I called up my mother at 12 midnight (IST) today. She was in deep sleep and mumbled a few words that basically meant, “come back later”. But, I am a stubborn individual when it comes to the need for conversation and I said emphatically to her, “no I think we must talk today”. She woke up realizing that it was important and told me, “the last time you woke me up was when you wanted to get married. So what is it tonight? Tell me”. I could hear her switching on the lights of her bedroom.
Before I narrate the conversation, just a prelude to the nature of my conversation with my mother. From my childhood, I have been usually very scared of waking my mother up . Her afternoon siesta’s were always a guarded space and she would not like any one (including her children) to disturb her during that one hour. In my high school years, I would laugh and tell friends that I often picture a lioness sleeping when I see my mother during her afternoon siesta. Basically, we learnt very early in our lives to be guarded against disturbing our mother or transgress her personal space when she was sleeping or working on something. I was especially very peevish! As we grew up, we kept the tradition alive of not waking her up or disturbing her during her work hours. However, the lioness in her has long since vanished. The conversation that we have/had as mother-daughter were very different than the usual conversations which I have observed between my mother and her mother and many others. I would usually talk for long hours with her only when I was in trouble, or when I had an important announcement to make, or when I needed professional advice. Our conversations would otherwise be limited to things that I might need in the hostel, work related discussions, or people who needed our help in some ways. We never discussed people and their nature, property, dresses or jewelry, because these did not interest us much. I would wear anything that was brought for me and I really had no choices or judgments regarding people. I found everyone “nice” , and if I asked, she would hardly share any opinion about a person. Perhaps, she wanted us to figure out people and the world on our own.
But, invariably I would approach my mother whenever I was in trouble or whenever I needed to take a decision in life.
Here is the excerpt of my conversation with her tonight. Though it is a private conversation, I thought of sharing it because it might be of interest to people who are struggling or are at a crossroad of life.
Me: Ma, I want to ask you something.
Ma: Yes, tell me.
Me: What would you say if I shifted out of the country forever? What if I moved to the United States forever? Life here seems to be good. People are nice to me and I think my work is better appreciated here.
Ma: It is your choice. But what about your students? Your work here and your plans and projects? What about your family commitments?
Me: I don’t have any commitment and no one has any commitment towards me. I am not sure if anyone will ever recognize my efforts, my work. I might die trying to prove myself and not be recognized by anyone.
Ma: But I do recognize your work and so does your father. How many more would you need? But, I am coming to know one thing about my daughter. She is shying away from work and shying from people and commitments because she needs recognition. That is news to me as a mother.
Me: Alright. If you recognize me, I will come back. I am not work shy nor am I running away from people. I just feel lost, nameless, misunderstood, lacking credibility, just a face in the crowd. That scares me sometimes.
Ma: If you can work for long by remaining nameless, faceless, and unrecognized, it will be the toughest and perhaps a very important achievement. To work well while remaining ordinary, is a tough decision. Have you seen our electricians and plumbers? We cannot live without them, yet no one gives them Nobel prizes.
Me: Okay. Got the point. What if someday I come to you and say that you have given me enough, I have given you back enough. You have given me your property, your money, good education and I have given you love, respect and kindness in return. Now our deal is done. You go your way and I go mine.
Ma (her voice choked): I might die of shock that day. This is something which I would never expect you to say.
Me: Do not worry. I will never say that and give you heart-attacks. I got the answers to my questions. Thanks a lot. Go back to sleep.
Ma: Promise me, you will never say the words you just spoke to me, ever to your father at any point of your life.
Me: I promise.
She was awake for the rest of the night.