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My daughter-in-law is an achiever. She is founder and CEO of Mentor Together.

I won’t say I am ‘proud’ of her considering how I have an aversion to the word ‘proud’ being used in connection with things that are not achievements of one’s own. She is the product of her parents’ upbringing,  and her own hard-work and talents.  So let me say instead how amazed and awed I am by her and her work. This young lady is out there making changes in lives having gone all out to realize her dream of empowering the young from disadvantaged backgrounds.

When the wedding date was finalized and invitations were given out, the L&M and I had to field questions from all around about the daughter-in-law. Who was she? From which region? What does she do? Where and how did your son and she meet? After all, this wedding wasn’t ‘arranged’ along traditional lines where elders choose from an ‘eligible’ list after making sure about the status, religion and caste of the youngsters, horoscopes matched, and then the man and woman ‘allowed’ to meet and talk (Thank God for small mercies!) before the final nod is given. In their case, my son and daughter-in-law met (by chance) and chose each other and when they felt they were ready, they announced their wedding plans. So the questions were sort of natural. But where I draw the line is when someone comes up with, “What is her caste?’ Caste?! What the heck kind of question is that?!

I have known the daughter-in-law ever since my son started seeing her some years back. We have chatted on Gmail, met over occasional lunches or tea whenever I happened to be in her city.  Not once in all this time did it ever occur to me to find out which caste she belonged to. And here was someone bristling with curiosity to worm it out of me. At first I ignored the question, not deigning to reply at all. But that someone was like a terrier with a bone, insisting on not leaving well enough alone. Trying my best not to snap, I said, ‘We haven’t asked her because we absolutely don’t care!’ I would have said more except that the L&M started making eyes at me to tone it down.

Then there was the other question we were asked. “So,” this someone said, “tell us what you are ‘giving’ them? More importantly, hehehe…. what are they ‘giving’ you?” What was missing outwardly was only the rubbing of hands in glee at the prospect of talk about money, gold, ornaments et al. All my life, that is ever since I became mother to two sons, I have been hearing this nonsense (from my peers and elders alike) about my being oh-so-lucky to be a ‘receiver of goods’, while parents of daughters were unlucky to be on the ‘givers of goods’ side. Annoyed beyond measure, I butted in, not letting the speaker go any further, ‘This.” I announced, “is not that kind of marriage!” The deflated (and shocked?) look on their face was all I could have hoped for.

You know what annoys me about all this? I have never been coy about letting people know where I stand on these things. And yet, AND YET, they ask ME these stupid questions. Why me, oh God, why?!!! They should know better than to include ME as a player in the Game of Give and Take our society is so fond of playing.

On a different note, my daughter-in-law thinks I am cool. How do I know? At the wedding reception, her professor/mentor from college asked, ‘Is this the cool mother-in-law you spoke of?’ And she replied, ‘Oh yes, Shail is cool!’ Yup, that’s me you see grinning from ear to ear remembering, though sadly enough, at the time I was too tongue-tied. 😉

©Shail Mohan 2018