They say God couldn’t be with every child of his, so he created mothers. Then came the concept of mothers-in-law. The words do not change much, ‘in law’ is the only addition, yet the relationship changes altogether. Every daughter-in-law’s nightmare is her mother-in-law.
I had a boyfriend whom I wanted to get married to and have kids with. I wanted his family to love me and to accept me as their daughter-in-law. I wanted his mom, who would be my mother-in-law some day, to be my mother.
That hope shattered like glass when I met her for the first time. I stepped into their drawing room, and she walked into her bedroom and locked the door. Now that was some welcome.
Days passed by, and I couldn’t get through to her. I didn’t give up, because when you are younger, you don’t know what giving up is. You are so confident about yourself that you think you can make anyone fall in love with you.
He often came to my place for lunch and my mother served him the heartiest of meals. Once I went to his house for lunch, and I was amazed at the food: it was from a restaurant! She didn’t cook for me, neither did she serve me. I took the plate and served myself. I would have forgotten this incident if it happened just once. However, it kept happening until the day I asked her to cook for me, and she replied, “I do not want to cook for you.”
Broken heart, scarred mind; yet my confidence was still intact. I bought pani puri for her because I knew she loved it. I thought it would help us bond. I gave the packet to her; she asked me to serve it, and I happily walked into the kitchen and started pouring the water into a bowl. She walked in. My heart skipped a beat thinking that maybe now she would appreciate me. She said that I should have washed the dishes before I used them. She poured the water into the basin and dumped the puris into the bin like soiled potatoes.
It was only because she never looked into my eyes that she could not see the tears running down my cheeks. I uttered a ‘Sorry’ that barely escaped my throat and went running to my home. We lived just five houses away. My mother would have been furious and would have asked me to leave him if I told her about the incident. I couldn’t leave him; I loved him.
Almost a year later, I couldn’t get an inch closer to her. My boyfriend, like a good son, always supported her and I kept my trials going. Every good thing comes to an end, so did my patience the day she asked me to wash the inner garments because the house-help was on leave. This was against my rules, my hygiene rules. I refused; they had a washing machine, and why would I wash someone’s inner garments? She retorted that girls like me are only supposed to be girlfriends and not daughters-in-law. If my values had taught me to answer back to older people, I would have asked her whether daughters-in-law are a respectable substitute for house-help.
She made other mean comments: “How do we introduce a dusky girl to our family members?” “Don’t wear jeans, because it looks indecent”, “I can get a much better girl for my son.” I had to leave either my love or my self-respect. I chose to leave this self-consuming love.
Marriage is not between two people; it is between two families who vow to stay together through the ups and downs in life. This lady would never respect my family, and I didn’t want to stay with a man who cannot defend me when I am right. He can never respect or protect me or my family in the long run, and if it’s not for the long run, then it’s not for me.
I’m older now, and when I look back, I laugh at those incidents and my stupidity. I laugh at my sky-high expectations from an undeserving person. Yet, there is this small hope that maybe some day I will make an amazing daughter-in-law. A hope that somewhere, some mother-in-law is treating their daughter-in-law as her own daughter and breaking the stereotypical thoughts of the society, just like some people who still hope that the sun may rise from the West.
(Written by Antara Nandi and first published on Bonobology.com)