Thursday, 28 May 2009

Father by another name

About: A true account of an average Indian daughter-in-law spanning a period of nearly 10 yrs

Characters: Father-in-law, Better-half & yours truly
Where is mother-in-law you wonder????
My husband’s siblings were in Bangalore completing their education & so his mother was staying there looking after their interests.


My father-in-law & I didn’t get off to a good start.
He thought …… ummm…oh well he didn’t think much of me. Of what use is a daughter-in-law who didn’t know how to cook or clean or maintain a house. And worse, she didn’t behave anything like a daughter-in-law.

I on the other hand tried not to care all that much. Except that my mothers advice kept ringing in my ears
“Never do anything to upset your father-in-law, NEVER”
“Always include him whenever you both go out, ALWAYS”
“Remember, you are the new member there, so ADJUST”

He was quite unlike my father in every way:

One, he spoke a lot. For a person who rarely heard her father’s voice in the house this was quite a novelty.
Two, he gave a whole new meaning to the word energetic. The better-half & I sometimes felt so tired just watching him in action.
Three, he loved pottering around in the kitchen. When I think back about it now it seemed like his dream come true that he got a DIL who didn’t know cooking. He took on the role of the head- chef with gusto & I was the reluctant chief assistant/ cleaner/ dishwasher. I would keep all meat, vegetables washed, peeled & cut & he would walk into kitchen holding his cell-phone to his ear & the other hand would do all the sautéing & stirring. Inbetween you could see him impatiently miming his other requirements at me. Unwillingly I went about doing my work with half-irritation & half-amusement.

And weekends we played Happy Families. I can count on 1 hand, the number of dinners’ better-half & I have had alone. We ofcourse went out only with him. Somehow I never felt good about leaving him all alone at home while we went out somewhere to enjoy ourselves. But best of all reasons is that it never ever occurred to the father-in-law that the newly weds may want to spend some time alone. And ofcourse there was this small truth that he had a DL & we didn’t.

He & I argued quite a bit. Take for example Laloo Prasad Yadav, we fought over him often. Father-in-law thought LPY was God’s Gift to Indian Railways & I thought somebody with a criminal record should not be holding such an important post. Father-in-law thought Rishi Kapoor didnt know how to act[simply because Rishi Kapoor misbehaved with an Air India official in 1979...yeah my fil was also on the same flight] & I thought that was simply not a criteria to judge an actor.

Basically my father-in-law’s "I know everything"attitude used to exasperate me to no end. He liked to think he knew best about everything that is going on in the world & I just liked to needle him a bit. Amidst all this the better-half just sat around, watched TV, ate his dinner & generally went about doing his activities. If we ever reached a stalemate & asked for his opinion, he would look at us wearily & go back to watching TV. Dismissing him, we would get back to sparring.

Once I was chatting with my sister & telling her about the yummy rasmalai I was having just then. And she was like…….. “U sure are lucky to get a father-in-law like that.” And I wrote back carelessly “Oh sure I am.”

Later I thought about it………….around 3 weeks earlier I had wistfully spoken about the delicious rasmalai we got in Bangalore & how much I loved them. For a change the all-knowing father-in-law didn’t know what a rasmalai was & I took great delight in explaining in detail. I didn’t give it too much thought even when he brought it home that day but my sister’s words made me ponder……he hadn’t forgotten, I’m sure he must have gone to some effort coz 10 yrs back I doubt many shops were selling rasmalai out here in Dubai.

When I thought about it some more, I realized he sort of took care of every aspect of living. He made sure the bills were paid on time, the fridge was always full[oh if u r wondering, I had taken over the cooking by then] and he took full responsibility whatever the matter was.

The kids also had a wonderful time with him. He spoilt them thoroughly....…infact I think he was reliving his childhood through them. I remember, every night before the kids slept they used to lie down next to him & read their story-books while he read his newspaper. Inbetween my household duties I would unconsciously smile as I heard giggles & gleeful shrieks & would be glad for them. I mean…in this day & age it was very rare that grandchildren got to spend so much time with their grand-parents.

Much as I would love to pretend it didn’t happen, I cannot but help mention a period of 3-4 yrs inbetween where I endured extreme stress & mental anxiety. Frankly, without my husband’s & father-in-law’s support I would have collapsed for sure.

When he finally made his decision to go back to India for good we viewed the future with trepidation. To be honest, there were times when we yearned to live as a nuclear family but after staying under his shadow & depending on him for so many years it was with misgivings we saw him go. I specially felt sorry for the kids who missed him terribly initially.

Its been 2 years now. After the initial hiccups we've learnt to manage our lives. His room has been converted to a study+playroom for the kids but even now they still refer to it as “Appacha’s* Room”.

And I agree with him now. Laloo Prasad Yadav did make a difference to Indian Railways………..just because he had criminal cases pending against him didn’t mean that we should ignore his commitment & contribution to Indian Railways.

What say???????????

*Appachan = Grandfather in Malayalam


  1. first 1!! yay... now lemme read !!!

  2. Seriously....u guys are crazy;-D!!!!

  3. dont know if i agree on Laloo but that is an amazing story.. FIL & DIL stories of bonding are rare...

    I loved reading this... and i wont comment on your relationship but I just loved reading this post... and yes... the bonding between grand parents and grand children is something else... !!!

    god bless !!

  4. Oh Nancy! Such a lovely read.

    May be my FIL is right abt the things we don't agree upon too. Now, lemme sit n think :P

  5. Oww this is soo sweet :)

    Any relation in this world has its own charm and ofcourse it own share of argument!! Just beautiful and heart touching post!!


    And I agree with with both of you wrt Laloo.. its so hard to get good ministers.. but then criminals in politics is a big no no.. but then when we live in lad of criminals.. a man who does some good has to be lauded no ?

  6. Oh that was such a lovely and touching post.. You do have a lovely FIL! And from what I can figure out- you must be a awesome DIL too :) It was so sweet of him to remember and get rasmalai!

    As for Laloo - I still have my reservations, unfortunately :)

  7. am i gettin all emotional readin ur post? i don have a father and not lucky nuff to have FIL either :( i so badly wish i do (u shud kno how badly if u kno tht m missin my dad for last 10 yrs!)

    and also i can totally relate to the newly weds longing to be alone part my MIL makes sure we don hve any lonely time together, wen i long for sometime with him, at the same time i feel odd to leave her n go out alone with him even if i did anyday, and when she buys me stuff remembering me ... wow nothing like it! its kinda confusin relationship.. i thought it was just me... u made me feel a lot better :)

  8. Though you have explained in a manner there were/are disagreement between you and your FIL....your title sums it all. Its rare to see FIL & DIL like this. Namaskar to him and wishes to you.

    ""And I agree with him now."

    No wonder ladies realize it very late.okkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkee! Before you or any of the women blogger throws brickbat at me, let me take a shelter!!!

  9. Hitchwriter: Thank U & God bless U too:-)).

    Swaram: Oh take it from me...they r always right;-D

    Winnie: "its so hard to get good ministers.."
    Just heard on the news yesterday tht the PM did a through background check on cabinet ministers before giving them their portfolio's. Its a good start dont u think:-))!!!!!

    Smitha: Awwww....thank U!!! Seriously when I thought abt it later I was touched[in case u r wondering, I'm talking abt the rasmalai:-))].

    Sansmerci: I perfectly understand what u must be going thru. We have to handle it with a great deal of patience & tact. Just keep in mind tht things u consider important now dont seem to matter all tht much 10 yrs later:-).

    Maddy: LOL:-D!!!! Ah but atleast ladies agree tht they were wrong if they r wrong. But men...they'll never admit in a million years that they were wrong abt something;-/

  10. My father in law doesnt talk much..not just 2 me but to anyone:)
    So i havent had a chance to interact at all..But he lets out these one-liners once in a while and they are hilarious and quite thought provoking

  11. i am imagining my FIL
    -arguing with me on just abt anything
    -cooking in the kitchen

    blank screen!!

    rest all, yes!! that is the fun of having elders around.. everything gets taken care. either they would do or remind us just enough to get us into doing it on time.
    ah missing them now!! :(

    I think you have a great pa (aish style) many regards to him...

  12. Lovely post Nancy... Some relationships are just beautiful beyond words.. My FIL addresses me as Mavayagaru (FIL in Telugu) and everytime he says that, I feel like a kid. He must be some 40 yrs elder to me and yes expects me to the perfect bahu (which i am portraying in front of them! :P) but its just different with him.
    Its such an awwww story... heart touching..

  13. aww...lovely..i am tuched.. nothing can replace elders in our ever much we say and claim..

  14. I guess this disagreement of sorts with the ILs happens most of the time .. but somewhere I think it happens because we are expecting someone like our parents.
    What is beautiful in your story is the way the differences have melted away to give way to a relationship that is so deep that y'all miss him so badly now :)

  15. An Open Book: Ur Fil sounds just like my father;-D.

    Mindspace: U knw once a rat got into the house & I wanted to call him in kerala to find out how to get rid of it coz we had no clue wht to do;-D.

    Rohini: U meant DIL in telugu, right????? coz the sentence doesnt make sense otherwise.
    And thank U:-))!!!!!!

    Iya: When they r around we take them for granted, its only when we have to manage by ourselves do we realise their value;-P

    Prashanti: Or it can also be that we are not willing to give them the same importance we gave our parents, what say?????
    Oh our differences & discussions were always lively & fun filled but also knew I cd depend on him for anything;-D

  16. Nancy, thats such a touching post.

    The bonding ur girls with him is of course the best thing that can happen to them.

    Becos, when I sit down and think abt my childhood, I remember my grandmother more than anybody else.

    Good fun u had, arguing with him. BTW, Did u learn to cook from him ?

  17. Lovely post and thats a fantastic relationship that u n ur FIL share he for sure looks like a gem of a person.

    I had a fren who always fantasied of how her FIL should be not how her life partner should be :-)

  18. very nice post and written from the heart.
    Ur FIl is so much like my H..who argues a lot, I kep telling him u r a FIl:)..and then cooks whatever my children like and pampers them also all the time.

    Inlaws are not always vicious and so demonic as they are made out to be, its only the impatience of and intolerance of the youth which aggravates most of the situation in life.

    You have said so rightly that the things we give the utmost importance after marriage dont seem so important after 10 years. I agree wholeheartedly, I feel that undue importance is given to idividuality, personal space and privacy wheres the more important things or should Is say people are ignored.

  19. glad you listened to your mother's advice....else you would not know the bond you now have :)

    the rasmalai thing was sure sweet :)

  20. very very touching :) he's gonna love reading this.. everyone these days talks about the relationship between a couple, no one remembers MIL or FIL or other relations that are formed..

  21. Umas: I did learn quite a bit of the basic kerala cooking from him. He himself only had a general idea of a few main dishes but he sure acted like he knew everything about the culinary art;-D.

    Smita: oh yes whatever disagreements I might have with him I can never deny the fact that he is a gem of a person:-)).
    And ur friend is very smart....she has the foresight to understand tht a husband alone does not make marriage....atleast in our country:-)).

    Renu: What u have said makes total sense to me NOW. Mayb if u said this 10yrs back I wdn't have had the maturity to grasp the essence of ur statements.
    Aah such is life.....we live & learn:-))

    A: Oh I always listened to my mother...its just that I followed only what I thought made sense which was almost everything she said. U mother was my blindspot...still is actually:-)).

    Snow: Oh he doesnt even know I have a blog....but yeah if he reads this, he'll be thrilled. U see he knows I care but not how much:-). Seriously I'll be terribly embarrased;-P.

  22. WHat a touching account!
    And I agree with most of your other have a rare bonding with your FIL!
    Touch wood!

  23. SGD: I dont know abt the rare bonding part of it but yeah we do enjoy eachother's company in a sort of reverse psychological way;-D.

    Agnes: Thank U:-))!!!!!!!!

  24. I don't know about Laloo prasad but i sure think your FIL is one swell guy!
    Liked this post a lot!

  25. Nancy, That's so sweet. Reminded me of my MIL and my relationship. We argue over politics like we did couple of weeks back when she was miffed for me praising Tharoor and she is a Leftist and then after the results it was fun.

    I am open and she tells me that I taught her to be open too. It clears confusion and resentment. We argue and then go out shopping and our live-in cook is always amazed at the bond we share. She hates cooking so all the more fun. She likes parties and shopping. :D .

    Coming back to your post..very sweet. So now is he in Bangalore with you MIL?

  26. Lovely post. What a beautiful FIL-DIL relationship. Hope je gets to read it. And then you can have another agreeingly disagreeing conversation ;-)

  27. aww thats sweet! i wish i got to spend more tiem with my grandfather before he passed in a nuclear family set up sure does make u miss out on such since both my grandparents (paternal) are quite old...i used to always think of it as a task to spend time with them...and now i wish i had done that!!

    oh and mom being a blindspot...absolutely!! mine always is...her words only make sense to me like 5 yrs after she has said them!!

  28. Well, I was his first assistant. Yes, he taught me to cook, cut and prepare meat. He imparted all he knew with absolute ease. Unlike the mother who still thinks that she should take her recipes to the grave. And I think she is welcome!
    I liked the way he would declare every friday: Let us clean. Many years later I realised, it was more: I will supervise u will clean!

    But I am glad the kids got that kind of time with him. It is very special to the kids.

    I know how stifling it was for but you did very well to adjust with him. Kudos to u for that!

  29. my question is that how could he stay away from wife for so long?

  30. It's awesome Nancy, the way you blog about supposedly normal things and they turn out to be a beautiful read :)

  31. That was a wonderful post...humorous and touching at the same time...Humrously touching if I may say :)

    I can imagine how empty it gets when our elders stays with us for a while and then leaves...while in New Zealand my inlaws stayed with us for two years and when they left us...we came back from the airport and me and hubs cried our eyes out looking at the empty house...

    My personal take...we are really empty withour our elders.

  32. Preethi Shenoy: Yes I always thought my MIL was very lucky to have him:-D.
    And thank U:-))!!!!!!

    Solilo: Ur relationship with ur mil sounds like super fun;-D.
    Oh now tht all kids are well-settled both of them are back in Kerala.

    Spontaneous Mini: Thank U!!!!
    Oh we dont need an excuse to have a conversation...sometimes we even argue about the design of the cutlery we are having dinner from:-D.

    Sunshine: "her words only make sense to me like 5 yrs after she has said them"
    LOL...I so understand tht part of it but then dil chota math karo coz thts the sad story of all our lives;-D

    Butterfly: I was a very laid-back kind of person & he did teach me to be more responsible.
    When I look back now I remember only the good stuff or maybe I'd like to focus only on them;-)).

    Roop: It was not tht bad actually. He wd go to India every year for atleast 2 months & my mil wd make a visit here to Dubai atleast once or twice a year.
    But I think they were lucky enoff to get so much time together. I personally know so many families who see their men just for a month every year or 2 months once every 2years.
    Then there are families who go back to home country[like ours] for the childrens education coz a professional qualification is very expensive here. The father stays back to make the money & the mother goes with the kids to take care of them. Sad really, but its a way of life out here & its a sacrifice they make for their children.

    Rakesh: Thank U....such a beautiful compliment but frankly I feel its nothing special coz I just write it the way it is but do admit that I try hard to focus on the good stuff:-)).

    Sadiya: Staying with our elders whether in-laws or parents does have its moments. But if we just adjusted & compromised & focussed on the positives, it makes the whole journey a lot more easier:-)).

  33. Very touching post. I have yet to meet my FIL :O) ...hope he's as swell as my better half has described him to be :O)

  34. Hey superb narration! :)
    I am a fan of Laloo too, though initially was very skeptical of his capabilities. Now I feel every one deserves a second chance.

    so long!

  35. wow...really enjoyed reading it!!:)

  36. Hmmmm...I'm not gonna tell you how much I love (ahem,ahem) Laloo Prasad Yadav :p Let's forget that then...

    Alls well that ends well...I totally loved your honesty in this post :)


  37. every relationship is a two way thing isnt it? just this one relation with the inlaws is so very hyped.. and not for no reason ofcourse, not that i am married i can vouch fr that
    i am sure he also saw u as a daughter with another name

  38. wow...this is a great one....FIL & DIL relationship is quite something!!

    Thanks for dropping a line on my page!! Yes....last few weeks have been relocating to India after 2 solid years, tomorrow is the day of travel, so you can imagine;-) check out this if u get a chance

  39. Hey Reflections,

    It seems you have been a lucky one. I appreciate the way you respected your Father in Law and his views. And accordingly,you have been blessed with a wonderful second father. I assume your hubby must be very proud of you.

    Keep Smiling.

  40. I forgot to add that I prefer to give space to the children and personally I dont even enjoy sticking to them all the time:), By giving them spcae, I get my space also:)

  41. There's a song lyric that goes: you don't know what you got till its gone :)

    This was sweet reading....when my FIL came to stay with us, he too came into the kitchen one day when we were expecting dinner guests, absolutely insisting on helping. He's perhaps not as accomplished at cooking as your FIL, but still helps a lot at home. That's a memory I'll treasure always, us working together coz I know its a rare thing to happen for a FIL to help out like that.

  42. aww..Nancy..this is such sweet post :)

  43. amid all the saas-bahu sob serials... this one is a welcome relief....!!!

    Good to know that at least some people get along well with their in-law's

  44. What a wonderful read,Nancy.I cant say I could relate to it as I always had a pefect vibe with my FIL and I still do.And luckily both the fathers too got on very well with each other which was nice.Yes,with my MIL it was a different story,but I'd like to believe I was better off than my husband when it came to handling her behaviour.And I truly regret we,my MIL & I,didnt get enough opportunities to understand each other.May her soul rest in peace.

    You're lucky that way,Nance that you learnt to strike a balance with your FIL and vice versa,in time.It shows what a wonderful person you are to have acknowledged his greatness.

    And 'accchhoodaaa' to the rasmalai story!!

  45. Thanks for standing up for Rishi. But maybe this was what got me off the hook though:-) Hm.. a minefield of a subject here and you have presented it with the usual panache. Not sure if it is because I am not living with them but my good in-laws seem to just let me be and love the kids to no end.. It was fun for the few months they were here and I sorely miss the presence of elders in the house and my HMoms cooking tips and my HDad's childlike curiosity about everything new..

  46. Everyone has difficulties adjusting to their in-laws and yours doesn't seem that much of an issue...had fun reading your side of the story!

  47. Shades of Grey: If u like ur husband then usually the fil turns out to be an older version of him. So no fear;-D

    Lost world: agree with u & if we start checking the background its a sure fact tht almost 80% of the politicians have a some case or the other filed against them;-P

    Brocasearea: Thank U:-))!!!

    Still Thinking: U mean u love his bihari accent & hairstyle;-D!!!!!

    ISH: If the younger generation just realised tht one day they may face the same situation, quite a bit of the drama cd be avoided. And ofcourse if only the older generation were more open & tolerant;-D

    Durga: Thank U!!!
    Wow u r going back to India. Take care & get back to blogging soon. And I cant open ur link coz flickr is blocked here in UAE;-S.
    Is there anyother way u can show them to me????

    Prashanth Sree: Truthfully speaking, I dont think my father & I have ever spoken so much;-D.
    My husbands is a very quiet person...very hard to knw what he thinks....but yeah I dont hear any complaints;-P.

    Renu: Exactly....I firmly believe that if everybody followed ur route more than half the problems will be solved.

  48. aww thats such a sweet post... Humm since i havent stayed with my inlaws much its ok...they like me a lot and care a lot for me... but too mcuh caring gets to me at times...

  49. Shalom: Awww...thts really sweet of ur fil. U knw my father got into the kitchen ceremoniously just once a make chena varathade for my fil was a total surprise to me;-D

    Saima: Thank U...glad my post inspired u to put up something similar:-)).

    Abraham Menacherry: Thank U for the compliment:-))!!!!
    But its a known fact tht proximity causes most of the friction:-P.

    Deeps: I have touched just the tip of the iceberg....there's lots more to say but I didnt want the post to become too long:-)).
    And this achoodaaa is touchwood in hindi, right????? If it is, then 1 achooodaaa from me too;-D.

    Archana Gawde: Thank U:-))!!!!!!

    lan: U knw I've realised tht most of time friction occurs when the elders dont treat their children as adults tht they r.
    If both sides deal with every situation they r faced with maturity & tolerance, lot of this 'famed inlaw' issues can be avoided.
    And u r right, the grandparents give the children their undivided attention which we can never match upto;-P.

    Sindhu: Glad u enjoyed it. And Thank U:-))!!!!!!!!

    Enigma: Yeah well I do understand what u are getting at but dont u think more caring is better than not caring;-P

    Wannabewriter: Thank U:-))!!!!

  50. this was so beautiful to read Nancy...
    *touchwood* for this bond that you
    share with your FIL..

    the rasmalai one made me smile a lot :)

    god bless you and yours :)


    as for lalu ..:D LPY would have to take seven births to wash off all his sins ..
    what he has done to Bihar will take many lifetimes to mend..

  51. Indyeah: The rasmalai episode makes me smile in nostalgia too;-)).
    And LPY is no saint I agree but we have to give him his due for brings Indian Railways to profit. But finally I'd like to quote Winnie...And I agree with with both of you wrt Laloo.. its so hard to get good ministers.. but then criminals in politics is a big no no.. but then when we live in land of criminals.. a man who does some good has to be lauded no ?
    With this I rest my case ur honour;-D

  52. humm Well thats true more caring is better than no caring and all... But at times certain things and dialogues get to me and irritate me a lot... For example they prefer us to be at home the full time (which I hate and cant handle) then we went for a 2nd show movie at night with friends and they were so pissed, wouldnt talk next day coz hubby took me late at night which they consider is not good and all coz world is not safe... I know its out of care for me, but i need to live life in my own terms not according to rules

  53. Ya, those lines of advice are
    echoed here too :-)
    Though it might be a pain we cannot ignore the expereince that comes with their age.

    And haan Nancy,I couldn't get your mail address from the blogger profile. So requesting you to drop a mail here

    Invite bhejna hain:-)

  54. This post was absolutely wonderful!!!!

  55. tee hee fil is fond of debating too...he's visiting these days, and doesn't leave any opportunity to trap us into fun arguments :D
    This is a lovely post :)

  56. Your tale is so similar to mine that I was wondering if I do have a co sis-in-law :D Nice post Nancy. Now FIL is back in India and I think of him often.


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