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“Are you even listening? I’m a working woman. She is making me look bad. I have a strong personality, and no one messes with me. But this girl? She is Bhagyashree, direct from a Sooraj Barjatya set.”
I sat at my desk with the shiny name plaque on it that read Dr. Subodh Gupta, Counsellor. In front of me was my first consultation of the day, a middle-aged woman, probably in her fifties.
It must be the usual complaint—domestic drama.
They came here in hordes. Odds were that the lady in front of me had daughter-in-law problems. My responses were pretty standard.
Try to adjust to the times. Women are changing, and so must you.
Most of the time, they just wanted a sympathetic hearing ear. If nothing worked, I would offer to do a group counseling session with both the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law. Some of these discussions would put parliamentary debates to shame with the yelling and accusations.
The woman introduced herself as Mrs. Sharma.
“Hello, Mrs. Sharma. How can I help you today?”
“I’m very stressed lately. It’s my daughter-in-law.”
No prizes for guessing that.
“My only son, Suresh, got married six months ago. He and his wife live with us. It’s hell.”
“Let me guess; you are having trouble adjusting.”
“You can say that!”
“Does your daughter-in-law work? Is she busy? Is she not helping you with the house chores?”
Mrs. Sharma stared at me as though I had grown another head.
“In my family, I AM the working woman. I’ve been employed for the past twenty years. My daughter-in-law chooses to stay at home.”
This was a first.
“My woes began a year ago when Suresh decided to get married. What was the hurry? I told him to find a bride on his own so that we didn’t have to go through any hassle.”
“I am a senior director in my company and am always busy. I didn’t want to waste my time wearing heavy silk sarees and plastering artificial smiles while visiting prospective brides. But did Suresh listen? No! Arranged marriage was what he wanted, and now I am the one suffering.”
I was taken aback by her outburst. I encouraged her to continue while I took notes.
“Suresh dropped another bomb. He said he was OK if his future bride wanted to be a stay-at-home wife.”
“Why would my son say that? He has seen me work all my life!”
I wondered what the issue was.
“I was confident that he would never find such a girl. I was pretty sure girls would chase him away within seconds, accusing him of patriarchy. Sadly, nothing like that happened. Within a month, he found Gayathri.”
“Was she under any pressure to marry your son?”
“No! She was ready to marry him on the spot! Running homes is her passion. Not one ounce of ambition! I even proposed we sponsor her studies for a master’s degree. Do you know what she said?”
“She said she was tired of studying and wanted to be the perfect housewife instead. I have never seen a girl more obsessed with domesticity before. Anyways, we went ahead with the marriage. I had to bribe the pandit to make sure he proposed a date for the wedding away from my company reporting deadlines.”
“If Gayathri is content with not pursuing her studies or work, I think we should respect her choice.”
“Does she respect mine? The last six months were hell.”
“Does her behavior offend you in any way?”
“Gayathri gets up at 5:00 AM and plays religious music, ruining my sleep. She takes a shower before entering the kitchen and makes tea and breakfast. When I wake up, the lunch dabbas are packed, the house reeks of incense, and she is already cleaning the rooms. This is despite us having a Bai coming in later. There are barely any dishes in the sink because she likes to clean as she cooks. I’m afraid the Bai will stop coming in because of Gayathri’s efficiency.”
“Err…I must interrupt. Your daughter-in-law sounds like every mother-in-law’s dream.”
“Are you even listening? I’m a working woman. She is making me look bad. I have a strong personality, and no one messes with me. But this girl? She waits upon everybody with big adoring eyes. She is Bhagyashree, direct from a Sooraj Barjatya set.”
I wiped the sweat off my brow.
“She fasts regularly. And yesterday, she made gravy without onion. God knows which God she was trying to appease. She doesn’t use any read-to-eat stuff. All she has to make from scratch, including dosa batter. Who does that?”
Even my wife used ready-to-eat batter.
“Of late, she is trying to change me! She makes me listen to religious lectures till I doze off when all I want to do is to catch up on the latest episodes of a K-drama. When I try to send her out to enjoy some alone time with Suresh, she insists I come along. So clingy! I just want peace, quiet, and my messy house back.”
“Things might change when they have children,” I added weakly.
“I am NOT ready to assume Grandmother duties. I aspire to become the CFO before I retire! I cannot be changing diapers!”
It was time to don my counselor hat.
“These issues stem from the lack of communication. You need to let Gayathri know that you are not the stereotypical mother-in-law. You also need to acknowledge that Gayathri may not be the typical daughter-in-law and has her desires and wishes. People don’t need to fall within boxes. I suggest that you have a heart-to-heart and align expectations. Tell her that her actions make you uncomfortable and that you would like to maintain boundaries in a good way. After all, adjustments need to be made when you live under the same roof.”
Mrs. Sharma fell into deep contemplation.
“Hello, Mrs. Sharma; how are you doing?”
“Very well, thank you. I think I have solved my problems. Not only did I have a heart-to-heart with Gayathri, but I also gifted the couple a flat opposite ours! That way, we are close, but not too close.”
“Every Saturday, Gayathri invites us over for a grand homemade lunch. Every Sunday, I have them for tea and snacks from Swiggy. We are at peace. It turns out she is quite likable after all.”
Relationships had improved considerably. I could close this file.
This is satire. Now imagine if the roles of the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law were reversed. Would everyone side with the daughter-in-law? The odds are that she would be accused of fragmenting the family and luring away the son of the house.
Let’s stop being judgmental when we don’t know the reality of relationships.
Published here first.
Image source: a still from the film Listen, Amaya!
Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...
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