M. I. L.
By Chandroo D.
If you are still wondering on the initials, it is not Monster-in-law; it is Mother-in-law!
Some men are cursed with demons disguised as Mother-in-Laws. These demons continually find things wrong with you, how you're not good enough for their daughter who could have, and should have, married a tycoon’s son or a movie star instead. How you do not give her utmost attention, bring her flowers and love and so forth.
Or if you are a female, how you've set up your house, how you cook, how you clean, how you look, how you don't take care of their baby, and how inadequate you are at taking care of their grandchildren. Perhaps the most troublesome issue is that they are usually a part of your relationship, an unsavory 'triangle', a triangle that's not romantic in the least!
Mother-in-laws too have been the brunt of jokes since the beginning of, well, since the beginning of marriage. And some of them deserve a little ribbing (backing her off a cliff is a bit harsh, however).
Fortunately, my mother-in-law (MIL) is a gem of a person. In fact, I’ve never been close to her in the past and have always stayed in the background and accepted whatever she said or did. When I met her the first time during 1969, I got nervous from the stress and tension of meeting my future MIL. It wasn’t good. Picture this, I was being forced fed by her repeated filling up of my plate with every dish she had on the table the whole time we were having lunch at her place and was so conscious of her staring at me that I could hardly hold the food down. One thing I did notice was that she looked young. This gives me a foresight of how my wife would look like as we aged into the future. I remember my father always preaching me to marry a woman, who has a young looking mother; so I guess I was on the right path.
Fast forward to 2005, I am more comfortable around my MIL now and even encourage my wife to visit her more often (She lives in Dubai). Before, I couldn’t imagine myself left alone with my MIL but now, whenever possible, I sit with her and listen to her family gossip. It’s really cool!
December 2005 and I am at her luxurious new home in Dubai. She lives with her only son, daughter-in-law, three glamorous grand-daughters and Tyson - not the cannibal boxer, but an Alsatian who is very much like Boxer Tyson. He pounces and bites any new comer to the house.
One day while everyone is out of the house involved in their individual day to day chores, MIL comes into my room and sits on the lazy chair next to my bed where I am relaxed. I close my magazine and concentrate on listening to her gossip. She wanted to know where I went last night. I replied that I had been to a friend’s daughter’s birthday dinner. A little short of hearing, she instead asks how the birthday girl’s fiancé was, thinking I went to an engagement dinner. She was actually looking for a hot new gossip, not the usual ‘dinner out’ story from me! After that, while I patiently listened, she went on and on about all the fresh and old news of the family members and life. At her age (83), her mind otherwise is very sharp and she remembers most of the names of family members - their past and present problems and happy moments.
She has five daughters and one son. All are happily married. All her daughters, living in different parts of the world, visit her individually, whenever they can. She praises her first daughter (#1) the most and claims that #1, during her visits, makes it a point to sit with her and gives her company during her daily morning routine. She also joins her during her afternoon walks.
As for my wife (#3), she gets the worst marks of all. MIL complains that she hardly sees #3 the most and would love #3 to take care of her also. #3 at the same time also complains that it is very difficult to see her. Whenever she visits her room, MIL is either praying or sleeping or taking a shower or watching the Indian Soap Operas. MIL complains to me, with her usual laugh and waving of hands, that once when she came to stay with us, #3 used to get up in the morning, get ready, take her handbag under her arm and goes off to either a beautician or hairdresser or super market and thereby leaving her all alone and lonely. MIL needed attention too, but was being totally ignored. Watching them both lovingly arguing is like watching a comedy on TV.
MIL loves the youngest daughter #5. During her recent visit she advises her that she should get her only son married off soon to an Indian girl only. MIL still adheres to her old tradition of seeing her grandchildren getting married to the same caste. I wonder if her grandson, who is quite mature will take heed of her advice and be ready to be a bridegroom on an Indian horse!
Daughter-in-law (DIL) gets her high marks. 10 out of 10! MIL presently puts DIL on a highest pedestal, when she talks about her! This is quite a contrast from yesteryears. Years ago, her son and DIL moved out and lived separately and this made MIL quite sad and lonely, believing that DIL stole her only son away and left her all alone with no one to turn to! But since her husband, my father-in-law, passed away, she is now back living with her son and his family and is now quite happy and content. DIL takes care of her every need, especially medically. With many usual ageing problems, she would immediately turn to DIL first as she confidently believes in her choice of doctors and prescriptions. Today, MIL and DIL have a close relationship based on mutual respect.
MIL’s three grand-daughters, aged 17, 15 and 9 are the most lovable and MIL adores them, especially the younger naughty and active one. Teenagers 17 and 15 have come into a ‘Puppy Love’ and ‘Fashionable’ stage and this scares the hell out of my MIL as she watches them modernly dressed and in action. With a huge generation gap, she is taking in her grand-children’s changes in stride, much to their parent’s chagrin who are always on ‘High Alert’ to their every move. I am amazed to notice my brother-in-law’s (BIL) hair is still naturally black, considering him living with all females in his house. That includes his maids also.
I have not yet seen MIL interacting with her daughters #2 and #4 but I do know for one thing that she loves them all equally and looks forward to their visits too.
I believe the reason MIL is lovable is because she humbly keeps to herself and avoids any authoritative approach with the family, leaving them to decide for themselves their fate and at the same time available to give us sound advice, if required, from her past experiences. Considering a huge family of daughters, son, son-in-laws and grandchildren, she is like a tower of strength above us all. Heaven bless mMIL and may she live to see 100 like her mother and her grandmother.