On Being A Mother And A Woman , In That Order


“If you don’t like where you are in life, there comes a point when you must give up the part of you that’s keeping you back.” –Dr. Sonya Friedman Best friends- mother and son Kid 2 embarked on a new adventure in his life today. It gives me immense pride to see my little boy begin his college life. Till the time children are in school we usually consider them as kiddos and then in a blink of an eye  they grow up.  Since last few years I saw the handsome lad mature into a responsible, thinking young man. Something that happened too quickly in the case of my first-born. The kid grew up too soon. That’s another story most of you know by now. It is hard to be a mother and harder  to be a woman at the same time. Why am I reversing the order? Because that is how I want you to look at it for now. I had thought I will never bring up this subject again but things don’t always go the way you want them to go.

Once a female child is born, she  immediately sides into the role assigned to her by the society – of a daughter, sister, wife, mother so on and so forth. The first robe of role-playing that the baby girl is wrapped in grows with her infant body, taking her through the long tedious  journey into womanhood. Somewhere she shrinks into nothingness and all one can see is the role she is playing at a particular stage in her life. Am I being too bitter and judgmental? Maybe, but this is how I see an average woman’s life especially in my country. So what happens when this infant begins to acquire a mind of her own, when her body begins to stir  and revolt under all those layers of responsibilities etc? What happens when she finds she has a voice? What happens when at some point of time in her life she throws away those cumbersome layers that draped her individuality and breaks free? She is condemned for life. She is called names. She is looked down upon and  society begins to foam at mouth and picks up weapons of filth to fling at her. Thinking for oneself is not acceptable. How can a woman think for herself? Who is she anyway? Some women disagree and step out of their “boundaries” their “line of control” irrespective of  the repercussions that would follow. Some “adjust” and ” compromise” for various reasons and stay confined within the four walls of their “home”.  Consumed by the fire that burns in them.

In a society where maternal love is revered it is difficult to digest the fact that a mother can walk out of  a bad marriage leaving her children behind. Men do it all the time but women are judged harshly. They are called “cold-blooded” “inadequate” “shameless”. How can a mother leave her children? It is sacrilegious. Taboo. “What kind of mother are you?” Someone asked when I said my boys stay with their father and I have been away from them since last two years. “You abandoned them?” Pat came another question and by this time I was beginning to feel guilty again for the umpteenth time since I crossed that threshold of the house I lived in with my kids, husband and in-laws.

“No, I did not abandon them. (The word is very upsetting ) I see them regularly, talk to them almost daily. They come and stay over at my place. We are closer than ever before.. I think so..” my voice began to fail me here. Leaving your marriage is the biggest challenge one faces in life. For twenty years I stayed in an unfulfilled marriage not knowing which way to go. I was economically dependent and had no confidence to break away and start all over again. The boys were small and needed me. I wanted to stay with them, watch them grow, give them all the love and support they needed from a parent, be their friend, be there when they needed me. I did that as best I could but then something snapped within one day. I had to take the hardest decision of my life. To stay in the marriage which had lost its meaning or walk away. Choice 2 meant leaving the boys behind. At that moment I did what I felt was right. I left. I broke the news to my sons (15&19 at that time) and hoped they would understand. I believed they did. convinced myself. They put up a brave front and stood side by side with me but the sound of their hearts crushing into trillions of pieces shot through me like a comet leaving me throbbing with unsaid hurt and a permanent feeling of  guilt. Still somehow I could not bring them to stay with me nor could I go to live with them. We had to part to discover each other. The fact that I did not ever feel guilty enough to reverse my decision made things worse. In the eyes of others it was “cruel” in plain and simple words. I often talked with my boys about it and knew how difficult it was for them to show support for my action when inside they were hurting. No child can be happy in such circumstances but I often wonder if they were growing up as happy kids in the kind of environment they were living in. What changed by my leaving? The house was same, people were same, it was same shit they were facing anyway and now without my support. It was worse or was it? Only they can tell.

I have heard people whisper “All that fight for dignity and respectful living is fine and dandy but how could she do this? I could never leave my babies at any cost.” Well, it is what it is. I left at a time I believed they would understand my action. I am sure they did or they would not have had anything to do with me. The fact that we are still together no matter where we are speaks volumes. Some day I would want to know honestly what went through their minds but till then i am not assuming. There are times when I ache for togetherness. It is a lonely battle one has to fight if one chooses to break the norms. I began to start afresh, learned to be financially independent, though still legally married and still dependent on my mom and brother as I stay in their home, I am finally able to choose what I want to do with my life , with myself. Sometimes it feels like a bigger trap , more space but still a sand box. It is fine till the time I play inside it, stepping out isn’t an option but for now I am good with it. At least I am breathing without ventilator.

It is unfortunate and very tragic how the course of events in one’s life can affect children. They do bounce back and begin to live a normal life but somewhere the heart longs for the times spent together. It is the same with parents. I won’t say its just the mothers who go through this, fathers too suffer. I told myself over and over that kids need love and support and don’t want someone to fight their battles that they do on their own. They chart their own paths. One just needs to be there to encourage and give them that opportunity to grow and expand their horizons. It doesn’t matter if that’s done living together or elsewhere. I have been there for my boys no matter what  and whenever they needed me but today somehow the deluge was too much to contain. Caught between rock and hard surface I sat here in my room getting updated on the progress of how things were shaping up as Kid 2 prepared to leave to other city to join the college. An important mile stone in his life. I wasn’t there in the last two important years of his school life and the fact that I could not give him a proper hug and wish him luck by physically being there broke me completely. Some emotions are private and I cried my heart out into the pillow. For the first time I longed for two strong arms around me. A shoulder to keep my head on and just pour it all out. We weren’t engineered for being lonely. It is tough at times especially when you are mushy and a sucker for love.

The sun is about to set in my city and soon the night will come bringing another rush of memories. Memories of all that I lost and found in my struggle to juggle various roles as a woman and somewhere I would stand and watch myself , the “me” that is now and wonder was it worth it ? I don’t know what the answer will be today but most of the day it is “YES”. Even with this burden of gratitude I am carrying of being “taken back in the fold of my maternal home”. Even with the knowledge that I owe my “independence – economical and otherwise” to someone without whom it would have been a different story all together. Even though it is a bumpy, uphill task to live day-to-day and struggle to keep my voice strong It is Worth every bit of it. I will miss our weekly meetings, fun and laughter, cooking especially for him, hanging out in favorite joints but we will be connected none the less. he didn’t meet as often as Kid 1 but his absence will be strongly felt.

This is the second time the brothers are being separated. Earlier it was when I had to send Kid 1 to he boarding school. Another hard decision I would have preferred not to take. I know they will miss each other more than anything. One day each one has to take their own path and go in different directions, the hearts say connected none the less. I know my boys will understand and not judge me harshly. I know they will treat the women in their lives and for that matter any woman anywhere with the respect they deserve. I know things will not stay the same.  I know that wherever we go we will never be far away. The love and friendship we share will strengthen with time and we will always be able to float above the so-called ” social norms and code of conduct”. I wish my boy all the very best in life and success in the path he chosen. I am there for him always in any way he wants. I have a lot to say to the elder one and some day we will sit down , just the two of us, and talk to each other as two friends should but till then I just want to say I am a very proud and happy mother. Thank you for being in my live and enriching it. You guys are the best friends I have .

Stay strong , Stay Focused. Love you. please excuse the typos and random flow of thoughts.   Republished on BellBajao Blog 

UPDATE – It has been eight years now and I have no financial stability, very little saving, no job and my search for a ‘home’ continues. Natal home is not where I want live for my remaining life. It is a burden too heavy to carry.  Not having a steady income and healthy issues among other things have tightened the noose around my neck but I am striving hard to find a way out. This post may have shades of sentimentality but I am wiser now and perhaps a fresh post is needed. Some day I will get down to write it.

Rakshabandhan – I can do without both “raksha” and “bandhan”


Sacrilege is it?  Well , so be it.

I have never liked this concept of tying a thread for protection and there are many there are many other ways to express the love. The bond of love sounds like a business deal to me. The festival may have religious and  traditional significance in the past but in today’s age it nothing but a commercial activity.

Why do we need men to do our “raksha” (protection) ? I don’t need one. I have never relied on any man for protection. We were not brought up that way. For us the sibling affection, caring and love was and is a continuous  process not limited to a day. We never bartered a fancy thread for money and gift and an unsigned bond of protection from the brother.

Emotionally and mentally women are stronger than men and many a time these brothers need our “protection” than the reverse. It is time they tied the “sacred thread” if at all on the wrists on their capable strong sisters.

I understand that these festivals are normally times for all to get together and relax and I am not against that.

What irks me is the attitude of certain brothers towards their sisters when it comes to their freedom, freedom to think and make choices for their lives etc. It is actually more of a man – woman thing than sibling attitude. In the name of protection and family honor this “bandhan” becomes “bondage” instead of “bond” .  I never liked the word “bandhan” in any of its forms. There should be fluidity in a relationship I believe.

The protective big brothers smother the sisters by pushing them towards so-called socially “accepted and expected” norms . One can really do without this. We don’t need a gate-keeper, Do we ? All their lives girls face barriers and restrictions and many brothers just do not let the sisters decide for themselves. I find this contradictory that on one hand they check the very essence of the lives of their sisters on the pretext of protection and honor and on the other want them to follow tradition and worship them. Yes it is a kind of  ” male worship” in my opinion. Many brothers feel empathetic towards their sisters are  moved and driven to make a better life for the girls but  then it is an assurance that comes from an inner awakening and not by tying a thread. I have seen this in my relationship with bhai. We never celebrated rakshabandhan but there was always an unsaid undeclared understanding, respect and love between us , still is.

News like this  LINK   and this LINK  show how much brothers honor their sisters. To these brothers so-called ” family honor ” is much more important than the life of the sister who had been lovingly tying the ” thread of protection” on her brother’s wrist hoping that he will stand by her  through thick and thin. I find it meaningless to submit oneself in hands of someone be it the sibling.

It hurts me when I see my domestic help’s daughter getting a second-hand treatment from the family when it comes to choosing between her and the brothers. The boys, who aren’t very old, maybe 10-14 , believe that they are superior to the sister and have the unsaid right to dominate her. They get the best of food, clothes and unrestricted freedom which is completely denied to the sister and they approve of it by putting it under the cover of “protection and honor”. How pathetic is that.

Even in the so-called educated families I have seen the underlying partial attitude. The festival of Rakshbandhan is just another way to flaunt money, jewelry, a glam show.

In the society where relationships and in fact human life is losing its value these festivals seem like a ritualistic show to me.

I also think about all those girls whose lives were cut short before they could blossom. Killed at birth or in the womb itself. Those sisters who never saw the light of the day. Who stood for their protection?

I also hate this “muh bola bhai” thing which has come up in recent years. It also may have some past references in the mythology and history but in these times it is just a façade.

I don’t want to pass judgement on anyone or hurt sentiments. This is my personal view.

I feel the sisters would certainly feel more proud of their brothers if they stood side by side and considered them their equals. If they voiced their anger against the unjust traditions and customs, if they considered them as human as they are. It should not be a one day program.

I don’t wish to sound cynical but this whole business of rituals and religion and the paraphernalia attached to it irks me.

I feel in a country where female infanticide, honor killing, sexual and other kind of abuse, rape and molestation is rampant , where women are treated as sub humans and inferior such festivals do not hold any meaning.

I have been an atheist all my life and never followed these rituals and I feel good that my parents and brother encouraged me to  fight my own battles, to speak for myself, assert my individuality and un-warp my dreams and realize them.  Helped me become a better human being, a much more confident woman and a responsible person .

I think I have a stronger “bond ”  with my brother without the crutches of these “threads” called “rakhi”  and we feel no “bandhan” between us. Ours is a luminous lucid relationship. That’s how it should be.