(As told to Team Bonobology)
(Names changed to protect identities)
I wasn’t used to doing housework
I was born and brought up in Delhi in a joint family. We are a well-to-do family and the daughters of the house never did household chores. I had never stepped into a kitchen other than just to direct the staff. I got married into a nuclear family settled in Mumbai. It has been a nightmare for me since then!
We got married as arranged by our parents in 2015. One year we lived in the US. I was very nervous to settle there initially, but then started enjoying. I never learnt or knew how to run a house till I learnt a bit in the US.
We were asked to move back to India
One fine day, my father-in-law called Abhir and told him, “I want you to come back home and run our business with me. Your mother is diagnosed with breast cancer so we need both of you, because your elder brother and his wife have refused to return home from the US.” (They live and work there.) Abhir got emotional hearing all this and with a big heart gave in and we moved to Mumbai in 2016.
I was sceptical about moving there, because I knew they didn’t hire any staff to help them with house chores. My mother-in-law still did all the house chores by herself even after her surgery when she returned home from the hospital. I didn’t know how I would manage the house by myself with a heartless, egoistic undisciplined father-in-law who has no empathy, shame or respect for his own wife.
No help at all in the house
My father-in-law believes “If someone is handicapped only then they would hire staff for the kitchen. Hired staff wouldn’t cook food whole-heartedly. But food cooked by the ladies/daughters/wives of house is cooked whole-heartedly.”
He orders my mother-in-law to do the house chores his way and cook three meals every day of his choice and gives her 1 hour to prepare each meal. He’d call her when he left work (which takes him an hour to reach home) with what he wants to eat. Fresh food from the gas stove itself has to be served to him when he arrives home and no reheated or leftovers at all. My mother-in-law hasn’t seen the outside world, nor does she know English. Till date she has never said No to him for anything, because she is scared of him. I really pity her lifestyle, but respect her for giving in so much of her time and energy to my father-in-law.
He raised his hand to me
Before we moved there for good, I planned a 2-month trip. One month with the in-laws and one month in Delhi with my family. That’s when I came to know the truth about living with the in-laws. During my visit to Mumbai, while I was still jetlagged, my father-in-law told me to do the puja for the first time while my mother-in-law was out. Agreeing, I went to switch on the gas to burn the coal. I didn’t know that the gas cylinder was turned off and obviously the gas switches wouldn’t start and I wasn’t used to the Indian manual gas systems. I kept trying. Soon, my father-in-law marches into the kitchen. “Don’t you know where the gas cylinder is? And don’t you know where to switch it on/off from yet? You should ask if you don’t know! You don’t know such small things!” In a very harsh tone.
Before I could say “I’m sor…”, he says “Now go get the kapur from the room which is in the left drawer!” I didn’t know what kapur was, because it wasn’t ever used in my home, as my grandfather was allergic to it. I got cotton balls and that’s when he raised his hand on me and tells me “It’s K-A-P-U-R! How can you not know these things?” In a more harsh tone. I got very scared because no one in my family had ever spoken to me like that. I walked away. He pulled me close by my right hand, telling me “Where do you think you’re going?!” I pushed his hand aside without uttering a word and locked myself in my room, crying loudly.
“That’s just the way he is”
I called up my parents. They didn’t answer. I called up my mother-in-law. She didn’t answer and I couldn’t call Abhir because he was in the US sleeping. When my mother-in-law came and asked me “What happened, dear? Why are you crying so much?”, I said “Dad raised his hand on me first time. Just because I didn’t know where the gas cylinder was and didn’t know what kapur was.” She said “No, beta, he must not have done something like that.” I asked her, “Were you here to witness it? And if something like this happens again, I would want to live separately… whether your son joins me or not, I really don’t care. I am tired of Papa’s nagging, criticising, analysing, comparing and judging me all the time for something or the other!” She was surprised to hear me say such things but didn’t utter a word to me after that.
My husband is scared of his own father and when I told him about this incident, he says “He must not have meant to raise his hand on you. It’s just his temper, that’s all.” I asked, surprised, “He got so angry for such trivial matters and you don’t have anything else to say? Really? Won’t you speak to your father about your wife’s problems?” And he didn’t have anything to say other than “Look, I know Dad’s nature and I’m sorry if he hurt you, but I’m sure he didn’t mean it.” I said, “I’m honestly not ready to move here and live life to their expectations and their standards, because that’s not what I would ever do and I don’t want you to expect me to do the same ever.” He just said, “Hmm.”
I tried helping out my poor mother-in-law as much as I could, but they were not satisfied despite knowing I’m not interested in doing house chores. They expect me to run the house physically, cook or ask my mother-in-law to cook. I feel ashamed to ask her to cook for me every day.
Related reading: 8 ways to deal with disrespectful in-laws
We finally moved out, but is it enough?
I have been in so much depression ever since we have moved to Mumbai to my in-laws’ house and this one incident with my father-in-law still haunts me in my sleep.
Finally now, I have given my relationship a second chance. We moved out from my in-laws’ home and live separately. My husband agreed to it because he knows his father’s nature and he too often has disputes with him at work. He didn’t seem mentally prepared for it as much as I was, but we did move out together. I told him “I am prepared for the best and the worst. Whether you want to live with me or not, whether you are happy with me or not is your call. I don’t want to pressurise you and tell you to move with me, because I don’t want to be blamed in the future. And if we are together, I will still continue doing as much as I can for our new home but I will definitely need my own staff in the house. At least two people whether full timers or part timers, because I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted living with your parents with restrictions.”
I did feel happy about Abhir’s decision, which wasn’t so easy for him too, nor did I have any expectations and hopes from him, because he says something and does the opposite most of the times, which is why I also don’t feel that I have enough support from him.