Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mommy, not buddy !

This is a stick I occasionallly beat myself with. At a time and in an era when all around me, parents were readily becoming their children’s best friends, here I was, hung up on being first and foremost, a mother. Mine was a “tough love”, no two ways about it.

I had expectations of my daughters. That they would make an effort to put their best foot forward was presumed. My vision for them was that of two self reliant, strong and secure girls. Their orientation at home was to be unmindful of minor discomforts, of heat and dust, of silly irritants. It was suggested that they keep their eyes peeled on the essential, the important. As far as I was concerned, their software programming had to be that of mind over matter. The guiding principle was: anything can be achieved if one sets the mind to it.

The values that hung over and swirled in the small flat we shared during their senior years of school were: love of knowledge, respect for time, consistent progress, keeping your word, meeting commitments. All very boring and old fashioned. I expected them to be grateful for all the opportunities to learn moreover.

Like the typical Indian parent, I believed salvation lay in education. I brought them up to think appreciation for their teachers and instructors and to ever be eternally grateful to anyone who shared their knowledge with them. I carted them around to art exhibitions, classical dance performances, serious theatre, even the museums. My plan was to give them food for every faculty: body, mind, soul and heart.

We forgot one minor detail. A day has only 24 hours. So there they were, with a tag of making “guest appearances” at birthday parties and exams-over celebrations etc. It was quite de rigueur for them to attend in a pair of track pants, or ballet leotards or a concert outfit. They were invariably on way to or back from somewhere.

It was not often said in so many words but they got the general drift that missing school was not an option, nor for that matter was missing a music/dance/sports class or rhearsal a possibility. Our theme song was, “Whatever it takes.” They were too busy to fall sick or to complain. They simply concentrated on keeping it moving. Everything smelt of sweat. The apartment, the car, the bags they carried. Deodorants were a much later development!

Feeling lazy, chilling, hanging out...these words were foreign to me.Relaxation in my dictionary was a change of activity ! I would tell them what a wonderful gift knowledge was and how books and skills could be great companions. I wanted them to understand that at the root of everything beautiful lay effort and work and discipline. The phenomenal movies that they enjoyed, the wonderful plays that lifted them up, the books that shook them to their depths, the chocolate fudge that melted in the mouth....they all came from a certain ability and that refusal to accept any half hearted effort.

Yes, their growing years were spent rehearsing, practising, attending, coaching, and studying. Make something of yourselves first, was the general anthem. You be strong and sure of yourself and then you will have something to give back to the world. Be an asset wherever you go, I told them. Roll up those sleeves and pitch in. Don’t waste precious hours crying, cribbing and complaining.

There was opposition and vague disapproval at times, from friends and family. There was also praise and admiration for the work going on. I brushed it all aside with some help from my Mom and read the girls inspirational bits from my black diary, on blue days.

There were many proud moments during those whirlwind years but two stand out. First, the day Aqseer got a message on her cell phone congratulating her on the acceptance at NLSIU, Bangalore. I remember how she sat up and then fell back on bed with these words, “Worth it, worth it. It was all worth it!” Second, the day Asawari clicked the button on her Princeton decision. As she punched in her password, I distinctly remember the capital, bold orange letters, “CONGRATULATONS !” scroll down lazily on my Reliance Datacard connection. I should have recorded what followed.

What was the basis of their sincerity of purpose and the associated, focused drive? Where did their maturity spring from? What gave them that sense of balance, the ability to differentiate the core from the peripheral ?

Was I authorotative? Or worse, an authorotarian ? I don't know. Guess, time will tell.....

Over and above all this, there was the abiding influence of their father. In fact, some of my school friends would go so far as to say that they entirely took after their Dad!

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