The mother spoils me silly. Dessert that I had forgotten I was craving for, new clothes or accessories simply because I’m bored and want something new in my wardrobe, and shoes because I lost my heart to them.
But she is also strict with me. I tease her almost every day, “Ma, you should have been a warden in a girl’s hostel or in the military. You’d have put an entire generation in its place.” And all she’ll say in response, is, “What do I care about an entire generation as long as I know I did a good job raising you!” It usually ends here. On a good day.
She is a disciplinarian. The bed has to be made in a particular way; meals have to be eaten on time, far away from the telly; and the hair must be brushed and combed before I step out of home. Sleeping habits have to be regular and consistent and no, I cannot bunk work just because I don’t feel up to it on a Monday. I could go on but you get the drift. On a bad day, I will lash out, “Ma, aap kitna tokte ho!” “You leave me with no other choice. You think I enjoy doing this? Grow up and I’ll stop,” pat comes the response, as if she has rehearsed it all day.
She has exacting standards. Lives her life according to them. And thinks it’s only fair that while I’m living with her, I conform to those. Not a flawed expectation. But I’ll admit that it’s tough. Sometimes, a wee bit unfair too. But then I’ll see a mother in the distant crowd reprimanding her six-year-old for eating too many laddoos at a party and I’ll want to reach out and hug them. The young mother is exasperated. Her daughter just won’t listen to her, she laments, shaking her head in distress.
She could well have been my mother. Twenty-odd years ago. Hell, even now. Except mine reprimands me behind closed doors, in the privacy of home.
But when she scolds, she will also reach out and make up. As soon as the harsh words are dispensed with, she’ll hold out the olive branch. But me being me, needs something more reassuring than just that. She usually indulges me. That’s how we roll.
There are some horribly ugly moments, moments we each wish we could go live far away from each other, pain we wish we could undo. But she will remind me ever so gently, “Remember this is not for forever. One day, you will have all the freedom you desire and you will not know what to do with it. So, just indulge and put up with me for now. Someday, you will miss me for all that you take for granted today.”
I know she is right for the most part. But I’m unable to reconcile with it all the time. Because home is where I come undone, where I’m at my most vulnerable and want to be treated with care. But I get the wisdom in her words and am slowly coming to terms with it. With gradual baby steps. Taking care to avoid stepping on her toes. Pushing myself to get to bed on time on most days so she isn’t hassled the next morning. Assuring her that I’ve eaten properly. It is a bit of hard work but also very rewarding. And the quiet smile, the silent approval and the gleam in her eye is reinforcement enough.
The last three years have been a roller-coaster at home. We’ve judged, fought, argued, learned and unlearned. Ma, I know it’s taken a lot out of you to get us here. Thank you for the patience and the policing. One day, I promise, I’ll have gotten my act together.
Many happy returns of the day, Ma.
*Again, the kind folks at Parentous graciously agreed to schedule this post in time for the mother’s birthday yesterday. Thank you, Team Parentous. It means a lot.
[Note from Team Parentous: We are sure Mother had a wonderful birthday yesterday. Continue the celebrations today as well and Wish her a belated one from all of us! ]