07/04/2015 8:11 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Of Troublesome In-Laws And Bittersweet Revenge

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By carrying the news item about the young wife who got caught urinating in her in-laws' tea, the Daily Mail has done women a great disservice. Will this mean that the mothers-in-law will be reminded of their own days as daughters-in-law? Will they feel bitter and angry that they never thought of pissing in the tea of someone who made their lives miserable, or will they fear now that history has an uncanny habit of repeating itself?

The article cracked me up--while social media may rave and rant about feminism, choices, changing attitudes and so on--many women 'empower' themselves through simple acts of quiet defiance. These are well-kept secrets by women who don't disturb the apple cart, and yet get back at troublesome in-laws and uncaring husbands.

A dear friend of mine was constantly irked by her mother-in-law who would pretend to be Mrs goody two-shoes in front of her son. She would cook the son's favourite dishes for breakfast, and fuss over him, she was sugary sweet with my friend as well but would not allow my friend to get even a word in. Of course, the son thought his mother was an angel. The moment the son would leave for office, the lady would throw away all the food, get dressed and leave for her kitty party. Even at work, my friend was compelled to handle all domestic issues--of an errant maid, an overflowing toilet and even regular groceries. Dinner was always my friend's chore, and after a day's work at office, it would irk her that the mother-in-law made sure that the son was in her attendance--on the pretext of a headache, juicy family gossip, some financial matters or some such thing that demanded immediate attention. My fuming friend knew better than to tell her husband anything because it would start a fight; she did the next best thing to extract her pound of flesh. She started making the chapati dough in chicken stock. When the vegetarian mother-in-law would eat the rotis with relish, it brought my friend immense peace! On days that she was more harassed than usual, my friend would add a bit of mutton keema to the vegetarian soya dish and make sure her mother-in-law took a second helping!

In India, a young bride is taught to make her husband's family her priority and to adjust to the customs of her new 'home'. I do genuinely believe that in-laws are not necessarily out to hurt their new daughters, but more often than not, women suffer silly issues with in-laws. Husbands are caught between their wives and parents, and usually literally beg their wives to please adjust! And to not disturb the status quo and win the affection and appreciation of our husbands, most of us do not engage in full-blown conflicts. A friend of mine is constantly amazed (and appalled) how his mother and wife, both incredibly lovely women, can resort to strange behaviours to gain an upper hand.

"She started making the chapati dough in chicken stock. When the vegetarian mother-in-law would eat the rotis with relish, it brought my friend immense peace!"

As women know, it is the minor things that irritate and hurt. A friend of mine can't talk on the phone if her in-laws are at home, another is expected to get up early in the morning and make tea for her in-laws, while their son snores on peacefully. One's mother-in-law never praises her in front of their relatives and yet another's keeps a stern face when her family comes visiting. My friend's mother-in-law would never say anything to her if there was some conflict. Yet she soon discovered that when the mother-in-law was peeved at her, things would disappear from her room and re-appear in the strangest of places; she would find one earring in the dishwasher, a scarf in the utility closet, a shoe under the flower-bed in the backyard. When my friend found her favourite mug in the basket that contained their dog's things, she decided she had had enough. Now the mother-in-law is on a constant hunt looking for her jewellery, passport and other sundry things. She knows it's payback time but confronting my friend would mean an admission of her own guilt. My friend enjoyed setting up her Christmas tree this year, with little baubles hidden among the Christmas decorations; she also volunteered to put the tree away after the festival was done--the mother-in-laws favourite pearls have found their resting place!

"Now the mother-in-law is on a constant hunt looking for her jewellery, passport and other sundry things."

It's not as if all mothers-in-laws are scheming old crones like Ekta Kapoor serials make them out to be; but they are not Ramayana's Sita either. Likewise for the daughters-in-law. These are territorial issues--the in-laws and wife are in constant battle over who has the upper hand in the household. When women are troubled--because of dowry, jobs, money, children, or robbed of the simple respect one accords to another human being--most do not walk out on the marriage. Instead, many resort to petty things to ease the hurt. These can include 'forgetting' to pass on an important message, falling 'sick' at an inappropriate moment, and even gossiping about them with close friends. If adding chicken stock to the chapati dough, urinating in someone's tea, spitting in someone's food, or even adding snot, become ways to ease the pain in one's soul, where is the immorality in it? It might appall us, gross us out and we might claim that we would never do such petty things, but to each his own!

I thought it was poetic that the young girl's in-laws were 'pissed'! Reminded me of the Karma quote, 'Welcome to the Karma Cafe. There is no fixed menu. You will be served what you deserve."

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