“What if they ask me to cook something?” was one of the first questions I asked my husband of a few hours. He laughed and said what he had been saying for the last 2 years that we were dating, “just say no”. It was easier said than done, especially when you are an atmosphere that’s hostile to put it mildly.
We were to spend the weekend with his family, before going to our own new place, new life. So I was on my best behaviour and hoped it didn’t show. Suddenly I realised I was all alone in a home and family, where I barely knew anyone. I am very different from them and clearly both sides were treading carefully. I must say they tried to make me feel welcome and I realised how the dynamics between the women in a family is what sets the tone. My husband was in the home he grew up in and obviously totally comfortable. The day passed off smoothly and my husband joked in private that I seemed to be enjoying the tv serial bahu role to the hilt! Must say it did feel good when at the dinner table my father-in-law made some stray comment on how once you get to know people pre conceived biases drop. My husband winked across the table. My mother-in-law asked someone to get almonds from the grocers since I was making “halwa” in the morning. I almost choked on the water I was drinking. She asked if everything was ok, I said I was good and of course I knew it was the custom.
This was tougher than preparing for any exam or presentation at work. My husband suggested we walk on the terrace. I tried to be brave but he could sense what was going on. We had our first argument as a married couple. He had no issues with the fact that I was a career oriented person who never had any interest or time to cook. I was missing my mom. She had spent the last ten years at least trying to get me to learn the basics of cooking and I always said I didn’t have the time, I would marry a man who knew how to cook. Thankfully I had, so he spent the next two hours explaining to me how “halwa” was made. I revised, learnt it by rote and kept repeating the recipe over and over again. He never had, or never has, shown as much patience as he did that night.
We were both up and ready at the crack of dawn and he was wishing me luck and assuring me that I would do fine. I had to stop him from going and stopping his mom from calling off the plan. I was nervous and just hoping I wouldn’t drop something or burn something and ruin my reputation for life. He promised to come and stand with me in the kitchen. I said no to that, just requested him to keep his brother’s wife out.
My mother-in-law walked into the kitchen, with both of us following. She asked him to leave and said just she and her new daughter-in-law were permitted in today. Like all moms, she knew exactly what I was feeling. Yet once I started she stood by me and short of making the “halwa” herself, did everything. She kept giving me a running commentary on how it was done in their house and I just kept following her instructions to the T.
You know what happened next. The “halwa” was declared divine and all the elders in the family gave me money and gifts. On the way back home my husband declared that he now knew that not just his mom but even his wife was a pretty good actress!