Smita was at the end of her wits as she took a cab from the airport to her in-laws place. She was visiting her in-laws for a family wedding sans Sharman and was slightly uncomfortable at the idea of staying with her mother-in-law without her husband being around to play the medium. But on second thoughts she was also curious to know how her mom-in-law would treat her in her son’s absence.
In the past, Sharman’s mom had not been very welcoming of her son marrying a girl from outside their community. But she conceded to Sharman’s will and to the fact that Smita was in every way suitable for her son. Smita was equally qualified as her son, earned almost an equal salary in the same organization and not to forget, they made a presentable couple. Smita knew, that the old lady though was not so shallow, so as to give so much importance to looks, but she couldn’t help observing how her son and his lady love complemented each other in every aspect. She guessed that it irked her even more that her son was find such a nice girl on his own.
But Smita had found it very strange how a mother was always clinging to her son in her daughter-in-law’s presence as if to mark her territory or claim what was hers. Smita often found it very outlandish how her mother-in-law had become so insecure once another lady became a part of her son’s life. She just could not get the logic behind the insecurity when they played two exclusive roles in a man’s life. With all these thoughts swarming her mind, Smita whooshed out a blow of air and got down the cab, bracing herself for what lay ahead of her.
‘Smita, mera bachcha how are you?’ Mrs. Patil held her daughter-in-laws head and laid a peck on her forehead, while Smita bowed down in respect, before entering the house.
Over the next two days the lady duo spent a lot of time in frenzy preparing for the oncoming wedding. They sat amidst a pool of shopping bags as they opened each and every package, unfolded the dress and placed it on their shoulder to admire the beauty of it on their bodice. Shortly Mrs. Patil became busy with re-packing their shopping and giving out instructions to the cook to prepare dishes that Smita liked. Smita observed her mother-in-law, intrigued by an absolutely different facet of her personality. In the last two days Mrs. Patil had been extremely sweet to her and gone out of her way to please Smita. She was also confused by her behavior.
Last time when Smita was at her in-laws with Sharman, she had found herself continuously on the edge. Sharman’s mom was continuously summoning her son to lend her a hand for some house chore or be all ears as she went around ranting about what other members in the family were upto. Smita was exasperated at the way her privacy was being intruded. There was absolutely no space for the couple in the house. It was always about ‘Sharman, your father wants you to do this’, or ‘Sharman, please help me putting this in the store’, or ‘Sharman, let’s go out to your favorite dinner place today’.
When Mrs. Patil was not calling out on her son, she would be busy talking to Smita,
‘You know what Smita? Sharman never went anywhere without me.’
‘Smita, you must know that everyone in the family considers Sharman to be the ideal son that every mother dreams of’
‘Smita, Sharman knows my taste and preferences like the back of his hand.’
At the last one, Smita had not missed the dichotomy in her tone which implied that ‘he has always had my preferences in mind, except for in your case’
Smita had felt stifled at how Mrs. Patil’s tried to absorb her son’s each and every waking minute and lay her claim on it. At one point of time, Smita had been so pissed that she had considered discussing this with Sharman, but given how much he was actually attached to his mother, she thought it better to keep mum. But the lady with whom Smita had spent the last two days was in a different avatar altogether. She was nothing like the ever fumbling, badly in need of her son mommy. Smita figured that though she definitely was a control freak, but a considerate one. She did not even once try to dominate Smita during their shopping together and instead asked for her opinion in everything. She infact was even a pleasant company. Smita was glad that she had deferred her judgment and not mentioned her reservations about Sharman’s mom to him. That night she went to bed a happy person. Also because Sharman was to arrive next day.
Little did she know that Sharman will bring along with him, the same abrasion that Smita had initially feared from her mother in law.
Next afternoon when Sharman arrived, Smita was about to run upto him to the door to receive him. Mrs. Patil, instead hurried her way past her to open the door and pull her son into her embrace. She did not leave Sharman for the next 30 minutes, as she brought him his favorite kokam sharbat, his favorite sweets and continued to talk to him about the family, the impending wedding and everything else under the roof and sun. Smita took a deep sigh and turned to retire to her room and wait for her husband inside. It was atleast another hour before Sharman showed up and called out on Smita.
Smita by then was a live wire due to pent up anger and for fear of spewing any venomous words at her husband, she just shut her eyes close and acted as if she were fast asleep. When she woke up they had no time to catch-up as Mrs. Patil was hyperventilating on how they were going to be late for the ceremony and kept banging the door to their room, urging them to get ready quickly.
Smita had lost all enthusiasm to participate in ceremony and wanted to be left alone. She was upset about the turn around in her mother-in-laws attitude and also by her husband’s nonchalance.
Smita’s agony continued at the ceremony too. Mrs. Patil kept pulling on Sharman for every little thing, leaving Smita to the mercy of being entertained by Sharman’s cousins.
A little later into the party, when the music started playing, everyone called out for Sharman and Smita to join the dance floor. There already were many members of the family, young and old dancing to the latest bollywood hits. As Sharman took Smita’s hand and took her to the dance floor, as if on impulse Smita’s head turned to search for Mrs. Patil. Mrs. Patil’s sad yet smiling eyes, her pursed lips and a straight face tugged at Smita’s heart. She felt the weight of her piercing eyes, and she almost flinched and pulled herself out of the dance floor. She went in her mother-in-laws direction and held her by her shoulders.
‘Mom, why don’t you join us?’
Mrs. Patil turned to look at Smita in disbelief and gave way to a smile whose warmth touched Smita’s heart. The mother and couple trio held hands together and had the best dance of their life.
That night they returned home very late and retired to their rooms almost immediately. But Smita lay awake for a long time, thinking about her mother-in-law. She had a monologue with herself –
She surely loves her son way too much. But then she has single handedly brought Sharman since was 15 years. Dad, was always traveling due to his job until 3 years back when he retired. It is only logical that she is very close to her son.
But what is the need for her to be so intrusive all the time. Because she really wants to spend time with her son? May be. He has been her sole purpose to life for the longest time.
Is she jealous of me?I don’t know. But how do I figure?
Smita did not have to wait too much for the answers. Next morning, Smita woke up early and climbed up to the terrace to breathe some fresh morning air. As she ascended to the wide corner of the roof top, she saw her mother-in-law standing along the support wall with a cup of tea in her hand. As if on intuition, she turned around to see Smita who was contemplating to stay or go back to her room. Once spotted she dropped the idea of going back and with a slight smile, she went to stand by her mom-in-law’s side watching over the playground where young boys were playing cricket before going to school.
‘I can see that Sharman is very happy with you.’ These words from Mrs. Patil stunned Smita. She turned to look at her mom-in-law and tried to gauge her emotions.
‘You know what, there were times when I felt very lonely and helpless due to your dad’s absence from the household. At that time, even at the tender age of 10 years Sharman was my pillar of support. I know teenagers can be so difficult to handle, but not Sharman. Not even once in so many years, he has complained about things that I could not do for him, because I was a pseudo single mother with a chronicle ailment.’
Smita knew that Mrs. Patil suffered from asthama and bronchitis. Sharman had told her how he could never leave his mom and go for any college trips because he needed to be with his mom.
‘I had always thought that I will get Sharman married to someone of my choice, to whom I will be able to dictate how important my son was for me.’ Mrs. Patil continued, ‘Also I wanted to mold the girl to be dancing to my tunes since the beginning.’ Smita looked on without blinking at the old lady who was on the verge of tears.
‘When Sharman chose you out of his will, I was dumbfounded and spent countless nights worrying about the fact that I may get distanced from my son.’ Mrs. Patil sobbed, ‘Every time I saw Sharman walk past me to meet you or talk to you, I felt a knot in my heart.’ Her emotions gave way to her long withheld tears.
‘But last night when you held my hand and took me to the dance floor, I realized I was so wrong about you.’ Mrs. Patil took a deep breath and turned to look at Smita. Smita saw a glint of happiness in the old lady’s eyes.
‘I am glad that I raised my son well enough to desire you, deserve you and claim you to be his.’ She placed a palm on her cheek, ‘Still I must warn you that at times my menopausal hormones may lead me to act weirdly and do funny things to stake my claim on my son. But you must know that I love you like I love Sharman. Only that you do not have the years behind you.’ Smita let out a glad sigh as Mrs. PAtil giggled at what she had just said.
Smita felt alleviated of a burden off her chest.
‘I promise you I will catch up on the years very soon. And then you will love me more.’, she engulfed her mother-in-law in a bear hug before adding.
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