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I just had a call with Phadke uncle. He told me that he had a great time staying with us last weekend. He mentioned the “Kothimbir Vadi” we made and said it was the most delicious thing he had eaten since long. Overall, he seemed really happy. But one thing that gave me a shiver of happiness was when he said that he felt the exact same warmth and love in my home which he had always felt whenever he had visited your home. This actually meant that I, being the daughter-in-law of the family had taken your legacy of love, care and affection one generation ahead. And this means such a wonderful accomplishment for me, something which I had always worked hard for, something I had wanted more than any other material success. But, it was possible only because we share the most unconventional relation that could ever exist between a mother in law and daughter in law and you have been the most unconventional matriarch of the home I could have ever wished for.
Do you remember the first time we talked on phone ? It was the day you were getting retired from your work as school principal. As much as I had liked the idea of having a working mother in law, I was scared of the fact that you had been, if I may say, a headmistress. I thought of you as a typical dominant, disciplinarian, orthodox woman with a stick in her hand. But I couldn’t have imagined more contrast a personality you would be to my imagination. I had made a call to my future mother in law, but after I disconnected that first call, I have had a long and fulfilling conversation with a new friend. That was the intensity of your simplicity and love.
When my mother talked with you, you candidly told her that you wished to be friends more than “dulhe ki maa” or “dulhan ki maa”. It was such a significant gesture, which I feel lacks in most arranged marriages today. And surprisingly, coming from the “dulhe ki maa” the quintessential villain in the entire marriage saga, it was really extraordinary. But soon I realized, unconventional is your second name. You were the most enthusiastic while making wedding preparations, sharing each and every shopping details with me. It was an exciting time for me when I was understanding the beautiful facets of your personality. The feeling was pleasantly unique, that of assimilating and involving a new older woman in my life other than my own mother. Our daily phone call had become my way of distressing when I thoroughly enjoyed our gossip sessions so much so that, by the time of the wedding I was most comfortable with our entire family setup and its members. The moment of “bidai” after wedding, when I was teary eyed, bidding adieu to my family, the most comforting factor was not the presence of my husband by me, but it was when you said “You are now my daughter and “V” my son-in-law”. I smiled in spite of myself for the happy times to come.
After the wedding, with whatever visits I had to our native home, I would get a lot overwhelmed with the number of guests and relatives visiting and staying with us. I could see the exertion it caused you, but I also didn’t miss the spark in your eyes. You really enjoyed it, didn’t you ? I realized its your basic nature to be a nurturer and feed people with the most delicious food. And I was really awed with the way you heartily showered your affection (and food) on not just family but friends, distant relatives, maids, house helps and neighbors as well. I mean feeding a dozen of dad’s friends every day is quite a feat. I’snt it? I guess not for the “Annapurna” in you.
During my stays, I also observed the way you cared for your ailing father, our 91 years old grandpa. His bath, eating habits, food, his medicines, everything was done with utmost precision. You also missed out on important family occasions while attending grandpa. Didn’t you get bored of it sometimes? But I guess you knew it was your responsibility and did it diligently. I still cant understand this selfless “Seva” you did but I stopped taking stress of the occasional guests who visited my home thinking about what you deal with at your home. And it invariably induced your nurturer legacy in me which gives me immense satisfaction and peace today.
Along with managing your home, you have also been fiercely appreciative of my achievements as well, defying all the stereotypes. Even if you didn’t understand the kind of work I do, you had always proudly boasted of my achievements within the family. There have been moments when I have heard from distant relatives about you praising me. And I had been humbled at such times.
My real test was when we actually started living together. It was after Narayani was born and we together decided that you and dad should move with us. I know it had been the most difficult move of your life, leaving the home where you have spent your entire life. And I still often realize how terribly you miss that place. And my test was to make you as much comfortable as possible in my home. Of course your love for Narayani had a huge part to play here.
It wasn’t a perfect space, initially, I know. You didn’t like many of my things and I didn’t like few of yours. I still dislike it when you run helping the neighbors leaving your own convenience. I feel helpless when you trust people blindly and then those people hurt you. I feel you unnecessarily worry about your weight when you have such an active body and fresh mind. And I still don’t agree with the way you arrange all the grocery. But what the hell !!! I know there are a number of my things you probably hate. But I am grateful that we have a peaceful coexistence as far as our disagreements are concerned. I don’t want our relationship to be perfect. No. I want it just like it is now. Much more human and natural.
Today, after one year of our staying together, I now so much appreciate and value the bond we share. We are no longer friends now. We are a mother and a daughter with our own set of agreements and disagreements. Our usual shopping trips, gossip sessions, late night chats, petty arguments, silences and unsaid words are all testimony to that. I know you might not call this your home completely, but as far as you are a part of it, it will be home for us. And as I grow here every day, I want you to be a part of my growth as much as a mother as a friend.
They say that #EveryDayIsMothersDay. But I say, #EveryDayISMotherInLawDay.