MALATHI AND HER MOTHER-IN-LAW – A REAL LIFE STORY I have poked my nose into every topic apart from my short stories and serials – Lakshmi snippets, poetry, anatomy of a marriage, aftermath of an affair and even into recipes and beauty tips. One aspect which I have never considered writing about is the mother-in-law (mil) phenomenon. Being a man and a husband, I am not only not qualified but positively disqualified to talk about that complex relationship which has wrecked many marriages and has destroyed many lives on both sides of the table. But seeing the number and the intensity of the posts concerning mothers-in-law I am convinced that mil is the top-most worry in the minds of most of the gracious ladies at IL. I never thought that I would have my say on that sensitive subject till I met this lady, whom we shall call Malathi. She was a daughter-in-law (dil) of the sixties the time when most of us, members, would not have been born at all. The conditions then were different, so different that we cannot even imagine let alone understand. Some may think that her story may not be relevant for the modern times where there are no joint families or dominating mils. (Some one even quipped that today if the husband and wife live together under the same roof, that is a joint family. My God!) Others may think that the lady was a coward and that she did not have the courage to spurn her mil and walk out of the house and even seek a divorce. Given the lady’s circumstances that would be the natural reaction of any woman. What I request you, the most gracious ladies of IL, is, please read this real life story, calmly. Then think about it without any prejudice. You will understand the undercurrent of love. And you will know that whatever may be the situation in life, unconditional love is always a winning strategy. Please don’t reply when the heat of the story is still on. Allow it to cool down in your warm hearts and then plan your response. I have taken some trouble to embellish the story to protect the privacy of that lady. And in some places I have taken the liberties which only a writer can have. But I saw to it that these things do not affect the fundamental truth contained in this story. My posts on Affairs, Time and Tide etc came from third party sources. But this came as they say ‘from the horse’s mouth’ which adds to the authenticity of the narration. Now read on. Malathi was the eldest of two daughters. Her father was a leading physician in a provincial town in South Tamilnadu.. Malathi’s father was a progressive thinker. He brushed aside all conventions prevailing at that time and gave first class education to his daughters. Malathi wanted to do her graduation (a desire which could raise eye-brows in those days) and that was available only in a co-ed college in the town. Her father arranged for that. Malathi got married in 1960 when she was hardly 20. By that time she had got her Bachelors in Science. Her husband Shiva was a well-educated bureaucrat. Shiva’s was a closely knit joint family. Apart from his parents his elder brother also lived in the same family house along with his wife and children. Malathi left her parents’ place with lots of dreams. Her first shock came even before she boarded the train. Malathi’s father had booked a first class coupe for Malathi and Shiva for the one night journey to Shiva’s place. Malathi was excitedly looking forward to spending a night in her husband’s company. Shiva’s elder brother told Malathi’s father that such coupe-travel was not a ‘done thing’ in their family. Malathi’s father had to convince the TTE to interchange the tickets so that Malathi travelled with her mil whilst the two brothers shared the coupe. If Malathi’s heart was broken she did not show. The second brutal shock was to come during the next week. Malathi’s father had made arrangements for her honeymoon in an exotic hill resort (and during 60s that place was sheer heavan, it ‘s commercialised now) . Shiva’s family promptly vetoed the very concept of honeymoon, as again, that was not a ‘done thing.’ Malathi had to take herculean efforts to just grin and bear it and put on a great show of normalcy and happiness. Shiva was a nice man but a mother’s boy. Like many husbands of the sixties he was an introvert when it came to expressing his love for his beautiful bride. He liked her, loved her and even adored her. But he had not even said once to Malathi ‘You are beautiful’ (which she was) or ‘‘you cook well’ (which she did) Malathi’s mil, as the undisputed queen of the house, laid down all the rules, many of which were not in consonance with the times, and all of which were opressive to Malathi who was brought up in much more liberal surroundings.