An enduring scene from the second season of Made In Heaven shows Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur) sat beside his mother who is living her last days. She is laying on the hospital bed, refusing to look her son in the eye. She knows he is gay, and yet, asks him to marry a woman while she is still alive.
Several people, especially in this part of the world, have been subjected to this brutality in one way or the other. A parent who doesn’t see a way out of an illness, tells their child to do something that would make their own life feel worthwhile. They act out of the intrinsically selfish desire to leave a legacy, which is also the need that drives many to have children in the first place. There is an expectation that the child will win battles they lost to the world and often, there is hope that the same genes in a different human, will do more justice to the great favour we got in the form of mortal existence. That this person will be happier, less afraid- in turn adding to the collective value of life on the planet which ultimately gives us enough to not want to leave.
Leaving, obviously, is never optional; and when that certainty is at a touching distance, the expectation – which was self-serving to begin with – merges with fear and ego.
It’s hard to be angry with someone who you know will not be around, but people who are left behind need to be taken care of too, and it is unreasonable to expect them to make fundamental changes in their lives, while dealing with the possibility of losing a birth-giver – and then to live with the choice they made, in the absence of the said birth-giver.
The unfairness of this scenario is appalling, and things are often more complicated for people who have been raised by problematic parents.
Children learn to forgive their parents for most of their mistakes; and they accept punishment for the ones for which there is no redemption. Someone has to pay the price, and it can be shared, but the child can’t escape it. Biology is a profound thing.
The death of a parent is difficult whether one loves them or not. To then be put in a situation where you have to act against your value system, is unimaginably cruel, and the “the gift of birth” does not justify this demand.
There is a clear insinuation here: that somehow death is more sacred than life. It deserves more. That’s a very dangerous idea to propagate because where do you draw the line with this?! How many and what kind of sacrifices make someone’s passing away “easier”?
Made In Heaven does a good job in making this point. Karan tells his dying mother, “You cannot blackmail me like this, mom”, and she decides never to see him again. This sends him down a road from which many do not make it out alive. He becomes addicted to drugs because he cannot process the pain of rejection, loss and injustice. He takes a stand for himself but this is a situation where no one gets to enjoy the honour of showing courage.
He crumbles, and while he does get back on his feet, somewhat, he never sees his mother again. She passes away, in her words, “not from cancer”, but from him being gay.
One scene that particularly broke me is where he is sitting next to his mother’s body and his father says, “Think of the good times”. He looks at the corpse, and says to himself, “Good times!”. He cannot think of many moments of joy with his mother. He probably cannot think of even one because her lack of acceptance of his identity likely overshadowed every part of their relationship.
The complexity of this is heartbreaking. He tries to fill a huge void his whole life, until one day, the source of it, and also the solution – is no more. There is a larger void to be filled now, in a separate corner of the heart.
There are people out there in the world for whom this is a real thing. An entire life lived in the shadow of a parent who did not accept them when alive and left them with a curse while dying. Such a heavy burden to carry on one’s shoulders, and such tough questions to live with: What if my mother accepted the child she gave birth to? What if my father did not hate what I grew up to become?
And the cruelest of them all: What if I could not explain how much it hurts? Maybe I did not use the right words, whatever they are. What will I do if I find them now?
Some people spend all their years fearing that they will find those supposedly correct words. I can’t think of a bigger punishment.