Mothers seem to be hitting the headlines recently with cricketer Mitchell Johnson’s mater grumbling about how her son has been annexed by his scheming fiancé. Then we have Cristiano Ronaldo’s mother going on about how her son only plays footsie with those with her seal of approval.
Yes, the saas-bahu battle is a universal phenomenon. Some take it to extremes like Norman Bates in Psycho who kept dear departed mum in the attic. Or we have a sniveling Shashi Kapoor in Deewar with the pukeworthy line, ‘Mere paas ma hai’. Now we in India know only too well how difficult it is for men to cut loose from mummy’s apron strings.
The popular joke goes that Bengali men are like Jesus Christ because they stay with ma till they are 35 and think ma is a virgin. We can understand that mothers don’t want to let go, but what explains the wimpsmanship on the part of men? Many of us know only too well that we may whip up a meringue so refined that it could float away only to be told that his mum’s bread and butter pudding is just so much better. And then the friendly words of advice from the partner’s mother on the delicacy of his constitution and how the poor dear would only eat from mummy’s hands until he was 20.
A challenge from any woman hoping that her partner will show some spine is immediately countered by biology. Did mother not give birth to this exemplar of humanity? Ergo, she has first right over him. But for those of us with sons, the true test lies in whether we can adopt a hands-off approach. I must admit to brazen hypocrisy here. I take more than a passing interest in my boys’ fancies and even make gratuitous suggestions on why one or other girl may not be the most suitable. Such interventions are promptly rebuffed. But I keep a sharp look out for any hussy getting her grappling hooks into my lads.
So, clearly this is one battle that the other woman is not going to win. So, for those of us who are offenders and offendees at the same time, mum’s the word, really.