Once married, it seems to be the eternal wish of every woman to spend some time at her parents’ home. The word maika means ma ka ghar. In Punjab, it’s peke, which means peo (father) da ghar. When I got married, my parents’ home was just two sectors away, so I always wanted to go there for a bit. My mother was a marvellous cook and often sent over delicacies that everyone in my new family savoured. Sometimes, she would insist that I come over because she had made this or that. It took a lot of courage to ask my mother-in-law if I could go over for a few hours. After the initial, ‘Kyon?’ I occasionally got a nod of assent. One morning, I asked my husband if he could drop me home on his way to work. He said, ‘That’s not your home now. Your home is here with me.’ It took me a while to absorb that statement.
A friend of mine faced similar circumstances. Her parents’ home was also close by. Once a week, she would ask her mother-in-law if she could visit her parents. The mother-in-law would look formidably over her reading glasses, raise her eyebrows and ask, ‘Ki gal? (what happened?)’ Her husband had a sister who was also married locally. The sister would drop by for a cup of tea every evening. Once in a blue moon, if she didn’t come, mother would call her up and ask, ‘Ki gal?’ My friend and I often fretted, fumed, laughed and cried over ‘Ki gal?’
With the birth of our children, it became more difficult to visit my maika. Some years hence, my father was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court; so, my maika shifted to Delhi. For nine years, I enjoyed the biannual luxury of staying for a few days at my parents’ home. One day, while driving to Delhi, my husband was trying to overtake a truck that was refusing to let us surge ahead. My little son said, ‘Get aside! We have to go to nani house!’ Conversely, on our return journey, he said, ‘Get aside! We have to go to dadi house.’ Just then my husband said, ‘Why just dadi house? It’s our house. We are going home!’ It struck me — yes, that was my home! No longer did my maika feel like home. The transition had been slow and smooth. I never realised when it happened. All through, I strived to meet the approval of my parents-in-law. With so much strictness, I learnt to adjust and make my husband’s home mine.
Recently, my daughter-in-law said to my 90-year-old mother-in-law, ‘Dadi, I’m going to Delhi to spend some time with my parents.’ She said in indignation, ‘Ki gal? Tera dil nahin lagda aithe?’
I couldn’t stop laughing. Old habits die hard!
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