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I Always Thought I Would Never Become ‘Too Busy’ Like My Mother…

Posted: September 16, 2020

A young girl hates her mother’s ‘lack of attention’ growing up; only to understand her situation when she steps into motherhood herself.

I hate my mother. Always hated her. I am not aware of when this emotion took root in me. And I don’t care about it.

Perhaps my mother has always been like all other mothers, (though I doubt it!) – loving and lost. Loving because she carried the love of the world with her. For all of us. And lost because she just never got enough time to sit and talk to me.

She never cared to think that there were so many things I wanted to share with her. My secrets, my inner revolts, my suppressed angers and my fears. I could always see her, but never did I get her. Why? I couldn’t exactly figure it out. Maybe because she was always superlative-style busy. Busier than the busiest person in this world. She had no time to listen and yet, she says she lived for us.

I have observed her since my childhood. She is an adept cook and an expert at doing many things, but her to-do list is so long that it often makes her forget the most important to do – me.

Oh wait, you might be thinking my mom is a highly qualified professional, a hi-fi working mother. No, she is a simple housewife but still her crores of chores keep her busy, unavailable and inaccessible.

Everything demanded her attention…

The memories of my mother take me back to these scenes which even today, roll like a fast reel before my eyes.

We were all a middle-class family living in a middle-class home of a middle-class city.

The crowd in my house was very entertaining, with my elder sister, younger brother, father and ‘buddhi dadi’. Yes, we called her that because she was the oldest amongst all the dadis. She was like an artifact that had bore the brunt of time since ages and now needed to be preserved, for there was no other living thing left of that era.

The mornings in our house were always bustling. My father ironed his clothes, making perfect creases while chewing a morsel of fresh hot paratha and bhindi sabji. Mom stood near him in her discoloured, stretched gown with little stains of atta and almost everything that she had put her hands on while cooking, wiping them occasionally with the best towelette she had. The one she wears, her gown.

She holds a steel glass of hot milk, stirring it with double the speed at which the earth rotates, to mix the spoonful of sugar that papa likes in it. Her bangles dangling with the rhythm making a special music, to let know my father the milk is ready. Her hips shaking as she hurries.

My dadi was very fair. White hair, no teeth and a thin body. She always wore the colour white. So you can imagine her all white, except for her teeth. She loved to sit at a standard place in the kitchen, right near its entrance. She would take her small ‘asani’ and sit there coiling her already coiled figure. She loved to see mom cook, or maybe she wanted to keep an eye on what her bahu was feeding her son.

The scene in the kitchen was all a mess. My mom when cooking, loved to bring the whole kitchen out on the platform, floor, with all cupboards open. She would take out the box, then open it, use it, and place it, on the platform. So you would find two kadhais on two burners of the old steel gas. The third one was reserved for the cooker which would whistle after every few short intervals. Even the cooker demanded attention.

Near the gas lay half closed jars of salt, pepper, haldi, dhania powder. And on the other side a large paraat (plate) where a deformed dough of atta was halfway on its journey. Loose atta powder scattered from the paraat to the platform to my mom’s gown. Hot chapattis cascaded on to a plate. They are not in tandem, just one thrown on another like hanging on the edge of something. The plate on which they hang is actually the lid of a large bowl. Beneath the lid, the bowl is all filled with milk. It is cold and little drops of water hang loosely on its outer surface. It was from this bowl that mom had warmed the milk for papa.

The kadhai that is on the gas is wafting a fresh aroma. Yes, 80% of the time it is fried bhindis. A rare vegetable that everyone in the family likes. An old steel plate manages a little space halfway near the end of platform near the sink. It holds all the leftovers of cut bhindis strewn on it. And a blunt knife that had just tasted the glue of bhindi is lying uncaring on them.

My sister who is three years elder to me wakes up late. Her school starts at 11. But my brother and I can be seen running all around the house playing lost and found. My Hindi copy, his tie, my one sock, and his school diary are on the search.

When the lost exceeds the found, my mom takes the stage and with her loud heavy voice, begins chanting her warnings and starts searching the house like a CBI agent; in all those places where we would never think our wealth could be.

Inside the dressing table drawer, in the old trunk, the scooter’s dicky, the almirah’s cabinets, our laundry bags, between the two folds of the folding bed.

And with this drive she never fails. Finally, having cleared all, I ride my cycle to school with two bulldozer sized bags and my younger brother. He hangs on my back.

Ma, what do you do all day?

So at 11 am my sister, my father, my brother and I give my mother her much awaited peace. There is no one in the house except dadi who prefers to enjoy her nap this time.

I am not very sure of how ma spends her very special free time. Perhaps she is herself a cup of tea or lying lazily on the sofa with one leg up and the other dangling, swatting the small buttons of the television remote, uncaring which channel is on. Or maybe sometimes lying on the bed after a nice relaxing bath with her long hair waving down the bed, dripping the little beads of water still left, leafing through her favourite magazines Grihsobha or Sarita. She may sometimes take a nap while she thinks of what is to be cooked for the evening dinner.

But sometimes when I ask her, Ma, what do you do when we are not there she stretches her thin lips and says, “I have a lot of things to finish; I cook lunch, put on the washing machine, nag Malti our maid, talk to the neighbours sometimes and a lot more. There is no free time for me you see”, she grimaces.

The return journey for the family begins at 2 pm. It is my brother and I who return first, in a tired and wretched condition with dirty uniforms and grey shoes which were black when we left. My mother is busy then too. She is picking up the dried clothes, talking to nani, drying dal or chana or sometimes making a pickle, jam or chutney, whatever her mood is. My sister returns at 5 in the evening and my father at 7:30 in the night.

After dinner, we kids sit for our studies and my mother and father sit together in front of the TV and papa always watches the news.

Finally the night wraps the day. In her busy schedule with all the love and loss, ma seldom got time to sit with me. To listen to me. Later, when I went to hostel and came home in the holidays, she would again be busy doing all the household chores, with the added task of preparing some of my favourite foods. And on the last day of my visit she would say, “Time passes so soon, I just couldn’t talk with you.”

I always felt I would never be like her…

When I got married and became a mom myself, and visited her, she would again be busy with all her household chores. And as history repeats itself she would again sit with me on the day of my returning and say, “Time passes so soon and I just couldn’t talk.”

I always felt I would never be like her. I vowed that I shall never let my daughter feel what I have missed. I would always be there for my baby. But life creeps slowly into those spaces sometimes where you fear it the most.

My life with a job, house and baby somehow forced me to face my most dreaded emotions. Today, I go to work, attend meetings, instruct my cook, and then reach home all tired. I doubt whether I have become like my mom. I struggle to take out time for my beloved daughter. But I try and am still trying. And I feel I have to some extent realized my mother’s position.

It was her way of caring for us. She wanted to give us a good home, good food and good memories for our lives.

I whisper…my mom, I love her.

Top image is a scene from the series Yeh Meri Family

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