You may have your role models.
They may have crossed the oceans and walked on the moon.
They may have united nations, with their talk or composed symphonies that made you bleed.
They may have abolished slavery. They might have done this or all, but they don’t compare to the now old, white-haired, still uneducated queen of my world, my mother!
A not too educated, not too intellectual lady is the queen of my life, the motivation behind me, one who looks at the door waiting for me, who loves me like no one, who is a source of complete sacrifice and unconditional love.
I opened my eyes to a very kind and caring mother. She was busy with normal house chores when I was born. She immediately attended to my grandparents.. nothing extraordinary as it sounds… a normal day… a girl and fifth child… don’t call for celebration in my part of the world.
My mother’s love story after marriage is one you don’t hear about in the fairy tales. My dad a well-spoken handsome man, often the praise of many women was arranged to be married to my mother who at the time was very young, not too educated, not very artistic but very very beautiful.
Fifteen years went past and she did not conceive. Gradually people started advising my father to get married again. It was a normal custom in my background to remarry for children. It was a big social pressure.
While my grandfather also urged my father to move on, my grandmother stood up for my mother. A devotion and service of fifteen years had won the heart of my grandmother. she told her son that if God willing she will have grandchildren, they will be through my mother. If not she doesn’t need any, women empowerment, now I know where I got them from.
A panel in hospital discussed the reports of infertility of my mother. Many medications and tests lead to nothing. Fifteen years is a long time to keep hope alive and intact…
My mother and grandmother both used to sit and frequently pray together, it was their spiritual teamwork and strong belief that they were the only ones to not lose hope.
My father had been provided with a serviceman for house chores from his work. The old man used to work all day and stood in prayers all night long. Seeing his saint qualities my grandmother asked him to pray for her grandchildren.
He told my grandmother ‘dadi’, to ask my mother to pray for forty nights, at the end of this time to write any dream that she saw and to show him.
Forty days prayer is a spiritual devotion that is done in times of immense desperation. It is a test of patience, persistence and determination. A self-awakening or personal development if you make call it, with a wider purpose of spiritual connection.
My grandmother again stepped in to rescue. Despite her not young age she prayed on the mat next to my mother all night long. They prayed for forty nights.
After much belief and worship, the only dream that she saw was of a small dispensary and all hope was gone. No medical treatment was left that my mother did not undergo.
When my ‘dadi’ told the dream to that noble person, he advised for a consultation with a doctor. ‘Medicine is the way’, he said, throwing water on all flames of hope.
While my mother still got a little excited on this progress, my father refused as she had the best treatment available. They had posted in a small town while my mother had her treatment in the best available hospital for a very long time.
My father was concerned, he was the eldest son. All his younger married siblings had children. He had immense pressure, to stick with a loving, caring and devoted wife and stay heiress or move on in life. To listen to his father or obey his mother.
My mother, on the other hand, was in a guilt. She felt herself a barrier between my father and normal healthy idea of family life with children.
One day, in an attempt to persuade my father to move on, she took my father for a long walk. Not too long, and they found themselves in the middle of a no man land, it was a place that looked completely deserted.
While deciding to carry on in curiosity my mother caught sight of exactly the same dispensary that she had seen in her dream. The only difference being it looked completely deserted and somewhat haunted. My father believed it was not a good idea to go in, yet on my mother’s persuasion they stepped in reluctantly. Inside they found one doctor, no patients or staff.
He consulted with my mother, got to know all the procedures and medical treatment, prescribed a multivitamin and advised her to eat minced meat every day in a good quantity. It was a nutritional deficiency, nothing else, ‘looks like you don’t take care of yourself’, he said.
As they came out my father started laughing at my mother. All that long walk and prayers for multi-vitamin and minced meat.
My mum again saw a hope in that bottle. Ignorance is the blessing they say… my ‘dadi’ jumped in to take care of her, ‘for three months I will take special care of you, you never know the doctor could be right’, dadi said.
I don’t know what to call, my dadi’s care, my mum’s hope, their mutual prayers and belief, or multivitamin and protein diet. One month later, my mother conceived for the first time in fifteen years.
My eldest sister was born by a miracle. It was a party time, people in the village gathered around. A fair and healthy child.
I was their youngest child with twins in between. My eldest sister was angelic and always in good books. She deserved to be best. How I became my father’s favourite is still a mystery. I did everything opposite to my eldest sister. She read books, English stories and discussed very intellectual points with my father. He often asked me to read ‘Wuthering Heights’ one of his favourite books which I dismissed.
I on the other hand always played with dolls.. a complete waste of time now that I recall. I could have discussed so many writers and books with my father… grown intellectual, wiser, practical and skilled… but perhaps, I was meant to be a mother who had to put aside many seemingly glorious opportunities at a pause, for her children. ‘But I got your literary taste dad, I can write, one day God willing I want to publish my book too’, I often think.
I remember making chapatis with my mother. When she was done with making it for everyone, I used to make one for her. It was all dry, burnt and hard bread, one I never felt pride in owning. Yet she always ate it with great joy.
I always found my mum busy at work. We had not much bonding. She often talked about how spoiled my father was making me, how selfish I was becoming by getting more share than everyone. My father always smiled on allegations and said, ‘She is my youngest child, I worry I may leave her still young’, this comment was always enough to make my mum change the subject.
My father gave her a helping hand. From giving her a cup of tea first thing in the morning to helping her with house chores. This cup of tea used to be English, boiled water with tea and powdered milk. He often boasted about his tea making skill.
My bonding with my father was very different. Every day at dawn we walked for four miles. He used to do some very tough exercises which I joined too. One thing I have never left in memory of my father is exercise, trying to stay fit physically and emotionally. A morning walk reminds me of fresh air, a rising sun that we stared for a better eyesight, a talk of healthy eating and timetable for the rest of the day.
We studied together as well. My father had excellent English speaking skills and very groomed personality. Fair, smart and handsome, often my teachers commented on how handsome my father looked and how I didn’t look like him at all. At that time, It was not considered rude.
I discussed everything with him, even topics that no one in the family dared to ask. This was when I told him, I was embarrassed with my mother, she was not very educated nor intellectual, she does not know of any fancy dishes that my friend’s mothers make and she doesn’t dress up the way they do. Studying in a high-end private school had given me an access to witness many well dressed, well spoken and modern mums who knew all about fine cookery and dressing skills.
My father looked down and said with lines on his forehead. ‘What matters to me the most’ he said, ‘are the sacrifices she has given for me, my family and my children. Without her I would never have been able to sustain the hardships..she may not be very educated, but she is the life support for all of us. She is very brave, strong and devoted. Trust me she deserves your love more than me’.
I also complained that a number of family members tell my mother how beautiful their couple is, and how my elder four siblings looked so cool with their traditional elevated nose, and I was an ugly duckling of the family with a flat nose and plain features. My father smiled again.
A very long age gap between siblings give them different features from ones with less age gap, I learnt later on.
My father’s strategy was different. He started calling me with compliments, enough to give me confidence and assurance. To an extent, that I stopping listening to people for approval. ‘I am good the way I am and my father loves me’.. everything stopped to matter any more.
Life called checkmate, and the king of my fairy tale left us for his eternal abode.
However, this is when I realised the strength of my mother. A not very educated lady, who took out her weapon of spiritual connection, believed in better times and bowed her head down to work relentlessly. It’s just that my late grandmother was not with her that time, she was all by her self.
She never cried before us, rather pretended she was not weak but very strong to take care of all of us. She pretended all was well.
She kept us all united, motivated and optimistic. My elder siblings worked very hard to continue their studies with odd jobs part-time. They earned enough to get us going. Me being the youngest had a little share in supporting them, in fact, everyone had an additional responsibility to work on me emotionally and academically.
I found my not so educated and intellectual mother by my side every time I felt alone and disappointed in life. Every time, failures and bad luck struck me, I looked behind to see a kind and caring wrinkled hand of this uneducated old lady on my shoulder.
Very soon my siblings got married, got busy and settled down but my mother did not leave my side. She never forgot me, from a complaining mother to a supporting mother/father, she never highlighted any of my flaws. Rather always consulted with me in every decision she had to take in our lives. ‘Why do you always ask me for everything, nobody else asks me’, ‘ I am a single parent, I have a lot of responsibility, I discuss with all five of you in person. You may be youngest but you give me a very wise suggestion’. No one did ask me for my suggestion that way ever.
One thing I regretted not listening to her was to learn how to do house chores. With easily available house help I found it absurd to practice them. My mum suggested I could get married abroad, to which I totally dismissed the idea. ‘I will not get married where I don’t get help at house chores, abroad never!’
I was sadly mistaken. From cooking to cleaning to driving, washing and ironing. I had a long day to do what I underestimated, that was literally my world, now I was not alone but expecting a child, motherhood! Welcome! Many mothers do the unexpected, the last thing on their ‘to do’ list and this is what motherhood is about, it dawned.
I prayed for children whom I loved dearly, my childbirth was so traumatic that I valued them immediately. Waking up all night yet babysitting during the day and doing normal chores had not been an easy job.
Thirteen years later, I still find struggling.. what I am doing to what I ought to be doing.. while some close family and friends compliment me as a mother, I feel a complete failure compared to mothers of last generations. Does motherhood lose its maturity, seriousness and sacrifice with every passing generation? I often think.
My mother is my strength.. her prayers and concern get me going… they make me strong and alert once again .. to keep seeing a smile on her face… It’s my turn to stay strong and give her assurance.
If I could never put it across before… I love you, mum! You are great! There will be no one like you! Please forgive me for any disobedience.
I need your special prayers!!