How can an update about a marriage be complete without talking about the mother in-law? So here I go…My hard rock-loving-guitar-playing-meat-eating-at-the-drop-of-a-hat-alcohol-sipping-and-not-so-religious husband has got a Hari-Om-Hari-Om-Chanting mother. So between the two extremes, I went eiyeiya karung mein kya suku suku.
First lesson, she told me not to take the husband’s name. Not taking the name is ok but in Manipur, women often address their husbands as brother. I came to know that Malayalis and some other communities also practise this. A lovelorn gentleman would be writing to his ladylove like this,
” Dear Sister,
Ever since I saw you, my heart has been going ping pong...
I hope my dearest sister would understand my feelings. I shall wait for you in the Love Nest restaurant.
Your loving brother “
So, until we have a kid in which case, S would be Chintoo ke papa or Meenu ke papa, we would be bhai ben. S intervened and said, ‘nothing doing!’ and I was saved from calling him 'brother'. However, I did not take his name in front of her. So the conversations went,”Please come here. Food is ready. Please bring that”. I used to do this to my sister when we fought. “Mom said food is ready” with a straight face and not address her directly.
The next thing was about religion. The world and everything else came from Hari and therefore, I must entrust my life to him. Then she also added that once you are married, your husband is your God. I don’t know if S was getting promoted to Hari or Hari was getting demoted to S. So, mission ‘please the mom-in-law’ was like conquering Saichen. For the few days that I was with her, I entrusted my life to Hari and hoped that he would do something to please her. There were rituals to be followed everyday starting from having to change clothes many times and worshipping God (many, including Hari) a number of times.
One day, she asked me to cook and just sat in the kitchen. My! I cook fairly well but this was judgement day. I was very conscious even about the way I was holding the knife and cutting vegetables. Suddenly, my mom’s advice from the past years came to mind. “Some families, cook like this, some people like being served like this. See that the utensils do not make much noise when you cook or serve. Never say that you do it like this but always ask your mom-in-law how it has to be done.” I think every mother trains her daughter from day one to be a daughter-in-law. I used to hate it and say, "I’ll do it when I have to and I‘ll manage even if I don’t know", but finally her words became handy because my mom-in-law gave me tips on how she does things.
I am back to my shorts, T shirts, boiled eggs and Maggie, cook only one meal a day, that too with S helping me most of the time and pray ( a short one) before I leave for work and not at dawn. I know I could never live up to my mom-in-law’s expectations. She said she cooked for 17 people from the day she got married. The max I cooked was for 11 people and that gave me a severe back ache later as I am not conditioned. Those were her values and the only yardstick for measuring someone and I don’t really mind. Infact, she told me, “I know you are not going to follow many of the things that I do here but I just wanted you to know them”.
S knows I have failed and failed miserably, but he is mighty pleased because I tried. I also sing Usha Uthup’s song, ‘Hari Om Hari’ when I think of my mom-in-law.