Schooling in India is not simply about education. Especially in a status conscious city like Chandigarh, it is as much, if not more about brand and social standing. While on the one hand one does pity the children caught in this rut of school- home work- school, Chandigarh introduced me to a hitherto unknown aspect of schooling in our country- the yummy-mummies and the whole dynamics of education. As it is the whole business of being a yummy-mummy is not an easy one. Combine it with the pressure of schooling and you have a potential potboiler. We blame the chalk and talk system of education for burdening our children. What about the pressure that a yummy-mummy has to face thanks to her children’s education?
The first day I went to pick up my son I was at my clumsiest best. Ragged t-shirt over equally ragged jeans, hair scrunched up, dripping sweat in the month of july. After all I had been jumping over and around cartons that were lying scattered in varying stages of being unpacked. Even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t have dressed better for the simple reason that all my clothes were still lying tucked away in some carton.
Reaching the school gate, I jumped back to double check if I was in the right place. Instead of a motley crowd of grandparents, domestic helps and harrowed mothers rushing either from work or from home, what greeted me were two distinct groups. One the “aam junta”, the mango people, a lot like yours faithfully, only not in ragged clothes and without dust in the hair. And the other group of what looked like a page 3 gathering. Perfect hair dos, beautifully manicured hands, designer bags and shades, slender wrists with Omegas and Rolex, 6” Jimmy Choos, 2carat solitaires in each ear- What was I missing? This sure wasn’t a bunch of moms there to pick up their kiddos. Maybe there was some social event happening after school. That would explain this crowd and the line of Audis, Mercs and BMWs outside I thought. But as days went by I realised that this was no socialite gathering but the daily crowd of the Yummy-Mummies who were there to collect their strawberries!!
Over the next couple of months, while on one hand I reclaimed my hitherto fallen jaw from its position on the ground, on the other hand I gained tremendous insights into this whole “Yummy-mummy” phenomenon. To begin with, the whole key to being a yummy-mummy is balance-balance between being yummy and being a mummy. Now you cannot be too much of either. If you are more on the mummy side, read huge and unkempt, that is not acceptable. Remember the fate that befell a certain Ms Rai-Bachan for failing to “fit” the mould (no puns intended)? Even the tag of “most beautiful woman in the world” couldn’t save her. Not that I didn’t enjoy every minute of the media bashing meted out to her. I totally did. However, my point is that she was too much in the “mummy” mould. Then there is the other extreme of the likes of Victoria Beckham who are always too yummy. For people in the relatively normal realm, too much of either doesn’t work. So while you must have a beatific Madonna like smile and expression all the time, actually looking like Virgin Mary will not help.
Schooling of the child is an important component of the whole “yummy-mummy” exercise but it’s somewhat a Catch-22 situation. This is your first real social role and appearance as a mother. Without the right “school”, the whole discourse will fall apart. But more “right” the school, more the pressure to be the perfect blend of mummy and yummy. You have to balance not only your vehicle, your wardrobe, your look but also how engaged or disengaged you are with the child and the school. The child’s upcoming assembly or class project cannot be dismissed lightly but neither can your life be disturbed over such happenings. While you must avow not to pressurise the child over anything, if he or she is found lagging behind the others in any manner, the anomaly has to be corrected. As you go to pick up the child, neither can any outfit or jewellery piece be repeated, nor can the discussion be ignorant of social happenings and gossip, not simply of your social circle but of the school as well. And so on and so forth… it is a tough life indeed.
Two years down the line, where do I fit in? Still in the old mango people category, I’m afraid. In front of the fashion parade of yummy-mummies, I always look like something the cat has dragged in. I still pick up my son in a beaten up i-10 that thanks to all the dents on it, might soon be the size of a nano. Most of our Saturdays are spent in front of the idiot box rather than at some happening barbecue. It’s still the same old-same old and I am grateful for it.
Need I say more? I rest my case…