I can write a Russian novella when it comes to many moods of my mother but my first-hand experience with a Mother-in-law is fairly nascent. One and a half year of being a daughter-in-law and a lifetime of being a daughter gives me enough knowledge of the subject matter, or that’s what I think. But we have all heard our mothers say – “Beta, jab tum maa banoge tab pata chalega”. I have often wondered if this is a fair warning or a threat!
Nonetheless, there is no better time to write about mothers than the wonderful spring month of May. Well, it is still “Frühlingswetter” in Munich; but I digress. There is something about May and Mothers, suddenly the whole world is in a frenzy to make their mum feel wonderful! It can be tiresome, to say the least, to be bombarded by the variety of “Mothers’ day gifts” advertisements.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a sentimentalist to the core and absolutely love my mother and the darling mother-in-law, but the pomp and show of a day are just beyond me. It has been written and discussed, and declared as an “invasion by the western culture” by many a grandparents and politicians alike.
So why am I writing about this now? You see, my relationship with my mother has seen many a summer, and not to mention the stone-cold silence winters that every mother-daughter relationship goes through owing to disagreements over boyfriends, books to read, appropriate clothes, career choices and anything under the sun that you can think of. Occasional childish rebellion aside (on both our parts), we love each other to bits.
The love, however, needs some declaring, something to the effect of the declaration of peace after war. Somebody needs to carry the oh-so-heavy burden of making sure the other person knows about all the love that you carry in your heart and around your waistline.
Being a true Punjabi, my mother taught me the quintessential Punjabi-bahu must-haves – how to cook finger-licking good chicken/mutton, look beautiful at a notice of a mili-second and using the choicest of words when driving, bitching, or just when you need to spice up a conversation. Hai ni, hun may ki dassa!
All along, she also taught me to question the status quo, how to drill a hole in the wall and change a tyre on your own. She taught me that you don’t need a man to make you feel strong and powerful, but you do need a man to love and to hold. She taught me that challenging is not always wrong but to also know when to bow down and accept. She also taught me about our religion and how it means absolutely nothing to be religious if one is not kind towards others. In short, she taught me the difference between growing old and growing up.
And then I found myself a wonderful, most handsome, crazy, geeky guy to get married to. While the exhilaration and anticipation of getting married to the love of your life were still bubbling, I had seen enough soap operas with my mother. Ekta Kapoor had done a splendid job in replacing Dracula with the modern-day Mother-in-law. Vicious, plotting and conniving – one of their favourite pastimes being sucking our the Daughter-in-law’s blood like sipping a martini. I was to get married and the nightmares of the witchy mother-in-law were haunting me day and night. Too much TV is most certainly a bad thing.
It has been more than a year that I have my very own mother-in-law. No, she doesn’t have Dracula teeth or that horrifyingly enormous red bindi (she wears human-sized one), she most certainly doesn’t give me sideway glances while plotting against me. Things are different than with my mum, I don’t get to use the vocabulary I had worked hard to build up or get to play cards to the crack of the dawn but we do our own things, like watching endless episodes of Savdhaan India! And I love it. It’s different but it’s mine.
This brings me to another thing my mother taught me – what you make of your reality is your decision.
And I chose to have two mothers instead of a mother and a mother in law.
May is a good month to let them both know that they are loved and cherished. Mother’s day is not about running to the market to buy the most sterling neckpiece ever; because admit it, highly likely, mum will lock it up in the safe and never wear it should it get lost or spoilt. Mother’s day is also not about selfies, quick after-office calls or gift cards. It’s about gratitude, about acknowledging the lifetime of scolding, correcting, teaching and loving by our mothers.
It is also about raising a toast to Mothers-in-law who wholeheartedly accept us into their houses, families and hearts, who raise their sons to be wonderful husbands and fathers. It’s not just a celebration of motherhood, it is a Lifetime- Achievement Award that is well deserved by my mothers and yours.