Calling your mother-in-law your mother won't make it hum saath saath hain
Why are young women ready to take new people for their parents and struggle in a relationship that is supposed to be equal?
- Total Shares
Few years ago, a friend confided in me that her mother-in-law had made it abundantly clear as to how the dynamics would pan out between them.
Newly married then, she was upset because her mother-in-law had requested her not address her as "ma" or "mom" but as "aunty".
She had also added, "Why pretend? We know we are not mother and daughter." I was sad that she'd been hurt at the time but when I look back, I feel differently. Nothing wrong had been said.
A mother-in-law simply cannot look at her daughter-in-law in the same way as she looks at her daughter. It's silly to expect otherwise. The same goes for the daughter-in-law.
Yet, many of us would feel enraged by this very suggestion because it threatens the ties of a family, particularly one where the woman moves to her husband's house after marriage.
If you are not living with your in-laws, all's well right? Not necessarily. India is obsessed with the Suraj Barjatya-style family where everything is happy and everyone is together.
Even from afar, the hum saath saath hain complex can have a massive bearing on your life. Regular, sugary-sweet phone calls made bang on time, some banal chit chat that indirectly, but always veers towards how you should be as a woman or the mindless encroachment of privacy where you are literally asked about your sex life, monthly cycle and babies are a normal fixture of life. Having a bad day?
Too bad. As a woman, you have to smile and be "nice". Women don't disagree with their in-laws and usually don't express their opinion.
If you wonder how your boundaries could be breached so blatantly, well, they were gone the day a stranger claimed to be your new mamma!
So, in this scenario, when someone says, "call me aunty please," it's refreshing. It would be even more refreshing to hear, "May I call you aunty?"
Why are young women ready to give up their identity and move to a man's house, take new people for their parents and go through the lion's share of the struggle in a relationship that is supposed to be fundamentally equal?
For that matter, why shouldn't the man call his in-laws uncle and aunty? Who are we kidding? We have only one set of biological parents that we will ever feel for and experience attachment with.
I believe when we call a relationship by its true name, we attach expectations to it that are reasonable, achievable and fulfilling. Why should you call your mother-in-law "mom" if you cannot take with her the same liberties that you take with your mother?
Instead, why wouldn't you call her aunty and explore the relationship, let it grow, nurture it and discover and build a rapport?
That must be very threatening because it involves accepting that sometimes hum saath saath nahin hain. It involves being open to the fact that women are individuals, may have opinions and quirks, may disagree with established rules or the ways of your family.
And if she has to be a part of what is new and different, she has to be convinced first. That also throws open the possibility that she may never agree to living life "your" way, which can be scary for the joint family.
And all this points me to one word: respect. It is enormously hard for this country to respect a woman. She's always going to be a girl, always going to be the one who needs to make the changes and be the bahu.
Her individuality means the horrifying possibility of the individuality of the son because face it, an individual with an opinion will look for another with an opinion, with whom he shares common ground.
And it is in the interest of the joint family to be made up of passive, incapacitated men and women who will be living with their parents/ in-laws all their pampered lives, saving on rent, lumping their opinion and wallowing about how marriage ruined it for them.
Funnily, they don't see that they never stood a chance in the first place because they never gave a chance to individuality in themselves or their spouse.