The In-Law Tussle
Kumar and Kamla, husband and wife, hail from a middle
class family of Karnahpuri, Kumar has taken service in the government of the
time as a Clerk under a Tehsildar who incidentally, happens to be a landlord
possessing a vast tract of fruit garden. Kumar also helps his boss in
horticultural work. He is quite efficient in office work and very knowledgeable
about horticultural science. Naturally his boss is satisfied with his work both
in his office as well as in fruit growing business.
Kamla is equally intelligent and proficient in her domestic
chores. She is a typical Kashmiri Pandit woman. She does not spare any pains in
keeping her better half comfortably happy and at ease at home. As soon as
Kumar returns home after strenuous official and extra official work at the
Tehsildar's gardens, she washes his feet and legs with warm saltish water. This
is followed by welcome beverages, hot tea and fruits of different kinds. This
done, Kumar relaxes on a warm bed in winter and under a gently rotating fan in
summer. This done, the whole family of husband & wife, sons, daughters’
sit together for dinner before going to bed. Similar comforts in the morning
before official attendance are their daily routine. The couple really considers
itself as the two halves of the same body. No wonder, therefore, that the
couple's emotions, thoughts, and feelings are alike. They marry off their
daughters in different villages and are left with only one son, Keshew.
Paradoxically, at the same time, Kamla is cringing in so far as the certain
percentage of savings is a must for her, come what may.
One fine morning, on a holiday, while sitting in their
lawns, Kamla says, "Dear Swamiji, Kanwah Krishen of Magampuri is a Dy.
Commissioner and a wealthy landowner. He has a beautiful, grown up, healthy girl
quite suitable for our dear Keshew. He has requested for a "Techni"
of Keshew for his girl. Should we supply one to his middleman who may be
coming again for it tomorrow? "Kamla dear, I cannot aspire for any better
choice than yours. Do please entertain well, the go-between and supply him this
'Techni'. Do not forget urging him for an early response."
Teknies are tallied, horoscopes exchanged and betrothal
ceremony performed followed by a pompous marriage ceremony after the girl and
Keshew approved each other.
Time passes by, Keshew and his wife Koshaliya bear two sons
and a daughter, and their children grow up bright, quick witted and intelligent.
Meanwhile Koshaliya's three brothers and three sisters get married and bear
children in turns. Family relationship grow and frequent visits and return
visits also become the order of the day.
Kumar dies and Kamla. deprived of his pay incomes, is left
alone to look after the family with the help of her son, Keshew.
Kumar and Kamla used to regularly lay by a certain
percentage of their total income against the rainy day. Kamla in her
discretion and consultation with her son, Keshew, discards the concept of
percentage but insists on depositing the previously fixed total amount in lump
sum. The arrangement continues for a couple of years or so. Since the family is
deprived of a substantial amount of money earned by Kumar, the spending capacity
of Koshaliya decreases. The constraints are more pinching to Koshaliya when
visited by her own kith and kin. She feels embarrassed and let down in their
presence. She pleads with her mother-in-law about it time and again, But to no
purpose. Kamla's reply would invariably be, "Dear Koshaliya, we have three
children to bring up, educate and settle in life. Unless we look ahead and
provide for it now, how can we meet the huge expenditure at the proper
Koshaliya appeals and entreats her, only to reduce a small
percentage of their savings to provide for their better living and entertainment
of guests saying, "Mother Kamlaji, I request for only a very small
reduction in savings and its adjustment towards the domestic expenditure. This
will enable us to kill two birds with one stone. It will prove a little more
nutritious food to us and at the same time to maintain our status in society
together with the provision for the upkeep, education and settlement of our
children in life."
But the miserly, cringing mother-in-law, Kamla is too
shrewd to agree. She replied, "Dear Koshaliyaji, life is mercilessly harsh.
It has many facets. We must always be prepared to face it boldly. Our present
day savings alone will enable us to do so bravely. Do please compromise with
Koshaliya reconciles herself with prevailing conditions for
sometime. But, in spite of her endurance, her embarrassment and humiliation
shadow her all through and all over. Its intensity enhances on her visits and
return visits to or by relatives. The contrast of entertainments hurts her ego.
The simmering antagonism comes to fore front every time.
At last, Koshaliya reveals her just to her spouse, like his
parents, Keshew considers Koshaliya as his better half-- two halves of the same
body as per the Hindu tradition. Taking advantage of Keshew's deep love for her,
KoshaIiya says, "Dear Swamij , you and children often complain of improper
nourishment. You often show signs of passitude and tiresomeness, as do our
children and even our mother, Kamlaji too. We are glad you are getting' a huge
sum of money as bonus and simultaneous grade promotion. "
"Yes dear, that is true. I shall get it shortly in a
couple of month’s time, "replies Keshew.
"My dear, I have a suggestion to make. Will you accept
it ? May I express my desire?" says Koshaliya. "Yes dear, do please
say what you want to say, what makes you think, I will not accept it?"
replies Keshew. " O, my dear Swamiji, I expected your reply. Let us add a
bigger drawing room to our house worthy of our new status. At the same time let
our monthly savings remain at the present level as desired by mother Kamlaji.And
------ And ", mutters back Koshaliya.
"Yes dear, why do you stop? utter what you want to
say. I heartily accept your first proposal and will certainly agree to your
second one also," replies Keshew.
"My darling, how I love you' you know how we are
honorably treated and entertained' by our relatives, kith and kin whenever we
visit them. " Says Koshaliya.
"Yes darling, I do. What makes you say so?"
"Since the death of our father dear, Pt. Kumar Sahib,
our hands were tight. We have been compelled to curtail our expenditure and
observe austerity and restraint in entertainments of any sort. I would earnestly
request you to allow your increments for better food and reciprocity of
entertainments according to our Status". Suggests Koshaliya.
"All right my darling, let it be as you desire,"
Keshew in turn also consults with his mother and brings her
round to the decisions already taken.
The previous glamour returns to the family now. There is
resumed the earlier hustle and bustle due to visiting guests as before:
All such entertainments are held in the new drawing room.
After sometime, the grandma, Kamla begins to feel embarrassed in the new
situation. She often grins within herself, "I have now become redundant and
a non entity in my own home. She thinks."
She adjusts herself perfectly, often retiring to her
bed-cum-sitting room in the second storey of her house
This she gradually and imperceptibly hangs into her permanent habitat.
She keeps herself engaged in knitting and sewing clothes. She is provided with
her own sanitary arrangements. Also, she comes down to the ground floor at meals
and teatime only, (four times a day). Sucha voluntary confinement accelerates
her ageing process and she becomes weaker and weaker to move about. As an
obedient and affectionate daughter-in-law, Koshaliya serves her (Kamla) well and
feeds her as usual in her sitting-cum-bed room.
Read also Story no. 18 entitled 'Shock Treatment’.