Matru Devo Bhava (Mother is God)—Taittiriya Upanishad
The glorification of parents is a distinctly Indian trait.
Our mythological epics abound with devotion to the Mother—Rama embarks on vanvaas to fulfil Kaikayi's promise, Ganesha fights Shiva on Parvati's command, the Pandavas share Draupadi to uphold Kunti's word.
Whether it is Mother India, Deewar, or Karan-Arjun—we put the "ma" in "cinema".
Our films use the Mother to squeeze emotions from our gullible hearts—whether it is Mother India, Deewar, or Karan-Arjun—we put the "ma" in "cinema". Our literatures praise the Mother, our swearwords reference her. From our scriptures to our school essays, the image of the Mother as the compassionate, sacrificing, loving one has endured for centuries.
Fact: Indian societies—for all their positives and negatives—are among the cruellest to wives and mothers. The Indian mother has to live with strangers, serve her in-laws like her own parents, take on the onus of raising the child, and will be blamed if the child grows up to be a psychopath.
Maa ka pyaar, mixed with maa ka doodh, has been the founding force of our civilisation for hundreds of years now. You have to wake up before everybody else, eat after the rest are done, and remember to switch off the lights before sleeping.
Our advertisements have smiling women who take care of children's sampoorn-poshan, cook healthy for the working husband who wears formals at home, buy the best sanitary napkins for un dinon ke liye, and still look slim and pretty like a Santoor mummy! The pressure to be the perfect mother is enormous.
So enduring is our image of the caring mother, that never in Indian cinema will you see an irresponsible mother. Irresponsible fathers are a dime a dozen—the alcoholic, the stubborn, the stern—but if a mother has to be evil, she has to be the step mother.
And yet, the image of the all-caring mother comes with its own set of problems.
Becoming a mother cannot be the sole focus of any person on earth. And yet we attach the tag of the mother on every woman in India.
Perhaps my understanding of mothers comes from my own. My parents split when I was young, and my mother brought us up. She worked, fed us, paid for our education till we ventured to find jobs.
However, she was far from perfect. Her ideas of the world, right and wrong, dos and don'ts, were problematic. They brought us a lot of pain, and drove us all apart. And yet, it took me 30 years to be able to see it in perspective. I realised I was judging her on the basis of the world's standards of the ideal mother. She didn't need to be a great mother—it was the baggage of the perfect mother I was carrying all along.
I realised I was judging [my mother] on the basis of the world's standards of the ideal mother.
Mother's Day is a farce propagated by greeting card companies and social media marketeers. The truth is, behind every great mother, there are tons of unfulfilled dreams, personal ambitions squashed, and compromises made. She was a woman long before she became your mother.
By celebrating this one aspect of her, you are probably propagating a digital version of "Matru Devo Bhava." And also, you are ignoring the millions of women who choose not to become mothers. And have to go about explaining their choice as if they robbed the evening branch of Bank of Baroda.
Most Indian parents fulfil their own dreams through their children. Walk into any engineering college today, and you'll find unfulfilled parental dreams walking about with laptops in their bags. Your parents in general, and your mother in particular might be carrying ancient ideas about society, morality, sexuality and caste.
Speak to your mother. Challenge her ideas of the world, speak to her about the world you live in.
I'm sorry to break this to you. But your mom is not the greatest mother in the world.
But that's the thing. She doesn't need to be!