Saturday, 24 January 2009

Meera's mother-in-law

Here's a great story I came across the other day (here):

One day Meera woke up and found herself married to the man of her dreams. Although the marriage had been arranged, she discovered within a week of the ceremony that he was the most kind, attentive, supportive and loving husband she could ever have wished for - and it didn't hurt that he was also rich.

Her life would have been wonderful, except for one thing. His mother. She lived with them and tended to think that she was in charge of the household. Not only that, but whatever Meera did, it was never good enough for her son. She carped and complained all day long and made the girl's life a misery - except in the evenings when her son was at home, when ghee wouldn't melt in her mouth.

Every night the girl prayed that she would die, but when the old woman woke up every morning glowing with health and, if anything, getting stronger and healthier as time went by, she decided to take matters into her own hands. In desperation, she visited a man in a nearby village who was renowned for his knowledge of herbs, and she begged him to give her the means to poison the old woman.

At first, he tried to dissuade her. But when he realised she was serious (the clincher being the amount of money she was prepared to pay), he prepared an ointment for her and told her to massage it into the old woman's feet. He promised her that her troubles would be over within a month.

That night, the girl tentatively offered the old woman a foot massage, which was accepted with bad grace and 'suffered' with many a complaint. As it was the next night, and the next. It was only the fact that her husband was so pleased with his wife's kindness towards his mother - and the thought that it was only going to last another 28 days at most - that kept her going.

Soon the foot massage became an evening ritual, and by the end of the first week the old woman had stopped complaining. She accepted the 'homage' the girl was paying her as her right. (Only three weeks to go.)

On the third day of the second week, she said thank you. (Ha! Only two and a half weeks to go.)

At the beginning of the third week, she started telling stories about when she was young. (Two more weeks.)

Then the stories started to include the birth of her son and what he had been like when he was a little boy. Despite herself, the girl wanted to know more.

On the second morning of the fourth week, the girl woke up with a terrible feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach. The old woman was going to die. She herself was going to be a murderess. She was killing the mother of the man she loved. But it was more than that. In the last few days, she had actually enjoyed the evening ritual. She enjoyed the stories. She even enjoyed the soothing feeling of giving the massage. She enjoyed giving pleasure. And now she came to think about it, her mother-in-law hadn't complained about anything for quite a while. Not anything. Yesterday she had asked Meera's advice about which sari she should buy. And, even today, she had promised to teach her the secret recipe of her husband's favourite dish.

As soon as she could leave the house without arousing suspicion, Meera raced to the next village to the house of the old man. He recognised her immediately and smiled as he pointed to a large bowl of ointment sitting on a side table. 'Oh thank you, thank you,' she whispered. 'I'm so ashamed.' Without looking him in the eye, she picked up the bowl and left in its place much more than twice the sum of money she'd given him the first time.

Just as she was leaving, she suddenly stopped and looked back. 'How did you know I would want the antidote?' she asked.

'Antidote?' he replied with a twinkle. 'I don't know what you mean. I just know that I prepare the best foot massage ointment in the world. Everyone always wants more.'

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