Till date, my mother draws similarities between her life and mine at twenty-five and would want to believe we are not that different, after all. She did not have marriage in mind. No boyfriends either. Just a career plan.
With five siblings, she would not get work-space at home. Only educational institutions provided that. So she decided to stay in her college hostel and study there. She liked staying there more than coming home and getting involved in housework like stitching and cooking.
She faced opposition when she had passed 25 years, and did not show interest in marriage and boys. She was made to feel that she is studying too much and that she would not be able to find grooms as qualified as her.
She was lucky to have a father who supported that she could study as long as she wanted to but my Nani (my mother’s mother) did not belong to the same school of thought. However, my mother ended up as a role model for her younger siblings, and her younger sister, my aunt, went on to complete her Ph.D. after her. She may not accept it, but I want to believe that maybe she was happier when she was not a mother.
My mother did the best for us by all possible means. She even after being a Single Mother, put me and my brother in one of the best schools in the country, which prepared me for life. But life, in the school itself, was ambiguous.
Everyone I knew had fathers who would drop their daughters to school every morning. I felt these girls were different. They appeared more confident to me. Was it because their fathers told them magical things while hugging goodbye? My mother never told me about this.
I passed my school days avoiding the question, ‘what does your father do?’ I did not like the look on people’s faces when I told them about my father. Most of them would be sorry. I do not know for what, but they were. Why was what my mother did not important? She was ahead of her times to finish a doctorate in Mathematics and settle for a university teacher’s job. Somehow it all seemed a little less relevant, a little less significant when juxtaposed with the lacuna that followed at the mention of my father’s name.
One day, she tried to explain that our life is like a motor car. Two wheels in the front are like the father, and the ones in the back belong to the mother; a car just as we see on the roads. But, our car was different, she said. My questions were abundant. Since my father was gone, were we left with two wheels? How would a car like that function? Would it even move? Could it survive the rush on the roads? How odd it would look to see a two-wheeled car! My mother, in her two wheeled life, gathered her pace to survive my curiosity. Years later, I wanted to ask her why she did not choose to get another pair of wheels so that our car could run like the rest? ‘It would be disrespectful’, I told myself.
A few years later, I settled in Delhi for higher education, and it was then that it all became clear. To live a life without any incentive for happiness was a tough choice my mother made.
When I made friends and found a partner it was difficult for me to imagine how my mother settled for a lonely, tiring life just for the sake of her children, both of whom were settled far from her. I still imagine how it would be if she could find a person to confide in. Would it make me less responsible for her loneliness? And even if she does find a person, will the people who surround her not judge her character?
People say that perhaps the death of my father has changed my mother irrevocably. Now, she would never be a wife but only remain a mother of two. My mother already suffers the tag of being an ill omen as a widow, thrust on her by the religious society she goes to every Sunday – a place she visits to pray for her children. Relatives would also point out that single women tend to get flirty with men; my mother would get scared about her presence making other women uncomfortable about their men. As if any of it is her fault!
I have thought several times about it. And, what can I say about the choices my mother has made keeping in mind every possible thing about the society, and her children? If she says she is okay, I must believe her; yet my heart cannot. And when things are not going great in this metropolitan city, Delhi, my mind runs to her, and I know she is just a call away. Yet, I cannot tell her the ramblings of my mind honestly. What if she is hurt by my thoughts of hoping for a partner for her? What if she thinks that she has not done enough for me, for us, when she has? And despite having about everything, so much is lost in this, what if.
Aditi Krishna is currently pursuing MPhil from Delhi University in English Literature. She wrote a thesis on Care-giver’s Burden for her Master’s degree. She has an endless reservoir of love for animals, especially dogs and bitches alike. Though she can slay you with her polite sarcasm even before you know it. She makes beautiful cards for sale on nominal prices. It was a cherishable learning experience to have lived with her as a roommate for two years. You can follow her here