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Today my household help was telling me her story and something she said stood out and grabbed my attention enough to want me to write about it.

Her parents married her off when she was nineteen.  A daughter was born to the couple within the year. For some inexplicable reason her husband decided that she should go in for a “family planning” operation soon after. She had been only twenty at the time. He succeeded in convincing her. Once the deed was done the no-good man left her to her resources and never returned. It was heard that this was his modus operandi. Marry, get the wife to sterilise herself then disappear. The ‘goodies’ the government promises/gives those who undergo sterilisation must have been what prompted his actions. So much for the baits!

About four years down the line, she met a man who fell in love with her. He married her knowing full well her past history. A couple of years into their married life, he changed colors and started throwing tantrums. I want a baby. That was the gist of his demand to his wife. Now the woman was in a fix. How could she conjure up a baby when she had already been sterilised? The man wouldn’t see reason. He would curse, rant and sometimes come home drunk and beat her up. The poor woman was at her tethers end when her mother in law stepped in. She had some questions, no, no, no; not for the DIL, but (Surprise! Suprise!) for her son.

Tell me something, do you want a wife or a child?

Both.

Hmmm….You fell in love with this woman and married her against our wishes, right?

Yes.

At the time you knew she could not bear children?

Yes.

(Pointing to the DIL’s daughter from her earlier marriage) Do you see that little girl?

Yes.

Like it or not, SHE is now YOUR child.

<silence>

Bring her up as your own. And put an end to all this nonsense.

From that day, the man never brought the subject up again. According to my helper, he has been a good husband and father, has taken care of her and daughter all these years. The daughter is now married and mother of two (12 and 8 years old).

What got my attention was the way the mother pulled up her son for his unreasonableness instead of blaming it all on the daughter in law, which is THE typical and most favoured way of dealing with things that we see commonly. How many mothers do you think will have the sense (and guts) to give the offspring a reality check in this manner? Unfortunately, not enough numbers. What the support-any-nonsense-the-son-says mothers or blame-it-all-on-DIL mothers-in-law don’t realise is the harm they are doing TO THEIR own SONS by their behavior. Honeyed words of support cannot ever take the place of a little plain-speaking when it is called for. It did not need education for this mother, a vegetable vendor by profession, to understand this truism.

Now, that is who I call a MOTHER. It is a mother’s role (also the father’s for that matter) to shape and discipline children. That duty gets over when children reach adulthood. But if at all the necessity arises, a true mother (or father) will not unfairly shield their children from truths that have to be faced and palm off blame on others. Sadly that is what we see in most houses. DILs take the blame for the sons’ actions. In her place some mothers would have rushed in to gloat and lend a hand in the family’s final disintegration. A new DIL is not hard to find, after all. There are foolish parents waiting to dump daughters. On the other hand this mother helped rebuild something that was about to break. This is my toast to the mother who by her simple words and judicious approach HELPED her son and his family.

Today she is no more. Her son is bedridden with some neurological problems. He needs help moving around in his own house. Guess who helps him when his wife is away trying to earn a living for both of them? It is the very same daughter from his wife’s first marriage, who he brought up as his own. Apart from looking after her own home (she lives close-by) she finds time to come over to check on her father, feed him and also shave his beard for him, her mother says, with tears in her eyes.

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