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The whole family sits together and drinks tea but my tea is left on the kitchen platform and that’s how it has been for as long as I can remember.
The Oxford dictionary defines family as ‘a group consisting of one or two parents and their children.’ So where does the daughter-in-law fit in? Who does she call her family?
When I got married I lost all the privileges I had in my parents family. I couldn’t visit them when I wanted. And neither could I be a part of their celebrations as much as I want to, among other things.
I was a late birth, and because my mother had a few miscarriages before I was born, I was loved a lot. It wasn’t just my parents, even by my extended family. Since I was the first girl to be born, my grandmother ensured that no one chided my mother for giving birth to a girl. In fact, they all pampered me, but made sure that I didn’t turn into a brat.
I was given the freedom to study and grow into a strong independent woman. When I started working, went abroad for work, my grandmother was a bit apprehensive but never stopped me.
My parents and my grandparents were quite liberal with us and my siblings and I were given the same treatment for everything. They never forced us into the kitchen just because we were girls. In fact, my brother is the only who learnt some cooking from my mom as he showed interest.
As the years passed, I settled down with a decent salary package and my own flat and my parents thought it was good time for me to get married. By then, I didn’t have a boyfriend, in fact, I’d never been any such relationship. I had a lot of friends, so I just asked the for advice. And my best friend, a staunch believer of Romeo Juliet type love stories told me, ‘You will know.’
Soon, my parents found a guy and everyone agreed so we went ahead with the marriage. I found him to be a decent guy and his family wasn’t all that traditional with rules, I could still work and travel for work. Neither were they greedy about the dowry and my parents seemed to trust them.
In the beginning, things were good. But then, the comparisons began. The wedding gifts, the arrangements, the food we served the guests, according to them what my parents had done wasn’t enough. In fact, they said they’d done a lot more when my elder sister-in-law got married.
Initially, I didn’t say anything since I was the new bride. But when it continued even two years after the marriage, I started speaking up and out about it.
This started causing problems in my marriage too, because we still live in my in-laws place, something I am told almost every singe day. My MIL has babied my husband and she continues to do so. He still gives all of his salary to her and she, then, gives him pocket money daily. Just to clarify, he is 32 years old.
There is a flat that is in his name and the rent we get from that also goes to my MIL. Most of my salary also goes to them in paying a loan and household expenses. I have to manage my personal expenses from what’s left and that usually isn’t much.
Though I am not fond of all this, I didn’t want to ask my husband to stay away from his family. And even after all these years, I have never felt like a part of this family.
Everyday, I would be working from morning till night, handling all the household chores including cooking, cleaning, washing the clothes and utensils. Add to this, I had my job too. So by night, I would be so tired, I would fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
No one would help me and due to that, we would fight on a regular basis. This was one of the reasons behind us being unable to bond at all. I tried to be a part of their family but with time, I realised, I wasn’t so sure about it. Our ideologies were poles apart.
For him and his family, the DIL was someone who did all the work, and gave all of her salary to them. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t be the girl who had to ask her in-laws for her own money. Almost 75 percent of my salary goes to them and I am not even allowed to have any savings. My MIL checks our salary accounts and salary statements regularly. It’s not only us that she does it with, she does it to her own daughter too!
According to my MIL, her kids, who are both above 30 years of age, cannot handle money. Well, I disagree with her and I suffered the brunt of this for quite a while and after that, she just started taking my money in other ways. She found I’d made an FD without informing her when the bank statement came to this address. And since them, they all feel like I have cheated them.
Once, in a bout of anger, I told them, I barely had any money that if I fell sick, without the medical insurance from my company, I probably won’t survive. They all felt bad about this, but it is the truth.
What started with money as a small thing turned big as time passed. It became a reason for a lot of conflicts. My husband is a happy-go-lucky guy, he doesn’t care. When they go over-budget, he simply takes a personal loan, without consulting me. Currently, we have three personal loans, a car loan, a flat loan. And to top it all, my MIL is asking for more to make some modifications in the house.
She knows I’ve had some savings since before my marriage and it is my safety money. It is something I have been saving for a trip I dreamt of going on since forever. Ever since I started earning, a percentage of my salary went into it and I am not ready to part with it for anyone’s worldly pleasure. Sadly for them all, even emotional blackmail and social boycott did not work in their favour.
For the last one month, I have been having bouts of fever, cold and a runny nose. And due to a COVID-19 scare, I mostly stay in my room. I get food thrice a day and when they ask me to drink milk or eat fruits, I don’t, I simply stay away from everyone.
For the last month, I haven’t done a lot of the household chores, just my job. I sit in one place and work, even late in the night. My husband has been trying to bring a smile to my face but I think I am too far gone for that.
Now that I am recovering, I have begun doing some of the work but I am still treated separately. The whole family sits together and drinks tea but my tea is left on the kitchen platform and that’s how it has been for as long as I can remember.
But a few days ago, something felt different. The tea was still there but my cup was kept away from theirs and I hadn’t even touched it. When I tried to take another cup from the tray, I was told not to and that mine was left outside.
It hit home in that moment, that even all these years later, I am not a part of their family. And by getting married to him, I had lost the family I was born into. I always knew this, I really did and so did they but today, I was enlightened by the fact. Today, it was put on a silver platter and served to me.
Everyday, I would sit in the washroom and cry, and every night, I closed my eyes and cursed my life. But not today, today I didn’t want to do any of that. I feel like I got the answer to all my questions – the ones that were always there but I chose not to see. It was so simple that my mind was unable to accept it as real. Really, it is just so simple, ‘I was never family,’ and the best part is that ‘I can never be their family.’
In the last few years, I gave up everything, the city I worked in, my career, my job opportunities, promotions and friends. I even changed myself completely to fit into their life. And what do I get in return? A lost girl left alone to collect the broken pieces of her heart.
It isn’t easy to live with them but it is harder still to leave and even harder to forget. I had never loved anyone and so the bond became stronger without too much work and now it is just too difficult to go away.
Whenever someone asks me where I stay or who I stay with, my answer is ‘with my husband’s family.’ A few people pointed out that I may have subconsciously started to accept it a while ago but even with all these realisations, I still don’t have the gut to leave. I can’t leave because I feel, ‘I will never have a family. Somethings just aren’t meant to be.’
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Anupamaa
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