It is believed that traditionally mothers are selfless, sacrificing and extremely loving towards their children however the latter might be. But I don’t see any proof of this in our epics. Was Kunti a devoted mother to Karna? Was Gandhari a good mother when she chose to destroy in frustration her foetus, just because Kunti delivered a boy earlier (and thus an heir to the throne)? The fact is, those days mothers had very little to do with the nurture and education of their children, particularly sons. Then, when did this unquestioned loyalty of the mothers towards their children come to be extolled and sung about? When his progeny became all important to Man, he must have made rules for his woman to protect and nurture it .
Mothers come in all hues and colours. Indian films have made too much of ‘Maa’ business- A mother shows the empty utensil to the audience as she has fed the last morsel to her children and a big issue is made of her drinking 2-3 glasses of water to assuage her hunger. Other times, the clinging mother is shown emotionally blackmailing her son whenever he is happy with his wife, just because an ancient commandment decreed, “A woman is looked after by her father in her childhood, by the husband in middle age and by a son in her old days.” “I bore you for 10 months (though the medical figure is 9 months, 9 days) nurtured you into adulthood sacrificing everything. Is this the reward you give me?” is the common refrain. Where is the affectionate mother who wishes all the very best for her child?
While in US, a news item was splashed across media about a mother and her court case. This woman had two children by an earlier boy friend. She had put the two kids in her car and had pushed them to death down a slope just so that she could marry her new boy friend. Mother! Holy Mother!! I myself remember my first earthquake. When we were in Delhi, I felt a jolt in the middle of the night. When I saw the latches rattling, the earth swinging and things falling, I ran out in panic not knowing what it was.
Later, I was so contrite when I saw Ramu bringing our two kids, one on each arm, coolly and calmly. What was the glorious motherhood doing? Another lighter instance of the ‘Glorious motherhood’ I encountered was, when I had invited a couple for dinner. The mother suggested that she would feed her child first. The child had a mind of her own. So, every morsel in the plate would be perfunctorily offered to the kid before the mom swallowed it herself chanting, “See, it is so tasty”. Poor mother must have been really hungry. She had chosen a socially acceptable method to solve her problem.
So, should we feel guilty and maudlin when we do not fit into the picture of an ‘ideal mother’ or do we drop all pretences and get more practical?