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Dear mother-in-law

Her new husband was out of a job. Luckily, she wasn’t. She was mighty pleased with herself to be capable of supporting her very fresh marriage in such times of crisis. After all, it was her first opportunity to prove her utility beyond the household. Although the task of managing her home together with work was exhausting, she was optimistic.

One thing she looked forward to the most was the evening tea that her husband would make after her return from office. It was the best cup of tea of the day, without a doubt. And over that steaming cup she would blurt out her day’s saga without inquiring too much about his.

It was the first time her mother-in-law was visiting them after the wedding festivities. She was nervous but hopeful. The first evening after her arrival, she lovingly looked at her husband for the expected cup of tea. He hesitated but eventually budged and toured towards the kitchen. She continued the conversation with her new mother-in-law, but there were no more responses.

With her cat-like eyes, mother-in-law kept staring at her. Unable to understand the sudden change in the air, she asked her mother-in-law if everything was alright. The mother-in-law said, “Did we marry him off just so he would have to make tea in his own home?” In that moment, she understood, that the mothers were at least one reason for why the men around her were so chauvinistic!

Many years, realizations and observations later, she decided to write a letter to her mother-in-law:

Dear Ammi,

I blame you, not for your oddities and idiosyncrasies, I blame you for raising your son. You were his role model. You had the power to hone his life experiences in his early childhood and afterwards. You could have sculpted him and coaxed him into any direction, first with your actions and then with your advice. And yet, you chose not to give him anything that made him respect women and treat them as capable individuals. You showed him a picture of a woman whose role is restricted to her home and kitchen, whose sole purpose in life is to serve. You gave him a sense of being superior to women. You gave him you.

Your husband wouldn’t lift a finger at home, not even to fetch a spoon from the kitchen. You were supposed to fuss around him all the time because after all he was the man, “the exalted one.” You would only cook what he and your sons liked-never what you or your daughters did. You lived in bias without realizing that the bias was not only against you or your daughter but against all women your son would relate to in the future.

You encouraged him to be active and play sports while you pushed your daughters towards the kitchen to learn to cook and serve. You supported your son and couldn’t stop boasting about his academic achievements and prevented your daughter from leaving the country when she earned a respectable scholarship abroad.

You wouldn’t go out without permission and never without a man’s help and were always eager to assume the damsel in distress role whenever there was a situation to resolve. You always sang praises of your man who worked so hard to earn a living for the family-you never praised yourself for the role you played in running the household. You hid behind him and never acknowledged your own strength, thus demonstrating that he too could hide behind you when needed.

When your nephew was getting divorced, you told your son that it was because his wife was probably having an extra-marital affair. You stated this without any reason or knowledge. You taught him that a woman is either an obedient housewife, or else she must be a tramp.

You taught him religion but emphasized on all knowledge that justifies your way of living as a woman: subservient, weak and inferior. You criticized every girl and woman in the family who had some semblance of strength or uniqueness.

You picked your son’s laundry after him, never advising him to clean his own litter. You might have asked him to fetch water for you as it would earn him brownie points with God, but you would never ask him to make you tea, because you think men are above menial household tasks, only women are under them.

My list of grievances is long. My energy to write, too little.

All there is left to say is that you have taken away so much from me, my daughter and the entire womankind by being weak and teaching your son to accept and expect that weakness. You made him a man; an honest man who doesn’t know any better.

I blame you, dear mother in law.

Author: Soofia Says

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


27.11.2013 | 14:30