It was an afternoon in June when the little child of six got her first Class Monitor badge. It was a proud moment for all parties concerned, but for some members of the extended family, the time of reckoning had arrived.
“What have you decided?” They questioned her mother over large sips of tea. “Will you choose your career or your daughter?”
In their opinion, this was the ultimate choice and the home-truth all women needed to face. Eventually, the mother chose neither. She decided to grow up again with her daughter, while pursuing a very busy career as a teacher, dietician and health expert for the little one, all at once. It wasn’t a loss, or a compromise, to have given up her corporate career. She had decided to do so for greedy reasons. For the peace she felt singing her daughter a bedtime song. For the gratification she received in teaching her daughter the essential lessons of life.
The daughter grew up to be a child prodigy and an angel of sorts. (There are times when you absolutely need to trust your narrator.) Aside from her mother, the grandparents had a lot to do with it. The reality of the grandparents, however, lent to sections of society another interesting subject to talk about.
“I thought they were your husband’s parents!” The tea party conversation would begin. “He loves them like his own.” Her mother would smile.
The mother, the only child of aging parents, had chosen to live in the house she grew up, together with a husband who understood this perfectly. “Shouldn’t you live in a house of your own?” She had chosen not to. Though, true to tradition, she had moved to her husband’s place after marriage, he had eventually been transferred to her hometown. They saw this as a perfect opportunity to let their daughter grow up amidst the grand love that only grandparents can provide.
With time, the mother and daughter grew to share the birdsong on monsoonal mornings, the chill in the first flush of winter. They walked with the sun to new places, to see new celebrations. She taught her daughter the importance of travelling. They read to broaden their perspective, and she jumped with glee when books arrived on Mothers’ Day. She didn’t choose between the colours of the rainbow which was sometimes visible from their terrace. It was a better proposition, she figured, to bring them all alive within people around her.
A couple of years ago, the mother had taken fiercely ill. Onlookers had expected her to choose between bedrest and misery. After all, there was only so much that the womankind, fragile and weak, could take. Instead, she had taken charge of her life and chosen to shower her family with the love of a lifetime. She shared with her daughter moments that can never be forgotten, and protected her husband from pain by promising she would never leave his heart.
We still hum the birdsong together, these winter mornings. The koel’s melody, the confidence of the crow – you name it. My mother and I then become the voice of the wind, the thought by the window, the aroma of a new day. To me, she is all that and more, receptive to the world but not affected by it, attuned only to her heart and the people in it.
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