As a child, I loved rose cookies or achappams. My naani is dexterously skilled at this. As she got older and age crept in, she passed it down to my mother. I have always been amazed at how swiftly her hands move. Now, it’s my turn and I suck big time.
The primary notion of motherhood in my house stems from the passing down of recipes, traditions, and values. And what better day than Mother’s Day than to go back and revisit where it all came from – my Naani. I am one of those lucky people who get to live with their naani every day. When I was a child, she was the first one to listen to all of my stories from school. She became my primary caregiver when my mother was away for work. She praised my art like I was Salvador Dali. The reality was that my art was so bad, my parents had to enrol me in an Art tuition of sorts.
It’s summer and my naani is at her favourite task once again – chopping mangoes for some homemade achaar that I will shamelessly devour with aloo ke parathe. I sit next to her, grabbing a kaccha aam to eat with salt and red chilli powder. She slaps my hands away. I take it as a cue and jump straight to the point.
I asked naani how she felt as a mother when it came to my mother. She smiled and said that my mom was just like her- “ziddi, tez buddhi, aur adiyal (Translation: stubborn, quick-witted, and headstrong)”. Those are her words. To me, she is someone who knows how to stand her ground, is disciplined, and never settles. She’s 83, but her mission is to have more lilly plants on our terrace. What did I say about stubbornness?
When it comes to my mother, my naani is stricter. Not because she loves her less, but because she wants to pass down her traits to me. I guess she did. My naani was a nurse at a government hospital. She had to take up a job to support herself and her kids and her younger siblings. I read somewhere that when you are an older daughter, motherhood comes early. Guess, that is what happened.
When my mother wanted to work, she never faced any restrictions. Naani knew the world. Much better than my mother, definitely much better than me. She says, “Khud ke pair par khade hona saari ladkiyon ko aana chahiye. Bahar ki duniya gandi hai par kamal gandh me hi khilta hai. (Translation: Every woman must learn independence. The world isn’t kind but sweet is the fruit of adversity)” She knew of the sexism a woman faces at work. She warned my mother about it, but she never forced her not to pursue it.
When it was my turn, my naani and mom were disappointed that I didn’t take up a sarkaari job as they did. But as ziddi and adiyal as I was, I went ahead with my decision. I guess some traits just pass through generations. Naani didn’t understand it but supported my decision like a mother and coaxed my mother along. She has always been our anchor.
When I asked naani how motherhood has been for her when it comes to both me and my mom, she has the widest grin on her face. For her, it is the best of two worlds. While she is her daughter’s confidant, she spoils her granddaughter to the max. Naani has never been an authoritative figure. And nor has my mother been like that to me. We are each other’s strongest pillars.
Not just the traits, naani sees how she has moulded two beautiful, strong, and independent women just herself. Women who are breaking chains, just like she did. Whatever I learnt, I have learnt from these two women in my life.
On a closing note, she mentions how she cannot put in just one word about how motherhood has been for her. She says it has been a spectrum and she would not have had it any other way.