Today is Mother’s Day and my timeline is flooded with articles and posts on mothers and how wonderful they are. Some groups have a hashtag trending #justlikemaa. And this hashtag got me thinking how different my mother and I are; and how little we have in common when it comes to motherhood.
My mother has never been the typical Nirupa Roy. She was more like Lalita Pawar from Junglee, who believed in tough love. She taught us all the right things and gave us a lot of attention but was a little miserly when it came to showering us with love. Something that all of us craved for all our childhood. I resented her for it till recently, when at the time of my brother’s wedding, my mother and I ended up having a very candid conversation. I don’t know how we got to it, but we did and I am thankful for it. She told me that she considered us lucky being able to make our life’s choices on our own. She said no one asked her if she wanted to marry, who she wanted to marry, if she wanted to have children or how many children she should have. The decision was always made by others; decisions that should have been her own or at least in which she should have had a say. I immediately countered her and said that she should have said something. My mother is quite a vocal person and the strength to speak up is something I have got from her. So, it was a bit disconcerting to think she wouldn’t open her mouth when it came to life-altering decisions. But she was brought up in a highly patriarchal set-up where decisions were made by the elders and it was the duty of the younger ones to listen. So, she didn’t say anything. Maybe she didn’t want to have any children? No one asked her, because it is assumed that a woman’s existence is essentially to bear children. And the irony of it all is that she ended up having four of us.
I asked her, though I was terrified of the answer, whether she wanted to have any children. She said, I don’t know. I knew it wasn’t my decision to make so I didn’t ponder over it. And this truly broke my heart. And I realised just how privileged a lot of us are. So many of my friends, cousins, have taken their own decisions on whether or not they marry or whether or not they have children. And while I am sure that they have faced enough family and societal pressure especially when the decision was against the norm, they’ve had some support from somewhere to help them to stick to their decision. I am sure my mother was afraid that she would have received none of it even if she could speak up.
I always knew that I wanted to have children. But having a child was my choice. If I didn’t want to have any, I would have discussed it with my husband before we got married. I have the privilege to choose to be a mother. My mother didn’t. And despite all her failings, she made us strong human beings and instilled the importance of taking our own decisions and being independent in every sense of the word. And for that, I am eternally thankful to my Lalita Pawar. My ma.