“Of course, you are the reason for all the problems between Aarav and me.”
“Aarav was such a good and obedient boy. Until he met you and changed for the worse!”
“For the worse? He has finally found independence from his mother who did nothing but tie him to her apron strings.”
“I warned that boy a long time ago that he was making the biggest mistake of his life by marrying a vixen like you.”
“You should not have let him get married in the first place at all. And, I´m sorry to burst your bubble, old lady! He is no longer your boy. He´s my man now. Ouch!”
“We´ll see about that, you b/&%$!. The way he huffed out the door, don´t be surprised if a divorce paper lands in your mailbox. And after learning about your behaviour with his mother, I´m certain of that.”
“Are you threatening me, you nasty old woman?”
They both narrowed their brows and shot arrows through their glares. If looks could kill, it´d have been a double murder in the house that day.
In no time, there was a phone-call from Aarav and the couple had another showdown over the ugly turn of events between Leila and her.
“Listen Mila! I don´t care if you´re right or wrong. Elders have to be given their due place of respect.”
“Even when they are manipulative and selfish?”
“So are you?”
“C´Mon you are defending her only because she´s your mother. Why doesn´t your defence mechanism come into play when it comes to my parents? Why are you not standing up for me?”
“Mila, please don´t argue at this moment! I have stood up for you many times. Not this time, okay! It´s bad enough that we are fighting. And now, you bring my mother in this mudslinging match as well.”
“Because she´s the numero uno reason behind all our fights, Aarav! Please tell her to stop trying to remote control our marriage and to mind her own business. And, I´ll apologize.”
That night, Aarav and Mila slept in separate rooms, each wishing that the other would be the first to call it a truce. When it was morning, Aarav and Mila left for their respective workplaces. The cold war continued for a few days.
One evening, Mila returned from her office early and resigned to bed. Kaya, her daughter told Leila that Mila was´t her usual self. Leila knocked on Mila´s bedroom door and asked if she could come in.
Mila was not sure. The last thing that she wanted was another showdown. However, despite herself, Mila replied in the affirmative.
Leila came inside and sat beside her.
“You don´t look too well. What´s the matter?”
“My leg´s been hurting all day long and the pain just keeps increasing by the hour.”
“Can I take a look at it, please? Mila, your legs are quite swollen. We need to see a doctor right away.”
Leila rushed her to the nearest hospital and got her treated in time. When they returned home, she boiled some water, dipped a piece of white muslin cloth in it and placed it on Mila´s legs till she felt some relief in her joints. She asked Mila to rest while she prepared some nourishing bone broth for her. After dinner, Leila massaged Mila´s legs.
That night, Mila couldn´t stop the rolling tears from her eyes. She felt so terrible for failing to see the goodness in her mother-in-law. Yes, her mother-in-law was nasty and even manipulative. But, she had a heart of gold and was a true friend in need. She wondered if she could be half the person that her mother-in-law was. To bow down and help the enemy in crisis!
The next day, Mila apologised to Leila. She had a meaningful conversation with Indira, her boss over lunch. Mila opened up to Indira about her leg pain and how her mother-in-law nursed her back to good health. Indira shared:
“Mila, it´s not easy playing mother-in-law. Trust me, no woman wants to play evil. But somehow, women who step into those shoes become a victim of their own circumstances. They get insecure much to their own disliking. You know how women prioritize themselves last in the family owing to traditional expectations. When she gets into the role of a mother-in-law, she gains a prominent position. She hungers for that importance that she was never given. I´ve learnt from experience that love conquers all. Be kind. Your mother-in-law has set the example for you. Give her the due respect and love that she deserves.”
Mila sat in quiet contemplation while Indira continued:
“I used to make special dishes for my mother-in-law and made sure that she always got served first. She got her due attention and love from me. Everyone from her husband to her son took her for granted. I made sure that I didn´t. If we women aren´t kind to each other at home, why preach charity outside of it?”
When Aarav returned home that night, Mila melted into his arms. Aarav was aware of the changed equation in his home by now. They went out for a drive where they spoke at length.
Leila showed Mila the path to love when they both were in a place of darkness. Aarav had a point when he said that one ought to give elders their due respect. Leila was the backbone of this beautiful family. Besides, she was a wonderful grandparent and parent as well. As an in-law, she was just as flawed as her.
Everything fell into place. Mila learnt that it was possible to hold your own respect while giving the same to her in-laws. She made an effort to understand Leila. Things drastically improved within the household. Mila discovered that Leila was just as much a chatter-box as her. With some time, Leila would not stop chewing her ears about her glorious olden days when her hair was long, thick and strong and yada-yada-yada!
“You know they say the Universe conspires to bring a girl into the home that she deserves.”
Mila was happy to get the hint that Leila thought she was the perfect fit for their family. She noticed the chuckle of amusement on Leila´s face when Aarav failed to arm-twist his way with her. Did she see her mother-in-law´s support for her instead of her son? Aarav got away with many things being the son. But with Mila, he couldn´t bull-doze or sweet talk his way through. She´d see her mother-in-law chuckle when she played Mom to Kaya, her daughter. Was that a glint of pride that shone her face?
Mila and her mother-in-law Leila were poles apart. While Leila was a stickler for tradition, Mila was a born rebel. It was hard for either of them to understand the other at the start. Yet a decade later, they had much to admire and learn from each other. Over the years, Leila learnt to loosen up while Mila learnt to respect and see wisdom in tradition. Above all, they learnt that they shared their loved ones and were part of the same team.
Mila realised that Mummyji was not such a ´monster-in-law´ after all. And, Leila discovered that Mila was not the ´disaster-in-law´ that she initially thought she was.
So, did the wars finally come to an end?
Absolutely not! What´s life without some spice anyways!
“Grandma, I changed my mind. I´ll stay at home with Mummy.”
“Your wish!.” Leila muttered feeling let down by her grand-daughter. But not without leaving a sarcastic remark.“Well, you´re missing a good time and some yummy dinner at the party. Ask your darling Mummy to make your dinner.”
“Sounds perfect to me! Mummy makes the best food in the world anyway.”, Kaya replied rubbing more salt on Leila´s wounds.
“Mummy, don´t bother about us. Kaya is in very good hands. You have nothing to worry! Bye and have fun!.”
Leila left for the party wondering how anyone could prefer Mila´s company over hers. Mila smiled in victory. The score was 1-0.
#AtoZChallenge 2018 #BlogchatterA2Z #ShortStory #Fiction