A Garam Masala Ad Helped Me Understand The New Face Of The Saas-Bahu Relationship

Recently, I wrote about the predicament of unfortunate wives who suffer oppression at the hands of their conservative in-laws (I got a few comments asking if the story of Asma had any resemblance to my personal life – which, I must say, is poles apart from it. The article had no autobiographical implications whatsoever).

Today, I thought I’d address the relationship dynamics between in-laws in modern, progressive families.

A couple of days ago, while watching TV, we came across an advertisement for Everest Masala, where a grim mother-in-law accuses her bahu of preparing an unappetizing curry which had neither the taste nor the aroma she expected. Seeing the ad, one of my aunts remarked, “You are lucky you got married to a nice family where you don’t have to cook luscious meals to satisfy your mother-in-law. In our days, we had to wait hand and foot on our husbands’ mothers. One wrong ingredient in the curry and all hell broke loose in the house.

The advertisement reminded me that even today, there are plenty of wives who cope with such domineering, despotic in-laws. Most women would use words like ‘strained’, ‘infuriating’ and ‘simply awful’ to reveal their relationship with their spouse’s mother.

Thankfully, the number of such discontented wives is steadily decreasing as a result of an elevated emphasis on women’s liberation. Although patriarchy remains the norm in many parts of the country, we have progressed by leaps and bounds in recognizing feminine rights and achieving gender equality. There is a gradual shift from a preference for the submissive, shy ‘Bharatiya nari‘ to the independent, resolute wife.

As more and more women choose to have a career before tying the knot, they are now recognized as capable and productive members of the family. Instead of asking the bride if she can make chapatis and pulav, mothers of prospective bridegrooms question her educational qualifications and professional achievements. The result is a shift in perspective, where the worth of a future wife is determined by her unique accomplishments, rather than her culinary skills.

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