Through The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman in Your Marriage, the author tries to take you across the complexities of the married life of eleven Indian women, via a series of interviews. The attempt and purpose of this book, clearly, is to bring out and evaluate the ugly truth of the Indian society, when it comes to life-after-marriage.
If you have heard of the most popular joke in this context, it is said that “a snake has a single ‘s’ when spelt, whereas, the ‘Saas’ has two” making the later more venomous. Try translating it in Hindi/Punjabi, it will sound even funnier. This is funny but rather sad truth of married life. There is no escape from this and it continues to be the most important relationship in a married woman’s life.
There can never be an ultimate truce between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. NEVER!! No matter how much open-minded and loving the relationship might appear from outside, there will always be some friction at some point in their life together.
While it is true that your mother-in-law can never replace and love you like your own mother, the mother-in-law also holds the belief that nobody can be a better advocate of her son, but herself. Out of the fear of losing this crucial position, she is ready to challenge her daughter-in-law throughout this life (and the 6 lives to follow).
The author, Veena Venugopal, tries to explore the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of the hardships that these women encountered in their marriages. Each of these women has a unique story to tell. They narrate their life incidents to the author with a rather heavy and painful heart. They were victims of the exploitations of their respective mothers-in-law, who caused a major damage to the lives of these women.
Let me give you a glimpse of a few of the narrations in The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman in Your Marriage.
Chapter: You are (almost) like a daughter to me
This is about Anshika, who, with Rahul, makes a perfect match made in ‘heaven for arranged marriages’.
Anshika is a very mischievous, lively and expressive girl who lives in Mumbai and is a teacher by profession. She falls in love with Rahul whom she probably knows since her childhood as he belongs to the same Sindhi community as hers.
After various tantrums and disapprovals, Rahul’s mother finally agreed to the marriage. For the typical Indian mother-in-law that she is, she lays down ground rules for Anshika. So, in order to bring some peace to her mother-in-law, Anshika quits her job, gets married and starts functioning exactly as instructed by her.
Soon after the marriage, Anshika starts feeling miserable due to the continuous nagging and unjust behaviour of her in-laws. She is subjected to never-ending scolding and humiliating comments.
Despite this, she always tries to become a better version of herself to fit in the ‘Perfect Bahu’ criteria of her in-laws. With time, she learns to stand for herself and succeeds at breaking a few superimposed meaningless rules.
The only good thing in her life was the continuous support from Rahul, who sympathized with her but couldn’t do much to relieve her from this situation, as he himself was too afraid to go against his own mother.
Chapter: The Unforgiven
Seema and Srini met at work and eventually fell in love with each other. Seema is a liberal woman complimenting Srini, who is an open-minded man and respects women in general. Seema is a Malayali girl whereas Srini is a hard-core Tamil Brahmin, which clearly states the cultural differences between the two.
As most of the to-be mothers-in-law, Amma (Srini’s mother) also dictated the proceedings of the marriage ceremonies to Seema’s parents. All the rituals were followed to the point.
The only thing that Seema retaliated to was having to wear a nine-yard sari on her wedding day. This led to a lot of troubled times and agitating discussions through the course of the wedding preparations but Seema did not succumb to this demand.
After so many years of marriage, Seema is still occasionally reminded and lectured over this.
Seema continues to live her life with somewhat freedom but still follows most of the rigid customs followed and instructed by Amma.
This situation twists a little when Srini’s younger brother gets married. Amma is not so fond of the younger daughter-in-law either. This is because the new daughter in law is very blunt and not at all ready to compromise what so ever.
If not much, this brought some respite into Seema’s life as her mother-in-law starts to favour her a little. But this dream could not last for long because the otherwise non-conformant younger daughter-in-law plays her wild card and agrees to fulfil Amma’s dream by wearing the nine-yard sari at her wedding. She obviously becomes Amma’s new favourite, snatching the peace out of Seema’s life, yet again.
Witty, Funny and Inspirational
The author narrates the stories in The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman in Your Marriage in a rather comic, witty and interesting manner so as to lighten the heaviness of these sad but true-life experiences. While these are individual and personal stories of different women, (almost) every daughter-in-law will be able to connect to these experiences.
Besides relating to these experiences, the author urges every woman to stand up for herself and refrain from tolerating unnecessary humiliations. She motivates every woman to uphold her dignity and live her life on her own terms. She pleads women not to compromise their right to live a happy life just for the sake of dragging a painful marriage.
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