From Ma, With Love is a campaign celebrating recollections of feminist tales and lessons, passed down to us by our mothers, this Mother’s Day. The first edition of this compilation has 16 heartwarming stories. ‘In Praise Of’ by Ayushi Mona is the seventh story in this series. You can download the entire publication here.
“Mom, quick, what are lessons that you have taught me?”
“Yeh kaisa question hai?” (What kind of question is this?)
“I want you to list some important things that you’ve taught me.”
“Ok, drink water on an empty stomach.”
“Uff, nahi, something more philosophical.”
“Be beautiful and smart.”
“Nahi, think of something feminist, na.”
“Matlab?” (What does that mean?)
“Something about being independent and equal.”
“You are already independent – uff, I don’t know – I am going.”
My mother is the mistress of many trades, but not really a weaver of words. Where a paragraph is needed, she sometimes uses a word or a glance. Eloquence and the ability to say what the other really wants to hear is not something that my mother particularly cares about. She treasures these qualities in others but doesn’t express herself in words, too often.
My mother has taught me all I know. As a single parent, she has been both my mother and my father. She has taught me that all times pass — the good and the bad. My mother can gut a fish, fix a lightbulb, unclog a drain, tie a saree, type at a crazy pace and work with the kind of brutal efficiency that CEOs would envy. When the men I have been around call me intimidating because I work like this, I chuckle to myself.
I now know why my mother couldn’t list what her feminist teachings to me were. Because she’s never been attached to terms. She taught me independence by living independently, love by loving me always, confidence by never backing down. She let me find my way from a young age and let my own experiences teach me.
This is not to say that my mother is a hallmark card, uni-dimensional version of a superhuman. She’s not. She’s human. She’s fallible. She makes mistakes. She sees my mistakes. She calls them out. Life is probably tougher on tough people, testing them to see if their spirit will soar or crumble.
My mother always flies, she can break the shackles of anguish and emerge stronger. She can out-cuss ill-tempered drivers on a highway in the throes of road-rage. She can cut anyone to pieces when they deserve it. My mother is not lily-livered. She’s a fierce, strong woman. She’s not apologetic. She will not be.
My mother rolls chapatis with the same ease that she lifts boxes. She coos at babies with the same gentility with which she looks at the world. She can be fierce, coy and demanding, gorgeously beautiful and endearingly shy. Most of all, she has never been who the world wants her to be.
She can wear a skirt at a wedding and a saree in the hills.
My mother’s lessons include: be careful of strangers, never be too trustful of friends, give your heart away, only gradually, do not drink water while standing up, use fewer cosmetics. My mother reprimands a lot, reminds a lot more.
Living this life with her for 25 years has been a lesson in itself.
I want to be free, but patriarchy and capitalism tether me!
Pride with OFC, 2022
Who decides what queerness looks like?