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My mother is a feminist, not just today when her daughter is, but has always been one. A ‘woke’ woman in the truest sense of the word, as I remember from so many memories of her.
‘Wokeness’, if I may call it that, has become the territory of the millennial. We millennials, chomping on our organic, locally sourced quinoa salad think we invented the concept of ‘Woke’ as surely as the Kauravas invented stem-cell therapy. If you are an Indian Science Congress scientist, I may have to spell it out to you – NOT. For many of us, our mothers, fathers and grandparents have been the original and unacknowledged woke brigade.
For myself, my journey towards wokeness started not with Simone De Beauvoir, George Orwell or Chimamanda Ngochi Adichie. It did not start with Huffpost or #BlackLivesMatter or #MeToo, nor did it start with my other like-minded millennial friends. It started when I was a wee little child trying to follow in the footsteps of my mother.
My mother has always been – as Brooklyn 99’s Captain Holt would say – AWAKE! She may not know what intersectional feminism is, but she’s the first feminist I know.
Years ago, when I was in school, there lived a not so well-off, uneducated family close to my house. Once, as my mother was passing by their house, she heard screams. She immediately went over and pushed open the unlocked door. As my mom had suspected, the husband was beating his pregnant wife with a belt.
My mother wasted no time mincing words. In a Seeta-aur-Geeta-type dramatic scene, my petite little mom grabbed the hefty six-footer’s hand, pulled him away from his wife and gave him a resounding slap. The slap must hardly have hurt him, but the shock of being hit by a woman only slightly older than him, shook him to the core.
At the uninformed age of 8 or 9, I didn’t think much of this incident. It seemed like the natural thing to do. Something as simple as being honest or eating healthy. Only now do I realise how difficult it is to raise your voice for those who cannot raise their own. That right there, was my first lesson in being woke.
As a sixty-year old woman, my mother is still the Chulbul Pandey of the neighbourhood.
Just the other day, as she was on her morning walk, she saw a couple of schoolkids throwing stones at a poor dog. She immediately picked up two small pebbles and threw them in quick succession at the leading boy. (Take a moment to appreciate her unerring aim. Had I attempted this, I would’ve dropped the pebble on my own foot and made a laughing stock of myself!)
The boy was more surprised than hurt.
“Maja ata hai na patthar maarne mein?” (Isn’t it fun to throw stones at someone?) my mom asked him cheekily. He got the message loud and clear and the group scurried away like nobody’s business!
My Wonder Woman mom also feeds the neighbourhood cats and dogs, leaves water in a dish for the birds, and since after I spoke to her about single use plastics, she has started carrying her own drawstring bags to buy grains and pulses from the kirana store.
As I grew up, it became my turn to educate my mother on what it means to be woke in today’s changing world. When my mom watched Dostana, she had a Kanta-ben moment. But then, we spoke about how homosexuality exists in animals too, and how it is as natural as an acorn growing into an oak. I even disclosed that a certain friend is gay, and she soon warmed up to the idea. Now, she supports all colours of the rainbow!
I love the fact that she is so accepting of modern ideas and newer advances in science. When my baby was born, I never once got to hear the dreaded “Humaare zamaane me …” (In our times…) statement.
In a world where everybody and their mother and their cat, feel qualified to ‘advise’ you on pregnancy and child-rearing, I am proud to say that my mother let me take the wheel when it came to my baby. When she wanted to start my baby on a homemade traditional tonic called Guti, and saw that I was sceptical, she herself told me to take the doctor’s advice. Our paediatrician explained the dangers of feeding a newborn anything other than mother’s milk, and my mother immediately understood. She always asks – what does science have to say? And no, she doesn’t have a background in science either! Take that, Flat-Earthers!
When I was an impressionable child fascinated with Christmas trees, my mother got me a potted fir tree to decorate. It is a tradition that has stayed with our family along with Rangolis for Diwali and Modaks for Ganesh Chaturthi. When my best friend introduced me to a Gurudwara my mother accompanied me to many langars too!
In spite of her being a devout Hindu, she has always embraced other traditions as well. Yet, she has never let her own religion or tradition prevent her from doing the right thing.
Very recently, for my Dohale-Jevan (the Marathi equivalent of Godh-bharai) ceremony, my mother placed an order for homemade Gulab Jamun from an enterprising single mother who had recently started her own cooking venture. My neighbour later pointed out that the said woman was a widow, and that food cooked by her would not be auspicious for a pregnant woman to eat! My mother told her that food cooked by a single, hard-working mother striving to educate her son couldn’t be anything other than auspicious! I am happy to report that despite gorging on the ‘inauspicious’ yet delicious gulab jamun, I delivered a beautiful, bonny baby!
Yes, she believes in God, but she did not bat an eyelid when I turned into an atheist. She does not ask me to visit temples anymore, but trusts me to do the right thing not for fear of God but because the right thing is the right thing to do. My mother has always supported me in my own wokeness journey. From making me homemade shampoo out of soapnuts, to providing shelter to the lone kitten, I have always had her unflinching support.
All I can do in return is to do the same for my son, and keep the wokeness going!
Image source: YouTube
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Yashodhara is a brand-new mommy, IT professional and cat lover who lives in Mumbai.
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