Disclaimer: Before people start reading this article with a preconceived notion, let me clarify that this article is not about baseless allegations or any form of reprimand on the ‘in-laws’ in our country. I have been lucky enough to have considerate and kind in-laws and the views expressed in this letter is a generic summary of first-time experiences post marriage, based on both personal experience and the observations of others. Since daughters are dearest to their fathers, my letter is addressed to all the fathers, who I believe are the best confidants and the biggest support system for all their daughters. Their actions always speak louder than their words.
With pain in your heart and joy in your eyes, you bade me goodbye while I embarked on a new phase of my life. Having ensured that I married the man of my dreams, you proved yet again that you have always wanted the best for me. Now, I wake up in a different house, with a new set of parents and siblings, who are trying their level best to make me feel as comfortable as their daughter. But I still remain a ‘daughter-in-law’ here, and will never get the same vibe as I got from you.
- In the first few days post the wedding, I was expected to stay confined to a room, dress up well, talk softly and keep smiling at gawking strangers. Loads of expectations were involuntarily set up to portray me as a perfect new bride. With you around, I’d never felt even an ounce of burden before. I missed you asking me to walk out of that room to get a breath of fresh air and not get bogged down by any social obligation.
- In the presence of elderly ‘new’ relatives, I was expected to wear sarees only, no matter how uncomfortable I was in them. And the rule could not be bent slightly, even while travelling because I was the perfect daughter-in-law, after all. I missed sneaking into those good old cotton blue pyjamas that you bought for me last year.
- After a long journey, my room was swarming with relatives, who kept coming in turns after taking a much-needed nap and equally concerned that I need some rest too. But, my room was never empty that day, and I hardly slept. That day, I missed the way you scolded me always, to complete my 8 hours of sleep daily.
- Every single day, for the first few days, seemed like an examination day. I was being judged for the way I spoke, the way I walked, the way I ate, the way I sat, the way I laughed and what not. I’d never known how it was, to get judged for normal day-to-day activities in my life. You’d never made me feel that way before, even when I learnt everything about life from you.
- I prepared tea for the first time in my new home. Someone felt that there was too much sugar, someone wanted lesser ginger, while some chose to stay mum thinking that it would make me feel better. And then, I was told that I would learn to make tea with time. It’s just that the taste of tea varies for all. Not that I didn’t know how to make it. I missed how you eagerly waited for a cup of evening tea, prepared by me.
- I was asked to wear gold anklets for a family function, which I didn’t like at all. I had to stand my ground and keep saying no, till the relatives got disappointed. I missed how you always let me be, just the way I am.
- One fine evening at the dinner table, someone made a very casual remark about me sitting idle, while my father-in-law washed one plate in the kitchen sink. He was already in the kitchen and was just helping out. And I just chose not to snatch that plate from him as an ideal daughter-in-law would have done apparently. So, does that make me less ideal? I have grown up seeing you pick up my plate from the dining table at times. Was it that big a deal?
- The next morning, someone passed a sarcastic comment on my cooking skills and they had a good laugh. Now it seems like a very harmless statement, in good humour. But back then, I felt as if they ganged up on me and I did not even have the liberty to react. I’d never felt so alone before.
- My in-laws wanted to meet my ailing grandmother, before leaving the city. To this, I casually mentioned that they could join you and visit her at her place, since I had a lot of pending work assignments for that weekend. I was told that I should anyhow accompany them and we should visit my grandmother separately, as representatives of ‘our’ family. So, does that make you any different from my idea of ‘my’ family? I’m in a strange state of an identity crisis now. Which family do I belong to?
- I took up a short-term work assignment outside the country, and I was immediately asked to act sensibly and prioritise family over work. I realised then that earlier I’d prioritised so many things over you, both with or without your consent, and never felt even an iota of guilt doing so. Maybe, I took you for granted! Perhaps, you were always confident about my decisions which had shades of your values, and that was your way of showing your unconditional love for me. Thanks for always letting me spread my wings and fly.
Today, I’ve realised that the only man who can genuinely be happy in my happiness, is you. You’ve always ensured that I have the brightest smile on my face. I am what I am, just because of you. Thanks for giving me all the liberty, along with your values, that made me a confident, resilient and independent woman. I’ll always make you proud.
You are my best man, until eternity!