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.
*Appachan = Grandfather in Malayalam
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