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With her eyes downcast, as she follows the man she has promised to love till her last breath and takes the seven circumambulations around the sacred fire, a woman has no idea this is what she’ll be doing for the rest of her life – running around in circles. Only the sacred fire gets replaced by the ones she loves and will learn to love with time. After all, she is the nurturer, the one who makes the house a home, the banisher of dust and her family’s moody blues, the expert haggler who returns victorious with an extra bunch of coriander, the Sunday morning Aloo-Parantha maker who brings cheer to life of others.
With time she learns to stop protesting and start appreciating his unusual taste in movies and gives up her love for Chinese cuisine because he can’t think beyond dal makhani and karahi paneer. His sisters become hers. His Mom becomes her Mummy dearest who insists on regaling her with exploits of the greatest thing alive – her son. Even as her eyes glaze over as she hears the story of how Bunty won a year’s supply of Bournvita when he stood IInd at the Quiz Contest, for the 35th time, she doesn’t grumble because she knows this makes her ma-in-law happy.
She was conditioned to believe that children are gifts of God. So, when all she experiences is revulsion at the sight of runny noses and smelly diapers, she castigates herself in front of the mirror and proceeds to surround herself with posters of overweight photoshopped babies with blue eyes.
Over the years she and castigation have become best friends. She still can’t over the guilt when she felt like banging her head on the wall for having created monsters who look like her in-laws… For harbouring violent thoughts when her husband innocently asked – isn’t this the second time in the week we are having lauki koftas? For faking sickness at office just so that she could get a few hours alone, at home…Feeling secretly relieved when he said that he’d be gone for a fortnight….
Not all women are natural born givers, who gladly sacrifice their happiness for the sake of others. Not all of us are adept at pushing our needs under the carpet. Some of us play along for the sake of pretences, some of us protest too much, while a few seek retribution by making life hell for others. Some of us try to have careers that our education demanded of us. But what we all share in common is that awful sense of guilt for not being a good-enough mom, daughter and wife.
The other day I decided to make use of mostly missing Math skills and came up with this astounding data. An average married woman makes approximately 30K cups of tea/coffee, fixes 15K meals and replies to “what’s for dinner” 14400 times till she’s alive.
She wastes her youth chasing plumbers and electricians, absorbs the tantrums of all her family members, worries on behalf of the universe and gives motivational speeches to her offspring which is often misconstrued as nagging. She rushes back home like a madwoman, just as she’s in the midst of an important presentation in office, because Nikki has been vomiting non-stop. She is her family’s alarm-clock, breakfast maker, tum-ache soother, exam stress absorber, expert haggler and a warm meal server when the husband gets back home after a long day. But when she gets back home after a long stressful day a long list of chores awaits her.
She often gets a pat on the back for her muti-tasking skills, but no one stops to think that she is one because she has no other choice.
Every time I read Mother’s Day messages posted on social sites by doting children, a little part of me dies. While a few of them equate her to God, the rest can’t stop waxing eloquent about her kitchen skills and how she unfailing woke up at 4 in the morning to pack their tiffin with yummy goodies. Wasn’t there a single day in her life, when she was forced to sleep late and made to enjoy the morning cuppa in bed? Weren’t there days in her life, when she felt so weary of the drudgery that she longed to flee and never come back! Did anyone bother to stop and ask what she wanted, for a change?
If there are a few dedications that do talk about the woman she was and not what she did for them, it is mostly from the daughters who discovered how tough it is to be the pillar of strength after they took charge of their own household.
What I want to know is, what do we get for being such apostles of humankind, dedicating ourselves to tending, soothing and most importantly feeding perennially hungry mouths? Is there a bonus for a lifetime of piety besides a bunch of regrets just as we are about to breathe our last?
Since God has decided to assume a “no comment’ stance and refuses to reveal if I’ll get a one way ticket to Paradise, I have decided to draw my own conclusions.
Perhaps there’s no greater joy than caring for your loved ones. But should we, in that process, relegate ourselves to the background, ignoring our own desires and interests? I understand that love cannot be isolated from duties and responsibilities. But why isolate ourselves from the many good things life has to offer because we are too busy pleasing others.
So, what stops us from making happiness our first priority? If we are not happy, how can we expect to make others happy? It’s a feeling so precious that it needs to be guarded at all cost. The same feeling that makes us greet every morning with cheer and not dread. It is that rare energy that makes us feel that every obstacle, every setback in our life is conquerable. It is that treasure that no one can snatch away from us.
And who knows at the end of the journey, we might still bag an all access pass to heaven and spot Ryan Gosling sipping coffee at Sitabucks, on arrival. After all, it is God who is the greatest suspense writer of all.
Here's a man's counterpoint and may I add, beautifully expressed ..