The first time we met – when you came to my house to see me as a prospective bride for your younger son – I had a feeling you didn’t like me. Even though your son and I had already met and liked each other, you didn’t seem happy with the match. I remember how I had prepared myself to look my best that day – all lakshanam.
Like a demure bride, I had even looked down the entire time and didn’t say a word, not even when you demanded several things from my father. I acted as if it was perfectly just and correct, for I had turned 27 and it was important that this work out.
I had hoped that my behaviour would pay off and you would start liking me. I remember how I had rushed back from the city I worked in to get engaged the next week, for I knew this was the only time your eldest son and grandkids could spare. Your son had a job to go back to and your grand kids had their school, but no one enquired about my work and if I’d be able to take a leave from it, on such short notice or not.
But, I fell in line – I was to be happy that I was getting married at all.
On the day of the engagement though, when I arrived all dressed and happy and stood up to greet you, you tore into me for some minor issue. What you said to me continues to be a blur, but the way you glared at me, the way you embarrassed me in front of my family and the way I felt scared of you – those are the feelings and memories that remain for me of my engagement. I knew then, with more clarity than ever before that you didn’t like me at all.
After the ceremony, you asked me to visit your elder son’s house the next day to get to know the family, and even though I was a bit apprehensive about it, I felt happy to have been asked. Under my mother’s instructions, I dressed up the way she thought you would like me to and came to your house, all alone. I sat with your sons at the dining table for lunch, and watched with wonder as you asked everyone for food, coffee and anything else they needed; everyone except me.
But, as soon as I moved to lift the ladle of the utensil to serve myself, you suddenly noticed me. In a raised voice, you called me 'unhygienic, ignorant, badly brought up' – all the things I never thought about myself, all the things no one had ever called me before. And yet again, I didn’t speak a word back to you.
But I couldn’t hold back my tears and was glad when my fiance took me away into another room – away from you, all of you. All the while I just kept thinking what made you hate me so much?
It has been nearly two years since then. There have been countless more instances that I could recount - the way you made me feel like a s*** before the wedding because I went to the city my fiance lived in, the way you told me not to enter the kitchen in your house, or turn on the AC in the middle of a sweltering Trichy summer, the way you offered to share the wedding expenses and wanted a nice wedding initially; but made the actual wedding seem like a favour for which my parents had to plead, and now, the way you say I have separated your son from his family. It goes on.
I call you my Amma. I don’t raise my voice against you. I do everything just the way you ask me to and I try hard to please you with every bit of my being. Why then do you hate me so much, dear mother-in-law? All I ever did was marry your son.