Monday, May 20, 2013

The Warmth of My Un-cool Mother

When I was in high school, I would often hear girls rave about how cool their mothers were. How they shared wardrobes and shoes with their mothers, how their mothers trusted them completely. How their friends loved to hang out with their mothers. I could never relate to such conversations.

In those days, I never thought of my mother as cool. She had strict rules governing the complex business of raising little ones and she watched us just as a hawk watches over her young.

I knew girls who would go out for parties and stay overnight at their friends’ homes. Mine would be out in the balcony, eyes peeled, if I didn’t show up five minutes after the time by which I should have been home, down to the minute. If I remembered to call and tell her the reason for my delay with a revised time of return, I would be let off. If not…

Like all teenagers, I used to think of myself as something of a rebel, and would wonder why I was being tethered down when other girls of my age wore what they wanted, spoke to and hung around with anyone and did whatever took their fancy.

During my brief stint in a newspaper, we often had to work the late night shift which would end at 1 am. Female employees would then get dropped home by the office car. Since it was one car dropping five or six of us home, I, who stayed the furthest, would reach home no earlier than 3 or 3.30 am. My colleagues often told me about how they would let themselves in, with their own latch keys, mind you, into their quiet, sleeping homes.

When I asked my mother for a key, she told me there was no need for it; she would open the door for me. And sure enough, whenever the office car came to a halt outside our building gate, I would see her sitting in the balcony, unwilling to go to bed until her daughter was safe home.

I asked her once why she took the trouble to sit up and lose precious sleep, waiting for me, she told me that she couldn’t possibly sleep until all her dear ones were safely home. Then she smiled and added that the day I got married, she would stop worrying about me. She added, “Your husband and in-laws can worry about where and how you are. I shan’t bother at all.”

I was too immature to understand the import of her words then. It was only much later that I realized the comfort of knowing that someone at home loved you enough to worry about you not being home.

Behind the relieved laughter in her voice, I still recall the worry in her eyes, the fear that something might happen to someone she loved. When nightmares like these assailed her waking thoughts, she would pray with all the strength of her simple faith that her fears may not come to pass.

Having returned home in the early hours of the morning, I would go to bed and not wake up until hours later. She, of course, would be up by 6, getting breakfast ready for the whole family and generally preparing for the day.

In today’s day, she would have been considered a Work-at-Home-Mother, every bit of the work she does calibrated and recognised. Back then, she was only considered a housewife. The label was derogatory, at least I thought so. When asked what she did, she would cheerfully reply, “I’m a housewife,” omitting to mention the successful sewing enterprise that she ran from the confines of our tiny home, while simultaneously managing the household, cooking, washing and cleaning, looking after the family and playing an active role in our home education. She had also nursed to health an old relative who had suffered two separate accidents and become bedridden for more than eight months each time.

During Diwali and Christmas especially, she would have so many orders that often she would end up working until 1 or even 2 am, then waking up at 4.30 am to literally pick up the thread where she had left it. In spite of having so much to do, she managed to do justice to every task she undertook. Food was always on the table at meal times. The pantry was always stocked. We never ran out of anything. She was always in control of every situation.

All through my growing years, I was blissfully unaware of the many sacrifices that she must have had to make to ensure that the household ran smoothly.

These included the tiny things she gave up, a little sweet something she had prepared that my brothers and me wanted more helpings of, that she suddenly didn’t seem to be in the mood to have. In fact, for a long time, I didn’t even know what her favourite foods were.

And then there were the big sacrifices, the dreams that she must have put on the back burner as she dreamed great things for us. Rejoiced in our victories. Grieved over our losses.

Today I am a mother of two kids, and yet I dutifully call her once every day. It is a comfort to know that in a world where so much goes wrong every day, there is one little corner where I continue to be loved as I always have been. She waits for my call and worries if I don’t call. I guess, you don’t ever retire from a calling as a mother.

Such big shoes I have to fit into. I wonder if my little La Niña will think of me as un-cool someday.

‘I am writing a Tribute to Mom in association with‘


  1. I guess no mother is un-cool. The role that they play in our upbringing is enormous and of course its hard to fit into their shoes. I often think of my daughter feeling the same for me too :)

    Its a nice post, Cynthia and as always full of warmth! I love your writing <3

    Good luck with the contest!

  2. Such a beautiful write up, straight from the heart. I had tears in my eyes as well. Mom's love in different forms the unconditional one amazes me to no ends.

  3. Hi Kajal, Thank you for your warm words. You are so right. We can never measure our mothers' contributions by words alone. I hope our kids feel the same way about us someday.

  4. Hi Sumana, a mother's love is indeed unconditional. I believe that we human beings, fragile and weak as we are, get a chance to share that unconditional love when we become parents.

  5. You brought tears in my eyes :')
    Such a warm n straight from the heart post. I am sure your children will know what a warm n caring lady you are and will grow up adoring you, giving you every bit of the love you deserve.



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