Dealing with good people can be frustrating. At least that is what my experience tells me. You yell at the son and daughter and they yell back at you. Scores settled and peace prevails. But gently rebuke them or better still don’t say anything at all. Pick up the wet towel and put it to wash. Smile at them and say “Anything else to be washed son”? It simply unnerves them and there won’t be a wet towel to pick up next time.
Priya was told that she was lucky to have Mrs. Kapoor for mother in law. Mrs. Kapoor was mild mannered and soft spoken. She would never interfere in her life. And she didn’t. But having no complaint against her mother in law was Priya’s only complaint. It was very difficult to get past her mother in law. There was a talk of hiring a cook when Priya’s husband Nitesh was hospitalized. Her mother in law pitched in.
“Why hire a cook my child. I have nothing to do. I’ll take care of the kitchen. You can attend to Nitesh.”
Priya would return from hospital at 8 in the evening. The evening meal would not be ready.
Her mom in law would smile sweetly and say –
“I was just about to start. However, I could not decide whether to prepare bitter gourd or pumpkin. Which do the children prefer? And would it be okay to prepare rotis before hand? I thought the children would want to have fresh rotis.”
“Anything would do mummy”. Priya would reply. “I have some packaged, pre-cooked vegetables. If you’ve kneaded the flour I’ll prepare rotis immediately. The children should be hungry and will be asking for food anytime now”.
“Oh my God, I just forgot. Why don’t you freshen up? I’ll knead the flour. By the way how many cups of wheat flour do we take?”
“Never mind mummy. I’ll toast some bread for them. I’ll check for left over food in the fridge. Or else I’ll make some upma for the two of us.”
And as an aside she would add ‘Please get right out of my kitchen. I may just eat you up for dinner’.
It was a frustrating situation. To top it the MIL would appear so very considerate when neighbors and relatives dropped in.
“Poor child, she has to do the running around since I cannot manage outside work. So I’ve asked her not to worry about home and children. After all what am I here for”?
Bhavana too had been blessed with a good mother in law. She was however not as indecisive as Priya’s mom in law. She was smart and very much in control. Bhavana wanted to take up a job. The children had grown up and she had some spare time. She wanted to take up a part time job.
She over heard her mother in law telling her husband-
“Bhavana wants to take up a job. And why not? She is qualified and capable. I’ve offered to manage the house. My arthritis causes problem but I’ll manage somehow. I’ll finish work and give myself a massage once I am done. Appa can fetch the children from the bus stop. It will be very hot when they come back. He’ll have to carry an umbrella. It will be a little difficult for him to manage the children with an umbrella in one hand. He’ll manage somehow. Hire a servant to fetch them? Servants are so unreliable. You pay them a huge amount and end up doing all the work yourself. Never mind son, don’t worry. We’ll manage somehow”.
Bhavana was at wit’s end not knowing how she was supposed to deal with such a sacrificing mother in law. It would have been easier to deal with one who refused to help out.
Pranati’s mother in law was in hospital. She would visit her every evening with a flask of coffee and some snacks. For the rest of the day she had hired a private attendant and was paying her an amount that was quite beyond her means. In order to save money she would take a bus to the hospital and would invariably be late. She would wait for the milkman at a neighbor’s place since he came there earlier, prepare coffee at their place, leave her two year old daughter with them and rush to board the bus. On one occasion she saw her cousin and his wife going towards the hospital in a two wheeler while she was herself in the bus. Had she spotted them before boarding the bus she’d have asked them to take her mother in law’s coffee along. When she reached the hospital ward her mother in law was very cross with her for being late. It so happened that her cousin’s wife had innocently remarked that had she known that Pranati would be late she would have brought the ailing woman some coffee herself. Well meant words but they triggered off unnecessary resentment between the mother in law/daughter in law duo. Under the circumstances it would have been better to keep one’s opinion guarded. Getting coffee on an odd day was not the same as doing it on a daily basis. And there could be umpteen reasons for the delay.
In my opinion good will alone is not sufficient. It has to be peppered with smart thinking. As the saying goes ‘an intelligent enemy is easier to deal with than a foolish friend’. Think about it.