The Mother, Son, And The Daughter-in-law: Who Was Right And Who Was Wrong?

There is often no right or wrong in a situation, like this one that Pihu, her husband Rahul, and Pihu's mother in law Shanti Devi find themselves in. How can they deal with it?

There is often no right or wrong in a situation, like this one that Pihu, her husband Rahul, and Pihu’s mother in law Shanti Devi find themselves in. How can they deal with it?

As Pihu put the receiver down, her arms felt numb and her legs almost gave way. She listlessly sat down on the sofa. She couldn’t believe what Rahul had just said over the phone.

Her MIL who was 82 years old had tried committing suicide. She had cut her hand with a kitchen knife. Luckily, the neighbor had got suspicious and informed Rahul immediately. Rahul was in the hospital now.

Pihu put her head in her hands and closed her eyes. She tried sorting out her jumbled up emotions. Was it her fault? Did she snatch away a son from his mother thereby pushing her to the brink of suicide? Guilt washed over her.

Shanta Devi

Her mind wandered back to the initial days of her marriage. Shanta Devi was a widow. She had lost her husband to cancer, one year prior to Rahul and Pihu’s marriage.

Discipline and punctuality was second nature to Shanta Devi. Her house was a mini museum which housed many valuable items collected by her husband who travelled a lot due to his work. Her home and everything in it was her prized possession and she cleaned them herself every day. No doubt her house was always spick and span.


Pihu had a corporate job. She would leave at 8 in the morning and return by 7 in the evening. Putting aside her tiredness, she would rush in the kitchen to help her MIL in making dinner. Since her MIL insisted on keeping her room clean, the weekends were allotted for dusting and polishing.

As days passed, gradually Shanta Devi expected her to take the whole responsibility of the kitchen. But many times her work would keep her late in office. On those days she dreaded returning home. The sulking look on her MIL’s face was enough to raise her BP. Also, the weekends were spent in cleaning and other household chores leaving them with little time for each other. An otherwise happy and bubbly Pihu was turning into an irritated woman. The bottled up frustrations slowly gave way to arguments which then blew into full-fledged fights where each of them hurled accusations at each other. In sheer desperation, Pihu had turned to Rahul but the situation had only worsened. Finally, they had to move out to a rented apartment.

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Rahul heaved a sigh of relief. The doctor had succeeded in saving his mother’s life as she had been brought to them just in the nick of time. However, she had to be kept in the ICU for a day before being discharged. Rahul sat down wearily on the bench outside the ICU. He accused his mother silently.

“Why did you do it Mom? Why? You were the one who taught me that life is precious and it is meant to be lived. Then why this drastic step?”

A tiny voice mocked him, “Maybe you are the reason.”

The other part was quick to defend himself. “But I tried my level best. A man in my position didn’t have much choice.”

He remembered Pihu’s frantic calls amidst his meetings asking him to intervene. The hurt and angry look on his mother’s face when he had tried to reason with her. He had tried his best to remain neutral without being partial. That had only backfired. He was no more an ‘Obedient’ son or a ‘Good’ husband. The mounting responsibilities at office and the tension-charged atmosphere at home was getting on his nerves. He had regretfully taken the decision to move out. But he had not abandoned his mother.

He used to visit her regularly on weekends and spent time with his mother. On weekdays too he called her twice a day to make sure that she was safe and had everything that she needed. He had also engaged an ‘Ayah’ who came in twice daily to look after her. What more could he do? Rahul shook his head in despair.

In the hospital

Back in the ICU, Shanta Devi slowly opened her drug-laden eyes and looked around. She was in a hospital and multiple tubes and wires were attached to her body. She closed her eyes again. “So even death has betrayed me now,” she sighed heavily. “I will again have to go and live in that haunted house which I call home. Oh God! What did I do to deserve this in my old age? Where did I go wrong in raising my son? Has Pihu forgotten the care and support I gave her when each time her IVF failed? Does she only remember my anger? Have I become such a burden for them that they have no place for me in their hearts or home?” Tears of loneliness and frustration rolled down her cheeks.

Do you find the above story in most of the households today except for the fact that few MILs would take such a drastic step! Hasn’t it become quite common in present times that often a son has to leave his parents in order to ensure sanctity in the house?

A note to the above three

To the son and DIL

Maybe they should have looked for other options such as a maid to share the responsibilities. Leaving your mother alone in her old age should not be an option. No help can compensate the place of her children.

The mother

We all will grow old. The things which we do easily now will become an effort as our age increases. None of us wants to be left alone in our old age. She should have made an effort to reach out to the new family member (in this case the DIL) who has come from a completely different family with her own particular likes, dislikes and a certain way of thinking. She should allow her that space especially when the DIL seems to be making an effort. What’s the use of sticking to your own set of ways when they bring only bitterness in your relationships?

Rise above our ego

We human beings are creatures of emotions. If we can only channelize our emotions in the right direction, try to see the other person’s perspective and rise above the petty ‘Egos’ then we’ll be at peace with ourselves and also with our loved ones.

These are my personal views but would definitely like to know yours too. Thanks for reading!

A version of this was first published here.

Header image is a still from the movie 2 States

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