Home / Leisure / Kitchen politics

Kitchen politics

Read more below

Coffee Break / PAKSHI VASUDEVA   |   Published 02.01.07, 12:00 AM

Stories about the relationship between mothers-in-law and their daughters-in-law are rife. We hear of those who don’t get on, of new brides being treated abominably by their husband’s mothers, and we also hear tales of how daughters-in-law reduce their mothers-in-law to tears. More often today we hear of mothers-in-law treading on eggshells when they deal with their daughters-in-law for fear of offending them and perhaps losing their sons. There are accounts also of how women get on, or do not get on, with their husband’s sisters, tales of partiality and resentment on the one hand, or warmth and affection on the other.

What we don’t hear so often is stories about the relationship between the wives of two brothers. Yet this is a relationship that is often fraught with tension and acrimony, especially when they live with their parents-in-law in a joint family. At the root of this troubled relationship is the green-eyed monster, jealousy, or so I discovered from Anita, the daughter-in-law of a friend.

Today Anita and her sister-in-law are good friends but they could well have ended up as arch enemies. “When Anjali married my brother-in-law,” says Anita, “I was filled with an irrational resentment against her. I had been the only daughter-in-law in the family for five years, and was very close to my in-laws. The thought that she might usurp my position made me determined not to like her.

“But then I discovered that my fears were unjustified. There was no change whatsoever in my mother-in-law’s attitude to me. In fact she turned to me to help the new bride settle down. She expected me to apprise Anjali of the likes and dislikes of the family, and with Anjali also treating me like an elder sister, I found myself doing precisely that. Today, 10 years down the line, we are good friends, with no rivalry between us. But it is to my mother-in-law that I give all credit for this.”

Anita and Anjali’s story has a happy ending. But there are other stories where a strong animosity exists between the wives of two brothers, largely because any hope of their getting on is ruptured by the behaviour of the in-laws they share. One mother-in-law I know, swayed by her blatant partiality to her older son, ruined all chances of his wife getting on with the younger son’s wife. In another case the mother-in-law’s dislike of one daughter-in-law made it impossible for her sister-in-law to be friends with her. In a third case, the partiality shown by the mother-in-law to one grandchild precluded any chance of their respective mothers getting on.

So does an amicable relationship between the wives of two brothers depend on their mother-in-law? I must confess that I don’t know, but it certainly would seem so.

Copyright © 2020 The Telegraph. All rights reserved.