When I got married to a jovial, pretty and down-to-earth girl, my mother was very disappointed. She was unhappy that my wife belonged to a middle-class family. Mother was jealous and possessive. She wanted us to take her along on our honeymoon! I somehow managed to keep her at bay.
My mother insisted my wife must adjust to her ways. My wife was a convent educated girl and yet my mother would lie to relatives and our neighbours that she belonged to an ordinary background and she had uncouth habits.
Whenever my wife returned home from work, my mother would insist that she should rush to the kitchen and make her tea and tiffin, despite the maid. And then make the beds for the family and cook dinner. All this without a break, after the nearly two-hour commute by bus! My wife is an excellent cook. Yet my mother always seemed to find fault with her cooking. My mother is a glib talker and she could fabricate lies with a very innocent face. She would often tell my father that my wife was at fault. My father was a short-tempered man and without even trying to find out the truth, he would often flare up at my wife.
Related reading: Why I became happier when I stopped trying to please my in-laws
When it came to dinner, my mother insisted that she would serve the food. She would discriminate and offer the smallest portions to my wife. Sometimes, when she was in a bad mood, she would try not to give my wife any food at all.
Despite my mother’s horrible behaviour and attitude towards her, my wife always showed respect towards her mother-in-law. She was always well behaved – never retorted, opposed or argued with my mother.
Once, my brother visited with his wife. My mother had invited many of her cousins for Bengali New Year. My wife and I were also present. My mother wrapped two packets and proclaimed to all our relatives that she loved both sons’ wives equally. My brother’s wife unveiled her parcel and discovered that my mother had presented her with a very expensive saree. My wife had guessed what was in store for her. So she went to our bedroom and unwrapped her present. It was a cheap saree we wouldn’t even gift to our maid! When my wife returned to the party, my mother proclaimed that she always gave the same gifts to both wives and very expensive gifts they always were! My wife didn’t want to humiliate my mother in public. So she didn’t display her gift to the guests.
For my mother’s birthday, we gave her a lovely present and a beautiful birthday card. My mother displayed all the birthday cards and unwrapped her presents and showed them to her friends in the evening party. Only our card and gift were missing! She blankly denied to everyone present that we had given her anything! She had hidden the card and tucked our present somewhere. She highlighted my brother’s gifts to all present!
When my son was born, my mother never got close to him. To her, he was my wife’s son first. And she abhorred my wife. So how could she love her grandson?
Over the years, my wife could take it no more. I gave her confidence and assured her that the only way out was that we leave the house, although it rightly belonged to us too. My father passed away, my brother works in Mumbai and we live in our own apartment today. My mother is alive and very ill and the irony is that the onus looking after her has fallen upon me solely. I spend most days every week looking after her.
When my wife was ill, my mum never ever enquired after her health. When my mum is ill, my wife even checked her medicines and treatment with doctors. She would sacrifice her special shopping assignments and meeting friends and relatives and give priority to seeing my mum in the hospital and caring for her. Despite all this, my mum never said a kind word about my wife to anyone. My wife always insisted that I should surrender my commitments to her and look after my mum. My wife briefed the nurses and attendants that they should take special care and not neglect their duty. My mum was not the least grateful to my wife despite all that she did for her.
Related reading: My in-laws asked us to get out of their house
Despite all her sufferings in the hands of mum, my wife tells me that I must make sure that her suffering is ameliorated. I can fulfil a son’s duty – thanks to my wife’s strong support!
Sometimes mothers-in-law are balanced and supportive of their daughters-in-law, as Antara Gupta relates. But it’s often not the case. What intrigues us is, how does someone like the lady in this story find the strength, resolution and patience to be uncomplaining and resist the temptation to hit back? Do you have the answers? How have you faced up to opposition, without becoming bitter or retaliating? What is the secret? Please write in with your stories! [firstname.lastname@example.org]