My Mother! (in Law) I am sitting in my room waiting for my lunch to be served.My daughter, whose mission in life offlate seems to be to spoil me thoroughly,brings me my lunch in a tray.I taste the food and as k her,”Did you add fenugreek powder in the tomoto subji?” “No,ma!I simply forgot”,said Sangheetha. “Then I don’t want tomato subji,”said I with remorse. “:Amma,that is very bad.So what If I have not added fenugreek powder? You are sounding just like patti.She also was very particular about how her food was prepared.”Sangheetha went to the kitchen,added fenugreek powder to the subji and brought it back.I finished eating my lunch. I was relaxing in myr oom when my thoughts were occupied by the woman who played a dominant role in my life till an year back.Yes,it was my MIL.I got married and went to my MIL’s place to start my new life in a new family. I could see that the house was run like a well oiled machine and my mother in law called the shots.Her daughters ie my sisters in law were very efficient.They studied in college,they sewed their own blouses,they learnt carnatic music and they were well versed in doing all the household work, including cooking.Well, my mother in law was responsible for their being so efficient.They deferred to her for everything. After a couple of days,my MIL asked me,”Aren’t you surprised that your sisters in law are so efficient?” I said,”Yes”. on’t worry.Just listen to me and do as I say,you will also become like them.”said she.Well my intention was not to become somebody else.I was happy being myself,I never used to tremble in my mother’s presence in my home and I never deferred to her for taking simple decisions.So I simply smiled and kept quiet. But I must admit one thing.It was my mother in law who taught me cooking.She taught me cooking from ABCD.Today if I make reasonably good ,tasty food, I owe it to my MIL who taught me the basic principles of cooking. I got married on May 11<SUP>th</SUP> and on May 30<SUP>th</SUP> my husband,I and my MIL left for Bhuvaneshwar where my husband was posted.It was in Bhuvaneshwr that she taught me cooking without herself entering thekitchen even once.She gave me directions sitting in the hall and I would follow her instructions to the T.Slowly I learnt cooking.I ought to acknowledge the following things about my MIL. She never made fun of me or ridiculed me ,even once for my ignorance in the field of cooking,in not knowing the difference between the various dhals and masalas.She would explain to me very patiently. She never lost her patience or got angry with me even once while she taught me this finest of fine arts. She taught me how to keep the kitchen platform clean.,even while cooking by not cluttering the platform with utensils. She used to tell me,”You don’t need expensive ingredients to cook tasty meals.All you have to do is to use the ingredients available in your kitchen judiciously, to cook good meals.Suppose some guests come home unexpectedly,you should be able to make some thing nice for them,without rushing to the shop to buy omething or other.”My FIL being diabetic she used very little cocoanut in her cooking,but compensated for lack of cocoanut with roasted channa dhal,seeragam etc.One could never make out the absence of cocoanut in her cooking. She made a master lit of all the groceries I needed in my kitchen.I know the list by heart and I have it with me .My daughters use the same list. My MIL never attended school,she got married at a young age as was the custom those days.If only she had finished her schooling and if she had done Home Science as her PG course,she would have become the head of the department very fast. What were her other strengths that I admired in her? She delegated works to every one in the family.Each sister in law of mine knew what work she had to complee before leaving for college.Once she delegated responsibility,she gave them the authority also,the hall marks of a good manager. She was a courageous person and she had great presence of mind.I remember an incident that shows her capability in rising to the occasion.We had purchased our flat and the Grihapravesam was fixed for a certain date.My daughter’s Bangle ceremony(valaikappu)was to take place the very next day. I was taking care of everything myself.Both my daughters were not in a position to attend te function (The bangle ceremony was that of my brother in law’s daughter,whom I consider as my youngest daughter) My sisters in law were coming only for the function.The purohits wanted quite a few things for the grihapravesam.For the bangle ceremony we had to buy lot of bangles in different sizes and also new sarees for the girl and others .My husband whose responsibility it was to buy the things ,bought all the things required for both the functions and dumped them in one room.I took one look at them and my head began to spin.”How am I going to arrange for celebrating both the functions one after the other,smoothly?”was the thought that bothered me. My MIL, I think, read my mind,she called me and said,”Bring two big card board boxes.”I brought them.She made me write grihapravesam on one box and bangle ceremony on the other box.Now I went about gathering the things that were required for both the functions and put them in the boxes meant for those functions.The things were organized in no time at all.In the evening both I and my MIL sat and tied the bangles,four or six together and kept them ready. My sisters in law came the night before Grihapravesam.My MIL told hem,”Your manni(bhabi) has taken care of all arrangements,now it is your turn.You people have to take over from here.I sat next to my MIL during both the functions as befitting the eldest DIL of the family,the functions went off very well,courtesy my MIL and her presence of mind. She also taught me how to take work from the maids,how to treat them well and at the same time have control over them. “Give them the corrct salary.In whatever you give them,draw a line somewhere and don’t go beyond that.If you think that ,by giving too much money,lending them money whenever they ask you ,you can make thembe very loyal to you,you are mistaken.They should know that you value money.Then only they will do their work diligently”. Was her advice that I follow even today. She was a very neat and clean person and she wanted to be self sufficient in taking care of her personal needs herself. She was a very cheerful person by nature,ws an excellent mimic ,would mimic me and the way I smile very often much to my irritation sometimes and sometimes I used to be the one to laugh aloud. She would watch the cricket matches with great intrest.The comments that she gave during the matches were always more interesting than the comments given by the expert commentators on tv. “Oh,Gambhir,why are you lifting the ball when you hit it?Why don’t you hit it on the ground level.Learn from the other team.How nicely they are playing?”she would admonish Gambhir. Once a football math was being aired on tv.My DH and I had to go out on some urgent work.My MIL said that she was bored.My DH sat by her side,explained the basic rules of the game to her and told her,”Amma,this is how the goal would be put,ok?This man Ronaldo is a great player.When he put s the goal,please ring me up on my mobile.”By this time she was an expert in using the mobile.We were in our beach house in an hour,supervising the painting work,when my DH got a call from his mother. “Kanna,Ronaldo has put the goal.Everybody is clapping”she was excited.My husband’s eyes had moistened,not because of Ronaldo’s feat,but because his mother had understood the game at such short notice and was enjoying it. Even in her old age she was a healthy person.She was not diabetic,but she would not eat any root vegetable.She was a frugal eater and maintained her health till her last moment.It was a pleasure to watch her doing small simple exercises,lying on her bed. She used to tell me,”Mythili,I don’t want to be a nuisance to my children in my old age.I don’t want to trouble anyone.I want to go away peacefully,even when Iam healthy.” God must have listened to her sincere prayer.On September 30<SUP>th</SUP>,2008,she passed awy as per he wish,without troubling anyone. All of her childen,her sons ,her DILs,her daughters and her son in laws and the grandchildren miss this courageous,,cheerful, little woman who had a great zest for life.I on my part ,miss her ,I learnt a lot from her and now I realize that her influence on me is greater than what I thought it was.