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M. I. L. part II
By Chandroo D.

September 2008 and I am back in Dubai after three years to visit my Mother in Law (M.I.L.) in Dubai.

My better half, her daughter #3, and I land in Dubai early morning.  Warm air greets us as we leave the cool airport terminal.  Heavy pollution is in the air, probably due to the many ongoing constructions of sky scrapers sprouting all around the desert, as we are whisked away by Emirates airline’s limousine service to my M.I.L’s villa.

Dubai is generally described as the Hong Kong of the Middle East. Emerging as a world business hub in the last decade, the city strives to keep breaking new records - the world's tallest building, the world's first seven star hotel, the world's biggest shopping mall, and the world's largest manmade port. Dubai's free trade zone is a major enticement for foreign investors and the boomtown atmosphere has attracted many nationalities to come live and work here. In this playground of the Middle East, one can find indoor ski slopes, camel races and dizzying skyscrapers.  Traffic clogs up the city daily and hopefully the progressing work on mass transit railway system will solve the problem in the near future.

Sitting and chatting with M.I.L. is always a pleasure and listening to her philosophy, gossip and complaints.  She enjoys talking and listens less, as she is now partially deaf.   Most of the time, I would show my understanding of her discussion by nodding, instead of speaking out loudly.  Her memory is still very good and except for normal ageing aches and pains, she still looks relatively healthy.   Her first humorous greeting words to me were, “my - you are looking older than me!”  Her general outlook of life is very optimistic and this is probably what keeps her going and extending her life span.

Daughter # 2 and her husband, from Abidjan too are visiting her and the normal conversation around the dining table would be food, cook and maids.  #3, conscious of her health, would avoid spicy and oily dishes, while #2 and I would devour it.  As for M.I.L, she would always find something to complain about.  Either the potatoes are cut too small or they are too large.  Either the added salt is too little or too much and so forth.  The new hired cook (originally a restaurant waiter) would always check with daughter #2 and #3 every morning “what do I cook today”?   Once given the menu, he would then ask them ‘how do I make that?”   Confusion and chaos starts immediately!  Eventually #2 and #3 would work together with the cook and the maid to create a mumbo jumbo of the dishes.  The phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth” is totally out of line here, as the dishes always came out delicious!

The favourite pastime of my M.I.L. is to watch the Zee and Star Indian channels on her TV in her bedroom.  Daughter #3 too loves the same and it is hilarious to see both of them totally engrossed in the family soap operas.  While watching the shows, M.I.L. would explain to #3 the whole story of what had happened so far in the show and which star is good or bitchy in the show.  Then out comes the snacks and both mother and daughter munch away excitedly while occasionally cursing the star loudly such as “Idiot, can’t you see!  Your aunty is vicious and creating a problem between you and your wife”.  Sometimes this “live opera” goes on till late in the night and I never see #3 until I wake up in the morning.  I am sure many husbands must have lost their marital love life to Zee channel’s distressed family soap operas.  What mostly irritating is when the cameramen constantly put emphasis on the scenes by creating annoying zooming effects!

M.I.L. dreads to travel overseas anymore.  She has turned down all invitations from her daughters to visit them.  She claims, she is so used to living comfortably in the villa with hands-on maid service that she would consider herself to be a burden to others if she ever changes her environment.  I totally understand her.

She is very god fearing and thereby has a private well decorated temple set up on the same floor as her bedroom.  She passes her morning hours sitting in this temple peacefully and devoting herself in prayers and deity hymns.   Once completing her daily morning ritual, she would always come out with an unforgettable smile on her face.  Interestingly, during one of her discussion with me, she instructed me to ensure that the family holds prayers for her for only 3 days after her passing away.  She did not want the family to go through the lengthy 7 or 11 days of mourning and prayers for her.

On the day of our departure, we are hit by tragic news of the sudden demise of her daughter #4’s husband in Puerto Rico.  M.I.L’s first reaction to the news was calm and sombre.  She enquires on details of his death and then quietly retreats to her temple to meditate and pray.  I presume this was the only way for her to release her emotions in private and not in front of the family.  She has seen the growth of her family of 6 children with their respective spouses; her grandchildren and finally her great grandchildren.  So to see her family diminishing now – first her husband, then her first son-in-law and now her fourth son-in-law, I sense her grief and feel extremely sad for her.

Recently a man, sick of his mother-in-law has offered to sell her on eBay.  He has invited bids starting at just £1 and hopes someone would take her off his hands.  Funny or serious, as it may sound, I personally would never ever think of trading my M.I.L. for any amount in the world!  May she live a healthy comfortable life.

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