One of my earliest, though vague memory of my mother is nothing very emotional or maternal. Quite to the contrary I remember myself wishing that I had a “better” mother. This one, as a three year old I had reasoned to myself, was more trouble than anything else. “She does not let me run amuck the whole day; makes me sleep on time; feeds me stuff that I don’t want to touch let alone eat; doesn’t give in to my tantrums and worst of all makes me go to school !Without her around life is going to be so much more fun” – this or something similar is how my train of thought ran as I sat grumpily conjuring up a mother of my dreams. Such wicked, wild thoughts were neither constant nor forthcoming at anyone else’s suggestion. Rather if anyone even teasingly suggested I get a new mother, all hell would break loose with that person being blacklisted for a long time. In any case, come bed time and the only person I ever wanted was her. And in the event of any tragedy -fever, injury, bad day at school or play-mom was indispensable. Somehow at such times she didn’t seem so evil after all.
As time went by, my sinister plans of swapping her for someone more pliable gave way to a more tolerant attitude that lasted till the teens. For in my teens, I was as tolerant as teenagers can be towards their parents. I don’t know why it is so, but I’m quite convinced that if aliens were to take over our planet, they are likely to be more cordial to us than any teenager would be towards his parent. As the mother of a 7 year old, I’m dreading his teens. Mine were bad enough. The thought of facing them again and this time as the mother at the receiving end, and not the tantrum wielding mongrel, is intimidating to say the least. But she survived her brat and I guess I’ll survive mine.
Interestingly the strong antipathy of the teens gave way to an equally strong clingy attitude later. Not baby clingy but well, clingy nevertheless. As I sat toiling for the dreaded mother of all exams, the Civil Services, my own mother became indispensible. She was “allowed” to go to work alright but that’s it. Other than that she just had to be at my beck and call. I remember her quietly sneaking out the back door for a quick walk, one of the pleasure of living in a hill station, only to be found missing by me and be duly shouted at. At times I would require her to just sit in my room as I studied late into the night without as much as breathing. She could do nothing except maybe read but just had to be there. Honestly, today I can’t imagine how she put up with all of it! In fact I don’t know how mothers put up with all that we dish out to them.
Throughout this roller coaster of a relationship with my mother, as I realise now in retrospect, she was just expected to be there- whether it was while I was conjuring up my fantasy of a better mother to replace her with as a toddler or quite disliking her in my teens or dragging her along in my shopping expeditions pre and post marriage. She was just expected to be there, somewhat like a permanent fixture. And surprisingly she was. Not in the silent sufferer or a pillar of strength, composure and fortitude way but in a very normal, human way- giving us a good dressing down when needed, throwing a tantrum or two of her own as well, totally flying off the handle at times but, for better or for worse, she was always just there. Which, as I realise today, is more than what can be said for most relationships we have.
Do I “appreciate” her more today now that I’m myself a mother and can empathise better with her? Yes. Do I behave any better with her? Sadly no. I don’t plan to replace her with a “better” prototype alright but other than that, it’s the same old, same old. I may be a mother myself but with her, I vary between my various avatars that I have subjected to over the past years. And perhaps that is what mothers are supposed to do more than everything else- just be there. Not in the Nirupama Roy mould, but as living human beings who too have their own idiosyncrasies alright but eventually rise above them to be there for their children. Am I like that with my son? I try but do I succeed? I don’t know. That will be for him to answer at a later date. All that I do tell him right now is that, as he lives his fantasy of replacing me with a better mother, it better be a yummier mummy that he thinks of. Other than that this mother or new one, all are as much of a devil to their children. And on that happy, pleasant note, A Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there though God knows you deserve to be celebrated every day of the year and not just a single day! But this day being as good as any other.. Cheers !!