Friday, December 24, 2010

My Mommy strongest

All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.  No man does.  That's his. 
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895

God made mothers, because He knew he could not be there for everyone at all times. This is a truly emotional statement and as daughters while growing up, we put this statement to test innumerable times. I know I certainly did and my Mom always passed with flying colors. As I reflect on the relationship between mothers and daughters, I feel like while the vibes that fathers and daughters usually share are like the calm ripples in a serene lake, those between mothers and daughters are like tumultuous waterfalls, with sky touching highs and earth shattering lows.  When you reflect on your own relationships with your mothers, you will realize there have been several hues to it and it is a relationship that has changed in so many ways over time.
I was trying to look for a great way to define what I shared with my Mom in my growing up years, when I chanced up on this status message on a cousin’s Facebook page which summed up a mother daughter relationship perfectly.

“At age 4, we think: Mom knows everything!
At 8: Mom knows a lot!
At 12: Mom doesn't really know everything.
At 14: Mom doesn't know anything.
At 16: Mom doesn't exist.
At 18: she's old fashioned.
At 25: Maybe mom does know about this!
At 35: before we decide let's ask mom.
At 45: I wish Mom was here. She would know exactly what to do”.

These lines got me thinking about the critical milestones in my relationship with my mother. When I was a child of 4, I couldn’t stay away from Mom. I thought she was the strongest person I knew as she single handedly took care of my brother and me as my Dad was posted abroad, while also holding down a full time job. I couldn’t stay away from her and loved watching her go about her chores. I would fall asleep listening to the sound of her voice and even a few hours apart from her would be like torture. So much so that, I would constantly keep searching for her and scream her name from the balcony of our house that faced the school she taught in, much to her embarrassmentJ. I thought she knew everything and wanted to be like her in every respect. I would play teacher to my imaginary students and since I did not know English, the language she taught, I invented my own language of gibberish to imitate her.

At 8, I realized I was developing certain tastes different from those of Mom. I thought pink looked better on me than blue and she and I would argue about how much time I spent on playing and studying. But, in spite of these minor differences, Mom was the guiding force of my life and I heeded her advice in discerning the right from the wrong. I still wanted to be like her and wanted her to be proud of me. She sure knew a lot and was always around to help when I needed her the most.

At 12, I wanted my Mom to be my best friend. When I listened to my friends, speaking about their mothers and how they were involved in every minute detail of their lives, I felt pangs of envy and whished my mom was a full time mother too. I wished that my Mom were home when I got back from school like others mothers. I wished she would get involved in small things like how I should wear my hair in functions and sit with me when I did my homework. It was the first time I questioned my mother’s being the all-knowing force in my life. What I didn’t realize then and am thankful for now, is that my mother had set boundaries within which my brother and I would operate. Be it our play time, our study time or our TV time. She let us make small decisions by ourselves and helped us bear the consequences of our actions. She may not have sat with me for my homework but always kept a hawk’s eye on my progress in school and on my behavior otherwise. I knew she was not my best friend but she was the best mother a girl could have. What I realize today was she was not just bringing up a daughter, but was striving to bring up responsible and good human beings.

As the teenage years approached, my mom’s role in my life became even fuzzier. Friends became the all-important presence in my life and slowly, I saw the chasm between me and my mother grow wider. I started keeping many secrets from her, whether it was about fights with friends, which field I was truly interested in as a career, what I thought about boys and many more such thoughts. I thought she would not understand my point of view and preferred keeping quiet in her presence. She tried drawing me out a few times, but being the stubborn, pig headed person I was, I am sure I did not make it too easy for her. I was hell bent on turning into a regular rebel.

It was the guilt of my first visit to a discotheque and my first sip of alcohol in college that actually pushed me to break the barrier between us. It was an adventurous visit and we had gotten into trouble with a group of boys that truly scared me. I knew I had crossed certain boundaries I should not have and needed to talk to an adult about what I had done. I decided to test the waters with Mom. I asked her “Mom, what would you do if someone came and told you, we saw your daughter drinking at a discotheque the other day.” She turned her beautiful brown eyes to me, scanned my face, smiled imperceptibly and said,” I will say – Oh! Didn’t you see me on the next table drinking with her.” That inane remark from her broke down so many barriers. I realized, slowly but surely Mom was becoming a friend and maybe she was not really as old fashioned as I made her out to be.

I reveled in the new found friendship with Mom and soon it was time for me to move out of the house to pursue my MBA. I remember, while I was packing to shift to the hostel, Mom came up to me and said “From now on, every time you return, you will be like a guest in the house”. I was perplexed at this statement but it was so true. After that, I only came back at term breaks while in B-school and small vacations once I had started working. Today, when I look back, I realize that my Mom knew even before me that I was on the way to becoming an independent and ambitious career woman. She probably did know something about who I was and who I wanted to be after all.

My initiation into the Corporate world was not very smooth and one day, tired of the immense pressure, the bitchy boss and the snappy clients, I called Mom and told her I wanted to leave my job and come back home. I thought she would jump at the chance of me coming back home, as she never wanted me to pick up the job in Delhi anyways. But, there was silence on the other end and she just said “I know you. You will give back all the bitchiness and snappiness in double measure. So stop whining and be the woman I know you are.” It was shock therapy that worked quite well J and quite imperceptibly the flow of my relationship with Mom had changed again. I wanted her advice and looked forward to hearing her perspective on things. It was not like we did not have our share of tiffs, disagreements and arguments during this time. But somehow, along with being a mother I had started looking at her as a strong, independent woman with a unique take on life and experience to back her views

Today, at 31 Mom has become what she was not at 12. My best friend. And I thank God, that it is today rather than at 12 because I realize the value of what having her as my best friend means. It is funny but we spend a life time trying not to be like our mothers, but today I want to be more like her.  Though not like what I was at 4, but I am in awe of my mother again and wish that I can handle my life with the quiet strength and dignity that I see in her. This Christmas, I want to take the chance to tell my mother that I love her and thank her for enriching my life in so many ways and making me the woman I am. I tend to disagree with Oscar Wilde. It won’t be a tragedy if I turn out to be like my mother. It will be the biggest blessing in my life.

Merry Christmas to all you mothers and daughters. I wish that this holiday season, you take the time out to do something special for your mother and spread the holiday cheer.

“Chance made you my mother; love made you my friend.

(PS: Thanks for the quote and the thought Anu Vadina)


  1. That was awesome, Ambika. Your writing is so honest and soulful. Made me think of my own relationship with my mother. Yes, I have gone through different phases in my growing up years and my mother has also, in a sense, grown with me. I hope to read something on fathers and daughters soon - I am sure you will have an interesting take on it.