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For this Queen Bee, relationships are a battle ground of power, where she wields power over her opponent. However, the future might have a different story!
Let us call her Queen Bee. She is in mid-seventies, short, barrel-shaped, grey-haired, alert-eyed, interested in gossip and has the habit of getting out juicy bits from who so ever she meets. She submits you to a quick routine of ‘your salary’ (counts the figures), ‘your locality’ (elite or middle class), ‘Your contacts’ (whether you are an acquaintance worth cultivating or not) – this is a sample of how her mind works. Her gentle prodding questions, in half an hour without your realizing it, make you give her your life story and feel that you have met a friendly soul. Years later you will surprise yourself when you realize that she is a self-centered bully, masquerading as a submissive wife, loving mother, doting aunt, and a gentle person. She attends all the weddings and loves to lap up the veneration given to her age.
The ‘Queen Bee’ was at number three in her mother’s brood, but her mother couldn’t do anything without her advice. Super ceding the two older siblings, she had acquired the post of her mother’s official advisor and ruled the roost. She naturally has a very high opinion of herself.
Her-word-is-their-command was the principle on which she raised her own children.
Her-word-is-their-command was the principle on which she raised her own children. Her son Monty and daughter Minty, though in their fifties, haven’t still outgrown the habit of automatically obeying her and probably will not, at least not in this life time. A glance at the faces of their spouses Neena and Ram reminds you of the dear departed husband of the Queen Bee. Neena and Ram also have that expectant look on their faces, which a canine has while looking at its master – waiting-for-the-command look. They stand outside the charmed circle, almost passive because they have forgotten to be spontaneous, always hesitant and on one gesture from their respective spouses go into performance mode. Taking them on face value you might be taken in, and think all is well in their worlds – like it always is with the happy families.
Though she does not know the spellings of the word psychology, she is a master at playing mind games. You don’t need a degree in management to manage people. What Queen bee did in her life, she has made her children also do in theirs. ‘Dominate Your Spouse’ has always been her favorite game. She had played it successfully in her own life. The range of her innovative strategies would have been applauded in any boardroom.
Within two years of her marriage, she had performed wonders. She pointed out to her husband that he was a mere cog in his older brothers’ business. He had no respect in his family. He was surprised, ‘How come I didn’t realize this? Maybe you are right. They should have thought of setting me up in business instead of turning me into an errand boy.’ He forgot all the pampering he had received. Guided by her, he began to discover the taunts (real or imagined) in the so far innocent jokes of his sisters-in-law. The older brothers remained unaware of the melting, slipping glacier. There was an avalanche (why the stale dish on my plate type) and she took him to her father’s home. There she convinced her family of her martyrdom. She made a great show of the fact that her husband did not have a stable career. She had to think of her son. Her father became guilt-ridden. A few months of sobs, sad stories, tears and she got his house in Delhi transferred to her name. For a long time, she even used to get the groceries of next six months from her father’s home on her annual summer vacation visits with her kids. Naturally this added to the feel good factor of her father because his protective instincts had been aroused. With the passing time her husband’s family realized they were no match for this mischief monger. They finally stopped trying to get him back into the fold though they loved and missed him dearly.
How could her spouse dare, raise his voice in front of the Queen Bee when he was being sheltered and fed on her father’s victuals.
How could her spouse dare, raise his voice in front of the Queen Bee when he was being sheltered and fed on her father’s victuals? But she gave him overt respect. While making each and every decision she referred to him making sure that her opinion was his opinion and then stuck to it, praised his wisdom in front of everyone who will listen. The gentlemen till the end lived in his fool’s paradise, thinking that he was the master of the house. God rest his soul!
The Queen Bee wanted the best for her brothers also. She tried to coach both of them on controlling their spouses. She explained the finer points of sabotaging the relationships to their benefit. The elder one listened and earned many a pat on his back from her. Guided by her, he systematically and properly brought his wife to the heel. The younger one did not prove to be a bright student. He was slow to pick up the cues. His wife too never came into the open to pick up the sword. Being economically independent she could afford to withdraw and remain remote. The surface of siblings’ history is studded with seemingly cordial relations.
Time passed at its own pace. At the right time the Queen Bee got her daughter married. She gave a huge dowry, gifts galore and subtly underlined this fact. From day one she coached her daughter to flatter, fawn on her husband, make him feel the center of her universe. Minty always kept her eyes down, never raised her voice and always did what she actually wanted to do. Gradually she weaned her husband away from his mother.
There were tug wars. At times Minty lost. The Queen Bee supported her whole heartedly – she kept the doors of her house open for her daughter and her child. She managed things in such a way that Ram had to come to meet Minty. In the congenial atmosphere of Minty’s home, poor Ram felt bewildered and guilty. He found his wife sweet, amenable and often scratched his head trying to remember what they had fought about. The bewilderment of Ram’s family knew no bounds when Minty left home. Those skirmishes for them were part of the teething troubles which sooner or later would have been over -of course, they had no idea of the strategist guiding the whole operation.
Now the Queen Bee started working her magic on Ram, convinced him to convince his father to give him a separate house.
Now the Queen Bee started working her magic on Ram, convinced him to convince his father to give him a separate house. She subtly flattered him by praising his insight, lauding his discernment. How could he resist? The gullible man swallowed the bait. He realized the enormity of his role. The Family courts, after all, are disgracing places. So Ram made his father hiccup a new house. It took Queen Bee nearly two years to accomplish this mission but being a supportive mother she kept her daughter with her and to make the stay a happy one she kept her son single. For these high stakes, a little delay in his marriage was a small cost to pay.
Once Minty was settled with a now docile Ram in a new house away from her in laws, the Queen Bee turned her attention to her son. It was Monty’s turn. “We want a simple girl. Despite your misgivings, in Minty’s turn we had gone out among strangers. We will not repeat this mistake,” she nudged her husband appreciating his fore sightedness and wisdom. He was a really good judge of character! What steady friends he had! “Why not your friend Mr. Ahuja’s daughter? Dekhi-bhali family hai.” The husband rose a few feet higher in the air. He duly felt his own importance. The match was materialized and Neena entered the enchanted circle.
In the beginning Neena was convinced of the good karmas of her previous births for getting such a fantastic, agreeable, friendly mother in law (MIL). It was Minty who was striking the discordant note. Every weekend she dropped in with her husband and kids and Neena’s plans went haywire. Monty, Papa, Maa wore their ‘we-are-born-to-serve-you’ attitude on their sleeves. At first she keenly took part in welcoming her sister in law (SIL) because she wanted to earn good grades in her report card which lay in her MIL’s hands. Gradually the charade lost its allure. It fell flat, became a boring, predictable routine which irritated her. She was sick of Minty this and Minty that. She complained to her mother about her problems.
The battle lines were drawn. Both the amazons were equally matched.
The battle lines were drawn. Both the amazons were equally matched. Both the tigresses were ready to protect their cubs. The Queen Bee had met her match for the first time and helplessly watched her very own tactics being employed on Monty. Neena with her son went to live at her mother’s home. In due course the matter reached the family court. Monty agreed to every mending measure before the judge and in private threatened Neena that he would make her regret if she dared to come back flaunting his conditions-apply policy. He recited the verses taught by his mother. Neena should think of her young son and come back – only unconditional surrender was acceptable.
Luck came to Queen Bee’s rescue. Neena’s mother suffered a massive heart attack and passed away. Her brother’s wives were not ready to keep her. With her tail between her legs Neena, being an Indian middle class girl, bowed her head and dutifully came back into Queen Bee’s arena. Her refrain since then has been “Yes, Maa”.
Even today, a decade and a half later, Monty after coming back from his office daily ,first goes to pay his tribute in Queen Bee’s court and talk about how his day had been. “It’s a habit formed during the days you had abandoned him,” is her accusing explanation to Neena, “With difficulty I kept him on track. Men so easily go awry.” By now Neena has realized that Queen Bee’s assaults leaves no finger prints, so refined is her modus operandi. Therefore, she keeps quiet and remains busy with her children. After all Queen Bee had graciously allowed Monty to let Neena have a second child to add to her sense of well-being. You guessed it right, the board outside Monty’s home reads “All Is Well.”
Queen Bee has always considered relationships a power game.
Queen Bee has always considered relationships a power game. Although she appears very pleasant, logical and nice but for her at the root of every relation is control not love. Her whole idea is to control all around her. To appreciate them as a person, to give them joy, are alien ideas to her. The drama and excitement of the kill is what she enjoys. Throwing crumbs to the tamed makes her feel at peace.
There are now clashes on daily basis. Varun, Neena’s son, while growing up has watched his mother always silently wiping her tears and working her hands off. Queen Bee’s DNA has been diluted in him. “Mom, you just wait and watch,” he consoles Neena. One hopes Varun will stand up for her because Monty never did. Or, better still death will pull the curtain down and give Queen Bee a chance to majestically sail away in all her glory, happy in the conviction that she had always been right – before the things really turn ugly.
The seeds for future have been sown. Minty, who knows bullying, is the thesis – the Queen Bee incarnate, Neena is the antithesis, fighting the Queen Beeish inclinations. There will be a synthesis in the next generation. The synthesis will again be the thesis. Faces indistinct, voices a murmur, scenario vague – future waits round the corner.
Old woman’s hands image via Shutterstock
Applause! Applause! This is the usual scene in most of the houses. There is a queen bee in every family. I loved the narration.
Thank you Deepa for such encouraging words!
Beautifully written and poignant too. This is a true life story for many.
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