Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
I noticed a mother-daughter duo at a mall recently and was amazed. Apart from their similar features they were both friendly, smart and well-mannered.
The mother had a well-toned body and had teamed up her jeans and white shirt with kitten heels. Her sleeves were folded till her elbows and she wore a watch and silver bracelet on her hands. She looked so young. I loved her look. It was simple yet elegant. The daughter too wore a pair of distressed jeans, sneakers and white t-shirt with upturned sleeve edges. A small tattoo played peekaboo on her right shoulder.
I was in complete awe and kept staring perhaps, to the point of being obnoxious! I couldn’t help it and followed them around as they shopped for clothes and lingerie. I saw them pick out their choices, show each other, comment and share opinions, and even go to the changing rooms together. They looked happy with their purchases. Then they bought ice-cream and strolled out of the mall.
I truly enjoyed watching their girly behaviour. I could feel the togetherness and comfort. Even after they were gone I couldn’t get them off my mind. I suppose what I was hoping for was that someday, this would be my future too. Someday my daughter and I would share the same relationship. My daughter looks like me although some people feel she looks like her father (whatever that means!!!) Anyway, that’s beside the point. We too could do things together, chat and share opinions, be friends. I thought about our wardrobe and how we could mix and match or coordinate our looks so we too would look like this mother-daughter duo. I spent the day in this happy thought.
That night, I saw an advert on television which defined a mother’s role as -
Mera vada hain mere bachoo se (This is my promise to my children)
Mein tumhari dost nahin, tumhari ma hoon (I’m not your friend, I’m your mother)
Tum par nazar rakhungi (I’ll keep a watch on you)
Behas karoongi (Argue with you)
Datoongi (Scold you)
Aur zarurat pare to tumhe dhundh nikalongi (And if need be, I will find you)
Kyonki mein tumse pyar karti hoon (Because I love you)
Aur mujshe zyada dhyan rakhne wala, tumhe koi aur nahin milega (and other than me, you won’t ever find another person who will take such care of you)
It made me sit up and think. Slowly the mother in me broke out of the morning image. Was the mother-daughter duo really as cool as I had made them out to be? Much like our everyday motherhood experiences, was this just a good day when all had gone well? Had they noticed the look of awe on my face as I followed them around? Did I make them feel uncomfortable or did they bask in the attention? Had I detected a slight competitiveness as they selected clothes and bought lacy lingerie?
Did the daughter ever feel overshadowed by her mother? Did she like people complimenting her mother about how young she looked or how they didn’t look like mother and daughter? Did her mother always steal her limelight? Did she feel her presence, even in her absence? When people referred to her mother as ‘cool’ did it make her angry or feel a tinge of jealousy? Did she ever want her mother to be just like other mothers?
What about the mother? Did she really feel as young as her daughter or was there an underlying pressure? Did it help to understand her daughter better when she behaved like her? Was she proud that her daughter wasn’t ashamed to show her off? Isn’t being young at heart and playing young two different things?
I was reminded of the movie Freaky Friday where an estranged mother-daughter duo swapped bodies for a day. Walking in each other’s shoes gave them a better understanding of their personal struggles. The anger and frustration they felt slowly led to feelings of empathy and eventually they bonded again. They realised how much they had misjudged each other and saw their true value when faced with battles they were clueless about.
And then looking at my daughter playing, the realisation dawned that I’m my daughter’s mother! I could be her friend if need be but my primary responsibility was to be her mother. Nothing could ever take that away. I had to give her the space and personal choices to become the person she’s meant to be while being there to guide her, support her and give her strength.
Simultaneously, I had to allow myself the freedom to go through each phase of her life being comfortable in my own skin and happy for being her mother.