As I was getting ready for my office, I noticed my wife a little switched off, casually I asked if anything is disturbing her. She said” Nothing” and kept preparing the morning breakfast and packing of my office lunch. While I sat down on the dining table and started taking my breakfast, she said while serving that she is disturbed by the fact that my mother i.e. her mother in law takes bath by almost 11:00am and this delays her overall day schedule of giving her breakfast by again warming the same, getting done daily chores of my younger son of one and a half year and then preparation of lunch etc. She wanted herself to be free from her daily routine by 9:00am so that breakfast could be done along with whole family by 10:00am and this will give her time to set things right in her way.

I just tried to explain that since mother is old and may be slow in activities so we must allow her own time and may be adjust a little with her. I thought my wife was overreacting a bit also acknowledging that due to my mother coming to stay with us for a month, my wife’s daily schedule is disturbed and she is finding it difficult to let her control loosen on her house’s daily activities. But later while travelling to my office I pondered over this issue and found that this is not just an issue of disturbance in one’s set schedule but an over arching problem of difference in viewpoints related to differences in culture and era. My wife became a wife, mother and housewife in the 2000’s while my mother became wife, mother and housewife in 1970’s, a whole lot of difference of 30 years. Those 30years which have brought a sea change in the skyline of cities in India and their lifestyle much evidenced pictorially by the cinema of both times. The saree clad, big bun, healthy body heroine transforming to mini skirt top, bushy hairstyle, zero figure gal over these 30 years. The difference is this…

Those were the days when I had seen my mother coping with family life and managing her hectic schedules for the day. I was merely three when I used to watch my mother cook food while my father was getting ready for office and in the verandah on a bed was lying my grandfather who was either waiting for his breakfast or for my mother to clean him up as he might have defecated on his bed. My grandfather was of a large body built with a height of approximately six feet and was totally bedridden during last one year of his life. My father working in government organisation was too punctual about his time unlikely of a government servant in those times. When it is 9:00 am, he had to paddle his cycle towards his office whether breakfast is served or not and lunch is packed or not. It seemed that clock will strike 9 only when he will push the paddle of his cycle. With two children of age 3 years and six months respectively, an ailing giant grandparent, a punctual husband, night spent half awake trying to make the six month old baby sleep and squeezing two hours in the morning with coal angeethi to be puff burned, was it possible for the young lady to take bath and get ready by 9:00am in the mornings of 1978.

It was during 80’s that we three siblings, two brothers and one sister, also had a grueling schedule of going to school by 7:15am and return by 2:00pm, by which time mother had our lunch served to us fresh and hot. But was the mother able to take a bath and get ready by 9:00am then also? Some days when we had vacations, and I happened to wake up by 8:00am, I remember the fight with time which my mother used to have then also. She may have taken the privilege of getting up half an hour late due to our vacations but her morning routine was still the same except preparing breakfast for us. Those days water pumps were not a privilege and the water taps only gave water till 9:00am. Drinking water was to be filled in jugs and tumblers for at least half day use. Water for general use had to be filled in large drums for other household chores. Packing all the bedding, cleaning the house, preparations for the food, as my father used to have full meal before going to office, all this was to be done before my father kicked on the scooter and forced the clock to strike 9:15am. Those days I could see my mother could still sneak in time to take a bath and do all these things in the still squeezed time, but was it possible when we had our schools running.

Over the period when we started going to college or when we joined jobs and were still unmarried still I could see my mother first prioritized our morning preparations and then went ahead for her personal grooming and over these years we saw her transform from a young lady to a mature mother to a mother in law. The transformation of her hair from black to grey coordinated with transformation of cultures in the nation. The nation transformed from the long queues of bill deposition to e-Suvidha to Bill Pay on net. The Angeethis transformed to LPG stoves and water drums to overhead tanks with powerful suction pumps. The mother changed to mother in law with a retired husband who now takes care of household morning chores himself, daughter in law taking care of morning rushes of the family but still she is not taking bath and getting ready by 9:00am. It is not because she doesn’t want to or she has become slow with age but over the years she has moulded herself in one of a kind of a schedule for herself which suited to managing her family and that schedule has become an unchangeable part of her life. She still follows her schedule though she may not be time bound now for preparing breakfast or filling the water tumblers but her body clock is accustomed for all these events and will work towards as per the schedule.

My wife became a wife and mother at times when husband was not punctual, she had no ailing grandparent, no angeethi to be puffed, no fixed time for water storage. It is not that she is freer but that times have changed; the activities are still the same but the time consumption pattern has changed which may give her time to take care of more things in similar crunched timings. Now my wife sends elder child to school, does morning household chores, takes care of my one and half year old son, takes bath, prepares morning meal and lunch and sees me off to office. The hardships have come down in her times and have helped her manage the same time more effectively. This has made her body clock adapt to the schedules which is comfortable for her and this has created a different culture in the house managed by her. The different time management between both housewives is the difference in generations and times they have experienced and thus have a different frame of mind and viewpoint towards life. This is the difference which gives rise to the clash between the daughter in law and mother in law. The same difference remains between a father and a son, a man and a woman, a boss and a subordinate, a poor and a rich and such other different pairs. This conflict between pairs arises due to the difference of reference frames from which these pairs judge each other. This gives rise to eternal conflict situations between such pair of members of the society as a whole. The most infamous Saas-Bahu conflict is a result of this difference of frames within the same family following same set of culture.

These frames get created due to different backgrounds of same set of people undergoing different situations and inventing their own ways of situation handling. There is no right or wrong frame associated with any set of members but different frames of vision which are right in both sets. The conflict is imposing of one’s own set of frame on other and trying to change the complete frame of one genre with new frame. The beauty of these conflicts is that they are both correct for all others outside this frame, that is why the Father in law is never in conflict with his daughter in law because he has never seen those reference frames which have been created by both his wife and his daughter in law. Similarly a mother and a daughter in law are not aware of the difference in frames between a son and a Father. Interestingly, a Saas-Bahu conflict extends to whole family since both try to influence more members of the family with their own reference frames and result into rest of the family members either succumbing to one of the reference frames or some ambivalent members adapt both reference frames diminishing the effects of such conflicts.

After thirty years from now when my son one day while going to office will hear the same complaint from his wife that his mother gets ready by 9:00am for breakfast delaying his wife’s schedule, the eternal conflict will continue.