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What option does he have, poor boy! Keep neglecting your husband! I never say anything. I am such a kind, understanding woman. You are lucky to have me as a mother-in-law.
Jyotsna woke up, determined to go back to sleep. It must be 6 am, she thought. She looked at her watch. It was 8! She jumped out of bed. Why didn’t her alarm ring? Was it the am / pm mess again? Never mind! Who has the time to figure out now!
She layered a generous amount of toothpaste on her toothbrush, and stuffed it into her mouth as she entered the kitchen. Tea on one burner, bread on the other. Another burner was turned on, as she took out the dough from the refrigerator.
The door-bell rang. Rupa, her house-maid entered. Jyotsna did not have the energy to argue with her for coming late. She was just grateful that she came.
“There is some bhindi in the fridge. Can you please pack it in Bhaiya’s
tiffin.” Jyotsna said.
“Didi, there is not enough bhindi for two people. What will you carry today?”
“It’s okay. Just make sure you pack for him. I will eat something at work.”
By the time Jyotsna got dressed, Anand was back from yoga. She grabbed a slice of bread, and rushed to catch her office cab.
Jyotsna sat next to her friend, Nidhi in the cab who was her only solace in the one-and-a-half-hour commute. But today, Nidhi did not remove her head-phones, and ignored Jyotsna. She pestered her to talk. Nidhi burst into tears.
“Kunal dumped me!”
“Oh I am so sorry dear! What happened?”
“He said he got engaged to a girl, his mother found for him. When I accused him, he said he cannot possibly marry a woman who is on Tinder!”
“That’s ridiculous! He himself is on Tinder!”
“I know right!! Bloody hypocrite! He said we could continue seeing each other. But I told him to get lost. So, I dumped him, technically, right?”
“Oh yes of course! Good for you! We deserve better! I mean you deserve better!”
Just before lunch break, Jyotsna received a call from her mother-in-law. She was getting late, but she knew this was a call she had to pick. She still remembers the ruckus from the last time she had missed her call.
“Namastey Mummy!” she tried to sound cheerful. There was silence.
“Jyotsna! I can’t believe you gave yesterday’s bhindi to my son for lunch! And bread for breakfast!! Why are you so lazy?”
“Mummy, I had got up late today. And Rupa was also late. He had really liked the bhindi last night. There was little left so just for today, I gave him that. And he loves bread! Especially when I put cheese spread on it!
“What option does he have, poor boy! Keep neglecting your husband! I never say anything. I am such a kind, understanding woman. You are lucky to have me as a mother-in-law. And a husband like Anand. When I got married, I used to get up at 5 and make sure…..”
Jyotsna was tempted to disconnect the phone. Her mother-in-law went on for half an hour. By the time she reached the cafeteria, it was fully crowded. She looked at the queue. Then at her watch. She had a call in 10 minutes. She had no option but to skip lunch.
Jyotsna and her boss dialed in for the call. They waited patiently for five minutes. After 10 minutes, somebody joined.
“Hi. This is Rahul from Leela’s team. Leela would not be able to take the call today. Her baby is sick so had to rush home. But I have prepared the report, and if we turn to page 10…”
“You see this!” Jyotsna’s boss muted the call, visibly infuriated.
“I hired Leela last year! She never bothered to tell me she was expecting at the time of interview! Enjoyed her paid maternity leave, and now she will come to work as and when she feels like! Lucky women!!”
“Her child is sick! I am sure she will log in from home in some time…”
“Just a minute, my wife is calling.”
Jyotsna was interrupted as the boss stepped out. But she could still hear him.
“No I obviously cannot buy a present for a five-year-old kid on my way back! Just let him attend the birthday party without a gift! Big deal! He can gift later. Don’t disturb me at work for this non-sense! I have better things to do!”
He came back to the room, intuitive that Jyotsna had heard him.
“Sorry. My wife was insisting I buy a gift for a birthday party my son got invited to last minute. She is saying she cannot step out because she is busy! I was like busy with what? You are just a housewife! Anyway, let’s get back to the call…”
After a long day, Jyotsna reached home. Hungry, tired and irritated. As she went to cook dinner, she received a call from Rupa.
“Didi, I can’t come tomorrow!”
“What!! Why? This is your second holiday this week!”
“Sorry Didi. My husband and I had a huge fight. The Didi from 103 had given me her old jeans and kurti. When he saw me in jeans, he got mad and slapped me! He said no need to go to work and seduce men!
“So what! Now you will never work? He doesn’t earn anything anyway!”
“No no Didi. Tomorrow is end of month. He will ask money for alcohol. That time, I will say, I have no money left. His drama will not last. I am not educated like you na Didi, what to do?”
Jyotsna wanted to scream, but refrained. Could the day get any worse?
Jyotsna began having dinner after serving Anand.
“Mummy called me today.” Jyotsna decided to play with fire. “Apparently, you discussed the menu with her, which upset her!”
“Don’t be so over sensitive. She casually asked what I was eating, so I mentioned. Anyway, check this out. She sent me pictures of Rhea on WhatsApp. Just look at her!”
Rhea was Anand’s cousin’s wife. She had delivered a baby boy eight months back.
“Look how slim she is looking! She did aerobics and gym. Lost all that weight so soon!”
Jyotsna knew where the conversation was going.
“I mean just look at her! So pretty and slim! Who would guess she is 35! Some girls take such good care of themselves. They look so young and beautiful. You know Mummy was saying that maybe you should try to reduce too. I mean you are only 29. We don’t even have a child yet. You will only put on more from here on!”
“I knew you would get offended. It is so difficult to talk to you! What did I say wrong? You know men like their wives to be attractive.”
Jyotsna threw the bowl in her hand. Anand ducked, almost in reflex. He then realized it was just a fragile, steel bowl incapable of causing any damage. Embarrassed, he yelled.
“What the hell?”
Jyotsna stood up. Her big, kohled eyes were red, matching with her the red bindi. She looked very intimidating.
“Shut up!! Just shut up! What the hell, you want to know? Yes, I know I am fat. I would have loved to work out. But I don’t. I prepare your break-fast, tea, lunch and supervise the maid while you go for your yoga. In the evening, again I can’t go to gym because I have to cook dinner for you. I have not even had my lunch today. Did you even bother to check if I did?
You are a 33-year-old man-child who cannot even manage to take care of himself and complains to his mother about what he is being fed! You know why Rhea is so pretty, because happy girls looks prettier. And you know why she is happy? Her husband is not a jerk like you! She has got a full-time baby sitter, and a cook. So, she can afford to spend time on herself. I can’t!
Not being smart, sexy, modern, is a problem. But we should not be too much of it either! We should be the right amount! Right enough to satisfy your ego, but careful enough not to hurt it!
You can be on Tinder! But we can’t! Wearing jeans is a problem! Leaving office early to tend to a sick child is a problem! Not embarrassing your child for attending a birthday party without a gift is a problem! You know who is the problem! You!!! Live a damn day in my life! Do the chores that I do. Manage house work with office! Listen to the taunts of an interfering and controlling mother-in-law! Come home to an unattractive husband! Yes, the feeling is mutual! If you get judged the way we do, you would not be able to survive!”
Jyotsna stormed out of the room. Anand had never seen her so angry. What is wrong with women? He thought. How did she find out he was on Tinder? When has he forbidden her to wear jeans? And what was that whole thing about presents, and sick children? They did not have any! It is probably that time of the month for her when she gets all crazy.
He would surely call Mummy tomorrow and ask her to counsel Jyotsna on PMS.
This story was written based on a cue from the movie ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’. I am aware that not all men are the way described in this story. This story has been written with the cue in mind, as a tribute to those who have made some of the Indian goddesses very angry.
Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the August 2017 Muse of the Month, but not among the top 5 winners.
Image source: pexels
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I like to write about the problems that have plagued the Indian society. I feel
A wonderful piece of writing, Tanvi! This happens so often in real life! Kudos!
Thank you so much!
Every woman right now has this urgent single minded responsibility to empower herself, her daughters, and her daughters-in-law to value themselves, their dignity and self worth above all else. What is so splendid or amazing about men and sons? Nothing. They are just as strong, intelligent, weak and fragile as us. But over the centuries of patriarchy we have steadily created a mirage of the ever increasingly super(b)…man!! -based on nothing more than an illusion of grandeur that everyone has got carried away mindlessly building upon…including mothers, daughters, wives, girlfriends. While its all very well to soothe and caress the ego in this way to help some people feel respected and validated, we forget that this is how we have created monsters of men (and women who want to stick to-in all blind abandon- an illusion!!) They now enjoy unmatched power and privileges we have bestowed upon them so much, that they feel threatened and are unwilling to share any with us in return. Over time society has come to accept this as the norm and many of us further actively promote and propagate the same with sons, sons-in-law, fathers and husbands. This is inherently wrong because it leads to a general gross imbalance in expectations and outcomes for both groups. While one group expects more and enjoys largely undue privileges and advantages; while the other group has far less expectations and suffers undue penalties and disadvantages. How can this disequilibrium ever lead to any justice or happiness? Everyone has the right to live a life of equal dignity and equal opportunity to happiness. I do not suggest that women usurp power and privilege from men but rather that both learn to feel comfortable sharing power. This is the best way forward. This is a very valid article Tanvi especially in these times when women are more than equal to the tasks men undertake. Well done for another great article!!
Thank you Sonia! As always, your insights are very thoughtful. Your degree in sociology helps us in seeing things from a broader prospective.
It’s women who are women’s worst enemies.Suggest we empower ourselves and women around us.It’s the only way forward.
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