After several weekends of pointless household chores, a thoughtful essay by Karuna Ezara Parikh, and on the other side of the twenties, I realize how our mothers chose us.
The previous time I visited my hometown, it was a weekend but my mother was not at home. She was working on a weekend. Earlier, while going back home from college, my mother would be ready with my favorite dishes, neighborhood gossip, and the usual yet inevitable anxiety of whether I have eaten. This time she wasn’t there. Her duty demanded her attendance.
I reach home to a refrigerator full of food, the wardrobe full of sparkling clothes, the cupboard full of household essentials, and a batman pen with four ink cartridges. But there was no Ma at home. I can’t deny that I was a bit disappointed. She has never been absent to her children’s arrival. Ma has always been there.
At the age of 15, Ma chose to tutor to support herself. At 18, she chose to study humanities as it was the most economical option for a family of seven. At 22, she chose a government job to be forever independent and fend for herself. From the age of 25, she chose me and my brother, and since then she has always done so.
She would juggle a job, a joint family, two pesky little kids, household chores and still manage to remember to bring something home while returning from work. She knew that I would be waiting for her and just as she would enter, I’d ask, “Ma, aajke ki enecho?”. My mother always had a response to that.
Ma chose to learn to cook after her marriage and feed a fussy little vegetarian kid accidentally born in a Muslim family. She learned to make the best rotis simultaneously helping us with our homework. I believe it was a conscious yet involuntary decision that Ma chose all of these and all of us. But when did she choose herself? I didn’t know.
I admit I was surprised to not find her at home yet like every time Ma waited for us, I waited for her to have lunch together. She came after half a day’s work and I hugged her drowsily. In that very moment of my mother mumbling something about my bones and me hugging her tighter, I realized that she now chooses herself and I was glad.
After 50 odd years, Ma is finally worth her own time. Just as all of us have moved out in search for a life that we want, she has finally found time for herself. For my mother, I feel it’s her work that makes her. From the first day that I have known her to this day, she has the same dedication to her job. That weekend of her absence at home was one such commitment.
While growing up, I realized that Sahida must be more than just my mother. She is – beyond our lunchboxes, braided hair, songs in her lap, and tight slaps. She is her affinity for Sandesh, reminiscence of her thick and long braids, love for Md. Rafi’s melodies, and the exasperation of juggling innumerable jobs. Ma is the struggle for excellence, her love for the color green, her giggles especially reserved for Shammi Kapoor, her poise, and her beauty.
A woman, once a mother, remains to be so forever. I wonder why she needs to reach midlife to be recognized for who she really is. I am late in doing so but still…
This is Sahida.
Make me feel a bit proud today. Tell me that I look like her.