Has anyone ever wondered why that immaculate Lady of a certain age in your favourite TV serial is always Queen Bitch to everyone around? I am, of course, referring to the archetypal saas of our TV universe. With a glare than can wilt cactus, a tongue that can make the bahu pee her pants (or petticoat in this case), and a manifestation that has its own background music (usually thunderclaps or Omen-like sounds from a keyboard), this is Ekta Kapoor’s interpretation of God’s Chosen One. The One we ogle at with shock, awe, disgust, amusement and envy all at the same time (well, at least till the final episode when nemesis and retribution finally take over).
If we are in agreement that TV is art (tenuous connection I know, but what else to call it?), and art emulates life, then since every single TV serial has a prima donna saas, by logic, our society must be fraught with them, too. It must mean that most homes in India have an elderly and mean Maa-ji or Mummy-ji, destroying everyone sanity with the aforementioned glares and tongue. (And using that same tangent of thought, most homes in India must also come with a brand new saintly bahu – the human sequined-doormat).
So, coming back to the main question – Why is the saas so? What is the source of her toxicity? What makes her this way? Obviously, this question has rattled our senses and kept us awake nights. Let’s investigate some hypotheses.
Her own mother-in-law made her this way. After all, evil begets evil. She was treated badly as a daughter-in-law, so now she must exact revenge from her wretched bahu. Profoundly simplistic theory this, but I don’t buy it. For two reasons. One, if the super saas (i.e. the mother-in-law of the mother-in-law) is shown alive and kicking, she’s usually that elderly lady in a white saree everyone fondly refers to as Badi Maa. Or Baa. How can this hag, whose excruciating childlike acts (you know, like doing shaitaani with grandkids, stealing chocolates, making funny faces, etc.) that tempt you to gouge your eyes out ever have been a black sheep (baa-baa, get it?)? And two, if the super saas is already a garlanded photograph in the drawing room, she couldn’t have been that evil – Ekta Kapoor wouldn’t have dispensed with her before the serial even taking off!
Plain old fashioned jealousy – of youth. Sigh. No one wants to grow old. Just as her double and triple chins start to emerge, the son decides to bring a twenty year old twit to own the ghar ki chaabiyaan. The audacity! And who wants to be a grandparent at 45? No wonder there are unresolved anger issues.
Do you realize the amount of work in a house like this? A normal 3-4-5 BHK dwelling, staffed by perpetually flaky domestics is enough to push any normal Lady of the House into certain dementia. Have you seen the size of the TV-serial home? Ballroom-sized drawing room, giant staircase(s), fifty five bedrooms over two levels, dining halls, pooja room, plus, on the outside, sweeping driveways, garden, terrace etc. – we are talking of a property that is bigger than Eden Gardens. If you were to start sweeping, mopping and dusting from one side and work your way to the other end, you’d probably be spending a couple of birthdays en route. Now imagine this colossus with scores of Ramu-kakas and Shanta-bais and it is only to be expected that the poor mother-in-law will vent her frustrations on someone (or everyone).
Off camera, that frigging daughter-in-law is no saint. An interesting theory. Perhaps the daughter-in-law only behaves saintly in front of the audience? In real life, she is a catty bitch! The more reality TV you watch, the more this theory seems rational. For example, Big Boss, where seemingly normal people go crazy the moment the cameras switch on.
Clothes maketh the man. In this case, the woman. What would happen if you were asked to pull together the following as part of your daily dress up – 4 shades on eyeshadow (all applied together, of course), an oversized bindi, makeup several millimeters thick, one giant beauty spot on the left chin, enough jewellery and ornaments to completely cover a giant Christmas tree, and a saree with enough shine so it can be spotted from the moon? What would happen if this was your normality? You won’t be normal, that’s what! It wouldn’t be unfair if you bit and lunged at anything that moved. (Mercury in human make up is injurious to mental health, I have read)
And the final hypothesis – She just doesn’t like her son. Yes, time to peel off all pretenses about her aankon ka taara. This seems like the most logical theory. Think about it – she controls him like a toy, despises everything he likes (starting and ending with saintly bahu who, he claims, is his universe), serves him desi-ghee-d foods that will surely age and then kill him before time, and has never trained him to do any work (when did you ever see a TV serial hero go to office?). This is not a dude, this is a dodo. And it is her creation. How dare the saintly bahu fiddle with that?
Mothers hate their sons. To all sons out there, if you detect any of the patterns discussed above (e.g. mom’s bindi is getting larger, she is suddenly interested in eye shadow, or she is just watching too many serials intently), it is already too late for you. Resistance is futile. God help your wife. (And be wary of those butter-laden paranthe!)
By the way, don’t forget to revisit Chapter 1 of this series here :