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I love my mother-in-law. Mine is a love marriage. I am a Bengali Brahmin born and brought up in Delhi/ NCR married to a half UP baniya-half Marwari from Delhi. Ours was the first love marriage in their family, with more than half the khaandaan waiting to check out the new bahurani. I couldn’t have asked for a better comrade, guide, friend than my Ma2 (that’s how her name is saved on my phone).
I had not butterflies but elephants jumping in my tummy prior to the wedding speculating over the not-so-loved person in a woman’s life, the mother-in-law. That too a baniya! The sheer dread of wearing a georgette/chiffon saree all the time, keeping head demurely covered with the modest pallu and finally wearing the glass bangles made by poor kids in ghetto like conditions! And then the D-day arrived and I moved into a joint family complete with dada-dadi, ma-papa and a younger sister-in-law.
The first day at the office was going smoothly with colleagues and office friends teasing and ragging the new Baniya bride when suddenly my phone rang. It was the MIL.
Wondering why she’d called, I nimbly answered it, “Haan Ma?!” She sweetly replied, “Beta, what would you like to have for dinner?” For a few seconds I was stunned. My mother-in-law calling up to ask what I would like to have for dinner! I had never heard of anything like that. Not even in movies. My own mother had never done it even on my birthdays. She used to ask on my day off for sure but this was really incredible. This was her way of making me feel at home.
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Another memory that is forever etched in my mind was that of a wedding my husband and I were to attend. The bridegroom was my husband’s friend’s brother. Although the wedding was on a Sunday I had to go to office due to some urgent work. I somehow managed to reach home by 7 in the evening with my mind completely confused as to what I would wear. I had just put down my bag when my MIL called me to her room. A new saree with matching jewellery was elegantly laid out on her bed. For me! I didn’t know how to react.
And gradually a new life, newer experiences welcomed and enriched me. I learnt to chop veggies from my sis-in-law. I had no clue about any religious customs, pujas, rituals and yes fasting…man what’s that? Two days of Navaratri got handled nicely, but Karva Chauth is a real pain. Not even water. But she made me have sargi every time without letting dadi know. The best? She admonished me not once but many times that I simply don’t dress my age, as in why don’t I wear fitted lycra jeans? Even my mother never came up with this one.
My first Karwa Chauth will forever be special for me. Not because it was first but the way it happened. The previous day my sister-in-law was admitted to hospital because of a serious stomach ailment. We rushed from office to the hospital and seeing her in such pain and anguish, we were left stunned, shocked and in tears. For me the next day’s celebration was totally unimportant, I just wanted her to get well soon.
Even in those bleak hours, my MIL told us to go back home and rest and specifically told me to be ready the next morning for mehendi.
I didn’t know what to do. Her own daughter was lying in the bed with tubes inserted all over and here she is asking me to get ready for a festival. It was for her son I would be fasting, you could argue, but still she was not a discriminating mother.
The next morning she rushed back home from the hospital and found me sweeping the house because the maid was AWOL. She snatched the broom from my hands, “Aaj nahin” and shooed me away from all chores so that I could go take a shower and get mehendi applied. I again had nothing to say.
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Minor tussles have definitely cropped up. But nothing that would push us apart. I have never tried to snatch away her son or even tried ruling her kitchen, nor has she ever stopped me from sharing, even letting me control her kitchen and son.Published in