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All about piece of mind


The mother-in-law is far too vilified in the Indian context; here’s how she is changing her image, by being friends with the daughter-in-law
VIKASH KUMAR | Issue Dated: May 13, 2007
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All about piece of mind The mother-in-law is perhaps the one element of the family that could do with a marketing blitz. For, it isn’t that all mothers-in-law are negative but the stereotype persists. Traditionally, mothers-in-law are synonymous with the frowning Lalita Pawar in Sau Din Saas Ke regurgitating ad nauseam, ‘kalmuhi, tere muh may kide pade’ (wretch, may you go to hell). Pawar and Shashikala immortalised the role of evil mothers-in-law and they became household names.

It was their popularity that inspired Ekta Kapoor of Balaji Telefilms to make the ‘K’ brand of serials modelled on the archetypical saas-bahu drama. The ever conspiring mother-in-law is a formula which ensures the scorching of TRP charts. But is it so in reality?

The quintessential image of a frumpy, grumpy mother-in-law in a face-off with a daughter-in-law with her eyes downcast has started receding. Rupa Sehgal, a senior gynaecologist based in Delhi, said that she has no time to harbour a grudge against her daughter-in-law and they aren’t at loggerheads with each other. Her daughter-in-law believes that she was able to establish her fledgling venture of web designing with the help of her mother-in-law. Psychiatrist Aruna Narain, also based in Delhi, told TSI, “The possessiveness towards the son is the root of the problem. Home is the power center for most mothers-in-law, which they don’t want to lose. With the advent of the new entrant in the family, the friction starts.”

She adds further, “While there might be tension between the two, there are advantages. A mother-in-law also plays the role of a grandmother, as she looks after the children. With nuclear families gaining currency, children suffer the most, as there is no one to look after them.” Financial independence translates into enhanced self-confidence and can smooth the rough edges in every relationship. A working daughter-in-law may be an acceptable solution to diminish the underlying tension in the relationship.  

India is in the process of an image makeover, with the winds of globalisation sweeping across all spheres of life; so the image of the traditional mother-in-law is going through a decisive phase.

The frowning Shashikala is giving way to a softer Reema Lagoo and Sushma Seth. In a popular Star Plus serial Tu Tu Main Main, the constant bickering between the Mum-in-law and the Bahu reflects an undercurrent of affection. Is it safe to assume that the archetypical and stereotypical image of the mother-in-law has begun to change?

The growing incidents of dowry deaths are a grim reminder that though the wheel might have turned a full circle, yet nothing substantial has changed in the lives of many ill-fated daughters-in-law. In many so-called upper middle class families, the status of daughters-in-law is none else than that of a glorified servant.

Nevertheless, the eternally optimistic Indians might be overjoyed to see the affectionate, smiling Reema Lagoo in the genre of Sooraj Kumar Barjatya movies, but reality is a far cry from celluloid portrayals in India!
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017