Recently, during one of our countless discussions, I asked my mom about her favourite shows. Her answer, like always, was Hubahu and Dhoop Kinare.
This time I asked her what made those shows timeless for her. This time, I did not automatically assume that she’ll like the ‘mother type’ saas-bahu shows, even if she may watch them at times.
Because that’s what we do right? Make assumptions when it comes to our mothers. Their choices, interests, opinions are either too conservative or too contrary to our beliefs – and we want to change them or accept them to avoid fights, but not understand them. Even as they try their hardest to understand us.
In the 27 years that I’ve known my mother, she has always tried to listen to my point of view. She hasn’t always understood me. But she has tried.
She comes to watch Avengers with me because she wants to spend time with me. Even if it means asking me, ‘purple wala villain hai kya?’.
She’ll try to talk to me about office colleagues, old friend, or even random acquaintances. Because she wants to show she cares and remembers my life’s little details.
If I sound upset on the phone and refuse to share the reason for it with her, she never takes offense. Her standard response is to convince me to discuss with my friends – because her main concern is that I shouldn’t keep things to my heart.
But for the longest time, when I reversed the tables, I didn’t know half of the things about her.
There was a time I didn’t let her talk about home gossip, always lecturing her to let things be and ‘be the bigger person’ and all that jazz.
I never tried to understand why she stopped taking time out to read novels. Only judged her for replacing reading with TV shows I found to be too sub-standard.
When she sounded upset on the phone I tried to help her, but soon got involved with my work.
Don’t get me wrong – I love her unconditionally. But that’s the thing, I only ever loved her, tried to understand her, got to know her as a mother. And mothers are supposed to be strong, perfect, and absolutely in control all the time, right?
Until one day, I finally decided to get to know the person she was before she became my mother. And realized that the old Mills & Boon I’d discovered in the storeroom actually belonged to her.
She told me of how her best friend in college received love letters from her boyfriend – and she was the only friend considered close enough to read them.
She – without whose guidance I’d still be messing my i’s and e’s – shared with me about studying in a Hindi medium school and how her college professor’s encouragement helped her develop the confidence about her English speaking skills.
She was a person whose life didn’t revolve around cooking my favourite meal but rather going for street food with her friends.
The woman who had myriad dreams, countless experiences, and a fair share of teenage and adult transgressions before she was my mother.
Today, if a large part of her personality is defined as being ‘my mom’, then I am as much to blame for it as anyone else. Because our mothers are too talented, amazing, and precious to be weighed down by just one label – mother.
To those who want it, motherhood is a magical experience. But why does that mean we strip those women of any identity beyond that?
You may not agree with your mother’s every opinion – I don’t think any child in the world ever has. But it is important to know where those opinions come from. It is important to know what shaped her reactions. It is important to understand the woman she is, before the mother she’s become.
Over the years, I’ve come to know much more about my mother than just her favourite shows. I know that if she’s upset, nothing heals her mood faster than shopping for clothes.
I know that cooking for her is not just a chore. She truly loves experimenting in the kitchen and cooking dishes that leave me salivating every time. And she absolutely would give up anything for a plate of perfectly cooked aloo chat and crispy golgappas.
I know that she loves old Punjabi music, and every time a remix version comes, she sings the original one for me. And then also patiently explains the meaning of typical words to me.
I know she’s a sucker for romance – the fairytale kind, the realistic kind, the larger-than-life kind. I know that she loves romance because there’s always been a little bit of it missing in her life.
I know that for 29 years she’s been a mother, ever since my annoying elder sister came into her life. But for 52 years she’s been a woman who has handled every problem, no matter big or small, with an iron strong will (and a few tears, because she’s very Bollywood that way).
Your mother will most likely be your mother first, friend later. But that does not mean that’s all she has to be. A few long conversations with my mom introduced me to the person she is beneath the mom persona. And I have never been more in love with both – the woman and the mother.