One mother had two married daughters. The husbands of these daughters were not so nice to their wives, and the mothers-in-law were simply unbearable. They tortured their daughters-in-law unimaginably. These two daughters suffered and suffered and suffered in the hands of their mothers-in-law.
Now the mother also had a son. When her son got married, she took an oath that she would be an exception. Everybody knows that mothers-in-law are bad everywhere. But this woman wanted to be an excellent, super-excellent mother-in-law. From the beginning, she was extremely, extremely kind to her daughter-in-law. Anything that was difficult or heavy or time-consuming, the mother-in-law would do herself. She would not allow her daughter-in-law to do it.
The mother-in-law would say to her, “No, you are still a young girl. A day will come when you will have to do everything yourself. I am an old lady. My time will soon come and I will die. When I die, then you can do everything that I am doing, but not now.”
Even when the daughter-in-law wanted to cook, her mother-in-law told her, “No, no, no! I have been cooking for my son since he was born, so I know what he needs and what he likes. I will look after the cooking, and when the time comes, I shall show you how to cook. Now you do other things. You can bring flowers and put them on the shrine and you can do a little bit of dusting around the windows and doors. Just do some easy household chores.”
The daughter-in-law was deeply moved that her mother-in-law was so kind to her and everything went on very harmoniously in the house. This young wife used to watch her husband eating his food. The husband was always very, very pleased, and the wife was also very pleased that her husband liked the food. One day the story changed. The husband said to the wife, “I am so sad that today your preparation is not up to its usual standard. Not even one curry is good.”
The wife was very sad. Then the husband asked, “What happened to you today? Why is the food so bad?”
The wife finally said, “Unfortunately, I am not the one who cooked your food.”
The son said, “You have not cooked today?”
With tremendous hesitation, the wife replied, “Your mother cooked.”
He said, “My mother cooked?”
The wife went on, “Your mother cooks every meal, every day.”
“My mother cooks?” the son cried. “Then what do you do? Why do I need a wife? You allowed my mother to cook at her age? I do not need you. Get out of my house!”
His wife pleaded, “Your mother does not allow me to cook. I want to cook, I want to learn from her, but she does not teach me. She gives me only very light jobs.” Then she started crying and crying.
The husband was furious. He began screaming at her, “Why did you not tell me that my mother has been cooking all the time?”
She said, “Your mother asked me not to tell you. Otherwise, I would have told you. Every day you have been appreciating your food and I have been getting the credit because your mother asked me not to tell you. Today you do not like the food. I could easily have said that I cooked. I could have taken the blame. Then you would have been very happy. Now what am I going to do? I have been sincere in telling you that your mother cooked. It is not that I am finding fault with your mother. She has been so kind to me. Your mother is so sincere. She would be furious if I told a lie. I was afraid that if I took the blame, she would ask why I told you a lie. So I revealed that your mother cooked the meal, which is so true.”
The wife was weeping profusely. The mother-in-law heard the commotion and entered the room. When she saw the wife’s tears, she became furious. She said to her son, “Luckily, your father is not here. Otherwise, I would have asked him to thrash you. Your wife is so nice. She is not my daughter-in-law. She is my real daughter. My own daughters who are married are suffering so much in the hands of their husbands. Their mothers-in-law are also so bad. They are literally unbearable. How badly my two daughters are being treated. Now you have also started torturing my daughter. She is absolutely like my real daughter. I will leave the house if you ever scold her again.”
The son said, “Mother, you do not have to leave the house. I promise that I will not scold her.”
But still the young wife continued crying and crying. Her mother-in-law said to her, “You are a young girl. Perhaps you are missing your own home. You go for a few days to your mother’s place. Your mother will give you so much affection.”
The girl said, “No, no, you are so kind to me, so affectionate to me. My mother is in no way more affectionate to me.”
The mother-in-law said, “I am sure that is the best remedy. After all, she is your true mother. In a few days’ time we shall send for you, and you can come back. Nobody can replace one’s mother. Your mother will show you much more affection than I can ever show you.”
Again the girl insisted, “No, no, you have so much affection for me. Your affection is absolutely equal to, if not more than, that of my own mother.”
The mother-in-law said, “Believe me, I know. I am not your mother, but your mother will have more affection. You go. I will bring you back very soon.”
So the young wife went back home. On the way, she was saying to herself, “If I go home crying and crying, then my mother will notice my tears and she will curse my mother-in-law. My mother will immediately think that my mother-in-law has been torturing me and making my life miserable. She does not know that my mother-in-law is so kind, so affectionate and so compassionate.” So the young wife dried her tears and arrived at her mother’s house with a happy face. Her mother was so thrilled to see her daughter again and she began questioning her about her husband and mother-in-law. The young girl was saying very, very nice things about her mother-in-law and about her husband also. She said, “He is so nice, so kind, so loving.” She fooled her mother with regard to her husband by not revealing that her husband had asked her to get out of the house. But when she said that her mother-in-law was so good, it was the truth.
Now her brother had recently married a young girl and they lived together with his mother. Unfortunately, his new wife was being treated mercilessly by her mother-in-law. The daughter liked her new sister-in-law very much and they soon became close friends. In the evening, they would sit together and talk and talk and talk. The daughter soon noticed how her mother treated her daughter-in-law, so she tried her best to console the young wife. She also spoke to her mother directly. She begged her mother, “Please, please do not scold her. She is only a young girl. She has joined our family and she has nobody but us. It is not good to scold her.”
Then her mother would say, “Do I have to learn from you how to behave in my own house? I tell you, she is useless, useless. We have gained nothing but a useless girl in our house.”
The daughter saw that her brother’s wife was very, very, very good. This girl was very kind, full of concern and she worked extremely hard. But no matter how hard she worked, her mother-in-law was not pleased at all. So she would cry before her husband’s sister, and the sister would console her and encourage her to be patient.
One day the daughter said to her mother, “Mother, if my husband’s mother, my mother-in-law, also treated me as ruthlessly as you are treating this young girl, what would you have thought of my mother-in-law? How would you have reacted?”
At once her mother replied, “I would have thought that she was a tyrant. I would have hated her. In fact, I would have gone and thrashed her. I might even have kicked her for daring to mistreat my daughter, my darling.”
The daughter said, “If you are saying that you would have beaten up my mother-in-law if the circumstances were reversed, how can you justify your behaviour? The way you want to treat my mother-in-law, will you not be treated in exactly the same way by the mother of this girl who has taken shelter in your house?”
Her mother said, “Oh, that will never happen. Her mother is gone. She is dead.”
Her daughter was shocked by her mother’s callousness. She said, “Are you not a Hindu? Do you not believe in religion? Have you not read the scriptures? Her mother’s soul is seeing from Heaven that you are torturing her daughter day in and day out! She is definitely alive in Heaven. Do you never feel her heart’s tears?”
Her mother was melting a little. In her heart she was deciding whether or not to scold her daughter-in-law any more. Each day she began to show a little more kindness to her daughter-in-law and soon the entire situation in the house was transformed.
One day the daughter saw through the window that her own mother-in-law was approaching the house. The husband was also missing his wife, but again he had pride. He knew that he had scolded her so mercilessly and he was afraid that perhaps his wife had told her mother how badly he had scolded her for the food and also for not cooking his meals. He felt that if he came to his mother-in-law’s place, his mother-in-law would scold him severely.
His mother had said, “No matter what happens, I am going to fetch your wife. She has to come back. I have been very, very nice to her. Even if they insult me, I am prepared to go because my love for her far exceeds all my problems with your mother-in-law.”
So she went there, and the young girl came running up to her, asking, “Why have you come, why have you come? I would have gone back. You only had to send for me. You did not have to come yourself.”
Her mother-in-law said, “You were not coming back, so I have come to take you.”
Then the good mother-in-law went inside and saw that the bad mother-in-law had changed completely because of her daughter. This mother-in-law changed the other mother-in-law through her own daughter-in-law. Both the families were now swimming in the sea of joy.
The first mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law returned to their place, and the husband was so happy that both his mother and his wife had come back home. They all lived happily together. Both the families were now genuinely happy.
This story shows how one person can be the instrument to make others good and to make everybody happy.