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A vacation with the mother-in-law – sounds dreadful? One Indian woman shares how she and her mother-in-law actually had a lot of fun on a holiday together!
By Anne John
“Is she your daughter?” asks our tour guide. “No. My daughter-in-law,” answers my mother-in-law. The tour guide raises his eyebrows in surprise and my mother-in-law and I exchange knowing smiles. We had gotten used to this reaction by now. Ever since we decided to go on a trip together and started planning out the details, we had been receiving such astonished looks. Afterall, most Indian women want to take a vacation away from their mother-in-law, not with them! Yet, here we were, squinting up at the Petronas Twin Towers, just the two of us.
‘Like father, like son’ goes the saying and accordingly, both of us have been blessed with husbands who would much rather be at home than go about travelling or sight-seeing – and let’s not even talk about shopping. On the other hand, both my MIL and I enjoy exploring new places and experiences. In fact, the truth is my MIL is more adventurous than me – she is open-minded and I must say brave enough to try out new things.
Whenever we went on trips, it almost always seemed as though our husbands were simply obliging us by coming along. They took us on trips simply because we wanted to go, not because they particularly enjoyed it. While it is sweet that our husbands indulge our love for travel, it can also get pretty annoying after a while! I mean, why force someone who is not interested in travelling to come with you? Trust me, there is no quicker way to spoil a trip than a disinterested travel companion who would be happy to spend the day sitting in the hotel room watching TV and couldn’t care less about the tallest tower or the deepest valley!
I was somewhat stressed about certain personal issues and was really longing to go on a trip just to clear my head and get some perspective. However I also wanted my travel companion to be as excited about the trip as me – not someone who says, “Do we really have to go to Singapore to eat noodles? We could get them in our neighbourhood Chinatown!” So, out of sheer frustration I blurted out to my MIL, “Why don’t we go on a trip together?” and to my surprise, she was game.
…we decided to leave our husbands to fend for themselves for a week and headed to the East on our own “offbeat” vacation!
Thus, we decided to leave our husbands to fend for themselves for a week and headed to the East on our own “offbeat” vacation! We really only did all the typical touristy stuff, but oh! We had so much fun! We checked out all the tourist attractions, took a peak into the cultural diversity of Malaysia and Singapore, stuffed ourselves with the local food, missed our respective husbands a teensy bit, shopped till we dropped, took lots of photographs and met up with friends. Was everything smooth sailing? Of course not! At times we did get a little pissed off with each other, but then we soon forgot about the annoyances and gossiped and giggled away! In short, we conveniently forgot that we were supposed to be the “saas-bahu”.
Everyone has heard of the Indian monster-in-law. The woman who refuses to let go of the apron strings that bind her son, who cannot seem to see beyond the daughter-in-law’s flaws and expects her to be the epitome of womanhood, who pokes her nose into your business and interferes with everything that you do and places herself on a self-righteous pedestal just because she happens to be the groom’s mother.
However, are all mothers-in-law the same? Does everyone fall into the wicked witch category? I don’t think so. I know a number of Indian women who are great mothers-in-law. They place their trust in the capabilities of their daughters-in-law and even if the young women do slip up, they believe in letting them learn from their mistakes. However, these mothers-in-law don’t seem to be talked about much. While the bride-burning–dowry-harassing monster-in-law demands our attention from the front pages of leading dailies, the “normal” mother-in-law is going about her life silently, treating her daughter-in-law with warmth and affection. She opens her doors, her mind and her heart to the young woman who steps into her son’s life and welcomes her to become one united family.
While the bride-burning –dowry-harassing monster-in-law demands our attention from the front pages of leading dailies, the “normal” mother-in-law is going about her life silently…
Yes I am aware that my MIL reads all my articles, and for all you sceptics out there, no, I am not trying to butter her up! I am not trying to say that I live in an always-smiling-picture-perfect-Yash-Chopra-esque family. My husband and I live abroad – so I guess I am not really in a position to make an informed decision on how it might be to live long term in a joint family system. However I do stay 2 or 3 months in a year continuously with my in-laws and during that time, I must admit that I am far from the “ideal” daughter-in-law. I do not wake up at the crack of dawn to cook and clean, in fact I don’t really do many chores at all, we argue with each other if we don’t agree with something and sometimes we also get on each other’s nerves. When two people from different families and backgrounds come together, difference of opinion is only natural. Whether we choose to let those differences drive a wedge between us or decide to accommodate our differences and celebrate our diversity is upto us.
My MIL and I had such a lovely “women-only” trip where we could forget all about our domestic worries and just be two ladies on a holiday. I was actually a little sad when our trip neared its end; it is one of the most memorable trips in my life thus far and I am quite confident that it will forever be cherished.
*Photo credit: Anne with her MIL at Singapore Botanical Gardens.