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My mom was shocked to see how he behaved with me. This is when I realised that my husband’s behaviour was not normal and it was not my oversensitivity.
Trigger Warning: This speaks of domestic violence and may be triggering to survivors.
“Anju, let us go to Masi’s place since you can drive now”-this was my mom encouraging me to drive. I had just learnt driving, was extremely scared of using the reverse gear but my mom was happy to go with me to her sister’s place which was 15 kms away just so that I gain confidence in driving.
This is but one example of how she did everything possible to encourage me and my sister.
Living in a conservative area of Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, girls in my neighbourhood came back from school and worked in the kitchen as this was their training to be good wives and daughters-in-law. I on the other hand was asked by my mom to focus on studies. My father helped mom in the kitchen. But she didn’t stop us when we wanted to try our hands on cooking during holidays.
Anything we made was appreciated immensely by our parents. My mom did everything in her right to fulfil our wishes but at the same time taught us to be grounded. My sister and I were sent to best of schools that was possible for them, and my mom was strict about studies-she would ensure that we studied regularly and strived to give our best. She inculcated sense of healthy competition in us.
I have a younger sister and no brother but not even once have I heard my mom say that-wish I had a son. She was kind hearted and treated everyone with love and respect.
One of our domestic helps, Ramkali had a stepmom who would beat her and not give food to eat. My mom became a foster mother to her-being very loving towards her and ensuring that she ate before she left for her home in the evening. I saw the always quiet Ramkali become cheerful and talkative when mom was around. I was jealous of all the love mom showered on her as I wanted her undivided love for me and my sister. Little did I know that a mother’s heart overflows with love and it is always enough for not just her family but many more.
On special occasions like birthdays or festivals we took food to Home for differently abled children or an orphanage and eat there. Nothing was bought from outside-mom and her friends would cook everything at home. This tradition of my mom sow the seed for my career, I studied social work and joined the development sector.
When I was an adolescent, we moved to Vadodara in Gujarat. It had a very different culture from Bhopal-mom quickly adapted and made friends. I was slowly trying to adapt to the new culture but missed my school and dear friends.
Something changed in me, from a quiet obedient child, I became defiant and disobedient. I started to disagree with Mom on almost everything. I would argue a lot, didn’t study regularly and not eat what she cooked. I remember once returning from school and finding food that was not of my taste. I fought with mom and didn’t eat anything. So, my worried Mom cooked another dish that I loved and called me for lunch- I found fault in it and didn’t eat it. She made 3-4 different dishes that afternoon one after the other so that I would not go hungry and when I didn’t eat any she started crying. My ego came before my love for my mom. I cried quietly seeing her cry but continued pretending to be angry.
Today when I am writing this, my eyes have welled up with tears and I said a silent sorry to mom.
This phase of mine continued almost till I entered the University, but mom has never ever mentioned any of these things to me. By now my mom had transitioned into my friend from being a mom. My friends from University both females and males were invited home and mom spent time with all of us. They felt very comfortable with her. My grandparents were getting old and wanted Mom and Dad closer to them so my parents shifted to Delhi after my sister and I finished University. I later moved to a different city as I got married.
I often remembered her long hours in the kitchen, waking up whole night with me during exams, pressing my head and not leaving my bedside for a second when I had headache, the list was endless. Her sacrifices were more evident than before. I missed her and my family.
In the initial days of my marriage itself, I started to face emotional abuse which I didn’t quite understand. I had got some signals after the engagement too but had attributed these to not knowing each other well.
Anything that went wrong at my married home was my fault. My husband would get upset at slightest pretext and would not talk to me or eat at home for days together. I would constantly be begging him for forgiveness. As time went by, my husband had started to hate my mom and my sister for reasons best known to him, so he didn’t want to keep any relationship with them. He did visit them with me once or twice but didn’t even greet them. He would stay put in a room and not come out -not even when my relatives came to meet me. His behaviour was beyond my understanding. I often questioned if this was abnormal or was I being oversensitive?
After two years of marriage, my daughter was born. Mom overlooked my husband’s ill behaviour and came for my delivery and stayed with me for a month. In this time my husband didn’t talk to my mom at all. My mom was shocked to see how he behaved with me. This is when I realised that my husband’s behaviour was not normal and it was not my oversensitivity. She asked me to think if I wanted to be in this relationship and assured me of all her support in whatever decision I took. She encouraged me to continue working and build a good career for myself.
Mom left after a month. My maternity leave too was soon to get over. My husband’s behaviour continued-he would not even look at our daughter when he got angry with me.
Emotionally weak, low on confidence, I didn’t know how to manage work, home and my dearest daughter. I was not getting a help to take care of my daughter and I had to return to work. I went with my 3 months old daughter to mom and dad and requested them to take care of her till I found some domestic help and my mom happily agreed. She once again slipped into the role of a mom effortlessly. Mom and Dad took care of my daughter not as their grandchild but as their daughter. Mom was once again into the role she played with me and my sister. After a year or so I too went to my parents’ place and took up a job there.
My mom supported my decision and did everything so that I could concentrate on my career. I went to the University and got a second Master’s degree, travelled for work often and my Mom along with my Dad took care of my little one. Their schedules revolved round my daughter’s schedule like if my daughter had exams, they would not socialize so as to be there for her. Overtime Mom’s own health was not good but she managed home along with my Dad, my daughter studied and I worked. Our house also had friends of my parents coming over for health check -ups and treatments in Delhi. Mom lovingly welcomed all.
Ten years of long-distance relationship with my husband didn’t change anything. We met for vacations and he behaved the same way. His behaviour with our daughter was no different. My Mom stood by me when I decided to leave my abusive marriage. She told me not to worry about anyone and anything and decide what is best for my daughter and me. I continued working and doing well in my career. My mom felt very proud of me and always showed it motivating me further.
I can’t thank her enough for all that she did for me without letting me once feel, that she was doing anything extra for me.
Mother’s Day is very different for me since last year as my mom is physically not with us, she left us in Jan last year. My daughter and I miss her immensely but she has filled our lives with so much of love and good memories that we feel her around us, overlooking us. We have both decided to keep her close to us by carrying forward her legacy of love, selflessness and friendliness.
Editor’s Note: Join us this Mother’s Day by using the hashtag #LegacyOfStrength and sharing your story, of how your mother (or mother in law!) has influenced your career or how you have made an impact as a woman in business, inspired by her strength and resilience. Perhaps your mother started a business inspired by you or vice versa? Whatever your story is, we want to celebrate the powerful bond between mothers and daughters and the legacy of strength that you share.. Let’s inspire and uplift each other as we honour the incredible women who have shaped our lives.
Read all the #LegacyOfStrength stories here.
Image source: a still from short film Methi ke Laddoo
Anjali has worked in the development sector for over two decades. She has worked on issues like prevention of child marriages, adolescent health and rights and life skills education for young people. read more...
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