Thursday, July 25, 2013

Saas bahu episode 1

My in laws arrived with a bang last Friday. On Friday morning, I left for work at 6:45 am, turned the corner and when the sun hit my face, tears streamed down and my left eye just refused to stay open. It was very strange and I was freaked out. I finally drove home slowly and felt wiped out! I lay down on the sofa for a long time. I had to drive out to work in the afternoon to attend some meetings. After that it was a whirlwind as usual, pick up the kids, make milkshakes for both, drive to R’s Bharatnatyam class, rush back and cook dinner. Baby S helped pick basil leaves from our garden and I made pesto sauce and sautéed some onions and red peppers and threw together some pasta for us. Made special rice and peanut curry for the in laws who were on a fast. I also cut mangoes and put out the coconut water that I had bought for their fast. As I was setting up the table, they arrived and sat down to dinner soon after.

My father in law started eating and was chatting with me about my preparations for my upcoming half marathon. My mother in law sat down and barely had eaten her first bite, all hell broke loose. She started saying “The rice is just slightly undercooked” (repeated 13,458 times) and yelled at my fil to stop eating and give her his plate so she could put it into the microwave and “correct” my cooking. Followed by “I am not saying just to criticize you but we are home and we should be able to say what we want, and why should we eat slightly undercooked rice blah blah…..on and on followed by her stories of how she had popped her perfectly cooked rice in the microwave against her sister’s wishes to cook it further as her sister is older and needs soft food and then how her sister was so happy with her. Followed by “Everyone makes a mistake, its fine!”. I just sat back in shock, dead tired and slowly the anger rose in me. This lady could not see how tired I was, or appreciate how I had taken the effort to cook their special meal and think of additional things like cutting up fruits and buying coconut water. There was no gratitude expressed or acknowledgment of my care but she just re affirmed why I know our wavelengths wont match.

Instead of creating this big hue and cry, she could have gotten up diplomatically and “cooked” her rice to whatever consistency she wanted. Also if something needed a quick pop into the microwave for under a minute, it was obviously cooked in the first place. Or she could have said “Its nice, but I need a bit more softer so I will pop it into the microwave a bit longer”. Anyways….. I was so upset – more stories followed of how she had smart ideas, how my sister in law and her husband were so happy with her wisdom and I was done.

I went upstairs and cried and cried and P came by and walked away upset and I then lay down on my bed and the room started spinning around. I am mighty embarrassed that I have turned into one of those feeble women that they show in old Hindi movies where the doctor advises the family members to treat her delicately or she will have a heart attack. Its my resolve to strengthen my mind against such incidents now. Later on, she came over and started crying and said how I was like her daughter and she didn’t want a repeat of last visit and that she thought she should just say frankly etc etc.

I thought about it later – there is no one bad here. Its what you think. For my mother in law and I am sure my sister in law; this incident is me being extra sensitive and getting annoyed for being told “frankly” that my rice was not up to par. For me, it was a situation of bad manners and an attitude of entitlement and zero appreciation and wrong use of words. I never tout myself as an expert cook, all my dishes are a hit or miss, sometimes they are incredible, sometimes too salty or just blah. But one thing I do not lack is care and concern. And all the people I know and love, appreciate it. Whenever P’s Uncle and Aunt come over for dinner, Aunty always is appreciative of the fact that I rush home from work and whip together a meal for all of us and serve it with love. Another important thing is that you can give five women three potatoes each and same ingredients and they will end up cooking five differently styled potatoes. And you could have them swear to their own dish being the “only” way to cook it and perfect.

The next day I woke up and spoke nicely to them, even offered her to accompany me on my grocery store visit because I know how much she enjoys going out. But I have realized that our wavelengths do not match at all. Most of our conversation is incredibly one sided with her telling me stories of either her own smartness and expertise in cooking or my sister in law’s. My sister in law is definitely a good cook. I do listen to my mil’s stories and praise her but I cannot go beyond 15 minutes of conversation, beyond 15 minutes of saying non stop “Oh how nice, that’s a great idea, you are good!” etc. Now I have decided to ignore or simply not respond when I receive unsolicited advice that is so obvious that I feel – why is she even feeling the need to tell me this. And because of the way she delivers her words, they sting everytime.

Just a simple silly example is – I oil my daughters’s hair every weekend and I had sent R into the shower and was running around gathering her clothes and other stuff. Its our routine, she loves the shower and she happily sings in it and gets all drenched and then I go put shampoo in her hair. My mil accosted me on the way and accusingly scolded me “What!!! She is taking a shower by herself!??!! Arent you going to go put shampoo on her hair, she is not old enough, how will the oil come out??” Ignore and walk away is what I did. R is 6 ½ years old and has had countless head baths since she was born and I have an IQ slightly above average and have managed to keep my family alive (and oil free) on my own. I need not answer that outburst.

So now we are all in a peaceful harmony as much as we can manage. I do not respond to advice or questions that I think are completely ridiculous or condescending but I do not shut down conversation. I chat about other topics, ask them how their day was and make sure everything they need is bought. I have also told P to step up and assume primary responsibility for his parents.

One baby step at a time to a better relationship….

In other news we ran the half marathon again, more on that in another post…


  1. Congrats on running the half marathon Sonia!:)


  2. Thanks my dear :)) It was exhausting due to zero training this time!!