Agony Daughter (in-law)
Agony Daughter (in-law)7 mins 160 7 mins 160
Deepthi’s parents brought her up to be a confident, independent young woman. She never ever in her life thought of herself to be inferior in any way than her male counterparts. Her mother was a well respected professor and her father a gallant engineer in a small town. In school, she aced in sports as well as academics and was then off for her first job to the States. No one in her family had an inch of doubt that Deepthi would be successful in her life.
Deepthi was a pampered little girl - an only child to her parents. Whenever she came home from college hostel, her mom would prepare her favourite meals and her dad would buy the freshest and the best of the fishes available in the market. Although fish was not her most favourite food, her parents considered fish to be highest up in the food chain, being quite the quintessential Bongs! Although not a big foodie, Deepthi enjoyed this occasional pampering when she visited her home from school over the weekends.
Things dramatically changed for Deepthi as she set foot in the land of opportunities. It was there that she met her childhood classmate, Arjun. They were casual friends and started talking on weekends to share each other’s lives in a new country. Arjun was a bright student throughout and was pursuing his PhD from a reputed university in the US. One thing led to the other and they became the best of buddies, and started staying glued to the phone for hours. During one such phone call, Arjun proposed marriage to Deepthi out of the blue! Deepthi was so shocked that she did not speak to Arjun for a week after that!!
Deepthi had always thought of Arjun as a calculative person, who thinks through what he says or does. In matters as such, she had more confidence in Arjun than on herself. Being from the same town, their families knew each other. There was just one small hitch. Some of the common friends that knew both Deepthi and Arjun’s families, mentioned to Deepthi’s mom about the stinginess of Arjun’s family. Deepthi’s mom did not pay a heed to those comments, saying that she brought up her daughter to be an independent young girl, who would be capable of paying for her own luxury expenses if need be. And, why would that not be? In a family why can’t the husband and wife be an equal contributor?
The marriage between Deepthi and Arjun happened the next summer.. The biggest shocker came for Deepthi, when she was told by her MIL to drape herself in her wedding saree for a certain ritual where the husband takes the complete responsibility of his wife. Bongs call it “bhat-kapor”. Typically the boy’s family buys the saree for this occasion, but to Deepthi’s surprise, there was nothing of that sort for her. With a dash of sadness, she went back to her room to drape herself in her wedding banarasi saree.
That day Deepti pledged to herself that she won’t let these minute affairs bother her too much. Instead she would keep an open mind and embrace her in-laws, and that she did. However, the occasional scorn of her in-laws did not stop. After the wedding ceremony both Deepthi and Arjun went back to their respective cities in the US where they lived. After working her first job for almost five years, Deepti finally decided to quit and go back to school to complete her master’s degree. To Deepthi’s surprise, the in-laws that never called them in the States (back in those days calling from India to US was considered very expensive and that too by a family who was stingy, it was unheard of!) suddenly called their land line and asked to speak to Deepthi.
For a split second Deepthi felt very happy to think that her in-laws, like her parents, were ecstatic that she got accepted into one of the good schools in the US and wanted to congratulate her. The school was co-located in the same city where Arjun was pursuing his PhD, and this meant they could finally live together after six months of staying apart after marriage. She ran to the phone and said “Hello”. There was an awkward silence at the other end of the phone, and then came the blow to Deepthi’s face - her MIL’s rough voice saying - “I heard you are planning to go back to school, quitting your well-paid job! How do you think your monthly expenses will run henceforth?”
Deepthi was utterly heartbroken after that phone call and just mentioned to her MIL not to worry since she got a full scholarship, which means she won’t have to pay school fees and tuition and also got a Graduate Assistantship, which would pay her monthly to cover her expenses. Graduate school life for an international student pretty much runs in that fashion in the US and her MIL was unaware of that. The sad part was neither did she try to find that out, before charging her daughter-in-law. After that conversation, they were still not convinced and Arjun had to make a trip to his parents back home to talk to them and make them understand that they are not under water and that graduate school life works pretty much that way in the US and that if they need their help, they would be able to do so from their saved funds.
Pretty soon both Depethi and Arjun graduated from grad school - Deepthi with a masters and Arjun with a Phd and it was time for their graduation ceremony. Deepthi and Arjun sponsored both their parents’ trip to the US so that they could attend their graduation ceremony. This was the first time the entire family came together and then the discomfort began. Deepthi’s mom was ecstatic that her son in law was graduating with a PhD degree, but Arjun’s parents did not show half as much glee for the fact that their daughter-in-law was graduating with a masters degree and that she was the flag bearer of her class, an honour given to the highest scoring graduate in the department.
Deepthi thought that her in-laws are generally reserved people and did not like to express too many emotions. But showing no emotions at all, seemed a bit rude! Deepthi felt a bit betrayed and cried the whole night, thinking that Arjun got another set of parents, in her mom and dad; why can’t she have the same? Why does her success not get appreciated by her in-laws, the same way Arjun’s success gets rejoiced by both sets of parents? The differences are endless. During vacations when they visit India, Deepthi’s mom makes all of Arjun’s favourite dishes, and also hers. Not the case when they visit Arjun’s parents. There, no one even knows what Deepthi's favourite dish is. No one even cares if there’s something on the menu that Deepthi does not eat. As a daughter-in-law, she is expected to eat everything, even if she doesn't like it and who cares what she likes!
Deepthi’s FIL is an educated person, and the in-laws, in general are not the typical torturing kind that we typically read about. In a lot of ways they are okay, but there is still this huge difference in behaviour that Deepthi cannot digest. She secretly feels betrayed and jealous that her parents treat Arjun so lovingly. Her friends call her a feminist, but she is far from being a bra-burning feminist. All she wants is a little love from her inlaws. Why are girls always expected to be daughter-in-laws? Why can’t they be daughters to their in-laws? Deepthi's parents do not have a son, so they got a son in Arjun, similarly Arjun’s parents do not have a daughter, why can’t they see a daughter in Deepthi? Why does she have to go through a scrutiny every time and get judged for her every action? Will there ever be a time when MOM and MIL would be synonymous?
It's been 14 years since Arjun and Deepthi got married, and they together have two boys. Deepthi often ponders what her relationship would be with her daughter-in-laws. Will she be able to accept them as the daughters she never had? Deepthi is confident she would. Deepthi always believes that if one behaves with an open mind in a relationship, it’s bound to thrive. We cannot have a formal relation with our close ones where we need to think before we speak. Fostering a casual behaviour in a relationship between people related by law would help create an amicable environment at home. Deepthi hopes to have a fantastic relationship with her daughter-in-laws, or rather her daughters. What will actually happen - only time will tell.