It was Mother’s Day when I called her up. Earlier, in the morning, my brother had sent a big text message on our family Whatsapp group to wish her. The message was filled with praises and gratitude which she deserves, of course. Not much was left for me to say as he had covered all the aspects. So I simply put up a picture of me and my mom, wishing her the day. It was a pleasant day as it commenced with such good vibes. Showing gratitude has its own power. You immediately feel happier. I spent the day checking Whatsapp status and Facebook news feed, totally filled with Mother’s day wishes, beautiful quotes on womanhood, articles on the topic and so on. I also thought of posting something but then realized that it hardly matters. Why to show-off unnecessarily to the world when my mother already considers me as her good daughter and I have always tried to show her my love and concern in other ways.
Feeling fresh and joyful, with my ego satisfied, I called her and asked if she was doing okay. She seemed a little low on energy and said, “I am fine”. After the usual “What have you eaten?”, “How are you doing?” questions, we started discussing family matters. Then I asked her what was she doing. “Nothing much for now but since it is Sunday, I got some time to finish pending household work.”, she answered.
“Where is dad?” I asked.
“He has gone to the ‘other’ home.” she replied sarcastically.
My father is a workaholic and here, she was referring to his office. But he knows how to take out time for himself. He would spend weekends and holidays alone in his office, listening to his favorite discourse and completing his pending work. At home, he would watch movies or help her in ironing clothes while watching his favorite TV news channel on the side. My mother is completely opposite as she can’t tolerate the noise of TV after a while. She likes to have more human interaction. Except doing everyday chores, we generally find her on the phone talking to relatives, friends and my brother or me when we are not home. Reading health magazines and listening to old Hindi songs and Bhajans are among her favorite interests these days.
“Why don’t you go out with your friends? What did you do all day?”, I asked to which she said, “Your father will be back anytime. I have to prepare dinner. Ghar ke kaam hi khatam nahi hote! Anita aunty (one of her friends) called to ask if I want to come for shopping but I turned down the offer. I’m not in a mood today.” Something felt wrong. On asking, she expressed that she feels lonely since we are not there. But Dad is, I replied. She started gossiping about him, telling how the other day when my father asked her for a movie and she refused, he made plans with one of his friends. (My mother doesn’t like watching movies much and moreover, it was animated. Just not her type!) “What’s wrong with that? You yourself were not interested and he likes movies more than anything. Let him do what he enjoys and you should also do the same. I think you are being unreasonable Maa”, I tried to argue.
She should in fact learn from Dad to not compromise on her happiness. I gave her all the options from going on a solo trip or at least with her friends to reading good books, trying stay-overs at her friends’ places, pampering herself with good food and more. She was laughing continuously. I understood how naive and bogus my suggestions sounded to her. It was hilarious for me to picture my mother traveling alone. I tried to take it up as an assignment and see if I could do anything so that the next time, I will be able to suggest her better ways to deal with loneliness. I penned down all that I knew about her and all that she does to make herself happy. Here are a few paragraphs I can share from that page:
I call her ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’, as she is the ultimate warrior in my family. Since childhood, she has been the rebellious one, the odd one out. The great mastermind who somehow knows how to tackle every situation. I’ve got my love for music from my mother. She tells how she loved singing during her school days and took part in each and every competition back then. Even now, she charms every family function with her songs. Earlier, in her family, she was the only earning member and supported her family through thick and thin. I love how she mingles with people and maintains those relationships well.
Getting married in a conservative family was hard for her. She had to adjust from being a metro-city girl who was judged for her liberal views. My mother was the first ‘bahu’ (daughter in law) in the family to step out of the house for work. She tells stories about how she finally managed to be accepted in the family because of her cooking skills. It was her struggle to get me and my brother enrolled in a private school as the level of education in government schools wasn’t great in Haryana. I’ve seen her taking care of each and every small requirement of a huge family whether it was financial, physical or emotional. It was her wise decision making that made us survive through all the hardships.
I kept reading the letter I wrote again and again, but didn’t find anything concrete that she loves doing for herself. Somehow, she relates everything with us such as waiting for me to get home so that we can go shopping together, cooking lavish meals only when my brother visits as he is a foodie, accompanying dad in family functions or just on a walk. Although she likes to sing, I don’t know if she would want to learn it now.
Working at grassroots with women migrants and understanding their issues have certainly made me realize the aspects of the word ‘Empowerment’. I kept pondering over an unsettling emotion within myself and then at last, I think I was able to understand my mother’s situation.
She wasn’t being unreasonable. It was less her and more our fault. It’s not that she is incapable of having fun or we are intentionally stopping her to do that but the circumstances have conditioned her in such a way that now her life revolves around just the three of us. I love her warrior version more. The one where she lived for herself, knew her desires, was more confident and capable of doing things on her own. Her eyes sparkle every time she shares her childhood anecdotes. It’s not that she is now lost or unhappy with life but I feel that no one should lose themselves as it creates dependency on others which leads to expectations and hence, disappointment.
The concept of motherhood has been so normalized in our society that a woman, since she is a girl, is told that her purpose is to serve her family and children. They are expected to be givers and caretakers. Mother’s love is unconditional, we say. I don’t think that’s true because then she wouldn’t expect anything from us. Expectations make her as human as she should be.
Why do we need to see mothers as people who have super powers? Is it for her to then spend her whole life to become the perfect version based on our definitions. My mother even feels apologetic for taking out time for herself. This is just sad. I feel terrible that I have not been able to see her as a human being who loves and expects, who gives and takes. It pinched me hard when she said that she feels lonely as it is more disturbing to feel lonely when you have company. I tried writing on paper about all my feelings for my mother and wanted to tell her that I’m sorry for not being as good a daughter as she thinks I am, that I am probably not qualified enough to wish her this day. I wanted her to know that it is okay to not cook for us sometimes and do whatever she feels like.
I tried to write but then I felt that this is high time we, as a family show collective effort in this respect and not just hand her a piece of paper to evoke a fake sense that we are concerned. It’s time to begin the ‘Self-love’ and ‘Empowerment’ chapters in my family as now I truly understand that Change Starts With You.