This edition of Let’s Face It features mother of three sons and grandmother of six grandchildren, Sahana Chaudhuri. She was my colleague while we worked together at a diplomatic mission. Old enough to be my mother she was one of my closest friends’ and the mother-in-law I wish I had 🙂
Pottsandpan (PP): You’ve lived and living each day a wonderfully fulfilling life – how would you define ‘happiness’ within this context?
Sahana Chaudhuri (SC): Happiness is within oneself and not external to you. If you decide to be happy, no matter what, no one and no force on earth can keep happiness from you.
When I think of happiness this ditty always comes to mind:-
Life is what you make it
Life is what you will
You’ll find out that wheree’er you go whatever role you play
You’ll always find a piper
And that piper you must pay
So shall we change our parts again
Some other sunny day
Oh no! I’ll still stay me!
SC: I was married for almost thirty-one years. I miss his care and concern for me. I miss his comforting and protective presence.
Most of all I miss that he always felt I was the best wife he could ever have asked for!
PP: There was a time when you were concerned for your sons and their marriage – what did you fear the most then? Did it make matters easier that you didn’t have daughters?
SC: My fear then was the marriages would end in divorce. As luck would have it, they did end in divorce!
As a matter of fact, it would have been easier had I had daughters. Our marriage laws are slewed to favour girls and there is a stereotypical assumption that the guy is ALWAYS to blame!! The penalty is always paid by the guy and not the girl.
PP: For a long time you’ve lived by yourself, redecorated the house the way you liked and travelled with friends and colleagues – was it liberating to do all this without encumbrances or the need to explain yourself?
SC: Yes, though I wouldn’t say liberated as even in marriage I was never made to feel ‘caged’, if you know what I mean. My husband was liberal and trusting enough never to ask for explanations. Perhaps this was because while he was around I never really felt the need to go out on my own. I’d say, after his demise, I enjoyed going out with friends for the occasional meal and cinema or a weekend out to Digha or Darjeeling.
PP: I’ve always known you as someone who has faced life’s challenges with grit, determination and positivity. What would you attribute to this? Is it your innate mental strength or have you garnered this from a role model you’ve admired for how they lived their lives?
SC: I think grit and determination and innate strength is intrinsic in me though my Mum was a huge inspiration to me.
PP: You now spend time living with each of your three sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren – how has life changed (from your perspective) from the time you lived with your in-laws and extended family and now?
SC: First and foremost, I never really lived with my in-laws except when my mother-in-law came visiting on holidays. Of course there has to be a difference between living on your own and living with my sons and their families. The solution I have found is not to expect my DILs (daughters-in-law) to adjust and compromise for me. Rather, I have learnt to adjust and accept to the changes in my lifestyle to ensure an amicable relationship. I NEVER interfere in their personal affairs or disagreements!
PP: How has the mother-in-law in you evolved from the daughter-in-law you’ve been? Do you feel that try as you may; sometimes you’re unable to curb your expectations of being the ‘mother-in-law’ or perhaps having similar expectations like your own mother-in-law?
SC: As I said, I do not have any so-called expectations from my DILS. I see my sons happy in their marriages now and that is all I ask for!
PP: Being a grandparent, what advice would you want to give your grandsons and granddaughters when it came to selecting their partners? Is there something you would want your granddaughters to be aware of more than your grandsons?
SC: My advice to my grandchildren, both grandsons and granddaughters equally, is that it is wise not to rush into anything.
“Follow your heart but take your brain with you!”
There has to be compromise from both partners for a marriage to be successful. However, once you become a mother, you have to give more for the simple reason that there is an invisible umbilical cord connecting child to mother. A mother can never be replaced by anyone! So never be resentful when you need to take more leave when the child is sick or on a rare occasion when you need to give up a day out with your friends.
For the guys, I would say that helping out with housework or taking care of the kids is not demeaning. Share responsibilities and you will see how fulfilling it is to run a happy home.
PP: What do you think is lacking the most in the younger generation when it comes to commitment and marriage? Do you think they respect this institution enough to work hard at their relationships?
SC: I think tolerance levels have dropped to a large extent. The fact that women are also economically independent adds to this. These days it is easy to walk out of a marriage whereas earlier it wasn’t even considered an option. I always say that there is so much joy and fulfilment in a long and lasting marriage. For this both partners have to work hard at it. It doesn’t just happen!
SC: My main advice to them is to always treat their wives with love and respect. She is in no way less than you and has gone through a great deal in bearing your kids! Treat her like a queen for she is no less than one!