Getting Married For An Indian Daughter Also Means You Can't Take Care Of Your Widowed Mother

Nandita Sharma Nandita Sharma in Culture Shock on 12 April, 2017

I am the eldest of the three siblings. My sister, who is married, stays in the U.S and my younger brother is studying in Australia.

And when we lost our father and my loving independent mother lost her companion, her partner, her husband of thirty five years, life had come to a complete standstill.

He passed away peacefully in his sleep, leaving my mother all alone and shattered. And post his sudden demise, as we began to collect the pieces of our irreparable loss; the roof over her head and her living became a grave question of concern, apart from her loneliness.

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Although we had our ancestral home in Punjab, I didn’t want her to live all by herself. My brother couldn’t support her at that point as he was still pursuing his education. Her going to the U.S was a viable option but she didn’t give her nod to it as she didn’t wish to settle in a new country with unknown people around.

Being an independent woman all her life, she was hesitant to stay with either of her offsprings. Nonetheless, I had made up my mind to bring her to Mumbai with me. Since we were a nuclear family of three, I thought she could stay with me as long as she desired.

After a few sessions of persuasion and attempting to convince her that she was old and she should stay with me, my mother agreed but half-heartedly to come along with us.

It wasn’t easy for her to adjust herself in a new city and the idea of living in her son-in-law's house and of course, constantly dealing with the trauma of parting with her husband. But as time passed by, the reality dawned on me.

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The real picture had begun to come to fore with the realization that my husband initially didn’t say a no to permit my mother into our house, but was actually reluctant and not comfortable staying with his mother-in-law. He had started to voice his disgust and dislike against her presence in the house in odd ways which broke me somewhere inside.

My mother is a no nonsense woman who always spoke less and hardly poked her nose into things, but her stay had apparently become a bone of contention between the two of us. His annoyance was beyond my comprehension. His eyes and his gestures conveyed it all.

It reminded me of one of my close friends who had to get her mother home, in the same house with her husband, two sons and in-laws after her father passed away. They were just two sisters, the elder one being part of an extended joint family couldn’t keep her, so the only option was to get her home as she was also suffering from acute depression.

I saw myself caught in the same dilemmaHe didn’t often utter words to express it but I had deciphered the cause of his silent displeasure lately.

His own mother wasn’t very pleased with the idea and had expressed her concerns indirectly. Moreover, the man in him could not adjust himself to the very idea of living with his wife’s mother, feeding her and she, now having become a permanent part of their existence. On the other hand, I had pertinent questions screaming for answers inside.

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Why couldn’t my mother stay with us? Why are a wife’s mother and her life’s issues so hard to put on one’s shoulder? I wondered would he have left his own mother in the hands of destiny if she too, had been all alone the same way? So why does a daughter’s duty become less? Just because she is a daughter, married and living in her husband’s house, and because she is not the son?

Is it only a son’s duty to look after his mother in the absence of her husband? Isn’t the daughter liable to take care of the woman who is, but her mother?

It was a hard hitting truth, which I had to overcome. As time flew by I had learnt to deal with his dissent. I was firm not to give in to his objections and in the process he too, had accepted my decision. All I knew was that I was equally responsible for taking care of my mother even if my husband was not comfortable with it. However, I am still to find answers to questions like —

Did me getting married and leaving my parents, relieve me of all my duties towards them? Why do I need approval to support and take care of my own mother?
Editor's Note:

Ridiculous is the word, if you feel the same, share her story