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There was this willful old woman, not too old, totally in her senses and perfectly capable of taking care of herself, but who was getting older by the day (like everyone else) and each day acquiring problems of ageing along the way. Then there was her middle-aged daughter-in-law who was her minion and generally took care of things around the house. If I say the older woman had the upper hand in everything in that house, I would be absolutely right. She ruled, was rarely thwarted (she didn’t let anyone do that), and had a sharp tongue to boot.

One day she came out of the bathroom which was next to the DIL’s room having had her bath, and dumped her used clothes which had to go to the laundry bag, on the DIL’s bed and walked away. Perhaps she had been forgetful, we can grant her that. But what happened later, not so much.

The DIL walked in, saw the clothes smelling of urine (the old lady had incontinence) resting on her pillow and gathering them, threw them to one corner of her room to take for washing later on. She didn’t blame the MIL or anything, didn’t say a word in fact. BUT, the old lady saw the clothes on the floor and was incensed. How dare the DIL throw HER clothes on the floor? MIL raged. But they were for wash, weren’t they? And they were smelling of urine and they were on the bed I sleep, the DIL put forth. So what?! This house belongs to me. This cot belongs to me. I will keep my clothes, dirty or urine soaked as they may be, wherever the hell I like. Yada, yada, yada…. It went on.

We’ll put the story aside for the moment. The outcome of it is no way interesting to me because it goes the same way every fight between a bossy MIL and a submissive DIL does. The DIL eats humble pie so the MIL can save her sorry face.

There is something else that is of more interest to me, something I don’t really get and that is how most people react to this story. When I recounted this tale to someone, they immediately defended the MIL with nary a word, kind or otherwise, for the suffering DIL. It was as if the DIL didn’t exist. She’s old, this other woman told me about the mean MIL. What do we know how cranky we ourselves turn out to be when we are her age, she added.

Excuse me. How does THAT excuse the MIL’s behavior? How does age make it okay to bully your DIL? Most people, I have noticed, are quick to forgive perfectly healthy and quite in their senses older people for all the meanness they exhibit. What the heck! Is advanced age an excuse to be a jerk to others? Is getting on in years an excuse to make life hell for those around you and be forgiven for it? I simply don’t understand this attitude among the populace as I seem to encounter it again and again.

I have this to ask of such people: Just because you might also turn out to be the same in your old age make mean behavior alright? Or is this blind support for the meanness of other older people a way of taking munkoor jamyam (anticipatory bail) for your own intended bad behavior in the future? Letting others know in advance, ‘You better not blame me if I do the same!’? The answer to that first question is ‘NO’ according to me. If you or me or anyone else say mean things in our old age (or young, for that matter), IT WILL STILL BE WRONG. No amount of munkoor jamyam by way of siding with them is going to change that fact.

©Shail Mohan 2018