Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tips for a successful marriage - 1

(Needless to say, this is a post-in-progress)

– Quickly get used to the idea that someone else will now be addressing your mother as “mom”, but don’t feel obliged to reciprocate in kind. No new “papas” and “mummies” for me; the existing ones are hard enough to deal with. As my wife says, what you call your in-laws should be a personal choice - do the “mummy-daddy” thing only if it’s spontaneous. (What I can’t quite figure out: she’s been on great terms with my mother for the better part of four years now, and she’s been calling her “aunty” all that time, so how is this shift “spontaneous”?)

The whole thing does take some getting used to. A recent phone conversation:

Jai: Hey, what is up.
Abhilasha: Hi, I’m out with mummy, will call you in a while.
J (confused): Your mom’s come over?
A: Um, no. I’m with your mom.
J: You know, I’m sure this is all very sweet and good-intentioned on some level, but when you refer to my mother as “mummy” it makes me feel like I’ve grown a new sister.
(Cold silence)
A: Well, wouldn’t that be in keeping with the tradition of incest in your family?

This last remark must be explained. There are lots of second-cousin marriages in my extended family (because apparently no one could find a suitable or willing match in the outside world). This accounts for all the looniness in the current generation. I’m the only sane one, which should tell you something.

– If you’ve been having nightmares because you’re spending too much time studying Chapter 10 of From Hell (you know, the part that has Jack the Ripper alone with Mary Jane Kelly’s corpse in her room late at night) and the wife gives you a Hanuman Chaalisa to ward off evil thoughts, DO NOT exclaim, “Cool! The cover of this book has a monkey tearing his chest open to expose a bloodied heart!” It’s in bad taste. Or something.

– With the aforementioned Chaalisa under the pillow, you may still continue reading The God Delusion. No conflict – it’s like that last scene in Inherit the Wind, with Clarence Darrow balancing the Bible in one hand and the Origin of Species in the other.

– Most important tip of all: separate toilets. Always.


  1. I agree with the separate toilets bit
    thoroughly. Let me know if you ever want to holiday in a place where they have built separate toilets for man and woman- but same room.
    send me a note.

  2. more marriage posts please...

  3. Hi Jai,

    Congratulations on your wedding!

    Love reading your blog - you write astoundingly well.

    Btw, we worked together at EB way back when, but I don't think you'll remember me!

  4. So, what do you call your MIL - Aunty? That is incestuous too, you know! "...but in keeping with tradition..." LOL

    But, I agree, it takes some effort before it becomes spontaneous.

  5. Anita: yup, I call them aunty and uncle, and that's how it will stay. No incest there - we Indians don't have to be related to our aunties!

    Cute chunky chick: name please? Send email if you prefer.

    Loony: difficult to send note, seeing that you haven't left a contact address or email ID.

  6. I thought I had posted this comment but I seem to have not posted it. Aaargh. Anyway here goes:

    So my mom, as part of the All Important Pre-Wedding Mother Talk (cept in this case it was All the Talk) expressly mentioned that, no, she did not want to add any more children to her life and so could I ensure that my tobe did not call her "mummy"? Anything would do as long as it was nothing even remotely maternal. Accordingly, its been "aunty" for him.

    I, on the other hand, had to do the "Spontaneous Transition" to mummy/papa. I was only consoled by the fact that my MIL brought me breakfast/chai in bed for the year that I stayed with them (the spouse was concurrently living my mom - bizarre arrangement, don't ask) since I was her daughter (I love my SIL!). Oh, and I get to yell at her more than once in a while as part of daughter privileges (which I negotiated hard for - as I told T, if I can't yell at her, I can't call her Mum).


  7. Also, the separate toilets bit: hmmm I don't know. What about cleaning them? I didn't get married to clean my own toilet!


  8. He he ...i am the one who did not go through any spontaneous transition and as a result I still "aunty" my ma-in-law. The only probem is when her sisters come along or when she is standing with a group of women, calling her "aunty" makes several heads turn for two reasons: 1. Mil ko Auntie??? 2. kisko bulaya..mujhe ya mujhe ya mujhe :)

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  10. Hmm...so this is some very N of the Vindhyas type thing. I knew it. We down South (in Tamland) have very clear things to call in-laws and stuff - most commonly, its "maama" and "athai" though it varies by community, location etc.

    My parents were extremely puzzled when the boy started calling them "amma" "appa" but they have gotten used to it now. But my extended family still goes crazy when Bill goes and calls them what I call them. This is going to sound complicated but the idea is that we call mom's siblings and dad's siblings by two very different names which doesn't sound too bad but here's where it gets crazt - the spouse is supposed to flip it around. This has got to do with incest actually. There are some people in the family you can get married and some you cannot. Ya ok, I will stop.

  11. Mandatory marriage joke coming up:

    Q: How do you propose to Cthulhu?

    A: Will you marinate me?

    Har har har har! No?

  12. Oh... gee. you're getting married? man... serious? good luck with that. wish i knew you better to advise you otherwise. anyway. love the blog. keep writing (yea!)

  13. Stumbled onto this blog thru' amit's india uncut blog. not apt to posting comments usually, but since this one's on marriage couldn't pass on the opportunity... 2 rules for a successful marriage:

    #1 Wife is always right
    #2 If wife is wrong, then refer to rule #1

    and they lived happily ever after... my deep condolences my friend. :)

  14. Hi,
    This is off topic, but any idea which is India's best literary or publishing agency?

  15. :) My hubby still calls my parents Uncle-Aunty but I was told very nicely after the wedding that it's time I shifted to Mom-Dad...

    Congratulations on the wedding!


  16. I think its interesting that most of the stories here are of people saying their husbands were free to call in-laws uncle/aunty but the women transition to the "mom-dad" thing! Am I wrong?

    Sorry Jwock didn't want to turn your quite sparkling piece into a boring social commentary - just found it intriguing, this difference!


  17. I think its interesting that most of the stories here are of people saying their husbands were free to call in-laws uncle/aunty but the women transition to the "mom-dad" thing!

    N: I don't think that's surprising or unexpected, given that a) it usually falls to the woman to do the adjusting, even in relatively liberal households, b) the girl has to stay with the guy's parents, not the other way around - which means that the guy can get away with a lot. Consider a situation where both sets of parents feel strongly about being called mom/dad by their new son-in-law/daughter-in-law. In such a case, the guy (who might not have to even meet his in-laws frequently) can do the aunty-uncle thing and ignore the occasional sulk that comes his way. On the other hand, a girl whose in-laws are conservative about these things wouldn't have much option but to go along with tradition; if her in-laws were to get resentful about something like this, it could have serious implications for her day-to-day life.

  18. Amit: Are you calling my wife Cthulhu? On Saturday we'll marinate you and serve you whole with the rest of the food as "India Uncut lababdar".

    Scribbler: too late to advise otherwise. As the post clearly indicates, I'm already married, not getting married.

  19. J. & A.,

    I had always wanted to use that telegram option you can still find at the post office near you: May the heavens shower choicest blessings on the newly-weds.

  20. Everybody should get married, because Happiness is not everything in life.

  21. Call your wife Cthulhu? Far from it. Indeed, I wish her a life as interesting as Shub-Niggurath herself. No better wishes could be bestowed!

    Of course, that also places some responsibility upon you to help her in begetting "a thousand young." I wish you all the best.

  22. Umm I call my in-laws "sir" and "Maam" and the wife calls her in-laws "Granny" and "Babu".
    To top it, my MiL calls my parents "aunty" and "uncle" because my dad worked with my MiL's dad.
    After 11-odd years I guess we've all got comfortable with it,

  23. Congrats on getting married. Fab post.My friend who recently got married and she had to call her in-laws Mom and Dad and it wasn't spontaneous..not good scene but she is doing it anyways.

  24. Make up names for them. Can be great fun.

    Or not.


  25. Hello Jai

    Congratulations and here's wishing a propserous life and tips worthy incidents coming from it. :D


  26. Great post. Especially like the Hanuman Chalisa bit.

  27. I went through this some eight years ago, when I realised that I had no daughterly feeling towards my in-laws. So aunty-uncle it had to be. But when it was gently hinted after marriage that it's not how things are supposed to be after marriage, I said, fine, I will address you as parents. But since no one can take the place of my mom-dad, I can call you mataji-pitaji. There was an awkward silence, and the topic has not been broached after that.

    Except once when my in-laws' son-in-law (husband's elder sister's husband) asked them pointedly about how I had not started calling them mummy etc. To which MIL retorted, "But you too call me aunty."

    By the way, my parents have been addressed as uncle-aunty by all their three sons-in-law. And they have never sulked.

    The occasional sulk that you talk about, Jai, is also guaranteed to vanish once there are grandchildren calling out dadi/nani. You, of course, I know, are not likely to advocate that resort. Though I am waiting to see if you do. Some day.

  28. 1) I have actually always wondered about the MIL being addressed as Mummyji/Mom/Mum...how does that not seem odd to people?

    2) Aww Man! You're married??

  29. congratulations, jai. and much luck :)

  30. ouch ! too late to warn you !

    The best thing about an inter-regional marriage (she's a Bania and I am Bong) is that you don't need to call your in-laws the same thing you call your parents...

    But then, I hardly knew her parents before marriage...

    And yes, separate toilets - definitely !

  31. WOW! after 33 comments I'm not even sure I'll get noticed! But Jai and Abhilasha .... congratts! Its quite a step!
    I can see Abhilasha truely as "THE BETTER HALF" (she sonds wiser than u)
    All the best both of u!

  32. haha...funny...
    well..i know nuthin abt all dis...as im too small to think of such things..

  33. I have a frd, newly married, she calls her in-laws as "my mummy" and "my papa", her SIL as "my sister" and I always get confused which 'set' is she talking about! duh! I would not let my husband call my mom his mom NEVER EVER! huh!

  34. I can see Abhilasha truely as "THE BETTER HALF" (she sonds wiser than u)

    Surabhi: well, I'm the one who wrote the post, so it could be argued that the "wise Abhilasha" is my creation! (*laughs Pygmalion laugh*)

  35. Another one bites the dust!!
    At least you'll have material for witty posts for some time. So I can look forward to being entertained for at least 2-3 years.

  36. hahaha.... am getting married in jan so a best of luck is in due for me so maybe i'll have a few of these on my blog also...

    I love reading your blog...

  37. plz post some video tips for succesful married life...

  38. The Book of Wife:


  39. Hai Jai...
    9 yrs of marriage and calling my parents in law as mom and dad..since my engagement..i really agree that it shud be once personal choice and not enforced upon as to how you call your parents in law.My mil would like to see a daughter in me..but the vice versa can't happen for i have heard my mil tell me that"a daughter is a daughter and a dil is a dil!!!".Very saddening!

  40. Multilingualism is the key!
    My new British husband got a fair few hints (via me, of course, never directly) from my mum and other female 'relations'. He'd lost his Mum 3 years before we married and really couldn't imagine calling anyone else by the same name, no matter how much he adores my mum. So instead of a transition, we worked out a compromise, which I'll admit was very wicked of me.
    My non-traditional-in-every-way parents are now called 'sasuma' and 'sasurji' in a British accent!!!