Mrinalini retorted, ‘no, she will never look like her mother. She will always look like you, perhaps with some parts like her mother’.
There was a moment of stunned silence. Maya couldn’t help but feel the underlying tension in that comment.
She was visiting Shubham, a close classmate from college. As this was her first visit after their baby was born, he was showing the baby photographs from day one. Along with his wife Pari, they were filling her in with all the details. Maya commented that she looked just like Shubham to which he replied, ‘yes she did look exactly like me as a kid but now more and more she resembles her mom’. The retort from his mother, Mrinalini came at that juncture.
No one reacted to it. They just let the comment slip. Maya thought it was prudent to refrain too.
Shubham had married Pari against the wishes of his parents, especially his mother. He’d tried to placate her and accept Pari for a year but with no success. This led to much turmoil at home and according to some members of his family was the reason for his father’s heart attack which left him bedridden since. His uncle (father’s brother), stepped in at that point and decided to be mediator and somehow convinced Mrinalini to let the marriage happen. It was one arduous task since she wanted everything to happen just as she’d wanted. After all this marriage was changing her life – her son was marrying someone she didn’t approve. Her husband had become bedridden which increased her responsibilities at home and here she was being forced to do her duty as a mother-in-law following tradition and rituals. She felt like she was losing control and slowly but steadily she began to blame Pari.
Maya knew all that but couldn’t comprehend the animosity she felt in Mrinalini’s reaction to her grandchild. She thought when grand children came, no matter what the history, in-laws always found a way to come to terms with the situation. At least that’s what she had seen in some cases.
Unfortunately for Shubham that never happened. Every day was a negotiation and it didn’t help matters when Pari began reacting to the constant jibe from her mother-in-law. She struggled to gain acceptance in the extended family too. Being strongly independent minded she refused to be accommodating. In the initial months she did pretend to try but soon went on to live her life the way she wanted to. The only one playing the balancing act was Shubham.
Things became even more strenuous when their child was born – there were constant arguments about the right ways to nurture a child. Pari returned to her job after the maternity break and although she had full time help for the child, Mrinalini was always around to supervise. It should ideally have been a win-win situation for both but human emotions don’t work that way.
They’d been married for four years now. Shubham’s dad’s progress was slow but physiotherapy was really helping. They had a lovely child. One would think that time heals the hurt but not in this case.
The child did look like Pari now but guess acknowledging that was really difficult for Mrinalini. Was that comment yet another way for Mrinalini to reject Pari?
Maya wondered about the impact on the child as she grew up to realise and sense this unsaid friction between her mother and grandmother. Were they being fair on her? Would she always feel compelled to take sides? By the time she learnt the art of managing this blame game, who would she hold responsible? Would she hope that her father was more assertive? Wouldn’t this later impact her reaction to her future in-laws and family?
Perhaps this is what people mean when they say, ‘history repeats itself!’