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Today I was expecting some visitors. They were mother’s guests and were coming from the neighbouring district. Since they are new to the area, they stopped at a gate to another apartment block, just prior to the one that leads to ours. When they realised that it was not the one, they called to ask for directions, and mother passed on her phone to me.

It was the security guard of our neighbouring apartment block on the other side of the phone. He had already guessed they were at the wrong place and asked me if they were headed for [name of our block]. I said yes, and accordingly he told them it was the next gate.

In the meantime, mother was hyper and wanted to know what was happening. I told her what transpired. They were at the wrong gate, right next to ours, but now they are driving down the right one. Very simple. Right? Apparently not. She sighed, and said,

“If only son-in-law had been home!”

Did I hear that right? I looked at her incredulously. The L&M had a doctor’s appointment and was not home. But how did that matter?

“If he had been… ?” I asked mildly.

The mildness of my tone did not deceive her. She realised something was wrong.

“No. I meant, if he had been home….” Her voice trailed off.

“Why don’t you complete that sentence?” I asked. “What would he have done if he had been home?” This time I was not in a mood to hide my annoyance. “The point was to guide them in the right direction to MY home and I just did that. How could he have done it any better or any different?”

She was silent. I was not about to let things go.

“This is what is wrong with women of your generation. Some malleable ones from my generation are also the same, having internalised the same lessons learnt from their parents. You all think only men are capable. Even if the women shine brightly, you dismiss it is the reflected glory of the precious men around. Women for you are useless beings only fit to follow orders. Instead of supporting your daughters and having some faith in them, you…. “

I paused.

For goodness’ sake, why was I talking still? She just revealed she thought her daughter incapable of directing someone to her own house. After all these years of being practically a single parent to my kids as an army wife, running a home and travelling alone, minding my own business and not running to parents for any form of help, what I get to hear is, “If only son in law had been home”!

What a thorough let down. But life has to go on.

© Shail Mohan 2022