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“And your son here, zips his mouth and silently watches the entire drama unfold in front of him by being a silent spectator. Not once did he stop you from making nasty remarks about his wife.”
Nehal adjusted her dupatta as she got off the autorikshaw, while her husband, Ajay paid the fare. It was once again one of those monthly dinner nights at her in-law’s place, that Nehal always dreaded. The otherwise comfortable in jeans and shorts Nehal had to wear a salwar every time she visited her in-laws.
Nehal checked herself in her handy mirror to see if she looked presentable after that auto ride, else she would get to hear from her mother-in-law about how shabby she always looked. Ajay walked past her and opened the gate to his childhood home, not caring to wait for Nehal. After 3 years of marriage, Nehal was used to this behavior. She used to complain about it initially but eventually gave up and stayed mum.
Dinner began, her mother-in-law was pretty engrossed with her son’s well-being, job and their other family gossip. “Thank god!” Nehal thought in her head. Finally, a dinner evening where the attention was not on Nehal’s innumerable flaws.
Ajay and Nehal had a love marriage. Cupid had struck them while they were working together. Ajay’s mother disliked her from the very first meeting. Ajay was a pure Jain from Gujarat whereas Nehal was a hard-core non-vegetarian from Punjab. After months of convincing, Ajay’s mother had finally agreed to make Nehal her daughter-in-law. His father was most of the time away as he worked for the Navy, and his elder sister was well settled in a different city.
The couple, because of their office location, had decided to stay closer to work post marriage. That too did not go down well with Ajay’s mother. “Before marriage, he was able to go from this house to office every day without much hassle. But since he met this girl, he is having too many health issues suddenly.” She failed to realize that the bike ride every day was killing her son’s back, and it had nothing to do with her daughter in law. But nevertheless, she was the safest guinea pig to put all the blame on.
In between dinner, the mother-in-law took a breather from her chit-chat with her son and glanced at Nehal’s dinner plate. “So much of ghee on your rice. I have no problem, it is you who will continue to become fat. You have already put on so much weight since your marriage, you intend to blow up and become a balloon now!?” the mother-in-law laughed out loud like it was some kind of joke. Ajay too gave a smile, but avoided eye-contact with Nehal.
Nehal tried to sound calm and said, “Mummyji, I did not have thyroid problems before marriage, else I wouldn’t have gained so much weight. You know that very well.”
“I was just joking!” and her mother-in-law laughed again. Ajay gave Nehal a stern look and they all continued with their meal.
This is not the first time that her mother-in-law had commented on her physical appearance. Especially when she was about to eat something, or at the dining table for a meal, she would constantly comment about the quantity of food that Nehal ate. And every time she would laugh about it like it was a very funny joke. This time Nehal was really irked. She suddenly felt a hot wave inside her like a volcano about to burst, but she suppressed her anger within her and continued eating.
Dinner was all done and the family sat around the TV set to watch a show. Nehal looked at her watch. “Just half an hour more and then I am free from this for another one month,” she thought, unaware of what was about to hit her.
“Ajay! Don’t you feel ashamed to walk with Nehal outside in front of people? You are so slim and fit and she is so fat. She looks older than you also because of all that fat bulging in her body. Don’t people ask you if she is your mother?!” Nehal looked up from her phone and stared directly at her mother-in-law who was laughing as usual after passing this comment. She turned to look at her husband Ajay who was sitting exactly opposite her on the sofa. His eyes were glued to the TV and his face had no expression.
Giving him the benefit of doubt, Nehal thought Ajay hadn’t heard what his mother said. Before she could say anything, his mother repeated what she said again, calling out his name. Nehal could feel her blood boil from within. She felt a hot flash on her face this time. She continued looking at Ajay, who this time had obviously heard his mother and replied with a “Hmmm,” his eyes still glued to the TV.
Nehal couldn’t stand it any longer. Her mother-in-law was all the more enjoying the look on Nehal’s face. “Is it so?” Nehal looked straight at Ajay and he conveniently ignored her and continued watching TV with no response. To which his mother sensed an impending reaction from Nehal, so she laughed and once again said, “I was just joking Nehal, relax!”
Nehal glanced at her mother-in-law, thinking, “Oh yes, very conveniently mocking me is a joke for you Mummyji!” Unfortunately, her upbringing did not allow her to yell back at an elder. She got up from the sofa and walked into the kitchen. Mother and son continued watching TV like nothing had happened. Nehal came back to the Hall with a glass full of cold water and splashed it on Ajay’s face.
Ajay was shocked and his blank face had now taken over an expression of anger. He was speechless, not knowing how to react. His mother stood up and rushed up to him. “What the hell is wrong with you Nehal? Is this how you treat your husband? Is this how you behave with your husband in front of his mother? “Ajay’s mother screamed at her daughter-in-law.
“And what about the way you all are treating me? I don’t remember a single day when you have not passed comments about the way I look, about my physical appearance, about how I dress, about what eat. And not just passing comments, you make really nasty and hurtful comments and then later laugh about it like it’s a big joke every single time! And your son here, zips his mouth and silently watches the entire drama unfold in front of him by being a silent spectator. Not once did he stop you from making nasty remarks about his wife. If respecting you is his duty then taking care of me is also his responsibility! He never bothered to correct you when you were wrong and considering you as my husband’s mother, I also never opened my mouth thinking you are an elder and you will change someday. But no, your antics just keep getting worse.” Nehal took a deep breath and continued.
“Enough is enough!” she yelled out looking directly at Ajay this time. “I am not going to tolerate this any longer. I have grown up in a joint family but not once has any of my family members treated me like the way your mother has been treating me. You have the audacity to sit and watch your wife being insulted every single time and you think it’s just ok. You see me every single day going to the gym. You know the amount of food I eat even when we go to parties. But I do not lose weight easily because of the medications I eat. But not once you found it necessary to make your mom understand.”
Nehal walked off towards the main door, picking up her mobile phone and handbag. She turned back and looked at Ajay.
“I thought we loved each other. But no, I was wrong. If you had loved me, you would have never let me constantly get insulted like this and let my self-respect shatter into a million pieces in this last 3 years. I am done with this marriage. In a relationship where there is no respect for me, I do not wish to ruin my life any longer. You can go ahead and marry a slim and trim Gujarati girl of your family’s choice. I hope and pray she doesn’t get thyroid and become fat.” Saying this she walked out of that house forever.
Nehal packed up from the house she had been living with Ajay overnight and left for her parent’s house. Eventually, in the next few months, Nehal filed for divorce and freed herself from this relationship.
Author’s note: I know many of you feel that Nehal took a hasty decision. It was just with his family that he couldn’t with-hold her self-respect but otherwise, Ajay would have been a very loving husband. No, I disagree. Ajay’s family is a part of him. No matter how good a person Ajay is, she cannot disconnect his family from him and that meant life-long mental abuse for Nehal. If not now, 10 years later it would have erupted for Nehal. By then they would have had kids too. Rather than spoil the future of innocent lives rather not bring them into this world with the wrong partner. This is just my perspective and per say this is a purely fictional story.
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