Thanking God a million times would not be enough for giving me such a lovely family, a loving husband and a caring mother-in-law. Lucky is such a small word. I am much more than that. This is a perfect family which anyone can dream of.
My name is Sia. I play the role of a happy daughter-in-law in this drama of ‘The Perfect Family’ which is performed in from of the society. So well we fool them all. The fact is we are as frustrated as any other normal family, if not worse. An always complaining, hard to please husband! Things could’ve been little better in the absence of cunning, selfish, dominating mother-in-law. She made me uncomfortable the day I entered this house after marriage by telling me what to wear, how to behave, whom to talk and whom not to talk. I clearly conveyed that I being an educated, independent grown up, don’t need to learn all that. The degree of disliking and discomfort with each other has been increasing since then and it’s been over a year now. No wonder she is single and none of her relatives like her. To avoid tension in the house, we both have maintained a distance between each other. Living with her was a compulsion. First, my husband is one mamma’s boy, who is indebted to his mother’s so-called sacrifices for him, and secondly, he cannot afford a house of our own at this stage of his career.
Our routines were settled as involving minimum interactions between the two of us. This routine was given a shake when the trial of the Odd-Even traffic scheme was introduced. My mother-in-law and I drive to work every morning in the same direction. I have got an even-numbered car and she’s got an odd-numbered one. However, pooling a car with her meant driving for about two hours together in a car, No way! I tried contacting my colleagues and friends to coordinate for car pool, so did she, but we both were unsuccessful. Finally my husband persuaded both of us by assuring that it’s just a matter of 15 days.
Then comes the first day of the ride, level of distress cannot be expressed in words, that one hour felt like a million years, finally the drive of agony ended but with a fright about the next 14 days. I spent the whole day at work preparing myself for the evening drive. In the evening, I tried to keep myself busy reading, but reading in the car given me nausea and the journey became intolerable.
The second day was a little better because I was driving and I am sure it was equally uneasy for her as it was for me the day before. Luckily, she got quite a few phone calls and remained occupied in them for whole journey. Though I tried to avoid listening to her conversations, but still could overhear as much to conclude that she was talking about some wedding and showing her inability to do something which was expected from her. I kept on thinking about her conversations all day; my curiosity couldn’t stop me from enquiring from her on the way back. With great reluctance she told me that she is arranging the wedding of an orphaned niece of hers, far off in her paternal village, which is to take place in two weeks. However, due to her work commitments and restrictions on mobility due to this odd-even rule, she was not able to make preparations, which primarily included buying clothes for the bride. I don’t know why I volunteered. I told her that I don’t mind stopping for shopping on our way back the next day and the next evening we ended up shopping together. I must admit shopping for me is fun, even if it’s not for me and the expression of gratitude from her made it better. That night I opened my closet and pulled out tens of brand-new seal-packed sarees from my wedding, showed her the stuff and my willingness to gift for the wedding. She happily accepted the proposal.
The next few drives included conversations about the preparations and arrangements of the wedding. She told me that her paternal family is financially weak. She herself as a young girl living in the suburbs of Delhi had to struggle for continuing her education. Her strength at academics got her a few scholarships and she managed to finish graduation. Soon after graduating, she was married off in a village to a very conservative family. A family where the daughter-in-law was supposed to do household chores including taking care of cattle. Her husband being a male chauvinist always mistreated her. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that if one interfering person, that is my mother-in-law can give me this unbearable sting, then what kind of pain she must have gone through in such an orthodox family.
She told me that she had a slight of luck in the form of a relatively supportive father-in-law, with whose help she pursued her private M.A. She had a baby boy during this duration. She bore the torture of her husband until she came to know that her husband had an extramarital affair. She took this bold step of moving out of that painful relation and household with a two-year-old child. She moved to Delhi and bought this flat with the alimony she received.
When I think of myself, moving out of my comfortable parental house for job to another well-managed flat with a well-paid job and along with a group of friendly co-workers was such hard step for me. I can only try to understand how difficult it would have been for her to move out with a no financial and moral assurance; on top of that she had the responsibility of raising a child.
She started with a small, low-paying teaching job at a local school with the privilege of free preschool for the staff kids. She obtained her B.Ed. degree privately and gradually raised to her present status of the headmistress of a well-known school of the city.
I could easily imagine how difficult life would have been for single mother back then. I have been proud of myself as I have always been a good student, always achieved the goals both academically and later professionally. Yet, I always enjoyed the financial privileges and moral support of my parents.
Today I’m here to drop her at the railway station for the wedding. These few days of driving together brought in winds of change in what I feel for her. A feeling of admiration has staring taking over and I don’t have any embarrassment or shame in accepting that I have started feeling a sense of pride for her. We have started to come closer and I’m looking forward for a better relationship when she comes back.