Saturday, May 7, 2011

Conversations with my Mother

In India, we believe in what the Vedas say: "Maathru devo bhava, Pithru devo bhava, Acharya devo bhava, Athithi devo bhava." Mother comes first, before the Father or the Teacher or the Guest. 

At the cost of sounding like a spoil sport, let me confess that I don't believe in "Happy Mother's Day" that is being celebrated today.  Indian culture, since time immemorial, has always revered and given the mother a sacred place of importance. However, the society forgets it conveniently whenever it suits the occasion, and therefore, a day is dedicated to total lip service and giving of cards. Traditionally, we in India show love and respect to our mothers most of the time.

What a Paradox! Mothers in India have no right to name their children!

Yet in practice, mothers cannot name their children. For all important occasions, they are given the step motherly treatment by the orthodox society. They cannot take part in traditional ceremonies of their children. 

For example, Mothers cannot introduce 'vidya' or knowledge to their children through the traditional 'ezhuthinirippu' or holy writing ceremony. I don't have a problem with fathers playing a dominant role in the family because I grew up in a conservative Menon family, where men are the decision makers, and the women play a supportive role.

Vedas say 'Matru devoh bhava but women kept at a distance from Vedic Rites

However, I have always felt that ceremonies that keep mothers at a distance is grossly unfair and unjust. If the Vedas say Mathru Devo Bhava, why do the priests not let mothers take part in ceremonies? Because these practices are man-made. They have self-interest and jobs to keep or safeguard. Even today, a woman, even if she is more well versed in the Vedas, is not accepted good enough to be a priest. She is not considered 'pure.' Crap. 

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba angered the orthodox Hindu community by:
  1. Stating that it is the mother who has the right to initiate the child during such ceremonies. 
  2. Indian women have every right to conduct spiritual ceremonies for the welfare of their children. He says that mothers' blessings are pure, unconditional and equivalent to the grace of God. 
  3. The mother is equivalent to God and the society cannot take away her importance in her child's life on such auspicious occasions.
In Prashanti Nilayam, He established that no naming or writing ceremony, or any traditional ceremony wherein the mother is kept aside will be conducted. Such a ceremony has no meaning unless the mother is made a part of it. 

An Indian Woman's Life: Before Marriage, After Marriage
My mother, traditional and quiet though she is, has played a pivotal role in my life. Before she got married, she didn' t believe in God. She used to be a very hot tempered person, who wore very fashionable clothes and had everything done exactly the way she wanted to.  If anyone tried to correct her, well, she gave them a piece of her mind! She never minced words.

Her family says that she never missed a fashion trend. She had short, bobbed hair, and she wore make-up, sleeveless clothes, got gold jewelry made whenever a design caught her fancy, never thought about cutting expenses and so on. 

When she got married, she says that her priorities completely changed. My father never asked her to change but seeing that he had traditional beliefs and led a traditional life, she changed her way of life and conduct to blend in with his. But the thing is, it was her conscious choice!

During the early years and during the years when we were growing up, my mother never spent money for herself. Understanding came first, adjustment came later.  She saw happiness in his happiness - something that she is steadfast about even today. 

When her daughters got married, her advice was simply this:

1. The family's welfare should come first.

2. Parents are always there for you but we don't want to let you use us a sounding board whenever you have a tiff.  Your father and I had many ups and downs. I never complained to my mother because I believe I have to work on it, not my mother. If we do that, we are likely to end up fighting in public for the silliest reasons. 

3. Marriage is very sacred and it is for life. When you unnecessarily involve others in your disagreements and ask their opinions, it will bring heated exchanges, it will ruin relationships and bring down trust between the husband and wife. 

My mom has kept her word to this day. She has never asked me unnecessary questions, probed into my life or my sister's or asked or intervened to give advice about our marriages. or how we should do things or manage relationships. I really respect her for that because very few mothers can do it with true conviction.  

I asked her, "You used to be so hot tempered. How is it that you are so calm now?"


She says that it comes with an awareness that you are not in your own family to show your tantrums. You are in the family of your loved one. If you have that awareness, you will learn to be calm because if you lose your temper, you also hurt the person you love. It's that simple for her.

Once I asked her for whom she has made more adjustments, for her husband or for her children, and whether she felt she was losing her 'individuality'.

This is what she said to me, "I am not a modern woman in that sense. For me, my husband is my god. Even when I want to choose something to wear, I ask him. I never asked anyone 's opinion before marriage. For me, my husband is my happiness. If he doesn't like what I cook or what I wear, what's the point of having 'individuality'? If I cannot contribute to this family's peace of mind and happiness, what's the rationale? That is what we, as women, must first understand and accept. Together, as husband and wife, we make joint decisions and make  sacrifices for the welfare of our children." 

She says that in all these years, she has never asked my father for a birthday present or a wedding anniversary gift or a dinner out or anything of the sort. When asked why, she told me, "This may sound boring to you but it is the truth. These are all external things that cannot make you happy forever in any marriage. A marriage that has a strong foundation doesn't need it. The real things that matter are the little sacrifices you make for each other in daily life. That's what one remembers and recalls in the end."



I think that's the best advice that every mother should give her daughter. And trust me, only a mom can be as loving and firm in saying this.

There's no other way to say this but plainly and sincerely, I love you, Mummy,for the person you are and the values you taught us. Mummy, I may not agree with all of your traditional views on marriage and motherhood but I LOVE you for everything you taught us by leading a life of grace and simplicity. 

5 comments:

KARTHI said...

LUV this post chechi :)

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Thanks Karthi!!!

Asha said...

awesome post, swapna! Firstly even I don't beleive in mother's day. I find this day is more for the westerners where they leave their nest early and one day return to show their love for their mothers and a good marketing tactic of greeting card companies.
secondly when you have maturity and good understanding, gifts are irrelevant. Thirdly my mom too does'nt interfere like your mom. if more moms were like this many marriages can be saved.

Sorry for the rather long comment. I so much liked this post.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Loved your long comment, Asha. Glad to have some one who shares the same thoughts as I do.

True, Asha,I agree with you. If moms left their daughters to manage and make responsible decisions in their lives, so many marriages could have been saved. Nowadays, we can see for ourselves how mothers themselves are becoming ego catalysts in interfering in their daughters' lives and unknowingly causing havoc in the marital relationship. The increasing number of divorces cannot be blamed on mothers alone but they play a pivotal role in not doing something to prevent it.

R. Ramesh said...

nanri swapna ji

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