Every night at primetime, in living rooms across India, you will find the woman of the house getting her daily soap opera fix. After the soap opera boom in the early 2000s, there are a wide range of shows to choose from - all of them featuring similar opulent plaster-of-paris mansions, housewives who go to bed dressed like they're going to a wedding, and the obligatory villaness - the mother-in-law. Always a scheming shrew dripping with jewels, the mother-in-law uses every possible trick - from baby swapping to playing dead to make the protagonist's life miserable. And that's the stereotype that follows the women in their daily lives too, although it's probably helped by the horrifying statistic that one bride is burned to death by her husband's family every 90 minutes.
Now, in an attempt to clean up their image and draw attention to their own plight, a group of women have banded together and formed the All India Mother-In-Law Protection Forum. "We are not what we have been made out to be in saas-bahu serials", says Nina Dhulia, the founder.
“Enough is enough, It is time we too ensured that our voices are heard.” One of the group's biggest complaints is that the National Commission for Women don’t listen to the grievances of a mother-in-law with the same enthusiasm that they listen to the complaint of a daughter-in-law.
A quick look at the online forum where they complain about their son's wives shows that they probably have a point. Tags on their posts range from the amusingly mean 'puts too much chili in my food' and 'cold water baths' to more serious allegations of poisoning, forced eviction and attempted murder. No wonder that the group which started with 50 members grew to over 500 in just 10 days, and now has branches all over the country. The battle for household dominance has been kicked up a notch.