Two months ago Shraddha and I attended the celebration of the arrival of Baby boy in the family of my friend Karan Singh and his wife, Mrunalini Patil. He was their second child. They had a four-year-old daughter. Among guests, while I saw many of his colleagues, friends, neighbours, and Mrunalini’s relatives, I couldn’t find anyone from Karan’s side, not even his parents. I asked him, “Hey Karan, where are aunt and uncle? When are they coming?” “Sanjeev, they are not coming, ever,” he responded while rushing to attend to other guests. I couldn’t comprehend his statement. I knew that his parents were alive and healthy. He is the only son in the family. He has an elder and a younger sister. Not seeing grandparents at the birth ceremony of their grandson is usually a very non-Indian culture. Though I was sensing a learning lesson hidden behind the reason of that statement, I decided not to follow with him on the well-guarded secret of his life, at least not on the day of celebration.
Currently, Karan is working as a Regional Marketing Manager for a leading Bank in Pune; while Mrunalini collaborates as an HR Manager with a prominent 5-Star Hotel. Karan was my junior in University when we were pursuing MBA in Bangalore and Mrunalini was his junior. Though, I know Karan for last 18 years, however, our communication was never consistent. After MBA, we stayed in touch for around TWO years and then lost contact. We reached out to one another after 5-6 years and stayed in touch for 2-3 years. Finally, we got in touch last year, when he moved to Pune. I even met his parents on a couple of occasions. His father took voluntary retirement from Armed Forces and is currently settled in Mohali, Punjab. Both his sisters are married; while one has moved to Canada, another one is settled in Delhi.
Last week, he invited us to dinner at his home. As we were scanning through the photo album of the event and watching the video, unknowingly, Shraddha touched upon this topic. At this moment, Karan and Mrunalini were willing to revisit their past and re-read few chapters from the book of their memory. Part of their journey left us shattered and made us raise a few questions about our culture, tradition, and values.
Eldest among THREE siblings, Mrunalini belongs to a Marathi family, settled in Mumbai.
“My first interaction with Karan was in pursuit to take his first-year study notes,” Mrunalini began the conversation.
“I would often approach Karan to get my doubts clarified from the notes. A stage came when I would simply approach him on the pretext of doubts just to talk to him. During campus interviews, I found myself praying for his placement”, Mrunalini continued.
Karan got placed in a leading Financial Service Company, as a Management Trainee in Hyderabad.
“By the time, Karan passed out from college; I had labeled my love for him ‘one-sided’. He was kind and caring but hadn’t proposed to me. The night before leaving for Hyderabad, he took me out for dinner. Later he began visiting r Bangalore at least once a month, and every time he would meet me. When I was diagnosed with dengue fever and was hospitalized, he came to Bangalore, and stayed with me, till I recovered and got discharged. When I got placed with a leading bank in Bangalore as Management Trainee, he took me out for dinner at a rooftop restaurant in a leading 5-star hotel and proposed to me in front of 50-60 guests. Later on, he confessed that he had fallen in love with me on the day he first saw me but kept his feelings secret as he didn’t want my studies to get hampered. Now that we are married for 12 years and have two kids, he still doesn’t express his love with words. His actions speak louder than words”, Mrunalini narrated her story, with some inputs from Karan.
“What began on such a rosy note wasn’t so fascinating after all,” Karan took over from Mrunalini.
“I was 25 years old, and Mrunalini was just over 23. We wanted to work for 3-4 years before getting married. However, her parents began to invite marriage proposals for her. Although we were dating, yet she met few probable grooms on her parent’s insistence. It was on Diwali when I visited her parents, and together we shared our intent of getting married. At that moment, they didn’t say anything…,” Karan was interrupted by Mrunalini.
“They told me that I was behaving very irresponsibly, in a very selfish way without considering the social reputation of family and future of my siblings. Our community and relatives would not approve my marriage to a north Indian. I would not be able to live a happy life if I got married to Karan by hurting their sentiments. North Indians are very cunning and manipulative. They also told me that they would not help me in any way if I get into post-marriage problems with Karan”, Mrunalini elaborated.
To all their arguments, I had only one thing to say, “I am getting married to Karan. It will be great if I get your blessings; otherwise, even those get married who don’t have a family. Don’t worry; Karan is my choice, I will not return to you if anything goes bad in my relation with him”.
“They agreed to the marriage, with a condition that the function would take place in Mumbai,” Mrunalini concluded her part.
“Then I spoke to my family,” Karan continued. “Unlike her parents, my parents and relatives readily agreed for our marriage,” he said.
“While we were preparing for our wedding, I got transferred to Bangalore. We took a personal loan of 8 lacs. Rented a 2BHK flat in JP Nagar area and began to purchase furniture and other household items. Our plan was to work for following FIVE years before getting into the expansion of our family”, he continued.
“One year after marriage, my parents came to Bangalore to spend a couple of weeks with us. By the time they left, they had made it clear to us that they didn’t like our lifestyle. They didn’t like Mrunalini pursuing her career after marriage; they had expected her to leave the job and focus on family; her wearing western dresses to the office, working for long hours and going out of the station with her colleagues or seniors for office work bothered them. Another thing that they didn’t like was our way of sharing household activities. If she were late from work, I would cook dinner. On weekends, she would do the cleaning, and I would do laundry. Our ways of celebrating functions were very different from the way it’s been done in Punjab or Maharashtra. They left in unhappy mode”, Karan explained further. “I believe that another reason for their unhappiness was the fact that her parents didn’t give any gifts in marriage, also called as dowry. It was because we had told them not to give anything. Her parent’s approval for the wedding was the biggest gift for us”, he continued.
“Once I was on a three-day official visit to Chennai. On last day of my visit, Mrunalini got a call from my younger sister in the morning. During the conversation, Mrunalini mentioned to her about my visit to Chennai. In the evening, she got a call from my mother, who asked about me. Mrunalini said that I was not at home, and she would ask me to call them back once I reached home (here, it is important to mention that my father had stopped talking to Mrunalini, after their Bangalore visit). When I arrived home, she told me about her conversation with my family. Next day morning she received a message from my father, calling her as a lair and hiding things from them. Understanding of entire scenario ascertained that after calling Mrunalini, my sister spoke to my parents and told them that I was in Chennai. So, when my parents called Mrunalini, they were expecting her to say that I was in Chennai. As a matter of fact, when my sister had called her, I was in Chennai, but when my parents called her, I had arrived in Bangalore and was on my way from Airport to home. I clarified the situation to them and told my father that the way he had sent a message to Mrunalini, calling her as a liar, in the same way, he must send another message, accepting that it was an act of misunderstanding and misinterpretation. While they agreed that they had made a mistake, they remained reluctant to apologize, and their argument was that Mrunalini was like their daughter and between parent and child there should not be “Sorry and Thank You.” I don’t know if this is a right way to create a relationship with a daughter-in-law. Everyone who makes a mistake must apologize”, Karan continued while Mrunalini was busy fixing dinner on the dining table.
“After our 2nd anniversary, every conversation of Mrunalini with my mother and sisters were centred to, “when are you giving the good news.” I tried explaining to them in different ways about our loan and our priorities, but they were not willing to understand. They thought that Mrunalini was focused on her career and her professional growth, and she didn’t want to have kids. Eventually, we learned to live with their taunts related to our family planning. They suggested me to take her for a medical check-up to know if she was fertile enough to get pregnant, etc. A couple of years later, I went to Mohali to attend the wedding of my cousin. Mrunalini couldn’t go as she was busy with her office. After the marriage of my cousin, one evening while I was having a cup of tea with my parents and relatives, my father suggested me to divorce Mrunalini, as she was not able to give an heir to the family. He also said that if I didn’t divorce her, he would exclude me from family property and wealth, worth 3-4 crores then. I played it cool and told him that I didn’t need his property and wealth. He could give it to whomsoever he wanted to. I would create my fortune”, Karan said while we were eating dinner. At this point, the conversation began to take a serious turn.
“We were holidaying in Mohali when Mrunalini missed her periods by more than six days. The pregnancy test at home confirmed that she was pregnant with our first child. Before revealing the news to the family, we reconfirmed it with a doctor. We were delighted to share this news with my family; news they had been waiting to hear for FIVE years. On the way home, we bought sweets to accompany the sweet news of our life. When I broke the news, my father said, “Your wife works long hours and travels a lot, get the DNA test done to be sure that she is carrying your child.” It was 7 PM; we immediately packed our bags and left that home, forever. They called my love liar, and I listened to it. They told me to abandon my love, and I listened to it. They said that they would not give me any share in property and wealth, I accepted it. But when they told my love, cheap and characterless, that was an end of my relationship with them. As her spouse, it is my responsibility to see that she gets due acceptance, love, and respect from my family. I cannot tolerate her humiliation and insult. I decided to stand with my wife, my future, and my kids”, Karan concluded and by this time, he was visibly angry with his eyes turning red, and so was Mrunalini.
“We sent them an invite to attend “name giving function” of our daughter, but they didn’t come,” Mrunalini said.
“You know Sanjeev, I shared this experience with few of my friends, but they lectured me on parenthood. They told me, how much our parents do for us, Parents are like God, we should not hurt them, our mother sacrifices and goes through so much of pain, we cannot be happy by hurting them, etc. That’s the reason; we have stopped sharing it with anyone, and we were reluctant to share it with you. Parents are human beings, and human beings do make mistakes. Just by being a parent does not guarantee you respect, love, and care for life”, Karan explained his stand, while Mrunalini prepared coffee for all of us.
That night I couldn’t sleep. The story of Karan was very painful. It had raised many questions about the parent-child relationship. When something doesn’t happen as per parents wish, should they just ridicule it?
I agree that parents do a lot for their kids, but an expectation to get something in return demeans everything.
It is the responsibility of every couple to ensure that their spouses get acceptance and respect in the family. Parent-in-law cannot expect their daughter-in-law or son-in-law to respect them while they continue to humiliate, insult and degrade them.
Respect and love are two-way streets; one must give to get.
When it comes to a parent-child relationship, it is not appropriate to always put the blame on children for not listening to their parents.
The relationship of parent-child is created by the universe. They don’t get to choose each other.
I am going to become a parent soon and I, for sure, know what I must not do.
What do you think about experiences of Karan and Mrunalini? How could they have avoided this situation? Please share your thoughts and stories.
Written By: Sanjeev Himachali @
Pic Credit: Wiki