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Last month, before the son was to leave for the airport, I made him an omelette. It would be awhile before he reached his destination. An omelette would get him through till such time as he had dinner. When he had his first bite he said,
“Mom. I think you overdid the salt a bit.”
“Uh-ho,” I replied in dismay, “Is that so?”
Eating overly salted food is no fun. So I got up with the intention of making a fresh one. But, by then he had taken another bite and declared it was actually fine. That probably had been a maverick grain of salt with no intention of following the example of other grains and giving up its individuality by dissolving in the beaten eggs. A few more bites revealed this was indeed the case. So I sat back watching him chomp, my mind going back to a similar incident ages back.
It must have been just three or four months into my marriage that it happened. The mother-in-law had made mince-meat stuffed omelettes as evening snack. The L & M was already digging into his roll when I pulled a chair and sat at the table. One bite from the stuffed omelette on my plate, and my face involuntarily screwed up.
Oh, don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. My mother-in-law was an excellent cook. She made some of the yummiest local dishes though extremely spicy and red hot. Just the memory of the latter part makes my eyes and nose water while the mouth waters for the former. But that particular evening she had been rather liberal with the salt. I don’t mean mildly so, more like, THERE WAS TOO MUCH SALT. Probably the MIL had absentmindedly, as happens to the best of us at times, added salt twice, generously.
As I was about to get up to go out and spit the mouthful I had bitten into, the L & M who it appeared had been expecting just such a reaction from me, gave me a stern look of warning. NO, his silent look ordered me, you cannot spit it out. My voice which had been about to state that there was too much salt in the roll died on my lips because the look said in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that no objection on my part would be brooked. He let me know in sign language that I was to remain silent and follow his example, eat the damn thing, salt or no salt.
You must understand that the ‘damn’ in that sentence is my feeling, not his, and is really coming from the present me, the I-care-two-hoots-blogger that I have turned out to be. At that point of time in my life three decades back, no such rebellious thought presented itself, more’s the pity. You see, girls in our society are brought up to be obedient, no-good people-pleasers, and even if they grow up and rebel ever so slightly against it, most of them dare not do so in their husband’s home, at least not in the initial years when one is so innocent that one believes pleasing people around will get you everything you ever wanted in life. Love, for example, affection,  care, respect to name a few more. Nothing could be further from the truth though. And therein lies the failure of every parent of daughters. But more on that on another day.
So being the people-pleaser par excellence that I was (and much to my dismay which has been so deeply ingrained that I still am one at this age, having to make a conscious effort to free myself from the compulsion-to-please those around and failing regularly), I quietly ate the over-salted roll. Yet I had spark enough in me to chafe, albeit silently, at the injustice of it all. Questions rose in my mind as to how being upfront with one’s parents could be misconstrued as lack of love and respect. Why was quietly eating something over-salted made by a parent (or accepting something that isn’t to your taste or liking), construed as love, obedience, respect or whatever?  I swallowed those questions just as I did the salty omelette.
Naturally, like I have with other things that have bothered me, I used this one to make a difference in my own parenting style. As a parent I would not force children into a corner (emotionally blackmail) that they start equating love and respect to being silent about mistakes, intentional or unintentional, of a parent.  I guess I have succeeded in my mission. Now if only someone told them to not go overboard and tell me what to wear or how to style my hair. Psst.. I am, of course, kidding. But what if they do tell me? I am not going to listen. So there! 😉

©Shail Mohan 2016

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