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Mrs Funnybones(4)
Twinkle Khanna

All you mummyjis beware! If your daughter-inlaw claims that she loves you like her own mother, then daal mein kuch kaala hai and that little black spot could very well be rat poison.

One day over lunch with a few girlfriends, we started talking about mothers-in-law and I jotted down a few of their stories.

Friend No. 1 said that when she was pregnant, her mother-in-law gave her a picture of Lord Krishna to gaze at since this would help produce a bonny boy. When she produced a beautiful, dusky baby girl, mother-in-law was aghast. Friend no. 1 said, ‘Mummy, looking at the picture every day didn’t help in making the baby a boy, but it sure gave her Krishna’s colour.’ Mother-in-law at that point promptly collapsed.

Friend No. 2 recalled that when she was newly married, she went to have tea with her mother-in-law, who remarked that her beloved son was looking a bit grubby and to send him to mommy so that she can scrub him with her own hands till he shines. (A fine idea when he was six but at thirty-six this was way beyond creepy.)

Friend No. 3 had a mother-in-law (past tense doesn’t mean she is dead, just that my friend had the sense to divorce both her and her son) who decided that her nine-month pregnant bahu breaking her water bag was not a sign to rush to the hospital. Maji proceeded to have dinner and after leisurely having dessert, announced that it was perhaps now time to leave for the hospital.

Friend No. 4 is always complaining that her mother-in-law criticizes her, nudges her out of family pictures, grabs the front seat next to her beloved son in the car and keeps repeating how Shonu (some kind of gross childhood nickname, I assume) loves mommy more than anyone else.

Friend No. 5 is convinced that her mother-in-law has bribed her staff. The moment she locks the bedroom door with her husband, ready for some action, mummyji promptly calls on the intercom asking for her darling son to come visit.

We spent the afternoon amidst uproarious laughter and I probably would have continued making digs at all the mummyjis for the next decade, but last week I woke up to this:

8 a.m.: In the midst of stifling a yawn and pulling my dog out from his favourite hiding place, my phone rings. It’s my mother-in-law and she has a complaint, ‘Beta, he came up to the house yesterday, he has become so thin, why are you not feeding him properly?’ I am a bit confused because I have been feeding the dog the same thing for years and he seems to look pretty much the same to me. As I start protesting, she adds, ‘His favourite dish as a child was makki di roti and sarson da saag, I will make it for him today. He is looking very kamzor.’ Ahhh . . . I get it. She is talking about the man of the house.

A Punjabi mother, her son and food form a triad as sacred as Brahma, Mahesh and Vishnu, and cannot be interfered with as I learnt in the early years of my marriage.

I want to tell her that the man of the house has deliberately lost eight kilos for his next role as a wiry boxer but it’s just nicer to let her send the makki di roti and the saag, especially since it’s my all-time favourite dish as well.

3 p.m.: An old friend from my boarding school days is in town and she drops by for coffee. I don’t see her very often, though we catch each other on Facebook occasionally, but that comfort of having known each other our entire lives never seems to go away.

I giggle and tell her about my morning makki di roti story, and she just starts ranting, ‘Last week on Zee TV, I saw Modi asking everyone to sweep places, all these movie stars and all . . . so exciting, na? I went to Star Bazaar to get the monthly ration and I also bought two new brooms, but mummyji snapped at me, saying that I don’t understand anything—it is only a symbol to clean India. I told her, “Then why are we not using symbol to clean the house? Tell me, Mummyji, why are we using big vacuum cleaner to clean our house if symbol can clean the whole of India?”

‘Mummyji always wants to show everyone how we are so modern with all these different machines and all—if we are modern people, we would use only iPhone 6, not all these other cheapo phones. She thinks from my room I can’t see her on the balcony, but I can! Always sitting, drinking coffee and reading Economic Times. At this age, she should be reading Bhagavad Gita or newspaper, you tell me?’

I am staring at her in shock and horror because . . .

I have this vision where our son will finally get his wife home. She will place hideous red cushions on my sofas, never polish my silver tea set, will feed my son his favourite fried chicken by actually deep-frying it and not in the Philips (oil-free airfryer) machine like I do, and she will stare at me when I am sitting in the balcony, drinking copious amounts of coffee and reading my Asimovs . . . because one day soon enough I will be a mummyji too.

One always looks at this age-old mother-inlaw–daughter-in-law battle from the daughter-in-law’s point of view, but I realize it must not be easy to be mummyji as well.

I hastily whip out my phone and delete the mother-in-law joke that I had made up and posted on Facebook: ‘God could not be everywhere, so He created mothers, and the Devil could not be everywhere, so He created mothers-inlaw.’ And I upload my new motto, ‘Do unto another as you would want the (future) other to do unto you.’

E: Eureka! Mom, I can Make Anyone Pregnant Now!

8.15 a.m.: The man of the house is leaving for a shoot to Pune and he appoints the prodigal son as ‘safety officer’ in charge of looking after the baby and me.

1.30 p.m.: We are all watching the news together when we see our wonderful Parliament erupt in chaos and violence, with our beloved MPs taking out pen knives and pepper sprays.

1.45 p.m.: The prodigal son has been watching this very keenly and has now decided to take his position as ‘safety officer’ very seriously, and inspired by what we have just seen on screen, goes off looking for an old Swiss knife which was tucked away in the cupboard.

2 p.m.: The benefits of the Swiss knife have been discussed in depth and he has shown me detailed demonstrations of how it has scissors, a nail file, a saw, a knife and a bottle opener.

2.30 p.m.: The much-abused daybed in our house has suffered a minor mishap when the scissors from the Swiss knife got stuck in it, thereby not just tearing the fabric but also ripping the stuffing.

4 p.m.: The staff have come to complain that the great Swiss knife experiment is leading to mounting deaths and injuries among household items:

1. Mosquito net ripped.

2. Daybed damaged as mentioned above.

3. Olive oil bottle broken.

4. Dog’s hair trimmed only near the right ear.

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