“Please give it some time. Things are difficult for you at this moment, but you need to be strong.” I spoke into the phone, concern written all over my face.
“I am tired Amit. Each day seems like living hell to me. I would rather be alone than going through this slow death.”
“Shut up Jiya. Just shut up. Have you gone mad? Don’t you dare talk about death and stuff.” I screamed in anger.
I took a couple of moments to compose myself.
“Look, as things stand, you are obviously going through a lot. I have no idea why Nithin is putting you through all this, but you have to start anew. You need to live for yourself. You need to live for Jai.”
“Jai is the only one who keeps me sane these days…” Jiya trailed off.
I sensed Jiya shedding a tear. A couple of moments later I heard her voice again. “Let’s talk about you. How is it going at work?”
“Jiya, forget about me. You take good care of yourself. I will call you again later.” I said suddenly, as Jiya’s pain was becoming too much for me to take.
“Yeah sure. Bye Amit”
“Bye Jiya.” I said and hung up.
Jiya and I were great friends since college days. Pressure from her family resulted in her getting married to Nithin 3 years back. When I first interacted with him, Nithin seemed to be a nice guy – cordial, polite and someone whom Jiya could grow to like and love. Their married life started off in the same vein. Jiya always spoke about how Nithin helped her during the initial days of their marriage. This care and concern eventually led to the birth of Jai, one year into their marriage. I was really happy for the three of them and convinced myself that Nithin, Jiya and Jai would make a great family.
An Indian marriage definitely seems lackluster if it is devoid of dramatic mother-in-law incidents. Jiya’s happy life eventually crossed the path of the mother-in-law phenomenon. And from that moment her life went through a downward spiral.
Overtime, any conversation I had with Jiya centered on her rather taxing and tumultuous time at home. It wasn’t that Nithin didn’t love her anymore. He still cared for her and always took care of her materialistic needs. But as much as a girl requires her materialistic needs to be taken care of, she also requires her emotional needs to be taken care of. Nithin failed to understand that his Mom was impeding Jiya’s emotional growth. He took his Mom’s word more seriously than he did take Jiya’s desires. Gradually one thing led to another, leading to Jiya losing trust in Nithin. Subsequently the frequency of her conversations with Nithin dwindled. Jiya spoke to Nithin only on matters related to Jai as she didn’t want Jai to be affected by their struggling relationship. Bluntly speaking, Jiya was vegetating at home.
As much as I wanted to see Nithin and Jiya resolve their differences, there was nothing I could do about it. Moral support apart, I didn’t have anything to offer Jiya. As she wasn’t really talking to Nithin, a lot of frustration had been built inside of her. After a bit of a struggle, I was able to take some time off work and pay Jiya a visit.
“Hi Aunty.” I said genuinely when the door was opened by Jiya’s mother-in-law. She smiled back at me and let me in. It was hard for me to digest the fact that a lady who seemed so warm was the cause for Jiya’s apathy.
I decided to meet Jiya at her own place, lest some wrong ideas creep into the minds of Nithin and his mother.
“Shall I get you something to drink? Tea, coffee or something cold?”
“No, that’s alright aunty. A glass of water should do.” I responded.
“Jiya, Amit is here to meet you.” Nithin’s mother screamed and walked into the kitchen.
Few moments later, I saw Jiya walk out of her room.
I was shocked at what I saw. Terrible would be an under-statement, her condition was pathetic. She resembled a soul who was on her last legs, as though her life was slowly draining out of her. Instantly I was hit hard by the fact that given her disastrous physical condition, her mental state must be going through hell.
“H… Hi… Hi Jiya.” I struggled to speak out.
“Hi.” she forced herself to respond with a fake smile. Jiya’s mother-in-law appeared at the same time with a glass of water. I quickly gulped down the water and handed back the glass to her. She didn’t say a word and walked away.
“Shall we go to the terrace?” Jiya finally found her voice and it seemed as though she was pleading with me.
“Should I inform aunty that we are going to the terrace?” I asked Jiya to ensure that I didn’t add fuel to the raging fire.
“Don’t bother.” she responded sharply and took the flight of stairs leading to the terrace. I quietly followed her.
As soon as we settled down on a wall on the terrace, Jiya spoke up.
“It is so good to see you.”
“Forget about me. What the hell have you done to yourself? Look at you Jiya. You are absolutely knackered.” I shot back in a concerned and critical tone.
Immediately she looked away from me, dropped her face and pressed her hands tightly against the edge of the wall. She couldn’t take it any longer and caved in. She exploded. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she cried out. Immediately I went up to her and hugged her. She literally wept on my shoulder. She was pouring out her long-standing pain and I allowed her to do so. Jiya completely broke down.
A good fifteen minutes later, her crying subsided. I had to do something to get her to talk, to laugh and feel alive.
“If aunty sees us like this, your problems might be solved as she will definitely get rid of the both of us.” I said cheekily, in an attempt to draw a response from Jiya.
She managed to giggle and slowly let go of the embrace. She was trying hard to smile. She cleaned up using the hand-kerchief I gave her. When I felt she was ready to talk to me, I spoke out.
“No frills barred, tell me in detail what is happening.”
She took a deep breath and a few moments later, spoke in a very shrill tone.
“I… I don’t know where to start.” She paused for a moment. “It is not that one fine day both Nithin and his Mom decided to make me feel low. There is no tipping point as such. Even immediately after we got married there were many instances when Mom and I disagreed on various issues, but I used to let Mom have her way as I was still adapting to this family. Initially, Nithin too used to sit me down and make me understand that Mom is getting old and it is best that we try to keep her happy. He never showed aggression when dealing with such issues early into our marriage. He took good care of me and always bought me things that I wanted.”
“Things started to take a turn for the worse after Jai was born. As a mother I had planned so many things for myself and my child, but Nithin’s Mom always seemed to differ with me. I didn’t want to compromise on anything related to Jai, but Nithin would always take his Mom’s side. I started getting frustrated and angry with Nithin, leading to a lot of arguments with him. It… it became so difficult for me.”
“As a mother isn’t it obvious that I would want Jai to sleep beside me? Immediately after Jai was born, on numerous nights I didn’t have my son beside me. Obviously his Mom never listens to me, but on confronting Nithin he would always scream back at me saying, ‘what is wrong if Jai sleeps beside his grand-parents?’ Gradually, I started to lose trust in him.”
“A lot of issues would seem trivial, but they are of great importance to me. For instance, I had never wanted to compromise on Jai’s food intake. At such a young age, I didn’t want Jai to be having the regular food that we have, but Nithin’s Mom keeps giving Jai all kinds of stuff. I understand she too loves Jai, but I don’t want her to love him at the cost of his health.” The strength of her voice was in sharp contrast to her fierce tone as Jiya kept pouring out her grief. When she paused for breath, I interrupted.
“Surely Nithin must have spoken to you and his Mom about your apprehensions.” I asked curiously.
“That is exactly the point Amit. He doesn’t tell his Mom anything, nor does he even try to explain to her about what I feel.”
“Everything related to Jai has now become a concern for me. His food habits, sleep timings, what to buy for him, what not to buy for him… every little thing has become so hard for me to handle. Off late, Nithin abuses me when I try to discuss anything with him.” Jiya added to her already long list of woes.
I took a moment to factor in all that Jiya had narrated. I was terribly pained by the fact that her life was at a cross-road. Though she had to take a stand on how to deal with her apathy, I was worried that a decision clouded by emotion might alter her life forever. As supportive as I was of Jiya, it was imperative that I offer a holistic solution as the approach forward.
“Your parents cannot be involved, isn’t it?” I asked thoughtfully.
“Definitely not. Ever since my Dad tried to speak to Nithin’s parents about my situation, things have taken a turn for the worse.”
“Look, from how I see it, you have a choice. The single most important factor for your current condition is that you are letting your mind believe that Nithin and his Mom are wrong. They might be wrong, but if you let yourself believe that Jai will be alright despite their treatment of him, there will not be so many thoughts running through your mind.”
“What are you implying Amit?” Jiya interrupted me.
“The fact that you are allowing every little altercation with Nithin’s family to have such a negative impact on you, is the reason you are in such a terrible state today. I absolutely understand that you dreamt of a lot of things for Jai, but given the current circumstances, don’t you think it is best for you to be flexible with how things are? You need to be strong Jiya, like building a bubble around you so that issues at home don’t affect you easily.”
“Amit, I will not compromise on anything to do with Jai.” Jiya interrupted me fiercely.
“Exactly what I am trying to emphasize. Let go this rigidity Jiya. Obviously Jai is extremely important to you, but you can help him best only when you are in a good frame of mind, isn’t it?”
“Hmmm… but how do I ignore matters that prick me, matters that hit my conscience?” Jiya asked, her tone a lot mellow now.
“I know it will be really difficult, but please try to make peace with the fact that Jai will be just fine, whatever the circumstances. Do not get too obsessed with creating a good environment for him. After all, Nithin too wouldn’t want anything untoward to happen to Jai, isn’t it?”
Jiya just nodded her head and I was left wondering whether in approval or disapproval.
“Promise me you will try to let go off all your inhibitions. Promise me Jiya.” I added expectantly.
“Hmmm… I shall try. I cannot promise you, but I shall try.” she replied and looked away from me.
“And as far as Nithin is concerned, do not press him too much on issues that agitate him. Give yourself some time, things will be better.”
“Yeah… I know he loves me, but I want him to understand me, want him to understand my emotions, want him to understand that I always need someone to talk to. I just want him to empathize with me.”
“My guess is that he cares too much about his Mom to see the suffering he is causing you. Probably he doesn’t have it in him to say ‘No’ to his Mom and is consequently hurting you in the process.” I said thoughtfully, careful not to wrongly indict Nithin.
“I am sure everything will be fine Jiya. Give yourself some time.” I said again.
“Hmmm… hopefully.” she said.
“Thank you for coming over. I am feeling so much better today.” she added and smiled a very genuine smile.
“Anything for you. And yeah, given a worst case scenario, I am still not married. So don’t worry too much.” I added cheekily and jumped to the ground.
“Idiot.” she giggled and punched me on my shoulder.
On my way back home, I replayed the entire conversation I had with Jiya in my head. She was hurting badly and I had to get her to come to terms with her life. As much as I wanted to drive some sense into Nithin, I obviously couldn’t confront him with his personal issues. How on earth could he allow his wife to go through so much? How could he leave Jiya alone? How could he not see the hurt he was causing her?
I very well knew Jiya would find it really difficult to let go of her inhibitions. Which mother wouldn’t? What I had asked of her was akin to asking a politician to let go of his power. I just hoped that Jiya would be able to see the brighter side of what I had stated. I just hoped that she would smile again.
And I made a promise to myself – if and when I get married, I will make sure that my wife doesn’t have to go through such bizarre situations. I will be man enough to say ‘NO’ when either of them is possibly wrong. And most importantly, no matter what, I shall always be supportive of my wife.
After all, a wife eventually does become a mother-in-law, isn’t it?