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As our family gets ready to welcome my co-sister, here is a heartfelt note to support her through the transition that marriage brings.
Last Valentine’s Day, you met your fiancé in a formal setting with your parents around. Since it was the first “match” for my brother-in-law, we were cautious with our hopes for this alliance going forward. But both of you unanimously said yes to the wedding and pleasantly surprised us.
We exchanged numbers and spoke of plans for the betrothal which happened 4 months later. It was a beautiful event, and I could see the glow and happiness on your face. We had limited time to talk to each other as the place teemed with guests, so I decided to take you out to dinner.
I was thrilled to discover you were an ARR fan too! With the rest of the family being staunch Ilayaraja fans, I was glad to finally have company. As we spoke for the next 2 hours, I realized we also shared a love for spicy food, accessories, and writing.
Let me be honest here – when I heard that we had an 11-year age difference, I had my own misgivings. I thought we would have a generation gap that may make it difficult for us to bond. But your warm personality won me over. You were able to empathize with my struggles of raising 2 children away in a foreign land, without family support.
As we bid goodbye and went back to our real lives abroad, I remembered the time 9 years ago when I was getting ready for my wedding. Although I was thrilled to marry the love of my life, I was also nervous about how marriage was going to change my life.
In all honesty, the pressure of having to “fit” into the husband’s family is still enormous in Indian families. I wish someone had put their arms around my shoulder and told me that I was going to do just fine, then.
This is what made me write you this letter – to assure you that any “adjustment” will be mutual. You must not forget your entire persona after getting married, to fit into the mold of a perfect Daughter-In-Law.
At 55, our Mother-In-Law still works every day and gives her best as a teacher. She hears unsolicited advice from outsiders about quitting and “relaxing” in “this age”, but refuses to let go of her passion, teaching. I have found her commitment to fitness extremely inspiring, as she practices Yoga regularly, and takes care of herself. Just like that, I can see your eyes light up as you talk about your work. Your dreams, passions, and ambitions are equally welcome into our family, as you are.
When I was newly married, all I knew was to cook rice. It was my husband who taught me a lot more, having some experience in the area. Cooking isn’t considered a CV skill to get married as far as our family is concerned! The first time I witnessed a family function, it was a pleasant change from what I’d seen as a norm in Indian families. Men were very much a part of the kitchen duties – cutting, cleaning, cooking, and serving.
I learned then that our Father-In-Law was the one who meticulously ground idli-dosa batter every week. When they visited us abroad a few months after the wedding, he taught his son how to do it too. Chores were also not gendered but were shared amongst everyone.
Your attachment to your parents and your brother’s family is endearing and will never be seen as a threat. Being the only daughter of my parents, I am also immensely attached to them. Our vacations in India have always been split equally between our two homes. I have also financially pitched in at my parents’ home after marriage, whenever I wanted to, without being questioned. It is simply seen as something a child would do for her parents.
When it comes to festivals, and rituals, my husband and I have created our own blend and follow what we see fit for our family. Traditions are to be treasured, so expecting a woman to forget what she followed for over 2 decades just because she is married is cruel. As the years go by, I hope to see you and your husband create your own meaningful traditions.
Your love for dressing up is something I admire. I promise to be your shopping partner for lipsticks, sarees, long danglers, and everything else you like! Asking to tone it down or “look more like a married woman” is something you will definitely not hear in our family. Our mother-in-law is the one who fixes and drops me at my parlor appointments whenever I visit India. I can already see us getting pedicures together next year!
If you choose to have children, you will have a village around you, waiting to support you through motherhood. I remember a particularly difficult time when I was rocking a wailing infant, our parents-in-law stood by me in the wee hours of the night, taking turns and asking me if I needed any help at all. That said, I do not feel like an extension of my children, or my worth being decided based on my motherhood. They have always actively encouraged me to keep my hobbies alive and get back into the workforce despite how all-consuming motherhood can be.
When we had a family vacation in Bali a few months after our wedding, I lost all our tickets to a show that we had just purchased 10 minutes ago. I immediately started hyperventilating and panicking, as 5 tickets cost us quite a bit of money. Our mother-in-law held the fort, and my hand calmly, and even managed to hunt the tickets back. I understood then that I will not be critiqued for every flaw and mistake.
A parting note – When I was a new bride, I felt like an outsider entering a family who knew each other for their entire lives. That is a scary thought and can make anyone feel stressed despite how warm and welcoming others around them are. But with time I learned that I have organically become a part of this loving family, as my husband became a part of mine.
As we get busy with wedding preparations, rest in the knowledge that this marriage will be a union of both your families. Marriage changes us, as all big life events do. But I hope you can navigate this without worry or fear, as we are here to support you through it.
With lots of love,
Your sister from another mother.
An engineer turned SAHM of two who wants to be known beyond that. Passionate about words, parenting, making eco-friendly choices, feminism and lifelong learning. read more...
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If her MIL had accepted her with some affection, wouldn't they have built a mutually happier relationship by now?
The incident took place ten years ago.
Smita could visit her mother only in summers when her daughter had school holidays. Her daughter also enjoyed meeting her Nani, and both of them had done their reservations for a week. A month before their visit, her husband told her, “My mom is coming for 4-5 months!”
Smita shuddered. She knew the repercussions. She would have to hear sarcastic comments from her mother-in-law for visiting her mother. She may make these comments directly only a bit, but her servants would be flooded with the words, “How horrible she is! She leaves me and goes!”
Are we so swayed by star power and the 'entertainment' quotient of cinema that satisfies our carnal instincts that we choose to ignore our own subconscious mind which always knows what is right and what is wrong?
Trigger Warning: This has graphic descriptions of violence and may be triggering to survivors and victims of violence.
Do you remember your first exposure to an extremely violent act or the aftermath of a violent act?
I am pretty sure for most of us it would be through cinema. But I remember very vividly my first exposure to aftermath of an unbelievably grotesque violent act in real life. It was as a student at a Dental College and Hospital.
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