Sharada was ready. Just before stepping out, she looked at her reflection in the mirror. A lovely lady in her fifties, wearing a gorgeous traditional silk saree stared back at her. She was wearing a glittering bindi and had even tried on the new lipstick her niece had given her for just this occasion. She wore a handful of gold bangles and bracelets, studded with diamonds to match with her necklace and earrings; she also wore toe-rings that peeked out with every step she took – understated toe-rings that spoke nothing of the fact that they were custom made, just for her.
Sharada smiled at her reflection, and just before the thoughts caught up with her, decided to move on. Now was not the time to give in to those thoughts.
It was time to go downstairs and join her husband Ram, in welcoming their guests for the evening. Today they were giving a grand reception to her youngest daughter-in-law. Funny how the mind works, she thought. Most people wouldn’t put it this way. They would say she was celebrating the wedding of her youngest son. And she was. But that was not the only way she thought of this occasion.
Soon the function was underway. Sharada greeted each guest with her customary welcoming smile and warm manner. Most of the people gathered here today to bless the young couple were people whom Sharada had known for ages. They had seen her through her ups and downs in life; and that was one of the reasons she was keen that they be part of this very special day. But there were others here too, who didn’t know her very well, but were business partners with her husband and her sons. And then there were some people who were not here today. People who she wished were here though, to see how things went on, to shower their blessings on the young couple (which she was sure they would do whole-heartedly); but most of all, she wanted them to be here on this day to see what she was planning to do.
Oh yes, she had big plans tonight. As the evening droned on, she thought how she had planned on doing this very thing a long, long time ago when she was a young bride herself and had walked into Ram’s one bedroom house all those years ago. She had thought of this all through her marriage to Ram, all through her journey with him, all through their good days and bad. It wasn’t something to be easily forgotten by anyone, least of all someone as sensitive as Sharada. Everyone always said forgive and forget; there is no point living in the past; but oh, what did they know!
Sharada was pulled out of her reverie when Ram tugged at her elbow. It was time to see their guests off. It was time for them to thank everyone for coming. And after the guests left, it was time for the family to come together and have their meal together. It was time for Sharada to put her plan in action.
When everyone had gathered at the table, Sharada called her new daughter-in-law near her and told her to hold her hands out.
“ Beta, you have stolen the heart of our beloved Krishna who rules over all our hearts. Do you think I am going to let you go so easily?” she said.
Not knowing what to make of this, the new bride looked up to her uncertainly. Sharada put two shining diamond studded Kangan in her daughter-in-law’s hand. “These are yours, along with my Krishna, from now on.” Sharada smiled and said.
The girl’s eyes grew wide with surprise and joy. “Wow! Mummy, these are so beautiful!” she gushed. "And they are of the latest design! Not old fashioned or traditional as one would expect heirlooms to be!” she said.
“That is because they are not an heirloom, my dear,” Sharada said. She looked across at Ram. She thought he was about to say something, but her son said, “They are not an heirloom you say?”
Oh, her sweet Krishna who had no idea!
“Yes, Krishna, they are not an heirloom. They haven’t been passed on from generation to generation in this household as most of your Hindi movies would have you believe. No. I had them made, especially for today, for your bride. So I could welcome my daughter-in-law properly in our home.
Daughters-in-law are considered as manifestations of Goddess Lakshmi in our culture. They bring us love, joy and prosperity. In turn, all they ask is acceptance. But that simple thing they don’t sometimes get.
Let me tell you a story. There was a girl who loved a boy when she was really young. She was lucky enough to have the boy love her back and fight for them to spend their life together.
But she was never warmly welcomed in her new home by her mother-in-law. She loved her husband, of course; and stood by him in all his ups and downs, working hard with him to build a successful life.
Eventually they got very prosperous and donated tons to charity. Everyone was happy, everything turned out well. But not one person in her husband’s family ever said anything to her about the part she played in their son’s success. She got no acceptance and no credit either.”
When Sharada looked around, she saw everyone listening with rapt attention and waiting for her to say more. She smiled and continued,
“Just like you kids, this girl too had watched movies. She too had expected to be given the so-called welcoming Kangan that were her right as the new daughter-in-law of the house. But she never even received a single piece of jewellery, other than the mandatory wedding ring from her in-laws all her life! When her husband became successful, she owned a lot of jewellery – she had the finest pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds – but there was something missing that always nagged at her. She could never forget the Kangan that she never got.
Eventually when her children grew up, she decided she would not make this mistake as a mother-in-law. She knew that some things matter only at certain times in a girl’s life and she didn’t want any of the girls walking into her home harbor the yearning that she had.”
When she finished her story, Sharada looked directly at Ram. And this time she saw him nodding at her with glistening eyes. He knows. She realised. And then she bit her tongue. Of course! He must have always known.
She turned to her daughter-in-law and hugged her, “Welcome to our home, dear daughter,” she said.