“Let me calculate it for you. I have an app for that.” She whipped out her phone immediately.

“That’s okay. We don’t really follow those things…”, is what I said, letting the conversation trail off, not before I noticed the slight frown of annoyance on her face. The expression she usually gets when her plans are frustrated and things don’t go her way.

What I wanted to say was, “Hell, NO. Why don’t you get a life, instead of being such a bossy busybody, always telling everybody else what to do and how to do it!”

Oh, if only I could be that honest. If thoughts could be seen, like those conversation bubbles in comics. I’d be in so much trouble. In more ways than one.

The memory of that incident was triggered by another recent conversation, she had… this time with Sumitha. Well, it wasn’t as much a conversation, as a missive over text message, telling her what she should do.

It read something like this…

“Sumi girl, I just want to confirm Rena’s rashi and natchatiram for when I do archanai for the family. I need her exact time of birth, so that I can check with the Pusari.”

Domineering, presumptuous and entitled. As usual. She is well aware that we do not practise seeking the advice of Vedic astrologers, from previous interactions.

Domineering, as it’s a matter of doing things her way, versus anyone else’s. Presumptuous, as she assumes that it is all right for her to behave in such a manner. Entitled, as she thinks her role accords her certain rights, despite what the actual parents; Sumi and I, might think or want.

She conceals her controlling nature under the veil of spirituality. She only wants what is best for the whole family. Some people actually buy into that load of horse manure. They take the proffered gifts of “thoughts and prayers” as blessings. Not us though. We call it as we see it. A spade is a spade, is a spade.

Honestly, if I didn’t love her daughter… Sigh. I guess love is blind or at least it wears blinkers and is extremely short-sighted. I didn’t have an inkling regarding the level of intrusiveness that she would be capable of (as the years went by) when Sumitha first introduced her to me.

Actually, that’s not exactly true. She is exactly the same now as she was back then. Well, probably worse, with age and increasing rigidity of views. When we first met, she interviewed me regarding the types of meat I ate at home. “Do you eat fish? Chicken?” My wife and I come from quite different backgrounds and were brought up in different faiths. What both of us have in common though, is an avid dislike of things being forced upon us, especially being expected to do things according to the whims and fancies of others.

I kept glancing over at Sumi incredulously, throughout the whole conversation. We still laugh about it at times. When we’re not annoyed by her mother’s bulldozing ways, that is.

“So, what are you going to say?”, I ask Sumi…

“Nothing lah. As usual. I’m just going to ignore it. You know what she’s like, right? No point saying anything.”

“Yeah, you’re right”, I concede. “No point arguing or explaining. She would just get defensive and accuse us of misunderstanding her good intentions.”

Excuses of being afraid that the grandchildren will forget their roots and traditions, are used to allow the most inconsiderate and obnoxious of behaviours. It’s far too easy to use the cover of cultural identity or religious affiliation to disguise the underlying desire for power and influence. Rarely is it truly about the thing they are purportedly fighting for.

Often times, culture, tradition and religion is used as a means to control, when in the hands of those who have an agenda. It has happened in the past with Sumi. An example being, “According to your rashi and nachatiram, it says you should not take that new job outstation (i.e.; far away from meddlesome people) because X, Y or Z (some misfortune or another) will happen to you. CONTROL. Janet Jackson knew all about it.

I know why she is like that. Fear. Fear of being abandoned. Fear of loss of importance and relevance. Fear of change. Fear of the future. Fear of losing a relationship to someone with liberal and overly “maa-dern” views, unlike Sumi herself, or so she thinks. She hardly knows her at all.

The irony of it. The tighter the reins, the further the distance. We know why she is like that. It doesn’t mean that we have to accommodate it. So, this is where we draw the line. With Rena.

Glossary of terms:

Jathagam: Horoscope

Rashi: Moon sign

Natchathiram: Lunar constellations

Archanai: Prayers

Pusari: Priest

*** Header image by Josh Rangel on Unsplash.

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