Sound of Silence

Faryal Makdoom’s recent outburst aimed at her in-laws has caused much furore amongst people and has seen a somewhat mixed reaction.  The usual mutterings ofcourse that private family matters should stay private whilst others applaud her for actions that very much go against Pakistani culture.

If true, I can’t say it causes me to raise eyebrows and if true then yes, I applaud her for being brave enough to break the silence that surrounds this issue.  For many of us who married into traditional Pakistani families, to be treated like a second rate citizen is very much part of the package.  When many think of abuse, we don’t particularly associate it with in-laws.  The reality is that there is a sinister control element which exists within our culture that trickles down from generations above.

I’ve had my fair share to say about my ex-inlaws in my blog.  My MIL is probably one of the most difficult people I’ve encountered in my life to date.  I suffered plenty of humiliation at their hands; from my MIL insinuating to people I was upto no good when I was coming home late from the mosque during Ramadan, my father in law telling my ex to kick me out and they would find him another to the magic moment when my MIL walked out of my brother’s wedding, telling everyone she could on the way out that I had shamed her by walking past her.

Yet despite all this, I can now also acknowledge my own failings.  Their actions caused me to become bitter and my bitterness prevented me from interacting with them on a level I should have.  My heart closed to them with each hurt I felt which in turn caused them to hurt me more.  If I could do it all over again, I would change plenty of things.  I can’t but I can learn from it.  Parents are a package deal in marriage (on both sides) so if they don’t want me in their family, I don’t intend to fight to be in it.  I’d rather wait it out for the family that will welcome me with love.

I hid all the difficulties like the good Pakistani daughter in-law I was trying to be.  Despite my MIL not having spoken to me properly for years, when asked how she was, I would give a polite reply to people and feign some benign story about my in-laws.  I was brought up not to air dirty laundry in public.  There were plenty times I would have loved to blast them on facebook and let the world know what God awful people they were but even back then, it seemed to lack class so I sucked it up and got on with it.  Maybe there was a better way Faryal could have spoken about it, maybe she shouldn’t have spoken at all.  Whatever side you’re on, the stark reality is that we do have a problem and there aren’t many people willing to speak up about it.  That in itself is the problem.

Life in The Bates Motel

Image courtesy of static.tumblr.com. Vacancy exists now that I am out.

What still amazes me about the piece I wrote called Pakistani In-Laws or Just In-Laws is how many times it is read in one day.  What I find upsetting however is the search results which bring readers to it.  I can only assume when I see those searches that people are desperately resorting to google to help them deal with their in-law problems and my heart goes out to anybody who is in that situation.  Today’s search included “desi mother in-law beats me”.

My earlier piece was a fairly general introduction to my own in-laws and problems which I perceived others must go through too.  My in-laws never beat me like the reader above however I was married into quite an emotionally destructive family.

I didn’t gel with my mother in law even before marriage.  I knew deep down that she would be difficult and I blame young age for my naivety of thinking that she would grow to love me.  Her heart was intent on marrying all of her children in Pakistan however after one ran away, she backed down.    As a side note girls, never marry a man whose mother insisted on getting him married in Pakistan, you will feel the backlash, just trust me on that one.

I wanted to give an insight into what life was like for five years with my mother in-law.  The more sinister elements were the lies (sound familiar?).  My MIL would regularly call our home phone, a fairly normal thing to do you may think, but any time I answered would bizarrely hang up.  I counted 25 calls registered on our phone in one day.  I would leave the house at night and my MIL’s car would be parked a few hundred yards up the road, lights off, just watching.  I waved to acknowledge her but not wanting to be spotted, she quickly drove away.  When you’re already somewhat of a scaredy-cat in the dark, this is terrifying.

After a year of this behaviour and trying to change it by talking to her, I asked my dad to intervene.  My father phoned her and explained that she was more than welcome to come to the house but to come inside rather than lurk around outside.  She denied any instance of having done this.  Also denying that she ever phoned the house.  It was maddening.

I remember her last visit when she actually ventured inside.  My ex was asleep upstairs and after laying out snacks, offering the usual tea/coffee, I went to wake him.  I was stopped by MIL who told me she would do it.  I had a mild panic about what delicates of mine were on display and asked her not to go into the bedroom trying to use the “he won’t be dressed appropriately” card which was met with a “I’ve seen it all before” card.  Even now, that makes me feel a bit queasy.

My MIL was definitely the driving force behind what the family were or were not allowed to do.  I was more or less given the silent treatment from the whole family for five years because MIL ordered it.  I would sit at the dinner table with everybody chatting amongst themselves.  Trying to insert myself into a conversation, I was ignored or if somebody felt generous, given a one word answer.  Even in our own home when I gathered the family, I wasn’t spoken to.  My food was never delicious and my effort was never any good.

The silent treatments existed because I didn’t tow the line.  Coming from a family where you can engage and question things, this was seen as insolence in my ex’s home.  An example; I was given gifts by my ex’s cousins when I was newly married but told to return them by MIL.  I explained that I felt it was rude and fifteen minutes later after MIL stormed off, I found her standing in a clothes cupboard wailing until I promised to do what I was told.  That was week two of my marriage.

I recognise now that my ex has all the markings of a sociopath.  A sociopath is formed through an emotional screw-up somewhere along childhood so by the time adolescence hits, you have one slightly messed up individual.  I ended a blog recently with the following words:

“I’m half waiting for that knock on the door to come.  Journalists gathered on my front lawn.  The police will want to know if I ever saw signs that my ex was a highly disturbed individual.  I have an eerie vision ten years down the line of my ex being involved in some frenzied psychotic attack on his mother where she lies butchered on the dinner table.  Everything normally stems back to the mother, doesn’t it?  In the case of my ex, there’s no doubt that it does.  However that is a post for another day”.

Here’s that post.