A domestic evolution

A domestic evolution

Each had strong reasons to end the incompatible bond of the son's matrimony.

My wife and I are reluctant viewers of a TV serial which we switch on at evening to entice our part-time cook to come and deign to serve up the lunchtime left-overs after a little heating.

Her fresh contribution to our meal is two chappatis each for us.  Depending on the dramatic situation of the unfolding TV plot, she may agree to wash up and clean the kitchen counter before departing: but the TV serial’s adjournment showing glimpses of the forthcoming episode gets priority.  She knows by instinct when the ‘ad’ break is coming on and the precise moment of the dramatic denouement she cannot afford to miss. 

The plot pattern, almost invariant, shows an elderly lady, three or four young ladies in the popular sequined saris or salwar-kurta outfits, a grandiose staircase curving into an expensively furnished drawing room, an endearingly  cute infant chuckling at the adult world, trays laden with appetising  samosas and snacks, tall glasses of cool drinks from fresh fruit, and presently a lawyer or a posse of police officials with warrants for the arrest of the scion of that upper-class family or a decree for divorce. 

We guessed, well before we supped of rice and curds, that the old lady shuffling up the stairs in a huff and one of the comely young women downstairs suppressing her snigger were tied together as mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.  Each had strong reasons to end the incompatible bond of the son’s matrimony without adequate in-law insurance. Our cook ran back from the sink without even piling up the used plates, to find out what really caused the breach in that palatial home. The consequences would presumably stretch into the next generation of those gentry, the cute baby grown into a hirsute young man with two pearl chains round his neck, and fresh plot-lines reserved for the next TV serial. 

Whenever the wrinkled old lady came up on screen, every scowl and frown of her visage more expressive than words, I was reminded of an old Tamil phrase which may still be colloquial in many homes: ‘Vara-vara Mamiyar Kazhuthaya poyta-le,’ meaning, ‘Little by little, the mother-in-law became a donkey, alas!’  It is a post-Darwinian contribution to the evolution of the donkey as a domestic animal, contrary to biology and history, but a perception which may strike newly-weds as insightful. The counter-insights concerning the evolution of the daughter-in-law as a hitherto unknown lousy creature may be left to the imagination of old parents of handsome youths and nubile maidens.

Imagine the stages of the strange domestic evolution.  The long ears came from the crone’s capacity to overhear whispered gossip, the braying tone was a mutation from pre-historic warning calls, the stubborn stupidity was endemic, and so on.