Since Ragini came home she seemed sullen, down and not talking to anyone.
“What ever happened to my little cheerful, chirpy little girl?” Kamala could not understand.
Ragini a bright, beautiful, intelligent girl, the only daughter of proud parents grew up in affluent, happy home, never worried about anything, never felt shortage of anything either for materialistic things or love: always had abundant affection and care from parents was a happy go lucky girl.
Parents searched for the most suitable groom and Ragini happily accepted Nitin as her life partner. And they married them off in a grand ceremony. Kamala was doubly happy that Nitin’s mom was her childhood friend Jyothi.
Then, when Ragini came to her mom’s place three weeks after marriage whole thing was changed. She is not the old bubbly cheery girl any more. Just sat in a corner silent and staring at nothing.
Kamala got worried. With all the relatives at home she could not talk much with her daughter.
Evening, after everybody left, sitting on the terrace she started slowly while combing her daughter’s long hair. “What is it Ammu? Are you not happy?”
“Mom,” Ragini broke down, all her bottled-up anguish, resentment came out as a flood of tears. She hugged to her mom and cried her heart out.
Kamala stroked her head “My baby,” “my poor little Ammu, what is it, tell me kiddo.”
“Mom, I don’t want to go back mom.” Still clinging to her mom Ragini was crying.
“Why? What happened? Is something wrong with Nitin; is he not taking good care of you? You both liked each other so much, that is why we married you. We thought you two will make the best match ever.”
“It is not about Nitin mom, he is a fine guy, and it is my mother in-law. Until she lives in that house I don’t want to go back. “
“What do you mean? Where else she can go? It is her home. She is going to live in her house Ammu”
“Then I am not going to go back unless Nitin moves out of that place.”
“Ammu, Come on dear, tell me what happened.”
“Where should I start mom? It is hard, she is unreasonable, not appreciative of anything I do, and so possessive of Nitin.”
“The other day I made Upma and everybody, Nitin and his dad liked it and said it was delicious, this evil lady did not even taste it. She through it in waste basket without even tasting it. I felt so insulted and hurt. She is evil mom.”
“And last week I bought a pair of designer jeans and she scorned at them, when I wore them to go to neighbor’s birthday party and she made me change. That’s it mom. I hate her and I hate her so much. “
“And she is always complaining, depressed and sits there and makes the face as though she lost everything. I don’t feel like talking to her. As soon as Nitin goes to work I go to my room and close the door, I don’t want to talk to her.”
“Ammu listen to me. I am not saying you are wrong or I am not siding with your mom in law. I am just trying to make sense here.” Kamala finished combing and plaiting.
“You are young and educated. I hope you will understand.”
“I know about your mother in-law Jyothi. She has gone through a lot. She had a monster mother in-law. I know everything because we are from same town and we used to live in the same street.”
“Theirs was a joint family. She got married at very early age. She had to cook for fifteen people every day. After all her hard day’s work when she served food to her husband, her in-laws would make her husband through the food at her face saying there is less salt or more. It was just an excuse to punish and belittle her. And the obedient young man was doing it to please his parents. And we all knew that she was an excellent cook.”
“And Ammu, we all know what a terrible cook you are especially “Upma” , When she saw her husband, who never cared for anything she made and her son appreciate and savor the lumpy mass you served, she would have remembered her gone by days . “
“After all she is human. Who can blame her? She has suffered hell in her marriage those days.”
“I also know soon after her marriage when she wanted to wear a black blouse and got it stitched, her mother in-law did not allow this and burned it. She was allowed only to wear whatever they approved. My mom used to tell all these stories to us.”
“Now when you wear the tight fitting jeans and flaunt your body in front of her friends and neighbors, she might have felt bad. She never complained about your other dresses, has she? “
“No mom, not for other dresses.” Ragini agreed.
“Ammo you have to understand her age and situation, not only you, but all the newly married girls.”
“You are the queen of the home you grow up but not so when you go to in laws. You also have to try to walk in mother in-laws shoes. Most of the cases when son gets married mothers change: her body changes at that age, she will be going through menopause, and hormonal changes coupled with other health issues and the status change.”
“The mama’s boy who all these days going to mom for everything circles around this young new wife and it takes a lot for mom to adjust. She has not seen a lot of fun in her restricted life, in most cases all she has seen is suffering, hard work, cooking, cleaning and taking care of her beloved kids and now even that is snatched away from her.”
“I don’t say that because she has suffered she should make you suffer. But it is natural that she sees it as losing, and goes into depression and so to counteract, she shows all these negative feelings and tries to hold on her status as a boss.”
“And the young girls like yourself, you love your mom dearly and why can’t you show the same love and friendliness to mom in-law. You talk so freely with your aunts and friends’ moms, why can’t you do the same thing with mother in-laws?”
“But mom, can’t she be little cheerful and active —” Ragini started.
“wait ammo, don’t you remember how much I suffered when I was going through changes in my body? All that depression, hysteric crying, coupled with arthritis; you were feeling sorry for me and gave me so much moral support. But you are irritated for the same thing when it is your mother in law.
“Instead of looking at her as opponent think of her as your own and treat her as your friend and smile at her. I am sure she will come along and treat you like a daughter.”
“Got it ammo?”
“Yes mom, I will try my best.” Ragini said thoughtfully and got up to get ready to go to her home.
“Hi Vasu, common in, how are you? How is your new job?” Jyothi invited her niece Vasundhara in.
” Come, Sit, Do you want some lemonade or juice? It is so hot outside.”
“Yes aunty, give me some mango juice if you have. Where is Ragini? I don’t see her. Has she gone out?”
Jyothi frowned at mention of Ragini; “She went to her parents’ house. Don’t know when she will be back.”
“Why aunty? you look sad. What happened? Is everything OK? You should be excited; you got your son married and the new bride, festivities and all that fun.”
“What fun Vasu? She is no fun. All she does is she runs around my son when he is home. And they go out together. That’s all. It is as though I don’t exist in my own house. And these two, your uncle and Nitin, They take her side, they are all changed. It is like I am the only unwanted and outside person here”. Jyothi started sobbing.
“Oh aunty calm down please. Tell me what happened?”
“What should I say? She never talks to me. All she does is, dresses up, and as soon as Nitin leaves, goes to her room and closes the door. I know that Ragini is the only child and grew up very pampered but at least she should know how to cook and clean at least the basics, and she wears all kinds of dresses, imagine wearing tight pants in front of everybody for a married girl, and I am tired and sick of this behavior. Whom can I complain? If I say something your uncle and my own son shout at me. “She wiped her tears.
“The other day she made Upma, it was just a lump of uncooked Suji. I could see it. Uncle and Nitin were praising it so much, I felt so bad. Of all the people your uncle! Who never tolerated anything less than perfect? So I felt bad and threw it away and everybody looked at me like I was a mean monster. “
“And those tight jeans she wanted to wear for the party. When I objected she made such a nasty scene and did not go to the party. Such a strong headed and adamant girl she is.”
“Tell me Vasu am I wrong?”
“Aunty, don’t get mad at me please. I will tell you something. We all know in our family what all you had to go through, but still aunty; you have to think about her.”
“Aunty, You know how Ragini grew up, never lifting a finger with all the servants, doting mom and she was the only daughter, First time when she tried her hand in cooking, I am sure it was a disaster but you should have at least tasted it. Poor girl, she was just trying. Imagine how hurt she might be.”
“And aunty, these days everybody wears modern dresses. Just because she is married she can’t change her ways overnight. You might have told her nicely about her dress, she would have listened. She has not seen much life as you; she is just growing out of her little world, give her some time aunty.”
“If she is not willing to talk, she might be hesitant, or scared, you can start talking to her and show her that you care about her. Ask about her likes, dislikes, college and friends. It will be good for you and a diversion for you from your health problems. “
“You buy us nice T shirts and modern dresses, cook us our favorites and you pet us, all your nieces and nephews so much; you can do the same to your daughter in-law. She is of same age as us”
“Aunty, treat her as your own daughter you never had. She will come to you, and treat you as her mom.”
Jyothi sat there and listened, “Vasu you are right, now fetch me an auto I will go and bring my daughter home.”