As I slipped my hands into his, my heart somersaulted with joy. Every minute of the wedding had seemed like an enchanted vision. There was some anxiety blended with hope and happiness. Will I qualify as a good wife? Will Salman be the husband I had always dreamed of? With a mixture of emotions, I was led into my new home; a delightful page of life had just turned.

The hustle and bustle of guests, greetings, and dinners soon died down. The roses wilted and the henna faded away. Real life gradually crept in. I began to notice how different Salman was from the ‘ideal’ husband of my fantasies. Yes, he was caring in his own way, but he talked less and was often busy in his own world of sports and news.

The kitchen had been my love ever since I was a little girl; I helped out my mom and was always on the go to come up with some creative cuisine. Though it wasn’t asked of me here and in presence of abundant hired help, there wasn’t any need. However, I soon started taking an interest in my favourite past time.

My mother-in-law was a charming lady. From what I had heard, she was soft spoken, kind, and caring. But that was not going to put me off the alert mode. After all, I had heard my share of ‘mean mother-in-law stories’ from relatives, friends, and, of course, the dramas!

***

It was a lovely Sunday morning when I decided to prepare a lavish breakfast – Parathas filled with minced meat and a spicy potato curry. As I handed tea around the table, I was expecting a compliment from my mother-in-law for all the hard work I had done. To my dismay, however, I noticed that she was unusually quiet and solemn. She had eaten very little, as if uninterested, and was not taking any part in the ongoing conversation.

My mind began to trigger on a new terrain. “I wonder what’s wrong with her. I didn’t do or say anything wrong, did I?” I started scrutinizing my conduct of the past days. It was just fine!

“She does have an appetite, Masha’Allah, but why isn’t she eating the stuff that I have prepared so lovingly?”

“Oh, I think now I’ll start seeing her true colours. That’s what everybody says. I guess she’ll taunt and criticize something or the other. She will definitely call her sister today and gossip about how clumsy or spendthrift I am.”

“Masha’Allah! You are an awesome cook, Amna! Even the tea is so refreshing!” this was my father-in-law.

“Thank you!” I replied with a courteous smile.

“Superb! You didn’t tell me you were so good at this!” remarked Salman.

But on her side of the table there was only a frown, silence, and solemnness.

“Now begin the problems. Why does she have to be so rude? I think she does not like that Salman praises me. He is her only son; she must be possessive!”

My train of thoughts was broken only when she got up to leave the table. “Thank you Amna… the breakfast was wonderful,” she said.

“But… I know she is repeating this so superficially. Or is she being sarcastic? The tone is definitely not a nice one!”

“Why have you gone so quiet? I’m discovering so much today – you can stay quiet for a whole ten minutes!” Salman laughed at his own joke. I wrestled out a grin.

“Can he not see how his mother is acting today? Uff… she has ruined this pleasant morning! I guess all those stories are right after all. If this continues, my life will turn into a misery. How I wish we could live separately. It is so difficult to put up with in-laws, their likes, and their moods.” I mindlessly supervised the maid as she cleared the table and then headed into the kitchen to clear what remained there. From the corner of my eyes, I could see Salman entering his parents’ room.

“Now they will have a meeting against me; she will feed him what not and they will surely backbite about my shortcomings. Be ready to face it, Amna! Your husband is going to come out as an entirely different person.” And mutely I was brewing malice in my heart.

“Baji,” piped in the teenage maid, looking intently at my face, “are you missing your parents?” she asked innocently.

I fought back the tears that had welled up at the thought of my parents and exited towards my bedroom without replying. When I passed their room in the corridor, I could hear the mother and son talking. “Is this a chance to eavesdrop? I know I shouldn’t, but I must know what is on her mind today.”

My silent anguish, based on my assumptions, caused me to stoop this low. I stood two steps away from the door ajar, now listening carefully.

“Salman, my medicine has finished. Please bring it.”

“Insha’Allah, I will bring it right now.”

“I have got such a severe migraine today! And do thank Amna on my behalf. I was so pleased she took charge. The weather’s lovely by the way – you should take her along for an ice-cream.” She was saying in a tired voice.

***

Embarrassed, I dropped myself on the bed.

“The poor soul just had a headache, and you do know how you feel when there is one!” I was angry at myself for my horrid assumptions. Why did it not occur to me that she could be upset about something other than me! Shaitan had surely deceived me! O Allah (swt), I ask You for forgiveness.

The morning had not been ruined by her; rather, it had been ruined by me.

***

Yes, people do hurt us; they make mistakes and are mean sometimes. However, half of our stress is not due to them – we ourselves burden our minds with baseless assumptions, carry our negative thoughts for a long time, and overcook them. Instead, let’s think of excuses for others and engage our minds in the remembrance of Allah (swt), lest they become the workshops of Shaitan.

“If something you dislike reaches you about your (Muslim) brother, find for him one to seventy excuses, until you find it; however, if you do not, then, say perhaps he has an excuse which I do not know of.” (Jafar Sadiq)