Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My mother's extension

My mother and I,
We grew up together;
We wish to conquer the world together;
We learn to live for one another,
So as to fill the gaps in each other's lives,
Such that the whole of our universe has fewer holes.

My mother is mostly left behind by the swiftly changing outside world,
And so I choose to be the colorful rainbow above her unpaved road.
While she has lived in one city all her life,
I've flown across countries and moved from one city to another.
Since she cautiously diversifies her mainly homemaker life
I recklessly concoct unusual career paths and hope that she too can enjoy the view.

She was relegated to being under-educated,
I make up for it by striving to be over-educated.
For every year of education that she didn't have,
Her value in the marriage market soared.
For every year of education that I do add,
My value in the marriage market drops.
The age at which she wanted to add a missing career slot to her family life,
Is now the same age that I want to add a missing family slot to my career life.

With her effortless air of charming sociability she attracts helping hands to her side;
With my contrived air of proud self-sufficiency I drive away annoyingly poking noses.
But sometimes she confides in me that she could do without some meddling folks;
At those times I confide in her that I could do with some more caring souls.
There are days when I watch, wait, and get exasperated at how crowded her life is;
In turn, somedays she watches, waits, and gets her heart broken at how lonely my life is.
And then we cry.
Together we cleanse our knotted souls;
And through the tears, we smile.
Then we remind each other
To be strong,
To be confident,
To believe in our own lives,
To trust in our own fates,
To practice patience while we wait for what's missing in our own different ways.
But alone and separate, we are not;
We each are assured by one another.
The cord, it seems, was never ripped.

As in a circle, we know not
Who begins, who ends;
Who asks, who receives;
Who sows, who reaps.
We merely strive to keep that circle unbroken.
Her dreams, I live;
My dreams, she lives.
We live both our truths and our lies.
Both half-happy, half-sad.

If two happy-halves make one happy,
Where do the two sad halves go?
"Modern math and logic are beyond my comprehension," is all she can offer.
Then I get angry in that special way reserved only for a daughter.
I complain that once again I am left alone with the puzzles and the fears.
Without moving in space, I manage to trample the maternal heart.

Did I say we grew up together?
That we learnt lessons in the presence of one other?
But yes, I meant the lessons of life.
Unlike those that are taught to me inside four walls,
Unlike those that are printed in books,
Unlike those that are strictly formulaic,
The lessons of life, those we are allowed to learn without being separated.
So together, she and I, we are still searching for the answer
That we are sure is still out there, somewhere.

In the meanwhile, there is Mother's Day
To remind me of her selflessness and sacrifice;
To remind me that my mother sustained my life at a time when I most needed her.
At a time when without her there couldn't have been a me,
She did not wake me; she did not leave me alone; she did not send me on my own.
And so I sigh, a dark, heavy, guilty sigh.
Because when I look deep inside me, I know that even now she has not sent me off alone.
She has, in fact, bundled in me all of our ancestors' hopes.
And these as my badge of honor, I am blessed to wear.
Within my heart I am gifted with all their dreams
In loneliness, I gently unwrap them to soar high and fly.
In me she has collected the reservoir of all their tears
That I may, when I thirst, have a fountain to drink from.
In every vein of my body flows their blood;
So, when I hunger I am assured of my nourishment.
And from every pore of my body oozes their sweat.
It is in this way that I wrap myself with their fragrance.

So my mother, in her own wisdom, and love, chose me as her extension.
To carry with me to these far-off lands a part of our ancient self.
Do I spread my wings homeward or plant my roots downward? -- this I know not yet.
But today, I am content to merely think of my mother, who is far away,
And of all her own mothers.

(C) Copyright: Malathi Raghavan 2000

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