The daughter-in-law from hell
A fairytale bedtime story
Once upon a time, Dragon Lady left her father’s house in the Middle Kingdom and went to live with her husband in his home after they got married.
Let’s call this Dragon Lady by the nickname BigD due to her huge and voracious appetite. She eats non-stop and is always mengidam (“craving” for) this food and that food at all odd hours.
Didorong sifatnya yang tamak haloba, dia tak segan-silu untuk sapu segala lauk-pauk yang enak belaka waktu makan bersama. But she still complains how her husband’s family treats her like “second class” when in fact, it is BigD herself that often calls her husband’s sisters “low class”.
Even though it is the husband who feels besieged, nonetheless it is the wife BigD who endlessly declares she is suffering a “heartache”.
“Oh, my most tender heart is breaking”, she incessantly cries and loudly. Every one and then, she would exclaim, “Heartbreaking!” as it is her favourite word.
Most human societies are patriarchal, including the community to which the hen-pecked husband in our story belongs. Children usually follow the patrilineal (susur-galur) tradition and taking after the man’s race (salasilah). But in this case, BigD is so imposing that her daughter ikut keturunan mak dan bukannya bapa.
You will not be surprised to hear that BigD imposes on her husband’s family and pushes hard to make them “change”. She demands change here and change there because she is unable to accept things dengan seadanya (as they are in their native state).
She even attempts to throw away the familiar furniture in her parents-in-law’s house and make them order a new sofa set from the trendy shop.
Then she further interferes by trying to make her parents-in-law stop gardening and cultivating fruit trees and flowers for pleasure but instead wants them to plant commercial cash crops in their kebun.
This daughter-in-law must force everything to conform to her enlightened idea of how progressive people should live.
When her parents-in-law are reluctant to ‘ubah’ ikut telunjuk menantu mereka, si pompuan yang asyik mengada-ngada itu mula lah meragam. She starts badmouthing her father-in-law as a “racist” and her mother-in-law as a “religious bigot”.
BigD and the family she married into actually adhere to different religions but the daughter-in-law has no qualms in meddling with matters of faith as practised by Abah and Ummi. (Not that she refers to the Pakcik and Makcik this respectfully; instead the biadab daughter-in-law prefers to call her bapa mentua dengan panggilan ‘Bodoh’ and her mak mentua ‘Ignoramus’ because they’re orang kampung.)
In her several decades of married life, BigD never bothered to try to fit into her husband’s community nor understand their customs.
She treats his faith beliefs with secret contempt, so much so that the relatives think this daughter-in-law yang suka buat hal is anti their religion. And although this pompuan yang pandai bermuka-muka is able to keep up with her pretense most of the time, there were one or two occasions when her musang-berbulu-ayam mask had slipped.
Perangai dan sifat rakus BigD makes her father-in-law, quite understandably, more partial to the wife of his younger son despite that the darker-skinned girl is of another race too. There are two mixed marriages in Pakcik’s family (among his several sons) but the younger daughter-in-law in nowhere near as pushy as the incomparable BigD.
Additionally, the junior daughter-in-law, who gets along much better with Pakcik, is willing to convert to her husband’s religion and learn to speak her husband’s native tongue. Not so BigD though. When asked, she insisted most adamantly that she was not a member of their worship and threatened to lodge a report with the beadle to arrest anyone spreading such a false rumour.
Sometimes Makcik is driven to meleter when she could not tahan anymore fiil si anak menantu ini. As well, the elderly lady begins to be more and more convinced with each passing day that her son made the wrong choice in picking a wife.
She also blamed herself that the rombongan merisik did not do a thorough background check when Pakcik agreed to the pertunangan. Itulah, she grumbled … ini semua angkara sikap terlalu cincai.
BigD retaliates against the simmering disapproval shown by her parents-in-law by telling the neighbours that her husband is an “extremist” and his father “spews hatred” while his mother is “wicked”.
She tells anybody who would listen that she is very badly treated in her husband’s home and perpetually persecuted.
Because she’s an expert in rolling out crocodile tears – her eyes can well up with tears even when she is eating Nasi Lemak – BigD is thus able persuade some folks (at least her own uncles and aunties and cousins back in the motherland) to believe her stories.
It occurred to the long-suffering old couple to advise their son to jatuhkan talak ke atas bini tua yang seorang ini, dan lepas tu boleh kahwin lain. The Pakcik and Makcik even had a calon in mind – one bau bacang who happens to be a janda cun.
Carikan wanita yang lebih mampu menjadi isteri solehah berbanding the malicious, besar kepala Dragon Lady who mocks everybody.
The Makcik buat sembahyang hajat beristikarah setiap minggu while the Pakcik promised to hold a kenduri kesyukuran and slaughtering two goats plus a cow if only their wish could come true.
Distressed old people deserve to be made happy, don’t you think?
Disclaimer: Any resemblance between the fictitious characters in this story and particular persons, living or dead, is a miracle. God works in mysterious ways.