Call me ‘Mummy’ please!

How an Indian wedding changes the dynamics of relationships. Photo courtesy: SunilChavan, Pixabay

Contributor: Devyani Chauhan Bisht

We Indians are funny creatures when it comes to marriages. A few centuries ago some norms were so crystal clear that one automatically fell into the circuits of those norms. Then they either lived with it in peace, made peace with it or let peace elude them and embraced grumpiness as part of their beings. Be it as a wife, a husband or parents of the husband known famously as in-laws.

Over time, with generations getting a better education and evolving as human beings, our marriages and this institution they made out of a marriage saw some change. Now the current trend, along with the daughter in law embracing new set of parents as her own, the return gift is that of in laws accepting their daughter in laws as daughters. And here is where the comedy starts. Now I call it a comedy since I find it the biggest irony of the millennium.

When I got married about a century ago, yeah 12 years does feel like a centurial score sometimes, over night some things changed. My parents suddenly became my husband’s parents too and miraculously and effortlessly he slipped into the so called son’s role and began calling them “Mummy” and “Papa”. But for me, this was not to be. The herculean task of embracing my in laws as my parents had just befallen my slender shoulders and I actually felt the weight of that slouch. So the easiest thing to do under the circumstances was to directly address the person and ask whatever had to be asked and be done with it. So easy ! But how do I excuse myself over the phone ! Only a “hello” followed by “haan” appalled my mother in law to which a teary eyed confrontation (no no not from me but from her) followed. While I stood there dumbstruck as to why a woman would be so super sad for such a petty thing, another part of me wanted to roll down laughing. But however I managed to maintain my courtesy. Now I had to call this lady my “Mummy” and fill the shoes of a daughter she didn’t have. Not that big a deal now is it ? But you know what, it was. For me. Because how much ever I tried that clumsy utterance of that one word felt super fake to me. The fact was, that I was born with one set of parents. That was irreplaceable and irrevocable. Oh, but my persistence of Mummy calling still continued. And if not entirely successful, I’ve still managed to masquerade it into the epitome of total respect for her benefit and of those around her.

At my own home before getting tied to new people, I realised, I could back answer my Mom anytime I was in a bad mood. And I could sit with my dad and argue about an issue at the end of which it would be either me stomping off in a fury or him saying do what you want. End of story. And next day would be a new beginning. You still remain the darling daughter and he still knows how the daughter is and remains non judgemental. So for this new set of parents who so want to keep the daughter in law as a daughter, I ask, “Are you willing to have a ear full of her arguments and tantrums as one of your own, or as one you tolerate from your own son?”. “Can you refrain from labelling her as rude and impolite in case she raises her voice to an opinion that does not match yours, something that you are so pro at taking in your stride with one of your own children?”

If I talk only about myself, I think I have a set of in laws that nobody else could possibly dream of having. A pair of the most warm and caring people. And for it, I shall be eternally grateful. But people so need to realise that everyone is different. Coming from a family that was pretty chilled out and never molly coddled the children, the over protectiveness of my set of new parents was something too over bearing and claustrophobic for me. I just wanted to let be and not fussed about. And excuse me, if I come across as thankless and ungrateful, but I never have understood the concept of going out of the way and gathering applause for yourself. Sugar coated sweetness is best left alone for a mithaai shop. In people it simply comes across as fake beyond a certain point.

Ever wondered why our indian daughter in laws are far more subdued and respectful to in laws than to their own parents ? There alone lies the answer.

So dear in laws of new daughter in laws, just be yourselves. She’s not your daughter and you are not her parents. Between that line comes a thin line and that is of respect. Of space. Of acceptance. And that I think will carry the new relationship far and strike the right balance.

And my dear readers, the next time you hear someone use the phrase “beti jaisi”, look him/her in the eye and tell him … “beti jaisi, beti toh nahi na” ? Because there is and there will always be a “World of Difference” between the two. Whoever shows or tells otherwise, need to bury themselves within themselves and get a grip of the fact. So Mummy please, but not Mummy please !

Contributor: Devyani Chauhan Bisht

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