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Tue, 08, 20

My mother is a very good cook and she makes very good kheer, but she can’t make it for me. Please help!

Dear Professor,

I am a 25-year-old girl. I recently got married and live in a joint family. When my mother-in-law came to see me, my mother told her that I am a very good cook. But reality is that first I was busy with my studies and then after graduating, I got a good job, so I never learned to cook. My mother-in-law was very impressed by what my mother told her about my skills and she called the next day to propose. My husband is a software engineer, very well-placed, and is a great guy. So, I am very happy with him. The problem is that now my mother-in-law now wants me to start cooking and I am petrified! I cannot even make an omelette properly. She wants me to make kheer on her wedding anniversary, which is on 21 September. Had it been a small family, I would have smuggled something from a mithai shop, but 15 people live in the house and bringing something from outside is out of the question. What should I do? Should I tell my mother-in-law that my mom fibbed a bit? I don’t want her to know that my mother lied to her. My mother is a very good cook and she makes very good kheer, but she can’t make it for me. Please help!

Girl in a Fix

Dear Girl in a Fix,

It is of no use saying that your mother shouldn’t have lied to your mother-in-law. In these relationships, trust and honesty are essential. Your mother has put you in a spot. You wouldn’t want your in-laws to lose respect for her, and if you tell your mother-in-law that your mother deceived her, she would never trust you or your mother again. Also, you will never be able to live it down, and will probably have to listen to some very harsh taunts. Your idea of ‘smuggling’ something, even it could work, would not be a solution. You won’t be able to smuggle cooked food all the time, and that, too, in a joint family. The only thing you can now do is to go to your mother to spend the day, take a crash course at kheer making, and if you think you need more practice, try making kheer at your mother’s place a couple of times. My dear, making kheer is not rocket science. In fact, cooking anything in the Age of YouTube is easy. One just has to follow the instructions precisely. See a couple of videos, and practice at your mother’s and you will wing it. But, after that, you will have to learn to cook, preferably at your mother’s home to keep your secret. Start small, learn simple things first, and you will be cooking like a pro in no time. Nowadays, you get recipe mixes of virtually everything. You can use these, too, in the beginning. Another thing is that the style of cooking varies from family to family. So once you learn the basics from your mom and YouTube, you can praise your mother-in-law’s cooking and ask her to teach you her way of cooking. It would please her also and give you more time to hone your skills. You still have over a month to learn; make this time count. Good luck!

Dear Nadine Khan,

I am 22 years old, and a new bride. My husband is very loving and caring, and my mother-in-law is a very good woman. My problem is my father-in-law. He is a retired banker and is home all the time. Throughout the day, he tries to find something wrong and criticise my mother-in-law on something or the other. My mother-in-law is a very conscientious person and her management of the household is flawless. Instead of appreciating her efforts, my father-in-law constantly compares her with the wife of his youngest brother. This lady is from a wealthy family and has a lot of money of her own, and her house looks like it’s done by a good interior designer. She has the money to do what she wants, but my saas is dependent upon her husband and son for the money to run the house. My husband doesn’t say anything to his father and I am afraid that after some time my father-in-law will also start criticising me. He doesn’t scold me, but doesn’t talk to me much either. I want to help my mother-in-law, because I have genuinely become fond of her. Nadine, I lost my mother when I was 12 only. My father re-married soon after my mother’s death. My step-mom was not bad with me, but she treated me with reserve. I was afraid that my mother-in-law would be mean because so many of my friends have bad mothers-in-law, but I am lucky that I got such a wonderful person as my saas. She is a wonderful cook and always asks me what I would like to eat! She cares about everyone, but in return she doesn’t even get appreciation. I want to talk to my husband about this matter, but I don’t want him to think that I dislike his father, which I actually do! What should I do to solve this problem in a nice way?

Concerned Daughter-in-law

Dear Concerned Daughter-in-law,

What a different letter! Mostly, it is women complaining about their mothers-in-law or daughters-in-law, so it is nice to get a letter which is in praise of a mother-in-law! My dear, you are a good person, and you are lucky to have a good mother-in-law. But, my dear, you are a new bride and you should be very tactful so as not to offend anyone. If you really want to help your mother-in-law, just give her moral support. Praise her efforts in front of your father-in-law, as often as you can. Don’t, however, overdo it. If she cooks something nice, make it a point to compliment her in front of your father-in-law. Ask her what you can do to help her out when she is busy with some chore to make your father-in-law realise how much she does to run the house smoothly. Your father-in-law is a retired person with nothing to do. His only activity seems to be criticising your mother-in-law. Try to draw him out so he feels comfortable talking to you. Once you achieve a comfort level with him, try to make him interested in some activity like gardening or some other physical activity. Don’t be afraid to talk to your husband; you sincerely want to make things better for his mom and he will not mind it if you can talk to him without actively criticising his father. Your husband can also put in a little effort by asking his father to watch news with him or go for a walk. A man does not find it easy when he has no activity, and finds life after retirement difficult. I am sure once your father-in-law manages to come to terms with his retirement, he will become better. Good luck

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