MIL DIL relationships – maybe sometimes some relationships don’t work out in spite of us giving it our best. Maybe it’s not meant to be. But why?
“Gaadi road ke side main park kar dena. I’ll be back shortly.”
Nandini instructed her driver and walked up to the tall iron gates. For a long time, she stood there, gazing at the two-storeyed house that had been her abode for 10 years. It felt like only yesterday when she had been standing right here, as a new bride when Amma, her mother in law, strode forward with a radiant smile and large thali held carefully in her hands.
“Welcome home beta.”
Nandini unlocked the gates and walked in. The small path that led to the house was adorned with small flowers on both sides. She pictured Amma bending over them, digging the earth, pulling out weeds, watering the plants.
Today, they stood withered, the dead flowers lying scattered all over the ground. ‘Just like Amma!’ thought she.
The call had come fifteen days ago, around midnight. Babuji was in a state of frenzy. “Your Amma has pain in her chest. Please come fast!”
By the time they took her to the hospital, it was all over. ‘Heart attack’, declared the doctor.
Nandini lifted her hand to ring the doorbell. Midway, she realised her mistake and dug inside her purse for another set of keys. She wished Babuji had come here instead of her. But the poor man had taken to bed after his wife’s demise.
Her hands shook as she put the key into the hole. Two years ago she had left this place with her husband and son vowing never to set foot in this hell again. At least as long as Amma was alive! Never had she thought in her wildest dreams that her prophecy would come true so soon.
Taking a deep breath, Nandini stepped inside and was instantly greeted by a musky smell and complete darkness. She fumbled for the switchboard. It was supposed to be on her right. As her hand reached for it, she was amazed to find that she still remembered all these small details.
The light went on and she looked around. Everything was where she had last seen them. The Ganesha idol sitting right atop the stand, the lampshade peeking from the corner and the flower vase….!
“Amma, please! Let’s buy this vase. Just look at the craftsmanship. It’s so beautiful. Won’t it look pretty in our living room?”
It was early days after her wedding when bitterness hadn’t crept into their relationship. Together, they had gone to a fair where the blue and white glass vase had instantly caught Nandini’s fancy. Amma had not only bought it but placed it on the small coffee table in their grand living room.
How touched she had been with Amma’s kind gesture. She too went out of her way and did everything that she thought would please the old lady.
“Oh! How naive I had been,” Nandini now laughed to herself. “Can anyone ever please somebody completely?”
She couldn’t pinpoint just when things started changing between them. From the kind of clothes she wore to the foods she liked and the movies she enjoyed, it seemed that Amma always had something to say, not directly but very subtly and invariably they clashed with her own set of opinions. Initially, she would ignore her but slowly Nandini too started answering back.
Lost in thoughts, Nandini came to the dining room and saw the big oval transparent table standing in the centre.
“Amma it’s late. Why don’t you eat your dinner and take rest? I will wait up for Yash.”
“What are you saying? How can I eat when my son hasn’t?”
When Yash gently asked his mother not to wait for him, after all Nandini was there, Amma turned accusatory glances at her!
Trying to brush aside these miserable memories, Nandini strolled to her old bedroom. A small cot lay discarded in a corner. Babuji had bought it when Ryan was born.
“Nandini, where is Ryan? Give him to me. I will feed him and then put him to sleep.”
“But Amma he was with you the entire time I was in the kitchen. Let me feed him.”
“You are so lucky Nandini. Your mother in law manages Ryan so well. You don’t have to do anything!”
Only if they knew how much she hurt inside, how she too longed to perform these mundane motherly activities.
As the rift between them grew, so did the heavy silences which gradually gave way to small skirmishes and finally to full-blown battles.
Stop it! She admonished herself.
Why was she going into all of these again? Hadn’t she said them again and again to her husband, parents, friends, anybody who cared to listen? And did her list of complaints against Amma just end here? Hadn’t it led to Yash looking for a separate apartment so that everyone would be spared from the daily scuffles?
Enough! It was time that she did what she had come here to do and then leave.
Quickly she marched into Amma’s bedroom. The room was as it used to be, only now it stared at her with empty eyes. Its occupants had left, one to her heavenly abode and the other to his son’s house.
Nandini strode towards the large wooden almirah. She turned the handle and the ever familiar scent of jasmine that was a part of Amma’s personality wafted through her nostrils. She stared at the rows of neatly hung silk and cotton sarees, all in shades of beige, white and pale yellow. Nandini’s own cupboard now bore a similar look.
Having lived with Amma for such a long period of time, she had learnt so many things from her. Not consciously merely by observing. Now she too maintained her house the same way she had watched Amma do all these years.
Standing back on her toes, Nandini stretched her hands upwards and took out a white plastic file from the topmost shelf. This was what she had come here for!
Amma’s certificates, ration card, passport, voter ID card and all the important documents were stacked neatly inside. She needed them to close all her accounts.
As she started pushing the door close, a small object glistened from the corner of the middle shelf. Nandini opened the door wide and peered.
My God! It was the same Saraswati idol that she had carved with her own hand and gifted to Amma three years back on her 66th birthday.
So she hadn’t thrown it away! She had kept it safely here.
A deep gloom descended her heart. Nandini hadn’t wished for this. No, she hadn’t! She had tried. God knows she had! She had even seen Amma trying..yet!
Oh God, why was it so complicated? Why?!
Slamming the cupboard shut, she started towards the door. A large photograph of Amma and Babuji hung on the adjacent wall. Nandini gazed at Amma’s face. She was looking at her the same way she had when she had been standing outside at the gates all those years back, waiting to welcome her home.
Nandini stood still, the file falling from her numb hands. Tears started flowing down her cheeks. Slowly, rapidly until she finally broke down into heart-wrenching sobs!
Author’s note: The relationship between a MIL and her DIL is indeed very complicated. Though I wrote this story from a DIL’s perspective I am sure that mother-in-laws too have a lot to say. Maybe sometimes some relationships don’t work out in spite of us giving it our best. Maybe it’s not meant to be.
However, no person is completely good or bad. So often we look only at the negative aspect of a person that we forget she might have a positive side to her too.
Image source: a still from the film Thappad
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