From Ma, With Love #8 | Mother of Dragons, Consumer of Cat Videos
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. ‘Mother of Dragons, Consumer of Cat Videos’ by Abhay Gupta is the eighth story in this series. You can download the entire publication here.
I’m often told I’m a lot like my mother and it’s true. I reckon a lot of my best traits (and worst ones, don’t tell her!) are because of her overwhelming influence in my life. This wasn’t obvious to me until I spent more time interacting and engaging with different households – those of my friends, cousins, colleagues, clients. I guess you only know your world is different when you look outside of it.
My mother is a very independent woman, even when the strongest female influences in her life would have chosen otherwise. She worked her way through innumerable struggles and responsibilities to build her career in hospital management and carved out a reputation as one of the few superstar consultants in India’s medical industry. I’ve always found it cool that doctors diagnose people and make them healthier, but my mother diagnoses hospitals and makes them healthier. She showed me that ladder-climbing only works if you’re suited for it and routes alternative to that can be just as lucrative and fulfilling.
She and my father have always had a peculiar dynamic. They’re alike in many ways – wildly charismatic, experimental, open to unconventionality – but their differences have always fascinated me. My dad’s personality has sprinkles of universal appeal but my mother is so magnetic, she’s all but guaranteed to polarize. She will often opt for honesty over tact, even if the result is unpleasant, inconvenient, or even dangerous to her or her career. It’s also a trait that earned her a lot of respect very quickly – having gained a reputation for high integrity coupled with incredible acumen for her work.
These differences made fights between my parents very interesting. I’d often notice that arguments and disagreements in other households never compromised the father as the patriarch or put to question his decision-making power for the household. On the other hand, my house seemed to decidedly forgo hierarchy entirely. There was never any “this is what we’re doing and that’s final” from either of them – if you disagreed, you’d have to defend your stance just as much as your partner did and it was the same for me and my sister. There’s never been a ‘head’ of the family, there was no final authority on decisions, I’ve never heard the phrase “ask your father” or “depends on what your father decides”.
Even outside of disagreements, my mother was true to her interests and wouldn’t put them on hold for invisible ‘obligations’. There was a time my mother wanted to do the Everest Base Camp and my father couldn’t take leave from work (also, he just wasn’t as keen) so she decided to go on her own. She simply let him know she’d be going solo, removed from any obligation to go with her husband. She made her arrangements, prepared, and – a month later – was sending back WhatsApp pictures from an elevation of 5450 metres on scraps of mobile data.
A few years ago, she had a fantastic job opportunity available in Hyderabad, and she took it. She and my dad discussed how they were going to stay connected and keep chatting and coordinating their shared responsibilities. She lived in Hyderabad for a whole year while dad took care of the house. She’d often go where work was and followed opportunities when they happened. She was decidedly someone who acted swiftly on things and her proactivity was something I’ve always admired about her.
My mother taught me that you weren’t promised authority based on your gender – you were as entitled to a voice as anyone else and it was on you to make the best use of it. She taught me to plant my feet and stand strong for what I believe is correct even if I have to piss a lot of people off, because integrity is important. She taught me to be self-critical and listen to other viewpoints, and also to hold others to the same standard. That thinking is great but doing is more life-affirming. She taught me to be honest, even if it’s inconvenient. The world can change you if you let it but if you don’t let it, you might just change it instead. That’s what Dr Seema Gupta – mother of dragons, consumer of cat videos – taught me.
Fatness in Urban India: Desiring and Being Desired
Public spaces of education: The complicated nexus of shame, agency and resistance
16 days of Activism, 2022 at One Future Collective