Prone to contemplation all my life, becoming a parent made me prod my memory even more, to try and remember, to reconstruct what it felt like; growing up with a handful of elder sisters and parents who were ‘normal.’ Now that we are on the threshold of a churn that will leave us with an unsolicited and uncomfortable ‘new normal’, even more so. For me, it was made of hot afternoons spent making faces in front of the giant desert cooler without being told to do something more useful, drinking green khus sherbet, playing with dolls as the pressure cooker whistled away and finding cold glasses of lassi and my mother’s smiling face waiting for us as we returned from school, sweaty but happy. Simplistic, blotchy smatterings of memories that weren’t very significant in any way but that made us feel content, carefree, cocooned and happy.
She suffered greatly because she didn’t speak out as loudly as she should have. She was one of the mildest, gentlest, kindest human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of having in my life.
Cut to the chaos of our times, where children navigate through the daily web of school, homework, activities, hobbies, playdates, preparatory classes and other social engagements. Sometimes this pace makes me anxious. I feel I’m doing a disservice to my daughter, by depriving her of free time, fresh air and blissful, childish insouciance, something I had plenty of. One can argue that times have changed and we can’t mollycoddle our children anymore but I think there is always scope to wiggle in some of the old stuff, the stuff that was my mother’ responsibility and she always ensured we were never lacking in any of it.
My father served for 40 years as a very senior officer with the government. Though we were all daddy’s girls and doted on him, his consuming work life dictated that our mother shoulder the responsibility of all else including our wellbeing. I would love to say that she was an articulate, no nonsense feminist who always had her way in life setting a great example for us. But I can’t. She suffered greatly because she didn’t speak out as loudly as she should have. She was one of the mildest, gentlest, kindest human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of having in my life. A science and math gold medalist, a kathak and classical music visharad, a carpenter, a welder, a cook par excellence, a fixer of all things broken, including hearts, a magician, she could do it all. Without raising her voice, without raising a finger, without so much as a glare. In her quiet, sincere way, she managed to win hearts and stitch us all together into an unbreakable knot.
When people ask me about our relationship, I find myself at a loss for words. How can you describe someone that is so incredibly woven into your fabric that you can’t tell where they end and you begin?
Once in a while, when I’m screaming my head off at my daughter (fine, I’m lying, quite often really!) I wonder what she was made of. With four daughters and a house to run, didn’t she ever feel the need to squish our necks, straighten us out, get some ‘me’ time, get some rest? In some infuriating situation, I try my level best to take a deep breath, calm down and channel her energy and her attitude into myself. While I am cut from the same cloth in many ways, I don’t possess an iota of the patience she did. Perhaps, being the constant gardener, provider and nurturer eventually took its toll years later as her body gave up and we lost her to the zealous talons of a degenerative disease.
When people ask me about our relationship, I find myself at a loss for words. How can you describe someone that is so incredibly woven into your fabric that you can’t tell where they end and you begin? Her name meant ‘a flower’. And that’s what she meant to me. A precious, precious little flower who gave us life, then poured herself into all of us, filling us with meaning, substance, curiosity, intelligence, feeling, warmth, compassion, grace and beauty. All of it, with the fewest or words, the broadest of smiles and twinkling eyes. I see her in every word I write, pushing the ink in my pen, asking me to go on and I hope that one day I am able to become the sort of parent that makes my daughter feel even a fraction of what I feel for my mother. A commemorative day for mothers- which is really an injustice as we all deserve to be queens everyday- draws near, I don’t welcome it with foreboding, I try and fill my heart with strength, tenacity and love, her hallmarks, hoping that I will see her again, in every flower, every song, filling the deep blue sky. Happy Mother’s Day, to you and yours. Love, hug and hold on as tight as you can!