Hamari saas

She’s the best thing about my marriage (this is not to make my hubby jealous… he’s above all these mundane human emotions). She’s cool even though not always composed. She makes the best sambar in the world (actually she can give the best chefs in India a run for their money) and she knows who’s sleeping with whom in Bollywood (gossip columns in newspapers are her favourites). She’s my 69-year old mom-in-law.
She tells she was given the name ‘Sowbhagyabati’  because she was born after five sons causing much delight in the Nair household.  She comes from a matriarchal family in Kerala where daughters are much desired (unlike those killer fields of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan where girls are killed at birth). But she has a rejoinder to her name- to put it in her words, “I was truly Sowbhagyabati till my only son (my hubby) grew up. And then I became “Durbhagyabati.” But, nothing has changed her fabulous sense of humour.
Our favourite ‘hobby’ is to talk (well, bitching will be an offensive word) about our respective ‘hubby’ (her husband i.e my father-in-law and my husband i.e her son included in this combo offer). When we get bored doing that, we talk about how our terribly dull lives would get an exciting makeover only if she would manage to woo a filthy rich Gujarati NRI with one foot in the coffin. She has asked me to pay for her make-over (hair-colouring, facials included so that the NRI can’t just take his eyes off her). She says with a sense of pride that she can beat all those Patel and Shah bens in dishing out Gujarati khatti-mithi dal and methi theplas and that’s enought for the NRI to write away the entire wealth in her name. Voila– that would make life easier for her and me (as her loyal assistant, I am also entitled to enjoy life). Even as we discuss all these things and roll in laughter, the two men at home dismiss us with a look that only fools deserve. But then who cares?
Her favourite line is if she would have finished her college then today she would have been a High-court judge today. I always correct her, “No.. Supreme Court judge..please don’t underestimate your talent.” She’s a real champion so far as the art of bargaining is concerned. Two days ago, both of us went to the walled city of Ahmedabad for shopping. Actually, I had gone there as her loyal ‘assistant’ (you know the kind to carry carrybags..). When I went to pick her up from her house, I saw her coming out of the elevator in a purple silk sari and a pearl necklace. She says she doesn’t have many occasions now to put her silk saris and pearls to use. Our first stop was at a shop selling coconuts. She bought two huge coconuts after much bargaining (it’s difficult to separate a Malayalee from a coconut). Even as she was cursing Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi for the price rise (which includes her humble coconut too), I chided her, “Such a huge coconut for just Rs 17. Damn good deal, just keep quiet.” But then saasuma has her own unputdownable theory of bargaining. Her theory is : Whatever price the shopkeeper says, just divide by two and then deduct Rs 20 from that amount. So, if a shopkeeper asks you to pay Rs 100 for a T shirt, you should pay him only Rs 30. And she always dismisses me as “bekaar” coz I am a dud when it comes to bargaining. When I told her the price of my Lee jeans, she almost collapsed. When she regained her composure, she told me, “I would have got it for just Rs 300.” I told her, “Mom, this is branded jeans…. not your altu faltu raasta ka jeans.” She being SHE asked me immediately, “In the end, how many people will look at your ass closely?” Point well-taken. That’s not where she stops. Even if you gift her the finest Darjeeling tea, she will go to the Old City every two months to buy her favourite ‘Rajhans’ tea (She asked me what kind of a journo am I…I don’t know about this ‘world-famous’ tea brand). To be honest, her ‘Rajhans’ tea actually tastes quite good and the gossip that arrives with her tea makes my day when I visit her.
She loves her share of cricket and Sachin Tendulkar is her favourite. When India was playing against Sri-Lanka in the World Cup Final, she kept on adding ghee to the lamp. And in between she was also gulping beer (to ease off the tension). I do with her what I would never dare to do it with my mother i.e enjoy a glass of whisky or beer. Everytime I ask her “aren’t you bored?” She says, “Where’s the time? I am too busy working, reading newspapers and watching TV.” Unlike her daughter-in-law, she actually does quite a lot of work at home yet retains a sense of charm and humour. Once when she had come to stay at my place, on reaching home after work, I just dumped my handbag and shouted from the living room, “Mummy, please make erisherry (my favourite Kerala dish) for dinner,” and then my husband immediately joined me by saying aloud, “Mummy, vegetable cutlet plzzz.” With a spoon in her hand, she came out from the kitchen and just asked, “Excuse me, which hotel are you guys looking for?”
It’s not that she had a rosy life all along. She lost her 32-year-old daughter to cancer. But she  knows how to live life and look beyond deep personal pain. And she knows how to whip up a mouth-watering meal sans fancy ingredients!!! She amazes me on most occasions.


3 thoughts on “Hamari saas

  1. Indira

    how come we missed meeting her during my recent visit? next time we have to rope her in for our laughter sessions


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