Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mere Paas Sasuma Hai*!

I was at a rather interesting wedding last Sunday.
For starters, it was an affair in purple-gold. The bride and groom raced down the aisle in purple-gold. The bridal bouquet was a fussy affair in purple-gold...a bunch of shiny cloth buds and not real ones!!!. The retinue of bridesmaids, flower girls, parents and siblings resembled a marching column in purple-gold. The pews bore sashes of purple-gold. The corsages the men wore were in purple-gold....As were their shirts and ties. The balloons were white and purple, probably because the purple-fixated pair couldn't find any gold ones.
Only the wedding cake remained traditional white, with purple-gold trimmings of course. As I watched the wedding unfold, I couldn't help but wonder if the bride's garter was in purple-gold too. And more importantly, why the colour co-ordinated invite hadn't advised us, hapless spectators, to carry our dark glasses along.
But this was just the beginning.
Right after the overwhelmingly purple hazed nuptials, we crammed ourselves into a tiny room next to the church, to toast good health and eternal happiness to the newly weds....sans champagne or even water, might I add. In the absence of anything - not even empty paper cups - to occupy our hands, we, the guests, dutifully clapped and cheered at the end of each toast.
A good hour later, the beaming groom stood up to acknowledge our wishes....Or so we thought as we watched him finger his purple tie and clear his throat. But, much to our amazement, he proceeded to talk about his dance school. He was a dancer with a school of his own, you see.
As the audience sat transfixed, a wee bit too startled to react, he called forward the teachers to take their bows. He did eventually get down to thanking his family and friends and the rest of us, but most of us were still a little too dazed to acknowledge his gratitude. Which probably was why the effusive bride swung into damage control mode and called on her brand new mother-in-law to take a bow.
"Auntie has been my own. Never J's mother.We have a very special bond" she declared with gay abandon.
The mother of the bride looked rather bemused.
Come to think of it, so did the mother-in-law.
I couldn't decide if her confusion stemmed from a genuine WTF moment or was the result of public attention.
But my train of thought was interrupted by the snigger of a catty onlooker
"Let's hear her say that once the honeymoon is done with"
I opened my mouth to protest but the lady droned on to prove her point "There is no point arguing, you know. She has seen her mother-in-law for what - 6 months? maybe a year? But not a lifetime, right? Mothers-in-law and Daughters-in-law are traditional enemies. It is a fool bride who thinks she can win over the in-law. Deep down, most mothers believe that no woman is ever good enough for sonny boy, even if she herself has handpicked the girl."
Was the bride being a little too optimistic? I wondered, as women around me nodded sagely in agreement. Was there something to Ms. Know-It-All's argument, although I wouldn't go as far as to agree with the Traditional Enemies part. The very phrase brought to my mind, visions of armour clad amazons atop elephants hurling mighty lances at each other!!!.

I have heard horrifying stories of mothers-in-law from hell. And, I have also heard of the odd gems who enjoy the best of relationships with their daughters-in-law. I personally knew of a mother-in-law who overcame all opposition from family and friends to marry off her daughter-in-law, who was widowed a few short months after her marriage. And I know of several mothers-in-law who are not just supportive but go out of their way to help ease the burdens on their daughters-in-law.
As I mused on, the lady continued with her pontification "And you know what the saddest part is? When women get married, her mother lets her go as well......"
Sighting my look of utter skepticism, she hurried to add a rather reluctant "well, in most cases at least"
Again, the sagacious nodding of the heads around me.
I had to concede that there was a modicum of truth in it. A married woman is very rarely her mother's. Despite the closeness and the love they may share, marriage also very subtly creates space and diminishes the sense of belonging between the two. Who lets whom go? Well, I haven't figured that one out but come to think of it, it must be for this very reason that we never find the Indian heroines declaiming "Meri Paas Ma Hai**" while our heroes, at all ages and phases, do not hesitate to announce to the world at large that they have their mothers firmly entrenched by their sides. This and the strong Freudian undertones in most Bollywood scripts, which will allow our weeping heroines to wail disconsolately in the arms of their 'papas', but never fall back on the strength of their mothers.
As I worked my way out of the claustrophobic room, I ran into the mother of the bride glumly attacking three jumbo pieces of the wedding cake with a vengeance. Not one, but three!!!
I congratulated her on acquiring a 'son' but far from cheering her, the thought seemed to depress her more.
"I am going to miss my daughter..She is so full of life and the house will be empty without her..I just about know her husband, so how can he take the place of a son? He is my daughter's husband. He has his family and now my little girl is going to be a part of their daily lives, not mine." she ended plaintively, shoving a plate bearing a purple topped slice of the wedding cake into my hands.
Across the room, the happy bride delved into her pristine white cake, quite oblivious to the fact that her mother was already saying a good-bye of sorts.
As I spooned a bit of the cake into my mouth, I found myself wishing that the lovely purple-gold bride would, in time, find a true ally in her mother-in-law. Call me overly optimistic if you wish. But I would love to meet this starry eyed girl a few years hence and hear her proclaim with pride "Meri Paas Sasuma Hai...Aur Woh Bhi Purple Gold Mein***"

* Mere Paas Sasuma Hai = I have my ma-in-law with me
** Meri Paas Ma Hai = I have my mom with me
*** Meri Paas Sasuma Hai...Aur Woh Bhi Purple-Gold Mein = I have my ma-in-law with me...and that too in purple gold


Roopa said...

A whole wedding in purple gold!!! No wonder the bride was all rosy-eyed! Or should I say purple-eyed?? :D

I generally refrain from gross generalizations on these things. To each her own I say. Although I don't agree to the mothers letting go part. At least, in our Kerala matriarchal culture, it doesn't happen...

Miaow!!! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

LOL, at the title. Though I've never seen a Sasuma who behaves like a Ma, I believe that with time, people just get used to being with each other, and even the minor/major quibbling becomes sort of routine and an integral part of life :-)

Miaow!!! said...

he he Pal, I couldn't resist the title... :) :)
I guess you are right about the the Inlaw quibbling being a part of life..in most cases atleast. As I mentioned, I know of some instances of mothers-in-law being nicer than mothers. Like with a friend whose was cared for most wonderfully by her MIL during her delivery while her mum didn't show much interest in being there for her daughter...

Miaow!!! said...

Oh yes Roopa, I wish you could have seen the happy, bouncy bride...Purple-eyed would be the right choice of word to describe her exuberance and happiness...

Actually, even I did not agree with mother's letting go part in entirety. Which is why I wondered out loud as to who let whom go. I think it is a two way process. On the one hand, it is natural that a certain amount of distance creeps in when a girl marries and finds a whole new world. But on the other hand, I also think the popular belief of married women belonging to their husband's family is something that has penetrated into our society too deeply. The bond of love between mothers and daughters is deep but I feel it rarely blooms to full potential thanks to the popular thinking about male superiority. Strictly my opinion.
The matriachal culture which I am proud of is something peculiar to Nairs and a couple of other communities in India. I don't think we can term it as a Kerala feature. For instance the Christians amd muslims do not follow it. And there are sects of hindu communities within kerala which are not matriarchial in nature. In places like Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu, brides are mostly perceived as the 'property' of their husbands and in-laws, even by their parents.
Of course, there is a degree of slackening in cities and with modern couples esp as they try balance work and family life. But I think a vast majority still think that a woman after marriage is more a part of her in-laws family than her own....Including the woman herself.

Roopa said...

Yes, very true. Can you imagine I was again gross generalizations and then I went ahead and did a little bit of generalizing myself :D!!

Arch said...

a son is a son till he gets a wife
a daughter is a daughter all her life ;)