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
There’s one lesson I learned while working in retail during the school holidays, and what a coworker has told me: You can NEVER please anyone 100% no matter much you try to make them happy. And it’s a fact! I also find that if you please them more, they will take advantage and demand more.
I used to think that as a Indian girl you have to please people and always obey what others say. Must be reticent. Not that I always obeyed (there were some harsh words and uncalled for criticism thrown at me that I refuse to do the task as it created nothing but deep wounds and at times hatred towards being an Indian, but it’s to teach the lesson that if you are going to be egoistic, judgmental hypocritical person, you will never get anything and you will kill relations with others, especially children. Seen it with my own family) but I never said anything to anyone and kept my mouth shut. I remember trying to say things about I felt about certain things only to be lashed out. Once I went to college, I realized that being a robot for others is no no and you need to stand up and be firm, it doesn’t matter who it is. Plus if you are constantly submissive, you are more than likely to be heavily controlled and will not be able to do things independently, I feel people have the right to choose their identities and live a life that they see fit, not what this “society” crap sees fit. Besides blindly following others as they are the “wise” ones does not apply anymore since the world is getting smaller and smaller and there are tons of broadened perspectives. Elders can and should certainly advise/suggest and bring their experiences RESPECTFULLY, but they should not control, blackmail and manipulate. A few relatives, even me were victims of this, luckily I personally know now that this is all bullshit and you need to live your own life. Obeying blindly will not always guarantee happiness, it’s within the individual to decide what will make them happy. If you have happiness most of the time, you will tend to be more successful and healthy than those who are not. Part of that is to let go of expectations and go with the flow, explore and grow personally.
That said, I did have to stand up for myself this past weekend and refused to be submissive and agree to please, but it ended up into a fist fight with my mom about “marriage”. I told her calmly that I don’t feel it would be right for me and I’m not sure if I can handle it (was having doubts), but as usual she went into a rage, clawed into my skin, and screamed I will get married and will be forced to stay at home once I finish college. She then started demanding I act like a “naadan” 1950s girl and follow culture strictly while comparing me to my cousins in India who are “saints and very cultured” since they are all getting married while comparing their looks to mine (?!). So now I have to prepare to be married by being an expert cook/clean, speak, read and write Malayalam (she has so much jealously issues with this language thing as I don’t speak fluently and lashes out when she sees someone speaking fluently) like a “naadan” (she kept acting like I have no knowledge of the language when she knows I can speak, and what the hell is she trying to stir by comparing me to little kids?!) and be submissive as she told me she has the control over me and that me going to college and some of the external circumstances that I have faced beyond my control was my “fault” and that I “ruined” my life because I’m still studying and not married yet. She then blames my dad for our upbringing and calls us “spoiled, undisciplined..basically “cheetha” -_-. Not only is she like that, but her whole family is very similar that my cousins and I have lost all respect d/t their enormous egos, “holier than art” attitude and want nothing to do with them. I was extremely pissed off the last couple of days and felt like cussing her out but after being back in school and doing meditation a lot, I’m better, but I feel like standing up for myself has made me stronger once I started living on my own (which I have to add is thanks to the wisdom of my cousins, several Indian bloggers (including you) who sees life differently and also many Asian friends who went through similar experiences (some of them in worse situations than me). If this happened back in the day pre-college, I probably would have been depressed crying.
Hang in there... said:
Hang in there girl.. you are 100% doing the right thing by moving out of the toxic environment in your parental home and living on your own. Hopefully you are financially self sufficient too for day to day expenses. If not yet, make that your very top priority. This is key for getting to know yourself truly, the possibilities ahead of you, getting an independent sense of what’s right and wrong for you (vs “elders” deciding it for you) and living life on your own terms. I had to do the same thing many, many years ago, and never ever regretted it. My life is way more peaceful now, because of the battles I fought then.
Best wishes and good luck to you!
I am really sorry to know what’s been happening to you. I am glad meditation helped. Please take care of yourself.
I agree with what you have said, You can never please everyone, nor any one person 100% of the time. You are so right about, //”Plus if you are constantly submissive, you are more than likely to be heavily controlled and will not be able to do things independently”// i myself learnt this the hard way. It is good that you are already aware of this truth at a much younger age. Once again, do take care of yourself. Once you are on your own feet, you should be able to manage better.
That phase is over. I’m good and content, busy with school. Still talk to my mom (I love her, even though her behavior is completely unacceptable at times). Anyway, I hope we can break this mindset.
Spoils one’s mood
The lack of it too
Makes me quite blue
So i carry my own, e’en tho’ ’tis c/rude!
This is similar to me requesting that I be allowed to make my own tea when I am visiting 😉
Looking back on mygrowing up years, and being told things, it seems like the slightest things would hurt our elders. or thats what i was told.. were they really that insecure with low self-esteem that me complaining about a relatively simple thing hurts their feelings…
hmm me being the let me tell me tell you exactly what i think type didnt endear me to them either, so i assume they had fragile egos… sad.
Fragile egos! Tell me about it. I have a whole lot of them around me 😦