Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Like Mother, Like Child

Mother's Day was fun! My mother was in town, and the family was still celebrating a cousin's wedding. After lunch with the extended families on both sides (bride and groom), we got together with cups of tea, a guitar, lots of laughter, and some very contagious excitement. A few songs later, the living room had transformed into the dancing floor, and everyone was on it, doing their own version of the twist. Cameras clicked furiously, while we laughed, clapped, danced, and sang along. What fun!
All the mothers got hand drawn, personalized cards from Rohit's niece, and a group of us mothers and daughters indulged in a group hug. "It is fantastic being a daughter and a mother", chanted the leader of the troop.
Despite all the excitement, I couldn't but help wonder about how motherhood had changed me. I was less selfish, and everything I did revolved around Adiv. I wanted to be a better person because I was directly responsible for making Adiv the person that he would become. Interestingly, I was also aware of I was becoming more and more like my mother.
Growing up, I never understood why my mother had extended conversations with the help, the driver, the vegetable vendor, the ironing man, and the shopping assistants in stores. My life revolved around my family, friends, and my work, and I never felt the need for these bonding exercies. I barely even spoke to neighbours I couldn't relate to. I smiled politely and didn't feign the slightest interest in them. I teased my mother because she knew about the property feud in the driver's family, the maid's mother-in-law problems, and the ironing lady's issues with conception. She even visited our conservative brahmin neighbours during their festivals, and asked interested questions.
"Why do you care", I'd ask.
"They talk and I listen", she replied. It made them feel good because she didn't act superior or indifferent.

All my life I saw my parents attend all major events in the homes of our maids, drivers and watchmen. I even remember visiting a driver in his modest home. His family collected chairs from elsewhere so we could sit, and gave us plates filled with sweets. My brother and I were taught to give respect. We weren't allowed to think we were better than others who weren't as lucky as we were with our circumstances. I took much of this upbringing for granted till I became a parent myself.

Like my parents, Rohit and I insisted that Adiv respect anyone who was older, irrespective of how they lived. So while the help is called aunty, the driver and ironing man are both uncles. He is encouraged to share with them every time a packet of sweets is opened, and he isn't allowed to scream at them or hit them.
I've changed quite a bit as well. If I was disinterested earlier, I now engage in conversation like my mother does. I enquire about the ironing man's health, and applaud the maid's daughter's accomplishments in school. I even talk to the delivery man from the store nearby. Now that I run my own household, I realize that we can take noone for granted, and all these people who make our lives easier deserve respect and warmth. I try to be fair and considerate, though I can be quite the task master. I hope they are happy working for me, and I weep buckets (just like my mom) when they leave without notice.
"You are becoming me", jokes my mother.
I even run my home like she does, though I'd once have sworn that I'd do things differently. I even deal with people like she does; making an effort with those who seem so different from me. Like her, I try and give everyone a chance, and cover up any embarassment with incessant chatter. Every time I gulp down glasses of water when I'm nervous, I think about how she'd have done the exact same thing. Like her I cry when I'm angry, and confront those who are annoyed with us, with apologies and explanations. We both make few allowances for petty behaviour, and always reciprocate to the slightest hint of friendship. We are both fiercely protective mothers with a strong sense of what is right and wrong. We hate it when we are lied to, but we soften considerably when we hear a sob story.
As I wonder about all that I share with my mother, I hope Adiv will consciously and unconsciously pick from me all that is positive and right. I hope from me he picks the loyalty and not the temper, the sensitivity to people and not the sensitivity to seemingly harsh comments, the willingness to give everyone a chance and not the tendency to sometimes give up after that chance, the funny bone and not the inhibitions, and the willingness to try out everything on the buffet table, as opposed to sticking to the tried and tested.
Happy Mother's Day girls. Here's to becoming better mothers every day. I know we all try.