It is but one week since you got married and went to your in law’s house.But to us it seems as if some years have passed.I and your father miss you so much.
Today morning I went to the garden to collect flowers for puja.I looked at the jasmine bush ,tears filled my eyes and I came inside without plucking flowers.You only used to pluck flowers from the garden,you would not allow anyone else to go near the flowering plants,so much so that the ayah who has been working in our house for years used to get bugged with you.I felt as if even the plants did not want me to come near them.
Your father has asked me three times in this one week whether we could go and see you in your in law’s house.I said,”No.We should give her time to settle down in her home and we should not disturb her at all.”He is very upset with me.He is sitting in the verandah,reading the newspaper.His eyes are on the same page for the past fifteen minutes,I know that he is thinking about his daughter,the apple of his eyes.
My dear Nimmoo,when your marriage was finalized and we were getting ready for the same,there were many things that I wanted to tell you.Iwanted to tell you about my days as a new bride in your grandparents’ house.I wanted to share with you the anxieties,the expectations the dreams that I had, when I entered my in laws’ house and how I blossomed from a shy quiet,withdrawn girl into a confident,capable and a caring housewife,a caring daughter in law who had won the hearts of her in laws.But due to some reason I did not share my thoughts with you.First in the hurry burry of making arrangements for a grand wedding for you,I just did not have the time to sit with you leisurely and chat.Secondly, more than being mother and daughter, we are good friends,I did not want you to think that I was giving you loads and loads of advice.
Now that Iam all by myself and you are in my thoughts all the time,Iam writing this letter to you,telling you what all I wanted to tell you in person. Dear Nimmoo, My mother started training me to to don the mantle of a daughter in law, right from when I was a fifteen year old girl. On holidays she made me stand by her side in the kitchen and taught me cooking.All of a sudden she would ask me,”Saro,I told you that you have to add grated coconut to this masala for making sambhar.But,supposing there is no coconut at home what will you do?” I would blink.She would smile and say,”If coconut is not there,you should not immediately send some one to the market to get a coconut.You should be able to make tasty sambhar even without coconut”and she would proceed to tell me how a table spoon of fried gram dhal power added to the masala to be ground would taste good.
Similarly,she taught me how to make different tyes of pickles,papads,sweets ansd savouries.Well I found these sessions with your patti very interesting.I learnt from her how to draw rangoli,embroidery,doll making etc etc.
Holidays were tuition sessions with my mother for me.She would often tell me,”If you don’t know even this your future MIL will definitely take you to task.If you don’t serve food properly your MIL will pounce on you”so on and so forth.One day my father, who happened to listen to one such outburst from my mother shouted at her,”Don’t say,your MIL will say this and your MIL will say that to that young girl.Don’t make that woman whom we have not even seen, seem like a rakshasi to her.She will begin to dislike her MIL or have unnecessary fear for her.”
He turned to me and said,”Saro,no MIL is a bad person.Remember that the woman who would become your MIL is also a woman,a mother.Your relationship with your MIL will be mostly in your hands.You should treat her as your own mother only.Don’t you quarrel with your mother and then make it up with her?,It should be the same with a MIL also.”
My dear Nimmoo,that advice from your grandfather to me,paved the way for my future happiness in my in laws’ house.
My marriage with your father was finalized and my marriage was a grand affair.As the time for my departure to my in laws’ house neared,my mother became very anxious.I told my mother,”Amma,don’t worry about me.I will conduct myself well in my in laws’ house,fulfill all my duties as the daughter in law of the house to every one’s satisfaction and rest assured amma,I will bring you good name”. Nimmoo,in my in laws’ house everyone was nice to me.Your father doted on me.After a few days of my entering the house,I iold my MIL,”Amma,from today onwards let me cook the meals.You can take rest,amma”.My MIL took one look at me and said,”Yes,Saro.You only take care of the kitchen”and went to her room.
I was very excited.I wanted to impress my inlaws with my culinary skill.I took pains and made many items that day.I packed lunch for your father and your chittappa also.The lunch hour came all of us sat down to eat.Your grandfather,grand mother and your athai ate the food without making any comment.They finished eating,got up and left the table.I was expecting praises from them for making a fantabulous lunch,but no word of appreciation from them.I did not know that I was in for a shock.My brother n law reurned from office,he went straight to his mother and asked her in an angry tone,”Who made lunch today?” “Why,Ramu,your manni made lunch today and she only packed lunch for you.”
Your chittappa ie my brother in law exploded,”From today, you only make my lunch.If manni wants, let her cook for anna,but certainly not for me,The lunch was terrible.There was no salt,no taste and I just could not eat the food.”So saying he went away.I was shocked to say the least.I thought that I was an excellent cook and somebody said that he just could not eat the food that I made.I waited for your father’s reaction when he returned home,he did not praise me and he did not blame me also.
I felt like crying but my mother’s face came in front of me. “Saro,even if someone says something harsh o you or about you,never react.Don’t show your anger or irritation on your face,be patient,be receptive to elders’ advice.”
I wiped my face,kept a smiling face and acted as if nothing happened. Th next morning I entered the kitchen and told my MIL,”Amma,even your son feels that my cooking is not like yours.Please let me learn from you.”Your grandmom was pleased that I was not upset over my BIL’s comment.I stayed put with my MIL in the kitchen when she cooked.I was her assistant,I ground masala for her,what ever she told me to do I did,I kept a close watch on the way she cooked,the masala she used etc.My MIL taught me all that she knew,slowly I got the hang of her cooking.It was a holiday,my MIL said she was not well and took rest.So I made food,all the time feeling very apprehensive.After eating lunch,my FIL told your grandmother,”Our DIL cooks so well,Kamala.Hereafterwards let her only cook.After a long time I enjoyed a tasty lunch.” My BIL said,”Manni the lunch was excellent.Coming Sunday,my friends are coming home for lunch.Will you please ,make lunch for us?They will go gag a over the food made by you.”Your father was smiling all the while.Needless to say that I was overwhelmed by happiness and my MIL was smiling proudly.
Nimmoo,a man or woman also for that matter,grows up eating the food made by his mother.His taste buds are used to that taste,whether she makes spicy food or bland food.So he cannot enjoy any other taste as much as he enjoys his mother’s cooking.An intelligent wife will understand this and learn the trick of the trade from her MIL.Whatever you say,the easy way to a man’s and the in laws’ hearts is through their stomach.
My cousin who also got married at the same time as I, had problems with her MIL. She would complain to her mother that her MIL kept the keys of the cash box with her and she decided the menu,she decided the anmount to be spent on vegetables,she was all in all.There were frequent fights between MIL and DIL over this issue and before long,my cousin convinced her DH that they should set up their separate home and did exactly that.
In my case also, my MIL only ran the family,she only spent the money.But I just did not bother about this aspect at all.I was busy trying to mingle with the family and learn to nurture the relationships that God had blessed me with.So I was relieved that I did not have to oversee the making of the family budget spending of the money.I never interfered in this at all,not realizing that this characteristic of mine had endeard me to my FIL and MIL.
I want to tell you about Prema athai,the athai you are very fond of.When I got married and went to my in laws’ house your athai was a fifteen year old girl.She was your father’s only sister and he doted on her.She also treated him as a father figure.He used to take her out,get her things etc.So when I went to their house as your father’s wife,the most important person in his life, she was a little disturbed.Your father doted on me, we went out, whenever we had time and certainly in the week ends.Prema did not like the intrusion of another woman even though his wife in his life.She was sullen,she refused to talk to me and if she did she was rude to me and went out of the way to make me understand that her brother belonged to her and her only.
Nimmoo,thank God,I understood her feelings.I was always nice to her.When I and your father went out, many times we took her also with us.I persuaded her to wear my jewellery, when we attended functions.I bought nice things for her when I returned from visiting my parents.When her friends came home, I made tasty snacks for them.But all this had no effect on Prema,nimmoo.She continued to be sullen and sulky.
After about five years her marriage was finalized.My MIL kept me with her and took me into confidence in all aspects of the arrangements made for the marriage.
There were a couple of days left for the marriage,I was busy in my room writing addresses on the envelopes carrying the marriage invitation cards.Suddenly my sister in law Prema, the bride to be,entered my room,closed the door ,kept her head on my shoulder and started crying.I was taken aback.What had happened to upset her so much,did anyone say anything rude to her?Iasked her.
She said even while sobbing,”Manni,please do forgive me for being rude to you all these years.Manni,even though I was rude to you,even though I always considered you an outsider,you were always nice to me.You were like a mother to me.Now I am getting married.Iam going to be the daughter in law of a big family,will I ever be like you,will I ever earn the love and respect that you have earned here in our house?Iam afraid,manni?”.
I was speechless.I hugged her and we became good friends from that moment.The friendship has thrived and now you and Prema aunty’s daughter are great friends,by God’s grace.
Th3 biggest compliment to me that I cherish to this day came to me at the time of Preme athai’s wedding.My MIL told my parents in the presence of every one,”Lakshmi,look out for a girl for my second son.She should be like our elder daughter in law Saroja.Saro has become my backbone,you know,she takes care of the entire family.Iam sure that even after we are gone,Saro will continue to be a mother to my daughter and second son”My parents were overwhelmed,my mother looked at me with great affection and pride.This is the only way I could thank my parents for all that they have done for me and the love they carried in their hearts for me.
Nimmoo,you may say,”Ok,amma you had a great MIL and FIL. Your DH loved you everything was ok,so what is the big issue in getting a good name?”Nimmoo,everything was not hunkydory in our house ,my dear.My MIL and I also had our misunderstandings,there were many days when my MIL would not speak to me.My BIL would refuse to eat the food made by me.My SIL shouted at me and I also must have shouted at her.But I always remembered the words of my father,your grandpa.He said,”No MIL is a bad woman by birth.She is also a woman with many expectations,she would have sacrificed so much for the welfare of her children.So don’t treat her or look at her as an abnormal person whose only aim in life is to make life miserable for you.When you have fights with your mom ,do you carry it in your heart?No,you talk to her the next minute as a loving daughter,no?Be the same with your MIL also.”
I followed his advice and by God’s grace my life was smooth.
Your grand parents ie my MIL and FIL lived till their eighties,they were happy in their old age and I took pleasure in caring for them.
My dear Nimmoo,have I bored you?Ok,one and only advice to you,my child.I was a home maker and not a working woman.So taking care of all the members of the family,cooking for them was not a problem for me.But you are a working woman. So prioratise your work so that
Life does not become hectic for you.
Being a working woman has its advantages and disadvantages.You are financially self sufficient,that gives you the confidence to face life with courage.But it is also a disadvantage,because one harsh look,one harsh word to any of your in laws ,that is all.You will be branded a headstrong, arrogant girl and it would be almost impossible for you to shirk off that image.In your office you are a manager with so many people reporting to you.But when you come home,remember that you are a loving wife,a caring daughter in law and a friendly sister in law. That is how it should be.
Did I tell you about a friend of mine,a golden hearted girl who loved her in laws but they shrugged her off and she generally could not gel with her in laws,because… I will tell you in my next post my dear child.You must be tired after a hectic honeymoon trip. Take care of yourself s well as your in laws and your DH. We miss you a lot,waiting to come over to your place just to see you.