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     Volume 4 Issue 72 | November 25, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

Déjà Vu

Richa Jha

Dear Daughter-in-law,
I know you will exist, because, my boy, like all boys, will turn out to be impetuous when it comes to matters pertaining to women, and will therefore end up with a wife much before he realises what he is getting into.

Let me tell you why I am writing to you. Of late, my son has started displaying some typically male attributes, which, going by the look of it, threaten to only strengthen in their form and ferocity as the years roll by. Like most women with a male partner, you will like a few of them, but will also detest many more. Chances are, and my gut says too, that you will be someone like me, because, my son, like all other sons, will fall for a woman bearing closest resemblance to his mother. My prayers are with you, if that be the case.

Which is why I write today. There will be plenty of occasions when you are seething from within and just waiting to explode with sentiments on the lines of, "Gosh, is this what your mother has made you?" There, there, don't tell me it has already happened with you! I write to save my name from being tainted. This is NOT what his mother has made him dear girl, nor what she has in mind for him. Boys, believe it or not, somehow mould themselves into mom-centric clingfilms the moment they learn to eat and speak.

So here's the truth: I did not ask my son to become a 'Mamma's boy', nor am I encouraging it, now that I spy clear signs of this affliction. Like all normal boys at his age (he is about four and a half), he believes that his mother, omniscient and all, is simply the best. No harm with that, just that it has been seen that unlike the perennial revisions to the list of future professions, this emotion never changes. Teachers usurp this pedestal placement somewhere in the middle of the school years, but thank God the feeling is momentary. Else, imagine having to contend with two Perfects in your routine interaction with this man.

DIL dear, letting you in on a secret of wedded harmony: just ignore his words when his record gets stuck on "But mamma never…". Oh boy! Haven't we heard it before! Pretend you can't hear him. Pretend your ears are blocked from the morning swim. Feign temporary deafness due to the blasting speakers at the evening gig. Pretend you didn't realise he has a mother. Do whatever, but just don't react. Reacting will take you nowhere, and no matter what you do, his mother will pervade his senses whether you like it or not. Boys, indeed men, are like that. And don't you ever suggest that you know better than his mom.

Few weeks ago, he asked me why I didn't make him good good things to eat. I said son, food is food. You eat to live, so why fuss over it? And besides, I pointed out, I was getting a few good good things made for him anyway. Our cook uncle is the best in the world! I didn't need to do it with my own hands, did I?

He remonstrated, "This won't do. You can say this to dad and get away with it, but me? I am your son. You understand, your own son? Won't you make doughnuts for me with your own hands, mamma? Please? See, if you do that, I will tell all my friends what a great mamma I have. No other mom knows how to make it. You will like it, won't you? Don't you want me to feel proud when my friends are around?"

And so I relented. He dragged a chair into the kitchen and stood there watching. He pointed towards a drawer where the measures were kept. He had observed the cook a million times preparing the batter for cakes and pastries. Even before I had the apron on, he had the ingredients all lined up on the kitchen table! My son! Such a food enthusiast! No matter how much I wish my son to share even a few of my traits, with every passing day, I am more convinced that the father's genes are having the last laugh.

That evening, I didn't have the heart to tell his father that the unthinkable had happened. The Hubby has been both secretly and openly hoping for a day when his wife rustles up a magic concoction in the kitchen and presents it before him amid fanfare. A decade into our marriage, I can see him tiring of this wishful thinking. To save him the shock of seeing that the son had managed where he himself had failed, he was not informed.

DIL dear, I come now to the raison d'etre of this letter. I must admit that when I saw the unsullied delight on my son's face, how every part of his body twitched with a delicious anticipation of tasting what his mom had dished out, and the way his eyes twinkled with supreme pleasure with every bite that got stomached, something within exhorted me, "Cook, woman cook, cook for your child." And so you see dear, I seem to have got carried away, looking up fun recipes and preparing something for him once a week. We do it together, my son being a natural cook. I just about pass the muster, but my son thinks otherwise, and from the look of it, will continue doing so.

But I feel guilty. I feel guilty for doing this to you. I feel guilty that this is going to turn him into a great untiring cook. And from the little I have seen of this world, I know that the only way to remain happy with a husband who cooks well is to either know nothing at all, or to know it better than him.

Your father-in-law cooks by instinct, and cooks well. My mother-in-law, like all mothers-in-law, is unbeatable in the kitchen, or so feels her son. The secret of my bliss has been in acknowledging both, and staying away from the gas cooker till as long as I could. Until my son dragged me in. You will do well by towing this tried and tested line. It is foolproof, trust me, Kyunki Yeh Saas Ab Bhi Bahu aur Biwi Hai…don't worry if this final bit doesn't make sense. It will be history by the time you read this letter.

Yours lovingly,

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