Category: Motherhood

The Fiery Wrath of the Old Mother

The Fiery Wrath of the Old Mother

It was a beautiful evening with shades of marmalade on the horizon. She stared at the hues of the evening sky as the sun set behind the blue hills. She and her sisters eagerly awaited the arrival of their father. On days like this, when their father returned from the hunt, a feast was laid for dinner. As their mother set the vessels on the cemented floor for supper, there was a loud crash. She woke up with a startle.

She was no longer in her childhood home. What a sweet dream it has been! She was in her bed; in the house that was also hers; the place that gave her everything-her family, children, love, and riches. Except that it did not feel like that womb of a home where her parents had lived and loved.

Striding turbulent paths

   I was not an easy journey that she had been through. Married at 14 to a man who was then 26, every day of those initial years in her new home was a nightmare. Her father taught her everything; all of the life survival skills- except how to retort when she had to.

The abuse she withstood was not physical, but she kept to herself the kind of harsh profanity her aurally sensitive nerves were subjected to. All the while, the man she believed in, the respectable and untainted gentleman was but a mute spectator.

During those days, when telephones were still a mystery in her part of the world, her house was one among the few that was illuminated after dusk. She had always envied those people who did not have access to electricity, for their days started at the crack of the morning light and ended when all other living beings in the neighbouring forests retired to their dwelling place.

At the crack of dawn, she would be up rushing with the household chores. And after all the mouths were fed and the responsibilities at home fulfilled, she rushed to the field. There she toiled until it was time for the vibrant avian folk to return to their nests.

Before winter arrived with the distressing frost and steady drizzle, the harvested grains had to be dried. The ones meant for storage went right into the massive, 3 feet high teak boxes.  The other half of the grains had to milled and ground into fine flour- all manually.

Looking back, she wondered what gave her that kind of supreme mental and physical toughness. It did not matter; the journey is in its final phase – well almost. She had no regrets, except the fury that was buried deep down in the pit of her abdomen.

The Boundless Joy of Parenting

     Two years into her marriage, she learned to ignore the taunting jeers that were a norm with the 50-year-old matriarch of the family. The spouse who left for work came home only to catch up on a few hours of rest. Though she drifted into spells of loneliness, it helped that her parents lived just an hour’s walk away.

Soon after she turned 17, he arrived, a plump mass of a bundle, with blood red roses for cheeks. The happiness within her reached a zenith. Dharma, she had named him.  In the next 12 years, she had four more cherubic children, two boys and two girls whom to her were nothing less than celestial beings that graced her life with boundless cheer.

The years that followed were grim and challenging. It was the affection that she received from the paternal home and the devotion she held for her young ones that helped her wade through the troublesome times.

The Denied Inheritance

   It was evident that the field where she toiled and the house that she lived in belong to her. It was a part of her husband’s inheritance. That was what she was told, and in concurrence with the times, the verbal announcement was to be followed by the next generation. There was no documentation process unless the property left the holds of the family.

She was a believer in promises. But her husband’s brethren failed to believe in the power of the given word. Soon they were gone- the piece of land she worshipped and her shelter.

After a few months of living with her kind sibling, she returned to the hamlet that she now called her home-this time determined to fight for her dignity.

With her savings and substantial help from her father, she bought a bit of neglected land, worked on it and saw a bountiful harvest after a year. In a few years, slowly it came up; the roof held by the intricate rafters that she now saw from her bed. Within every brick lies the rage that she had cautiously swallowed so that it would not disturb the fabric of her home.

Time moved on

   Soon the years rolled by and one by one they left the house, except for the youngest. The youngest, named Kubera, stayed with his parents. The fields that now spread across the neighbouring hills were now his responsibility. He is to share it with his brothers (employed in the city) when the time comes.

Despite the distance, the love within the family grew strong.  She visited her progeny regularly. She shifted between their homes and slowly the burden on her shoulders eased. If destiny were kind to her, that was when it should all have ended.

The troubles started when her companion of over 50 years took ill and was confined to the 6×6 feet space. The three years of his sickness was one among the biggest burdens she had ever carried. Like the occupants of her paternal home the people who flew out of her own nest, took turns in staying by her side through the tough times.

And then one morning, before the crack of dawn, he breathed his last. But before that, he had uttered ‘I am sorry, Devi. I had looked past your strife’.

‘That apology is rather too late old man; there is nothing you can do about it now. Go in peace’ was her reply.

The Curse that befell

   Upon the old man’s loss, a gloom descended on the once happy home. She spent her evenings by the fireplace, mostly weeping, sometimes in the company of a few steady friends. On one of those days when she felt immobile and lethargic, she saw a strange looking man at her doorstep. He was Kubera’s guest.

The man was tall and built well. His extensive features and dark complexion sent a spark of instant fear across her mind. He entered the house and performed strange rituals in front of their sacred altar. Once he was done with them, the odd-looking man ate from her husband’s massive bronze plate-the one that was considered sacred and was reserved for occasions.

Once he left, she felt something churn within her; deception had made its way into her happy home. When she encountered Kubera, his reply was lethargic and only gibberish. The very next day, Kubera asked her to hand over to him the entire pension amount that she now received after her husband, which she kindly denied. The pension fund was her only source of income and her saving grace.

Post this incident, peculiar rituals and the arrival of bizarre-looking men were a norm in the house. Every time she tried to sleep, visuals of disfigured men scared her. Deep within her, she knew it was the dreaded sign of a warning.

Least did he know a simple refusal would steal away her dignity. She was meted with unfair and bitter behaviour. Every morning she was greeted with boorish expressions and impolite greetings. She was served nothing but leftovers, sometimes not even that.  The faces that once helped her with utmost cheer and courtesy in the presence of her husband now shone an amalgamation of disrespect and inconsideration.

The plate with leftover food was sometimes flung at her feet, and she was denied entry into the kitchen. The very same place from where she once fed several hungry mouths- both family and strangers was now out of her reach.

The Flee

   As she lay down looking at the ceiling, drifting in and out of afternoon slumber, dreaming about her childhood and her father’s bountiful hunt, she heard a growl from the interior layers of her abdomen. Like that vicious storm that she had learned to suppress over the years, she doused the flames of starvation and made up her mind that she has had enough of it.

The house was empty, as it usually is at this hour of the noon when a blanket of silence descended on the village. She made her way through the valley to the nearest bus stop.

When she landed at her daughter’s house, much to the bewilderment of her child and the exhilaration of her grandchildren, she swallowed her lament and all the anguish and soaked in all the love.  She failed to realize all those years of subdued outrage was bubbling inside her.

The Despicable Return

  With weakness consuming her, she had no energy for hate. As the clock ticked, rather peacefully in this new place, she made herself useful by assisting in the household chores. Then one frosty morning, she puked the remains in her stomach and saw traces of the vital red fluid in it. Strangely at that instant, she knew her time was up.

Days passed, people visited her often, and the bitter taste of the medicines lingered in her mouth all the time. She was grateful for the friendship she had built over the years and the rapport she shared with the people of the village.

Then one fateful morning, as much as she tried to open her eyes, she couldn’t. She heard voices buzzing around her. She could only partly move her lips. She heard her daughter and grand-daughter call out. She opened her eyes to look at their faces- but couldn’t keep them open for more than a few seconds. They were forced shut soon.

She sensed movement. Was she floating? It felt like someone had just scooped her. Then, there were noises of vehicles passing on a busy road, and people crying around her. She slowly drifted back to a sweet dream.

The Vengeful Flame

   She opened her eyes because the dingy smell was suffocating her. Least did she expect that her end would happen here, the very same place she ran away from.  Through her half-opened eyes, she saw faces all around her, the ones that mattered the most- her sisters, daughters, and grand-daughters. She saw their moist eyes. ‘Your duty has been done, dear ones. Send me away with smiles; the curves that raised my spirits all my life’, she wanted to say. But, her tongue wouldn’t function.

She spent the next 48 hours spitting all kinds of liquid that were forced into her mouth and occasionally throwing spiteful remarks at the people whose sight sent a chill down her spine. It was increasingly difficult to believe that the one she protected in her womb, a human that came to life from within her was capable of such atrocities.

She wanted to yell, to scream at her son, his wife, her other sons who were spectators and curse them with all her might. But now she lacked the vigour to fight, for she had spent every unit of her strength in making their lives better. She ingested her fury one last time.

There it lay the dark tunnel, the final path of her journey. All of her memories are now history. As she floated past the threshold, she could not look back. For the last breath from within the realms of the bronchi imported with a mighty force all of the doused flames that were now draconian. The blaze would soon turn into ashes everything she called her own and everything she took pride in. The fire would stand testimony to the wrath that was buried within her. She floated away with no regrets and no desire.

The Unwritten Reply

The Unwritten Reply

It was a beautiful spring morning. Aditi was determined to clear the clutter in her study, despite the temptations from her garden that was now in full bloom. Like most other women she knew, she had an urge to declutter every time she had to clear her mind off the needless muddle.

She was also tempted to tend to the shrubs in the garden. The place reserved in her garden for the Matura tea tree has never been blessed. The bush always took life and just when there was a promise of a bloom, something killed the plant. She forgot the number of times she had to uproot the shrub. It killed her every time she did it. The place was large and the conditions favorable, but the plant probably was long dead internally, like her.

This time she had planted it in a small patch of soil right outside of her bedroom. ‘The place is too small, and there is no hope for nutrition there. That patch is polluted with concrete dust’, her father had warned. Nevertheless, her precious Avarampoo shrub gave the promise of blossom, and she felt it had found its home.  However, she had not seen it in the last week that she was away. When she had enquired her mother about the plant during one of their phone conversations, all she received was a blatant reply.

She put the garden out of her mind and entered her study. She started with the first rack of her bookshelf. Behind the books on the top shelf lay a beige paper box decorated with shells. She knew what lay inside and was tempted to open it. ‘Later,’ she thought; but soon gave in. She took the box with her and settled on the floor cushion, careful not to disturb the Ikkat patterns on its cover.

She hurriedly let her hands search through the neat stack of letters inside the box. She found the one she was looking for. It was a simple light yellow envelope, now stained and battered from the decades of preservation. She opened it to read the letter for the umpteenth time.

The letter read:

Date: April 2003.

My most beloved Child,

    I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and good spirits. It is increasingly difficult to believe you will be graduating college next year. I do not know though if I would live to see that. My hand shivers constantly and I am writing this letter with the utmost difficulty.

  If there is no further correspondence from my end, know that Nana loves you with all his heart and soul. You gave me a reason to live when I was approaching my twilight years. Yes, there were other grand-children before you, but you were you. You were the only one who sat through when I opened to read a book to you all. You were the only one who was never bored of Mahabharata. You were constantly amazed by the tale.

 I do not know what life has in store for you. I see in you a luminous spark. I wish you find contentment in living, and strength and determination to cross the hurdles that obstruct your path. Always remember my child, no matter what comes in life hold on to your dignity and self-esteem. You have to know that conceit is not a harmful term.  If you face a situation when you have to put your self-respect above everything else, never have second thoughts.

May you find everything your heart wishes for, dear one. You are in my prayers today and forever.

                                                                                  Love and Prayers,                                                                                                                                                      Nanna.  

This was the only letter that Aditi had not replied to. But she read it every time she had to be sure of herself.  She pulled the letter pad from her desk and began to scribble the reply that was long due.

Dearmost Nanna,

   A decade and a half is a very long time to reply to a letter. I write because it is summer and I miss you the most this time of the year.  I miss balancing on your shoulder while trying to pick mangoes in our backyard. I miss falling asleep on your shoulders, and I miss our dinner table conversations.

 I also write because nobody is ready to listen. There is not a single human who is willing to see me as I am. They either sympathize or dismiss me as impulsive and bullheaded.

 All along, I knew marriage was not my cup of tea. I was a fiercely self-reliant soul, and I did not see myself living in harmony with a stranger that I had never met until a year before we were destined to live our lives together. Yet, I obliged.

 I thought I could sail through the storms that were aplenty. As I tackled one high-tide, the other one emerged, stronger and fiercer. Yet, I swam with the tide.

 It was idiotic of my family to believe that a lovebird could come out of a vulture’s stick nest or crevice. My life might have been destined with an Agapornis; nevertheless, the loving bird was groomed by a deadly vulture. How can a lovebird be any different when it is nursed by a vulture? I lived in a dark, unkempt cave of those birds that feasted on the living and sometimes took me for a prey. Yet I made room while offering myself.

The birth of the twins brought-in all the light I needed within the dark cave. Least did I know, my light would kindle the worst kinds of resent in the Dowager (A demon of a woman). Through most of my postpartum days, I went to bed while the acids in my stomach consumed me. Yet, I rolled with it.

I stood up to defend myself on several occasions, only to be accursed and tagged as hot-blooded and hasty. Yet, I put myself out.

True, my ex-spouse was not an alcoholic, nor a smoker. I was never assaulted physically, ever. But the wounds my mind endured are deep and intolerable. I am still healing, and I have a long way to go. Yet, I tolerated.

My palatial mansion was rather a den that longed for some light. My luxury car only wanted a companion and nothing else. My glittery jewellery longed for some honest smiles. The more I enthralled in opulence, the more lonesome I became. Yet, I fit-in.

As the girls grew, I knew I did not want them to become desolate beings. I wanted them to be the woman that Nanni was- confident, independent, strong-willed, resilient and joyful. I knew that a den is the last place to look for joy and optimism.

 Together we walked out, one beautiful morning tackling the attacks from the beast. Yes, we have scars for life. But, they are the lessons we will carry onto eternity.

  As you would say ‘Conceit is the quicksand of success.’ I do not know in the future, but it helped me overcome an enormous demon.                                                     

                                                                                   Yours (no more in distress),                                                                                                                                                     Aditi.

As she opened the window of the study, the bright, glowing buds of the Matura tea tree spread their radiance as the grey clouds converged.

Also published here (  https://www.womensweb.in/2018/11/marriage-was-not-my-cup-of-tea-nov18wk5sr/)

The Bane of the Womb

The Bane of the Womb

Yet another dinner table conversation in our home:

‘But he spoke to me first, Amma,’ my five-year-old quips. I retort with my usual advice, warning her of the probable adversaries. ‘This will be the last time you speak to a stranger,’ I warn her. As I say this, there isn’t a speck of guilt within me that I am inculcating hatred in the little mind. I am aware that instilling panic is the last duty of a responsible mother.

Like many other mothers in my part of the world, I have no choice. Bringing a girl child into a misogynistic and pessimistic world and trying to protect her is no mean task. To activate the subdued fear alarm in mind, there is some incident you read, way too often.

Can they overcome?

Every time I read about the atrocities meted to the little girls, my thoughts are always with the mother. Can anything on earth be more horrendous than to see your child face barbarity and yet feel helpless about it? How ludicrous is it to let the law take its own course in this age of extreme malfeasance and extortion?

The young victim might need a lifetime to therapy to rise above the maltreatment. The mother is doomed to live in the shadow of fear. Speaking of therapy, we are aware of the acute shortage of shrinks in our country.

What gives him the courage?

What makes a man think that he could assault a woman (be it a random passerby or kin) and walk away with it? What gives an offender the audacity to cause agony to a woman or a child and cause mental and physical distress? Have we as a society become deplorable and hideous?

What makes a man think that the opposite sex is but a puppet in his hands? This is not a scenario just on the streets; it is prevalent in the vast majority of Indian homes. Why should the woman of the house stay immune to exploitation, injustice and your offensive jeers?

Is chauvinism a piece of wisdom passed on for generations since the late Vedic age? Or was it acquired enlightenment post the Victorian times?  Despite laws and amendments, why is inequality woven into the fabric of our being?

Is Safety of women a myth?

Will women’s safety be brushed aside as a myth? What if the ripples of change spread steadily? What if they lead to rebellion? What if the collective consciousness of the XX bearers result in a revolt? Can we teach our girls to stand-up? Will our biased society let them stand firm on their feet?

Should the caregivers of the girl children live in angst? Will our voices be heard? Will there be an advancement regarding equality? Can the confined minds undergo metamorphosis?

Will our rights be safeguarded? Or should we camouflage ourselves in the bovine skin to protect our dignity?…..

Just a humble lament of a mother raising a daughter.

The Feminine Gender- An Anecdote

The Feminine Gender- An Anecdote

‘Mamma, please open up,’ she cried. She stood right outside the nest that was once hers. ‘What is the matter, dear?’ comes the reply. ‘I am exhausted, mamma. I feel my wings are beginning to weaken. I doubt my capabilities. I want to return here, to feel safe and joyful all over again. I would never have flown if I knew I was to live by myself’. A long silence follows. She knows she has to leave.

‘Mamma, oh mamma’ she sounds baffled. ‘How do I choose the right mate? They all do their best to impress. How do I find the right him to raise my kids? I need some time to think. Please let me in, for a night mother, please’, she pleads. The noise of the strong winds is all she hears, and into the dark, she flies.

‘Mother dear, I brave the heat and winds, rain and fog from dawn to dusk to build a home. It has been several days now. There seems to be no end. Will I ever get to finish in time? Please open up, just for today’. She knows what is to follow. She flies back to the place she will soon call her home.

‘Mamma dearest; with open eyelids I stand guard, protecting the yellow eye, through darkness and light. It has been days since I left home. My anxiety escalates every passing day, what if I fail? What if a predator nears? Please come with me just until dawn’. Solicitude hits the mind, and she takes flight.

‘Mamma most beloved, over the hills and far beyond I fly for a few morsels to feed the tiny mouths. In peace, they lie, but I have forgotten to feed myself. Can you feed me just for today?’ She intended to solicit sympathy, but her attempts go in vain. She realizes she is now a protector herself.

‘Sweet mother, they fear; they fall; they are anxious. I tend to their wounds all night.  It pains to see the scars on the tiny bodies. The heart never wants them to learn flying. The spirits are high and the heart bursts with pride, but melancholy hits at the thought of an empty nest. Can I hold onto you just for tonight?’ All she hears is the sound of a distant cry. She returns to her soon-to-be empty abode.

“My precious mother, how do I control my emotions?” she sobs. ‘I was tired of teaching and tending. Now that they have gone, I feel lost. The home is empty, and so is the heart. There is no love around. Relief, I thought I would have, but what a paradox. The dawn seems to have no purpose. Will I ever survive mamma?’ She knew what is to follow, but her heart longed for some consolation.

She is about to take flight when the overly familiar loving voice interrupts “Darling baby, when you play the role of a nurturer and protector, doubts frequently appear. But these apprehensions should seldom break you. Remember, you are beyond fear, and the only hindrance on your path is the lack of confidence. Hold onto the strength you had, when you first flew from here. As long as we breathe, we all need mothers, but when you play that role yourself, you have to put up a courageous face. You are anything but ordinary, baby.  Go now, it is your turn to face anxious questions.”

‘But mother dear, can you pamper me just for tonight? Who else can I ask for?’ The sound of the dark is all she hears.