The first person I wanted to call when I felt my world crumbling around me, was my mom. I had a great career which I had lost interest in. I had a super marriage and had today discovered that my husband had been cheating on me for the last two years. And who did I want to call? Mrs Alka Shrivastav. The woman, I had hated most of my adult life. Who I hadn’t spoken to for the last two years. It just didn’t make sense. This wasn’t even a situation I could blame her for, or could I?
When I was a teenager, like most of my friends I hated parental control. I rebelled against every rule, I had brilliant grades in school so dad had no issues. Yet mom found fault with me all the time. If bhaiyya and I made the same mistake, I would be yelled at and he’d be forgiven. Her double standards got to me. What made things worse was that my best friend’s mom was so cool and went dancing with us. All my mom did was look sad and scared.
When she made feeble attempts at speaking in English or cooking Chinese food I cringed in embarrassment. I didn’t go out with her any longer and didn’t get friends home. They drooled over her cooking so I made her cook and took food to my friend’s homes.
When I started working I did feel awful about the way I had behaved and for a short while I did work on our fractured relationship. It helped that she was so proud of my achievements as a journalist. She kept every newspaper article I wrote, told everyone about the sarees I got her. I noticed that the only time she smiled in the day was when she opened the morning papers and saw my byline. In a rare moment of togetherness she confessed that it had been her dream to be a journalist. To her credit, she never pushed me to take to writing, it was something I wanted to do.
Yet once I got promoted and busier, we started having problems again. She didn’t approve of my timings, friends, haircut, clothes and the fact that I was now openly smoking. The same oft repeated lectures of how women have to know their limits and adjust. It made my blood boil. Finally I one day asked her what she had achieved by adjusting so much? I knew my father had not been loyal to her, I knew that we kids weren’t exactly proud of her and that she had no time or resources to do what she felt like. For heaven’s sake she couldn’t even go to see her sister whenever she felt like.
The fact that I was a splitting image of my mother, made matters worst. I dreaded inheriting her personality too. I refused to do anything she wanted me to, even if it was good for me. Till date, I don’t eat fruits because she used to insist I eat them. She started showing me pictures of prospective boys and I would tear each one without looking. The same drone about adjustment would come up. The more I read, the more I was convinced that she was jealous of me.
When I met Ronak and we fell in love, I told papa and bhaiyya, not her. When we decided to get married she still got excited and ensured I had a picture perfect wedding. Yet when she again suggested I live with my in-laws and adjust, rather than rent our own place, I lost it. I yelled and said awful things. I refused to speak to her again. We moved to Bombay so I didn’t need to meet her.
Yet today when I was at my lowest I yearned for my mother’s lap and hesitatingly I called her. She sensed that something was amiss before I said a word. I broke down and told her what Ronak had done. She was silent when I wanted her to talk. After what seemed like eternity she only said, “Sunaina, please don’t adjust this time. Don’t make the mistake I did....”