There’s a thing about us Indians, our parents are literally called Gods and then secretly we start treating them as perfect human beings, people who can’t mistakes, ever. Especially, moms. For me Mum had to be someone perfect, always and I guess that’s why I always found more flaws in her. And so the more she pointed out things I could do better, the more I’d point out things that she should change. I kept thinking that she didn’t make an attempt of understanding me when I did the exact same thing to her.
1. Early embarrassments and more:
I remember myself usually dancing while walking on the streets, holding her hand and I guess, embarrassing her to death. I don’t know what the real matter with me was but dance was my thing and it was too much of a public embarrassment. On the top of that, I would keep humming or singing all the time. I don’t remember people watching me and laughing, they probably would have, who cared! But Mom would be embarrassed. Then I remember her being furious on me, a few times when I’d do really silly mistakes in Math or when I just wouldn’t get up from in front of the TV, just one day before exams. But that’s when it’s the most fun, right?
Then in my teens, I categorically remember embarrassing her once again. There were guests at home and there was this ‘Whisper’ ad on TV and I had asked out loud out of sheer curiosity, “What is a pad, Mumma? I remember her words, trying to cover up, “It’s not relevant for you right now.”
“But what is it!!!” I demanded an answer “Aartuuuuuuuuu” she tried to hush me. It is this tone of hers that has stayed like as if the final warning bell has rung; like a law has been broken or something. And then ‘Good girls don’t argue’, ‘wear some jewellery’, things I have always disappointed her at.
2. The Comparison Game:
It was almost always the case that someone around was better than me. There was always a comparison between how a friend got better marks or ranks than me, and how some girl was so obedient to her mother and did whatever she was told, without any questions asked. If she’d suggest something and I didn’t wear it, she’d feel I didn’t value her opinion. On the other hand, I was never asked for an opinion when she was to wear something. Mentally, I too was comparing her with moms who were more expressive of their love and mom-daughters who were more like Friends. In the end, we were both treating us with the same bitterness.
3. My love for good books vs Her love for good grades
Perhaps all she wanted was to make sure that I study well, get a good bank job, marry a good Mallu guy and be happy in life. While I was already happy reading. I used to keep novels behind my science workbooks whenever I was grounded. It was my idea of rebel. I would do anything but study. If at all, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV and there were no more books, I would open the school book and daydream.
Mine were hard-core daydreams, a different world altogether. Plus, Math was a nightmare and then later statistics. I definitely had some learning disabilities. Hence, my grades went down. From 7th rank, I went to 27th and then 34th. I somehow never managed to fail any exam though, never copied either.
I guess it is now that Mom sees how I’m so much better than those friends who never read apart from school books. The ones with good grades haven’t reached any far. It is now that she never stops me from reading. I guess she secretly sees the point of it now. Fair enough.
4. Tryst of a Young daughter and a non-working mom
One ugly truth is that while growing up, we start treating our mothers like they don’t know enough and especially if they aren’t ‘working-moms’, we treat them like shit.
We think we know more because we go outside, meet people, we think we’ve seen the world when we probably haven’t even seen our entire city and with whatever opinion we have of the world, we come home and try to throw it on our moms, most of the times rudely. We like this feeling of ‘Oh. I know more than you’. And we love to back it with the fact that they are ‘non-working’ and so they know less. We say what we please and we don’t bother to address their concerns, insecurities and fears.
It’s only once when she was out on a picnic with her Yoga group, (bunch of aunties) it was 10:30 and her phone was not-reachable, that I got shit-scared and I realised 2 really stupid things:
- I didn’t have phone number of any of her friends. Something she was very particular about in my friends’ case.
- I got to experience how exactly how it feels. Exactly-how-it-feels, like a slow, steady but hard and long-lasting slap on your face. I was in semi-tears, semi-anguish by the time she reached home.
You won’t call her an emotional person and she isn’t. She has seen really hard times in life and that shows on her. She’ll tell you her entire story, really casually, not a single tear or a piece of broken emotion. For a fact, my Mom comes from a not so well off family in Kerala. She did not know Gujarati, not even Hindi when she had arrived in Gujarat at the age of 18. And she didn’t know that in the next few years, she was not even going to learn both the languages, but also learn how to use a computer and get a decent job. She had worked for 4-5 years, after which she was chosen as a bride for my father. And she worked for a year later after marriage too and then I was born. And soon she had to leave her work.
Well after this, there can be two versions of the story. Mom’s version is that if she had a little more support, she would have continued. The other version is that she used to get too tired so she left the job. I guess the other version means that she used to get too tired after coming back from the job and cooking the evening meal and also looking after a 1 year old. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I feel guilty for I may be one of the primary reasons for destroying her career, also the joy that could experience out of her work, especially when she says she wishes so.
But in the end, what I discovered about my Mom is nothing special. But my Mom definitely is. Every Mom has a story. At least once in your life, you’ve got to find it and try to connect the dots.
5. Do you even love me?
Those days, I remember, she’d ask me questions like, “You think I don’t love you, right?” Right, I would think. I remember times when I’ve hated her, so much that I really I thought I’d really hate her for all my life but I’d inevitably forget the thought soon. We won’t talk for days at times. Teenage diaries: Early Menstruation-Pimples-Weight gain-Mood swings-Parties-Restrictions-Fights
I think I was wrong there. I was so wrong that I was pretty much stupid. I could not see her love in the amazing food that she’d keep ready for me-all days, all times; cleaning up the mess that I’d leave in the room and saving money to get me a nice Diwali dress and staying up all night when I’d have fever. These things that sound so obvious to expect from a homemaker and a mom, I have now realized how crucial, amazing and magical they are. How can she not wake up someday and say, “Hey! I don’t want to cook today!”
Doing everything possible and not expecting a single ‘thank you’ for any of the above; all this probably has been her way of saying ‘I love you’. It is one hell of a thankless job.
6. My Menstruation vs Her Menopause:
Well come to think of it, she was this mom who never believed in preaching or pampering me at my menstruation times, leave alone sitting by my side or getting me pain-killers; she’d just either leave me alone or encourage me to work. “You are not going to be able to get a comfortable bed every time.” She was right and more than that, she stood by her philosophy pretty much.
But I secretly wished she would talk more about this and many more things, my emotions and feelings, my weight gain, the pimples and so much more. But it ironically fair enough because I did not attempt to soothe her during her menopause. I just could not understand what was happening to her, like regularly. Everyday I’d wake up and pray that she is in a good mood but we’d end up fighting almost daily. I did not know what to do and how to help her and whether there was something that could even be done. Unusual things were happening with our bodies and we never talked openly about it to each other. This I believe is the saddest part of a mother-daughter relationship, that in spite of being females and having higher chances to understanding each other, we fail to communicate or even vent out.
7. Give me my space:
Towards the end of college, I had almost started using the house like a hostel. It was not like home. Just everyone had complaints with me; that I never spend time at home and didn’t talk too much and I sat away from everyone as much as possible. They weren’t wrong. I had become a really awkward person. And I didn’t want to be asked why I was late or why am I not talking. I was expecting my home to be a hostel, even worse- a hotel. It would look like I wanted my food cooked (on time), my clothes washed-ironed, my room clean yet have nothing to do with the people. Of course, they did it all out of love.
I wasn’t wrong either. I wanted more space. I had this constant itch that they didn’t understand me and they didn’t value or respect what I was doing. Probably I just wanted some appreciation up front or probably a hug or many frequent hugs.
Only now I see that from my life has been strikingly different from hers and it’s a huge generation leap for her to unquestioningly accept. I always questioned back her questions, instead of making an attempt to answer. That’s easy. We always wanted a little more space without making a little space for them in our lives, don’t we?
All I had to do is regularly share with them, what is going on in my life, my joys, disappointments; ask them what was going on in theirs, and even if I hated it to the core- ask about what’s going on in others life, certain people, friends, relatives, neighbours etc. Again, that’s something that I have only recently realized, and have seen a magical difference. They don’t want to know EVERYTHING. Just keep them in the loop.
8. You are like your Mom
There have been points of time in life when I’ve not taken this as a compliment. “You look like your Mom.” My mom has very beautiful eyes, those are eyes of a person who is brutally honest and has no deceit behind them. Our hair is very identical. “You are like your mom” was said many times when I’d aggressively try to prove a point. “Girls should not shout, or be aggressive. Just maintain your calm, come what may.” Later in life I realized there was nothing wrong in being aggressive.
And however strongly I’ve not wanted to be like her, I’m pretty much like her (thankfully) and I should be very proud to be so. My honesty, sincerity, humour, not giving a damn when I’m right; that strength and boldness, is all just like my mom. Few things she is really good at: Numbers, dates, remembering every single thing about everyone in our home, families (both sides), distant relatives and neighbourhood. If a computer was to manage that kind of information, it would hang every ten minutes. And you could guess I am bad at all this. On my side, I’m probably a little more vocal and a little more expressive but I bet she would have been twice better if she’d have gotten that kind of exposure. I think it’s now that we’ve started accepting our inabilities, being supportive and more understanding; without discussing any of these things.
So believe me, you are like your mom. Whether or not you accept it and see the beauty of it; is a different thing. But you are like her.
Also, a lot has changed after my piece on ‘Being Feminist’ in the previous of ‘Saarthak Jalso’, where for the first time I opened my heart about how I feel about things and shared it with everyone in the family. She read it, didn’t say a word. But something, somewhere changed. I can feel how things have changed ever since. On my side, I have stood up for her, more often. We now discuss troubles with her Facebook account or Whatsapp or on how to Google something that she wants to know about. Not only do we critically analyse our forthcoming difficulties of life, like what to wear in an upcoming wedding but also go out for weekend shopping once in a while (when I proudly pay) and also get dinner for everyone and most importantly having our own little secrets.
It is difficult. It requires a conscious decision to understand and think, “How many other people do you know who’ve seen the worst of you, your grey areas, your contradictions and still have loved me back?” I realised she deserved it. Moms deserve love, care, affection, pampering and everything else that you think you deserve.
Although it will be an unending struggle (read: process) for me to understand my mother, even if I end up only understanding just 2% of it, I’d rather die happy by being empathetic towards her. Sometimes you need to empathize with them to love them more. And the more you try to empathise, the more you’ll be able to laugh at one other, help one other and eventually understand one another a bit better.
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