In keeping with the changing times, mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law seem to be bonding better, writes Subha J Rao
Priya, an introvert, grew up in a home where ‘military’ discipline prevailed. No one raised their voice at home, and any resentment was buried deep inside. And then, she was married into a fun-loving family where her mother-in-law, Rekha, cracked most of the jokes.
At first, Priya was shocked that there could be so much laughter around the house. For, she had been fed on stories of mothers-in-law being tyrants whose only goal was to make one cry. To her surprise, Rekha slowly drew her out of her shell, and taught herself to enjoy life, argue, and make her opinion known. Over their decade-long association, the duo has had differences of opinion and minor fights, but Priya says she will never trade her mom-in-law for anything in the world.
“We are best friends. I love my mother, but adore my mom-in-law. She helped me find an identity in life,” says Priya. And, Rekha loves being around a daughter who looks up to her, and is her best shopping companion.
Okay, long-drawn soaps will have you believe the world is peopled by vile mothers-in-law, and even more vicious bahus, who are perennially looking for a chance to pull each other down. But, times have changed. For many, a mother-in-law (MIL) is actually a mom-in-love, and both parties are reaping the benefits of a great bonding.
For instance, take Bala (70) and Meena (30), who have bonded over chain stitch. Bala grew up without a mother, and found a mother in her MIL, who also lost her mom early in life. “She understood me perfectly. She looked after me when I was pregnant, handled my delivery, and nursed me back to health,” says Bala.
Now, Bala handles her daughter-in-law (DIL) Meena with the same love. “As years go by, a MIL and DIL get closer, and understand each other better.” After seven-odd years of togetherness, Bala has passed on her expertise with the needle to Meena, an eager student. “She is a quick learner, and does good needlework,” she gushes. Her happiest MIL-moment? “When Meena confides in me. It shows her trust and love, and that makes me very happy. I missed having a daughter around the house. She fills the gap.”
Many women say one of the reasons for the changing equations between the two women in a house is the fact that they don’t sit idle. Many MILs are educated, and working; as are the DILs. And, the little time spent together is just enough to know each other better, and ensure the smooth running of the home.
At times, it is the small, everyday issues that matter. The bigger things don’t pose that much of a problem, because they take place only occasionally. Rajalakshmi, a teacher, remembers how her conservative mother-in-law trod new ground by gifting her things she liked, even though they were not exactly ‘traditional’. “I grew up disliking silk saris, and gold jewellery. A couple of years after I got married, my mother-in-law Meena, grew to accept my point of view and my fondness for cotton garments and jewellery in a variety of materials. She would buy silk for my co-sisters, but get me cotton. And, whenever she makes anything in gold for the other daughters-in-law, I get a vadachery (temple jewellery) choker.”
On her part, Rajalakshmi has learnt to ignore her dear MIL’s short temper. Such acceptance has definitely brought the two closer. Meena’s latest ‘generous’ act? Offering to buy Rajalakshmi a ghagra-choli she admired at a wedding reception.
Let peace prevail
Surya, who raised three sons, and happily gave them in marriage to girls of their choice (from different parts of the country), says that mothers-in-law are now willing to let go of thorny issues because they want their kids to live happily. “At times, your conservative conditioning protests, but what finally matters is that the family should stay happy. It is no use holding on to your theories and sacrificing the peace at home.”
“One more reason for the bonding is that more and more girls are moving to a different city, state, or even a new country once they are married, and are more open to accepting a new mother figure in their lives,” says Bala.
Agrees Swathi, who was nursed back to health by her mother-in-law after a bad bout of typhoid. “My mother could not come over; instead, my mother-in-law flew down, took charge of the entire home and my health. At the end of her ten-day stay, I had thrown out whatever misgivings I had about her. I could only see a person so filled with love for her son and his wife.”
And, mothers-in-law too seem to know where to draw the line. Alisha, who lives with her husband and child, appreciates the effort her mother-in-law takes to not change the arrangements at home during her yearly visits. “She never moves things around without asking us. She need not, but she accepts and understands that this is our space, and that we like it that way.”
With the number of happy MILs and DILs increasing, wherever will TV creative heads look for inspiration for their soppy serials?