29 July 2017

The Love That Never Was

Are all mothers loving? No! They are not. Most of them are; just not all. My granny was not.

Granny had five children - 3 daughters, 2 sons; my mother the eldest. My granny did not love her. 

She stopped my mother from going to school. Grandpa was the headmaster of a small school, a very good teacher. But in front of his wife, he was a mouse. He couldn’t stop his eldest, dearest and most obedient of all children from being abused in the hands of her own mother. He remained a mute spectator throughout his life. May be granny thought that since she had so many children, one after the other, she needed an extra hand to manage the household. She sent my mother to work on the rice fields – from the age of seven. My mother would finish her back breaking work, eight hours or more daily, and come home – to continue to work some more.  She had to help cook dinner and wash clothes of the family and do the dishes too. Watch the Japanese serial “Oshin” to have an idea of the kind of hardships some young girls are put through in life.

 My mother described her childhood in one word “Tired.” She was tired all the time. She didn’t have friends her age because she wasn’t allowed to play. She had to work. The only ‘nice’ thing she recalls is her rare walks with her father, the only person who loved her and cared for her. She continued to work and support her family. She got her siblings married and helped her brothers set up businesses.

My mother never cried as she narrated her childhood stories. I guess sometimes the pain one goess through is so much that the tears never come out. They harden and lie in your heart – insoluble, occupying a large part of it. Maybe they flowed like a teaming river once upon a time but now they have turned into little rocks of sorrow.   

My mother forgave my granny because granny carried her in her womb for nine months. I thought that was a stupid excuse to pardon someone’s sins. If I ill-treat my children, I have no moral right to do the melodrama of the womb thing even if it’s true that carrying a baby is an arduous journey.
My mother used to peep through the windows of the classroom her father taught in and my granny would pull her and drag her back to the fields. What kind of a mother does that? A cruel mother! Do cruel mothers exist? They do. But we as children are fed on this glorious narrative that mothers are Gods, mothers are all forgiving and all loving and since God couldn’t be everywhere, he sent mothers. Or some such crap. When I read about other cruel mothers, I am not shocked. I am pained. I believe that these horror stories are possible. Our social narrative hurries to portray the father as the evil one and finds it hard to accept that mothers can be mean too. Truth is, some of them are.

When I think of my own childhood, it was way, way, way, way better than hers in every possible way – schooling, clothes, food, games, fun, and affection – EVERY aspect. Sometimes, I sit staring into empty space, thinking of the futility of my mother’s sacrifices and hardships. Why is life so hard for some? My eyes warm up; tears cloud my vision and slowly trickle down my cheeks in a feeble attempt to right the wrong. They sting my cheeks. They are worthless. But I can’t stop them. They don’t listen to me, my voice of reason, to my pleading, to let go, that it’s over. They choke my throat and there is a numbing pain in my head. How do I stop it? How do I move on?

I feel guilt and shame when I complain of silly things. I complain Sathya didn’t call me from office to check how I was. I complain Tanvi didn’t finish the work I had told her 10 times. I complain and I complain. The tears mock me. They drip down and wet my heart. They soak it with remorse. A heart of gratitude - wouldn’t that be a good enough reward for the life I have received? The heart softens, momentarily. The tears have drenched it. It is warm and moist now. I turn my head and look at the pictures of my family. I smile - immensely thankful. I have been blessed - for nothing. Like my mother; cursed - for nothing.
Is it karma? The only explanation my mother gave was maybe she was a monster in her previous life. She was paying her dues in this one and trying to secure a better life in her next. The only explanation I can give for my good life is I am reaping what my mother sowed. Her kindness has earned me a decent life. Like Ajay Devgan says in a movie, “Dua mei yaad rakhna”, I guess there are people who remember me in their prayers.