Working Mom

By Natasha Ginwala at age 22 years

Unlike most children, I do not associate images of embroidered hankies, bedtime stories, special packed lunches and weekend picnics with memories of my mother.

My mother hates embroidery; she invariably dozes off at the beginning of bedtime story sessions and believe it or not, she often forgot to pack my school lunch! Our weekend picnics were dubbed as ‘educational trips’ to museums, handicraft fairs or a visit to the blind school.

My most cherished memories include joyrides in mom’s red jeep, frequent dips in the Sabarmati River (before it was reduced to a dry rivulet) and impromptu camping trips.

For a long time I wanted my mother to be like everybody else’s. I yearned for the mother who waits by the doorstep to welcome her tired school children with a batch of freshly baked cookies. Once I reached home, I hung around by the doorstep endlessly – a routine wait for my mother’s return.

My grandparents and well-wishers chided, “You ought to spend more time at home, with your children.” They promoted the orthodox notion that without a mother at home children have a loveless upbringing and grow up to become complex adults, who suffer from all sorts of psychological complications.

It is true that mom was neither there to comfort me when I scrapped my knees, nor to take up for me when my friends’ mothers fired me for no fault of mine.

When she reached out to kiss me before she left for work every morning I would plead, “Ma, promise me you will come home early today.” She always promised to try. Inevitably, she returned just in time to tuck me into bed.

But no matter how busy she was she made every birthday special, and transformed each minor achievement into a moment for celebration.

She taught me to always give more then I take and to share that last piece of chocolate I was hoarding in my cupboard. When I lied she always found out. There was no punishment; always a thwarted silence. I learnt that truth is not a matter of convenience.

I was encouraged to dream fearlessly and work tirelessly; to grit my teeth in the face of adversity and keep moving forward.

Trying to keep pace with mom has always been a challenge. Although, it is exhilarating and refreshing to be around her, I often find myself out of breath. On those occasions, I think of our trips to the supermarket, during which she would rush forward, unintentionally leaving me behind and then we would frantically go circling the entire place looking for each other. She still chooses to sprint when she can leisurely walk, and her hands are permanently ‘occupied’; most attempts to slow her down are a wasted effort.

Mom juggles between a multitude of roles in the most brilliant manner, every single day - single mom, adoring ex-wife, devoted daughter, reliable sister and committed employee. 

In our conservative society clothed in modernity- women continue to be treated as the inferior sex. Beneath the shadows of ‘the new gender consciousness’ lies a complex web of perpetuating atrocities against womankind. In such an imbalanced world, I have learnt crucial lessons from her example.

As I write this, my mother is in Ladakh. I imagine her sipping piping tea at a Dhabba somewhere in the Himalayas; planning her next journey.

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