These days no daily or periodical is considered complete without a mention of a dowry death! The reason reported is invariably the torture by the mother- in- law.

"But what I am going to narrate today is a different story," stated my wife.

"Carry on," said my journalist friend.

"All mothers-in-law" are not as bad as these reports portray. Why then this mudslinging even on the virtuous ones?" lamented my wife.

"I am all praise for my mummy (mother-in-law) who had never uttered a word harsh enough to pain me."

"I was eighteen when we got married. There was so much of hindrance to our wedding that had mummy not stood on our side like a mountain, we would not have been together today."

"I recall Vidhu's daddy recounting mummy's reaction when he first hinted his predilection."

"The wise kingfisher, it is sad, lays eggs in the centre of the pond! So is the case with you…," she murmured and sneaked out of the room. And after a few minutes she came back, stroked his hair and pacified him saying, "Not to worry my son. You'll marry the same girl. I shall talk to dad."

"A couple of days after the wedding which went off without much pomp, one of our neighbours asked mum as to what all things I had brought. "Things more valuable than gold," came her reply. My daughter is a Lakshmi. This house is full of joy ever since she stepped in."

The longest spell I had spent with mummy was when I went to the village for confinement. There was hardly any dish of my liking which she had not prepared with her own hands. And then her friends called me for treats. Breakfast with Thankamma, lunch with Meenakshy Amma, dinner with Devaki Amma… I was tired of eating."

Mummy never sent me alone anywhere. Once it was Navarathri time. Our well had gone dry. So we went to the nearby river for bath. After bath, we were readying ourselves to return home. Just then a squall blew, swaying the trees nearby. A ripe palm leaf splashed down from top. It hit mummy on the abdomen. I was standing right behind her with my full belly, shivering!"

"You aren't asking any question," quizzed my wife to break the monotony.

"Ah yes. I hope your mother-in-law, nay mummy, is keeping good health now, eh?" asked my friend hesitatingly. My wife shook her head, in melancholy.

"We … we are not that lucky…" she mumbled. "Mummy is no more, no more..."she said inaudibly, wiping her eyes.

- P.K. Balasubramanian