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The other day, a colleague and good friend of mine confided that she’s being plagued with the rarest of domestic problems. Of her mother-in-law being independent and emancipated, well, a bit too much.

Now my friend happens to be one of those fortunate women who, ‘touch wood’, shares a very cordial and mature relationship with her mother-in-law. There’s not been a single instance of her complaining about the slightest disagreement between the two, let alone the taunt and manipulation stories many of us have.

In her case, her husband is the younger of two siblings, he and his elder sister. Her mil was widowed some fifteen years ago and has been living alone in the huge ancestral home back in their hometown. Her sister-in-law is based abroad and she herself is here, in Mumbai for the past many years.

The senior lady is a retired schoolteacher and has always been strong and self-reliant, both emotionally and financially. But then old age brings in new challenges, more than anything, physical. And the last two years have been particularly difficult, the mil is now over eighty, stooping and too weak to travel. In fact, travel is a big word, she can hardly commute to the grocery store or the nearby hospital.

A small town has its own advantages, the neighbours are like family, acquaintances stay close by, auto-rickshaw drivers arrive on call, there’s full-time domestic help and someone to take care of the garden as well. But then as children, my friend’s husband and his sister are obviously concerned and do not want their mother to be alone and away anymore.

My friend had been telling me this for some time now, the frequency of their hometown visits has risen, from once annually to almost every three months. Because as far as staying with her children is concerned, moving abroad is almost impossible for the mil given her age. Mumbai though is comparatively closer home. And moreover, my friend is more than willing to welcome her mother-in-law into her home, for good. But come what may, the matriarch stubbornly refuses to shift base.

Because she doesn’t want to burden her children, ever.

It seems tongues are already wagging amongst friends and relatives. Random people enquire about the old lady’s well-being and somehow their concern gradually turns to accusation. As to how a woman that age would manage all alone and why exactly does she refuse to accompany her son and family to Mumbai.  Some even going to the extent of advising my friend not to abandon her MIL.

My friend is unperturbed by these gossipmongers and their chatter, but she is indeed worried. Every time the phone displays her MIL’s number, she gets anxious. Has the elder lady fallen down the stairs, or slipped on the floor?

In spite of all coaxing by the children, the senior refuses to budge. She wouldn’t tolerate bombarding her children with her responsibilities. As long as she isn’t bedridden, or rendered immobile, she would stay independently in her own house, she clearly states. She claims she doesn’t want to get in the way of her children’s freedom and their happy family lives. And no amount of reasoning is helping their case, because she’s adamant.

I mentioned this to my mother and pat came her reply, “What’s wrong with living alone? I resonate with the lady. God forbid, if tomorrow something happens to your father, I too would like to stay here. As long as I can take care of myself, I wouldn’t want to impose on you.”

Read the rest of the blog here.

When Parents Are ‘A Bit Too Much’ Independent And Emancipated! (

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