It is not always a momster-in-law; sometimes roles reverse


Amma aap aa jao yahi pe. Abhi itna strict nahi hua hai lockdown toh you can come,” is what my son said when the news of nationwide lockdown had been announced in March so that he and my daughter-in-law can look after me. I stay alone in Chembur and Harshal, my son stays in Bandra, and with this call of his, I wished everyone be blessed with a son and a daughter-in-law like mine--I felt loved and wanted and cared. Harshal and this wife have never invited me before to stay wit them and so I felt I must honour their wish.

But now coming here seems like the stupidest and the most stressful thing I’ve done in my whole life. 

I had thought that I would be staying with them for a few months, but within a week my daughter-in-law asked me to move to a 1 RK apartment, located just two buildings away from theirs in the same society. I was taken aback at the suggestion. Why Harshal would do something like that if he didn’t want me to stay with them? What’s the point of my setting up a new house when I have my own in the city.

On asking Harshal, he said that my staying too far off during the pandemic worried him and so he had thought that I could stay with them for a few days. Mrunalini, his wife asked him to rent this flat because she thought I liked my peace and doing things by myself and living in their apartment would be disturbing for me.

Yes, I did like looking after myself, and I always abhorred the idea of being a burden on anyone but then wouldn’t I be better off at my own apartment? I knew my locality well and I had my neighbours to look after me if anything was ever to go wrong. I agreed to come here because I thought my son and his family wanted me to and were worried about me. But, for Harshal’s happiness, I agreed to what Mrunalini said, and moved out of their house into this new flat. 

Harshal said, he’d come by every day and we’d spend good quality time until the lockdown ends. In the beginning, he came every day with homemade food so that I didn’t have to cook. Then he came just to drop off the tiffin and gave reasons like work, or house cleaning, children’s school work and so on to not stay with me. I said okay, he might be busy and let it go. 

And now, the tiffin has stopped too. Because it would be better if I cook my own meal to avoid any kind of spread of virus. 


I’ve heard of mothers-in-law traumatizing their daughters-in-law but in my case, the situation is the opposite. And this whole social distancing is getting really frustrating now. I am not allowed to go out of the house because the society has made a rule that all seniors should stay indoors, of course for our own safety. 

There is nothing that I can do here apart from the extra trouble of making my own meals and cleaning the house. I don’t have a fully functional kitchen here and it makes things difficult for me. I don’t even know these neighbours nor does my son come to meet me anymore. It all makes me feel all the more lonely. 

Without familiar faces, locked up inside the house, sitting in isolation, this almost feels like a punishment.

I would’ve been good at my own apartment. I want to go back home, my home in Chembur. I just want these restrictions to end, because every day that I live here seems like the sadness within me is just increasing and it would burst someday…. 

I will be talking to Harshal about this today, irrespective of whether he likes it or not.


- Harshita Gandhi (69-year-old widowed woman)