There have been hits and misses, so I have learnt to accept them with a pinch of salt and move on.
This was a couple of years ago. Since then, things have vastly improved. So much so, that there are plans where I am not included. They often indulge in long conversations. There are days when my mother might have a token chat with me and the bulk of the time is taken up in a conversation with her. My wife has become the daughter my mother never had. This time around, when my parents were leaving after a visit, my wife shed a few tears, saying she would miss them sorely and the house would feel empty for a while (she will kill me when she reads this). And that, I think, was enough to tell me that things had finally moved to where I’d want them to be.
I sometimes liken the job of being a husband as that of being a superhero. It is a position of power, a window to forge new relationships where none existed. And like the path of any superhero, it is not easy. While this path might be fraught with dangers, it also does open up an occasional opportunity that helps you close the gap and bring them nearer to each other through the bridge that you are. And then you fade into the background and watch this new balance develop.
With great power comes great responsibility. And sometimes, it is this power that will help you solve confusions and create memories that will keep you cheerful for a long time to come.