Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Still an out-law?

Is the New Age mom-in law in tune with the changing times? Jessina Aboobacker assesses the infamous 'saas-bahu' relationship.

WINSOME TWOSOME: A relationship that has stood the test of changing times.

WITH JOINT households giving way to nuclear families, the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law friction points have reduced to almost nil. But the mother-in-law continues to be a bogeyman for new brides. A most infamous of relationships, it is often said that "If broken by mother-in-law, its an earthen pot, if by daughter-in-law, it's a golden vessel." Why does the very utterance of the word "Mother-in-Law" bring a scowl on every unattached and married woman's face? This notorious rapport has been written down in history as a one of reciprocal abhorrence. Even the media is lending a helping hand, by portraying episodes on the sliver screen that further promotes the deterioration of the relationship.


The wedding jitters and glitters have drawn to a close, and all the reminiscence are neatly assembled in your wedding folder; the honeymoon has been meandered through and the number of visits and parties are slowly diminishing. Now, its time to get into the serious business of accepting, and being accepted into the connubial family. " Before I was married I was advised by all and sundry to ingratiate myself with all the members of the in-laws amicably. Everybody had a spoonful of advice to contribute to my conjugal dish. But I was bedevilled with internal conflicts when faced with reality and the answer to it was millennia away. Each family is different. We should unearth our own solutions to tackle the circumstances," says Geetha Manoj, a bank official.

The onus of this fragile assignment is primarily positioned on the shoulder of the daughter-in-law, to make the silky transition from her biological family to her nuptial family. And she is ever enthusiastic to make this smooth conversion in a harmonious manner, than all her other current and former acquaintances. But this glossy operation is tedious exclusive of apposite support. "Paradoxical as it may sound, his family is always his. Do not try to trade it for yours. Be yourself and try to bust the `ideal daughter-in-law' image. It's your marriage that should be the epicentre of your life; all the other relationships will follow. But this job will be deficient without the aid of all the family members," advises Gopinathan, a counsellor.

Kitchen mystique

Women consider themselves the sovereign of the kitchen. "Relationship administration, in a joint family revolves around understanding, what in management jargons are called decontrolled and empowerments. The aptitude to acknowledge the reality as a changed circumstance, and the ability to become accustomed to this change, is the triumphant anecdote of decontrol."

Says Saradha Menon, a retired professor and mother-in-law of Geetha Manoj. " Giving away is painful, be it the love of your son or the household responsibilities. But we ought to give away, make this sacrifice gradually and whole heartedly to maintain family truce." She adds.


Tolerance is the only tonic for this infection. There is difference in generation and this fact has to be acknowledged by both the generations in question. It may not be easy for the mother-in-law to recognise a non-interventionist member from the current generation, who has her own liberal views on various aspects of life. Similarly, it may not be easy for the daughter-in-law to accept a conservative and opinionated member from the older generation. "It is here that the two generations should strike a tactful balance. Both the people can take a couple of steps forward or backward and meet at a common platform. This could crack a lot of marital discord for the couple as well." Says Mr. Gopinath.

Give and take

Every relationship thrives on this beam balance of give and take. Give more than you take and take only as much as you give. Do not pin too much expectations, as each is an individual and they have limitations. Try to make a smooth sailing in the troubled waters of marriage. " The first question my friends in college threw on me after my marriage was - how is the mother-in-law? By that time we did not even get a chance to talk to each other in length. I think we ought to communicate all our thoughts to our mothers- in-law as we do to our mothers and then we'll find them opening up

to us as they do to their daughters. This could also begin from the other end if you are fortunate enough." Says Dr. Shijeena Ahmed.

Vicious cycle

"Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are like the tempest and the hailstorm", goes another maxim. This relationship is like any other relationship and needs maintenance. But due to the hype imparted to this relationship it is always misunderstood as a step motherly one. Todays daughter-in-law is tomorrows mother-in-law. History will repeat. But this bitterness should be done away with. That is why a day of the year, October 24, is dedicated as Mother-in-law's day. " I was not aware that such a day existed until my friend told me. This mother-in-law's day I have decided to treat my mother-in-law at the most unsurpassed restaurant in the city, just the two of us, to commemorate our relationship. Without her support and timely helping hands I would still be a novice in the game of marriage," says an overwhelmed Ms. Aarthy Kumar.

The balancing act

The men in the family can play an important role in this relationship. " When I become a father-in-law and my wife a mother-in-law, we will very willingly give the reigns of the household to the next generation and lead a very peaceful and carefree retired life. This way we can live in a happy ambiance. I have saved for my retired life so I will not burden my son with the responsibility of taking care of us, " says Mr. Jacob, a bank employee. So, do not leave a gap for trouble to be sandwiched between relationships. Fill the gap, and play a fair game in the name of love. More hard work after a hard day's work!


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