Understanding In laws: Linda’s Story
“...so you are married?” I asked the young lady sitting next to me in the train, pointing at her Mangalsutra. We were talking family and profession for last one hour like we have been knowing each other for ages.
Her name, as she told me was Linda. She was travelling from Pune to Mumbai. She had come to Pune for an interview at a big-shot MNC. The train that day was packed to its extreme and as it was a long weekend ahead, a lot of the passengers were travelling to and fro.
I somehow had managed to board the train but hardly could find any place to even rest my feet. Thankfully, this kind lady, Linda, saw me struggling and hence shared her seat with me all the way from Pune to Kalyan.
“Oh yes, I am”, she replied merrily. She continued smiling, “ It has been 4 years now.”
It was hard to believe her as she looked really young. With that pretty Mexican face, the Anglo-Indian accent and that confident yet warm smile she seemed to be some exchange student to me. Her full name was Linda Hernandez Patil, she was not originally an Indian and belonged to the New York City.
“I see, so its not been a very long time in India, right? How did you learn such fluent Hindi and are travelling all alone?” I asked her curiously.
“ Not only Hindi but also Marathi. To learn these languages, was my first task after marriage.” She replied in an enthusiastic manner.
As I was talking to her, I was growing more inquisitive about her life decisions, lifestyle and her life story. I wanted to directly ask her, why did you marry here in India? How do you manage to cope up with such huge cultural, geographical, economic and intellectual differences? Don’t you miss your lifestyle, your parents, your friends and the place where you have been raised up? But I somehow held my questions and simply ended up saying, “ Wow, you are genius.”
She might have understood what was going on in my mind and said, “ I think I know what you are thinking. Why did I take this decision of marrying so far, away from my hometown, no? Well, let me shock you, even more, I am 28, I just completed my masters from the University of Mumbai, I live happily in a joint family of 10 members and am a proud mother of a 16 months old daughter”
My eyes were wide and my mouth opened as if I am not getting a word to express. I was both surprised and shocked. Maybe speechless for few seconds too.
I always had this ideal scenario of today’s woman in my mind like, an independent and dignified lady, earning for herself, staying alone all by herself in a city, works-out like a pro, goes on solo trips, parties like there is no tomorrow, shops like a diva and pampers herself so much so that she doesn't even want to get married before her 30s.
And here was this lady, who was breaking my belief system, right in front of me and I could not afford to speak a word in defence of the theory I have kept as a thumb rule from so long!
My curiosity had reached its peak, I asked her finally, “Linda, please tell me how do you manage? We both know, the differences between USA and India. I know few of my friends, who have been married in the same religion, the same caste still cannot adjust with their in-laws.”
She smiled and calmly started to tell her story,
How It All Started:
“ It is all about understanding others. When I met my husband, Anil, I knew we are not in a fling. We were working on a common project in NY based MNC and shared a great camaraderie. All I knew was, he was the man, who would give me a family that I had always craved for. So after marrying, when he asked me if I would ever like to settle in India. I agreed only on one condition that his parents and the rest of the family should be staying with us. He did warn me about the difference of the opinions, generation gaps, cultural shock and other problems that might arise. And when we came here, everything was even worse.
The Unloving In-Laws:
His parents and the relatives would be sweet on my face, but would not accept me, as their daughter in law wholeheartedly. They would make fun of my behaviour, sometimes would mock about the culture, would not acknowledge my efforts and also would not consider me as an integral part of the family while some decisions were to be made.
I remember, my mother in law once said to my husband that, marrying me was the biggest folly he did and also that he could have found a much better match if he had married within the community and religion.
When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do:
Of course, these things, have hurt me extremely. It was just not easy.
But, every time I faced rejections, disapprovals, and remarks, I took them positively. I thought, if they are throwing stones at me, I won’t let it hurt me; instead I’ll make a bridge out of it so that it could connect the gaps between us. And that is how I started my journey.
I was not going to give up on my dream of having a big family in any case. I started doing a root cause analysis of the things my in-laws said or did. And I think, I cracked the code!
As it is said, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’, I started to follow the same. I saw my mother in law getting up early, cleaning the house, doing the puja-path and starting the day. She did everything all by herself, with no helping hand. I decided to be her partner in that course. I followed her in every step, and trust me I started doing the things even better than her. I listened to Marathi bhajans, songs and watched movies and tried deciphering the meanings. I talked in Marathi, no matter how silly it seemed. I was determined to make my mother in law as my best friend and today, she loves me more than her own daughter.
My Father in law did not speak to me for the initial 6 months. Every time, I went to him with a cup of tea, he would simply nod and say nothing. I used to be terribly hurt, but one day while speaking to my new-found-friend-mum-in-law, I got to know that poor father in law was weak in English. Just in order to avoid embarrassment, he would not talk to me. Now I knew what I had to do. Day and night I tried honing my spoken Marathi and finally, I nailed it. After a rigorous study of 3 months, one day I went to him with the same cup of tea and asked him in Marathi if he wanted anything more. He reluctantly tried replying in English, but I interrupted him and said, I don't understand English anymore. From that instance, there was no looking back.
I had already won over my in-laws, by proactively taking tasks that they would love their daughter in law to do, without having being told. I keenly observed other young Indian females and tried to comprehend, what was it that would make me different from them. Not that I was losing my individuality, but just wanted to add an extra skill. As soon as I would find out an attribute, I would literally note it down and ask my husband to further elucidate.
Let The Angry Words Be Answered With Love:
Meanwhile, my two unmarried sisters in law would shower me with sneers whenever they got a chance. I would never do anything to hurt them yet they used to mock me regularly. But that is what has helped me grow. I never considered them as problem element. I took their attitude as a new challenge. I thought the more they will taunt the more I will smile and maintain my grace. Someone rightly said, let the angry words be answered with love.
Whenever the duo taunted me for anything, I would simply forgive them with a kind smile. One day, the duo were extremely frustrated with some office issue. They were fighting like crazy. I quickly made lemonade and offered them. I asked them to calm down and enquired what was the matter. They were initially hesitant, but on my persuasion, they started expressing each other's resentment. The issue was the elder sister had asked the younger sister to make a PPT, but the younger sister had forgotten to do so. I took up this task and asked them to chill. I worked on the PPT and strived hard to make it the best.
The next day, the elder sister in law, returned from office and hugged me as soon as she saw me. Her happiness knew no bound when her manager praised her for the PPT in front of a huge panel. I was close to tears. Seeing this, even the younger one started to feel empathy towards me. We three had a heartfelt chat that night, and that is when I realized they didn’t hate me. They just misunderstood me of having a superior attitude. They even had a bit of inferior complexity.
Happy Realization And Happy Ending:
It took me nearly a year to deal with the challenges. But I strongly believe in having an understanding nature. You won’t get any help with complaints as it only adds up to the despair."
I don’t remember how the journey ended, but I do remember Linda’s glowing face. Her story had added a fresh and new perspective in my life.
With so many Saas-Bahu serials and numerous gossips about ladies around us, we tend to accept the dogma of the in-laws being evil or vice-versa. It is just that everyone has their own outlook, own way of thinking and own way of understanding things.
It would not be very wise to expect someone from the different family to behave or react the way you do. So the next time you have issues with your in-laws, remember to understand their viewpoint first and then think of yours.
[Editor's note: This is a real story but unfortunately we don't have Linda's original photo to put here.]