In the past few years, many book stores have closed down in India. ‘E books are the future,’ chorus the bookstores. Not sure if the digital edition is to be blamed for the loss of business for bookshops but the trend doesn’t seem to echo in Europe. Last month, I visited England and went to a few book stores in cities that I visited – London, Bath, Lincoln, York, and Glasgow. Every city, however small had book shops. I was pleasantly surprised to see two book stores in Bath, a historical but small city. Hatchards, the oldest bookstore in London has 7000 title in stock at any given time. Sadly, there were books from only two Indian authors Arundhati Roy and Amitav Ghosh. I requested for The Other End of the Corridor, my book almost sure that they won’t bother to source it. After about two weeks, my publisher got an email from them placing an order for my book. Book stores overseas are interested in books from Indian authors.
It’s a sad day for the world’s largest democracy. A human being, a woman, a journalist had to pay with her life for having an opinion and for speaking what she thought was right. Gouri Lankesh was the Founder editor of Gouri Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly tabloid which she ran without any advertisements from government and corporates and, the owner of many other publications. Daughter of Kannada writer and Journalist P. Lankesh, the firebrand journalist was an activist for Dalits, women and many other downtrodden sections of society. She was the neither the first nor the last to be silenced for voicing out her thoughts. Rationalist and thinker Narendra Dabholkar, who spent much of his life exposing baseless rituals, black magic, and godmen, was murdered in 2013 by two motorcycle borne men. What was his fault? He wanted to bring a change, clean our society off superstitions. In February 2015, Govind Pansare, a prominent CPI leader and trade unionist and his wife Uma were shot at by two assailants outside their house in Kolapur when the septuagenarian couple was returning from their morning walk. He had come under the scanner for his views on Hindutva and had believed to have called Nathuram Godse a part of RSS. What angered Maharashtra conservatives were his interpretation of Shivaji. Noted Kannada writer and scholar M M Kulburgi was killed in the similar manner for his strong views. Sandesh Times Bureau Chief Tarun Mishra, TV journalist Indradev Yadav, Rajdeo Ranjan, the bureau chief of Dainik Hindustan, Kishore Dave, the bureau chief of a Gujarati newspaper called Jai Hind, Dainik Bhaskar reporter Dharmendra Singh were murdered because they spoke a language which didn’t please a section of the society. This piece is not about whether their views were right or wrong. It is about – do we have a right to speak our mind? Is killing the person who dares to differ from the popular ideology the way out? Then what about our fundamental right to Freedom of Speech and Expression? In the past, more number of journalists are killed covering politics and corruption in their own country than covering any other beat. Perhaps these number are next only to Syria and those covering wars.
History is replete with incidents where the activists, journalists and whistle blowers are killed because they refuse to fall in line, because their views are a threat to age old thinking and popular notions. We are becoming a highly intolerant society that we don’t bat an eyelid before pumping bullets into someone whose ideology doesn’t match with ours’. Like the blue whale challenge – either be quiet or prepare to die. And if someone dares to call this country intolerant, he too is trolled and shamed.
Come to think of it, we are a highly tolerant country – we tolerate even killers. Today social media is abuzz with condolences messages, articles and editorials on the murder of Gouri Lankesh. There are candle light marches, meetings, rallies, debates expressing why Gouri was killed. People from all walks of life, even those who had never heard of this critic of Hindu right-wing extremism are distressed and angry. But in a day or two another more important news will take over and this tolerance – intolerance debate will be moved to the inside pages; a junior reporter now and then will file reports on the status of inquiries and the diligence of police in catching the culprits. And sooner than we expect, it will be business as usual until the next murder and the next silencing of a rising voice.
Who killed Gouri Lankesh? Depleting law and order situation in our country, political apathy, absence of any fear of law in masses, rising intolerance amongst a handful of people or the silence of the masses? Long live our right to Freedom of Expression!
Secure your own mask first before helping others. Two decades ago, when for the first time I heard this safety instruction live in the airplane, I was a newly married girl travelling to Alps with my brand new husband. How ridiculous! Be selfish. Think about yourself first. Is this what they want to convey to the society? I elbowed my better half. All my life, I had been fed on the diet of putting others before self. Hindi movies and elderly aunties made sure that such values were instilled and ingrained fully. The sole purpose of a woman’s life is to serve others. Give, give, give until your body is squeezed of all blood. The more you give, the more you get, that’s what the motto of your life is. Only then your life is worth it and not before. Right? Wrong. Motherhood is a choice and not a sacrifice – echoes the latest Titan Raga ad.
Like everything else in life, motherhood too is evolving. A mother is someone who has been assigned by God with the job to take care of the physical and emotional needs of her children but she is no longer contented just being a mother and a wife. She wants more from life. Give me more, is the latest buzz word. Juggling, hustling, multi-tasking is not an issue, she is tuned for that.
You don’t need to wear the badge of sacrifice on your sleeve like a solitaire on your finger. Women love to be sacrificing queens. Sacrificing in small and big ways for children gives them a strange sense of pleasure, a contentment that their lives have been worth it. But alas, sacrificing queen leads to a checkmate only in the game of chess. In real life, it leads to distress and disaster. Putting yourself before others sometimes is not selfish, it is taking care of yourself. A mother is an individual first and a mother later. She needs to first take care of her own health and happiness to be at the service of her children. Come to think of it, how will a tired and exhausted mother look after her children? Eating before your kids eat doesn’t certify you as a bad mother. You can still be an ideal mother even if you decide to eat before them. And wellbeing is not only restricted to physical needs but also emotional. Recharge, don’t break down. Mothers’ distress levels are directly proportional to kids’ mental health. No one wants a grumpy mom? If you are emotionally burnt-out then there is no way you can sit and listen to the crises in your children’s lives. Can a hungry man fill others’ stomach? It is a survival need like the oxygen mask in the times of low pressure.
Mothers too can have likes and dislikes. Take a mother to a restaurant and ask her what will she like to eat? The typical answer will be ‘I will eat whatever everyone is eating’ Most women even in today’s progressive world have never thought about their own desires. Adjusting for others is noble but not always. You are undervaluing yourself by trying to fit in the standards, by always living up to people’s expectations. You too have an opinion, a desire, an expectation. If yes, then voice it out.
You don’t need to give up your dreams for the sake of your children. Make yourself a priority. Mothers are so busy doing it all that they forget the most important person in their lives. Themselves. Investing time, money and energy in your children is important but in the process, do not forget that time and resources spent on the gratification of your own desires is not a waste. It is perfectly fine to have your own desires and ambitions even if they are not aligned with that of your children. Social work, get-togethers, book clubs, meeting friends, a full time or part time job, gym, yoga, a hobby class, reading, even just Me time are all justified.
Adjust. Accommodate. Adapt. These words are for everyone in the family and not only for the mother. You are not born to be at the beck and call of your family all the time. To hell with the guilt feeling. The sky is not going to fall down if you couldn’t cook a three course meal one day because you didn’t feel like. You need not die of guilt if once in a while you ask your husband, a neighbour or a relative to baby sit your child while you go for a movie with a friend.
If you are a smart mommy, you can have your cake and eat it too. It is not too difficult a task to find a balance between your needs and those of your kids’. In today’s times, it is even more important to redefine motherhood because very soon, the sooner than you can imagine, your children will fly the nest. When children leave the nest, it effects the mother the most as they had always been the nucleus of her very being. So if you have never thought about yourself as a separate entity, it is bound to create a vacuum in your life leaving you wounded and empty. Mothers, do take care of yourself – your health as well as your happiness. Only a healthy and happy mother can enrich the life of her children. If Mommy is happy, the entire house is happy as the old adage goes. Happy Mother’s Day!
Perhaps Jyoti Singh ( the real name of Nirbhaya) had to pay with her life to get justice. It definitely wouldn’t have been death sentence for her perpetrators if she would have survived the brutal act no matter if the barbaric rape would have physically crippled her for life or something worse. The convicts in Bilkis Bano case were let off with lighter punishment, seven of them even acquitted. Aruna Shanbaug lived in the vegetative state for forty two years while the ward boy was let free after seven years of imprisonment because technically she was alive and it was not a rape, only a sexual assault. There are hundreds and thousands of as or more gruesome rape cases, acid attack victims, sexual assault, attempted rape cases where women, girls, children and even babies wait for justice the entire life. Not to mention the equal number of unreported cases.
Of late, many rape cases are being brought to light. Either now more number of cases are being reported or the number of rapes have gone up. Sad but true, ours is a country of hypocrites, worship goddesses but rape women.
If there is any case which deserves death penalty, it is this one. The victim got justice even if delayed due to media and public pressure. Even if it is just this case amongst thousands which got justice and not too late in comparison to others where the cases linger for years. There are a few positive things which have come out of it – reduction in the age for juveniles from 18 to 16, setting up of 400 fast track courts for rape victims. Laws which make rape a non-bailable crime.
Those against death penalty argue that death sentence can’t be a deterrent. To make this a deterrent, the hanging of the perpetrators should be telecast live for the entire nation to watch.
Since the Chetan Bhagat plagiarism controversy erupted, internet has been flooded with opinions, polls, viewpoints, authors taking sides. Some secretly happy, some genuinely concerned. Being an author myself, I have been asked to give my two cents on this burning debate in the Indian literary scene. I will refrain from taking sides because I have neither read One Indian girl by CB nor Anvita Bajpai’s short story. The allegations are CB’s latest book is based on a short story by AB. He has been accused of stealing the plot, characters, flow of thoughts from the short story. Even if I would’ve read both I am no body to pass a judgement on right or wrong? The matter is in the court so let’s wait for the court to decide.
Chetan Bhagat is neither the first author nor would be the last to be embroiled in plagiarism. In the past, many authors have been involved in plagiarism. Roots: the saga of an American family written by Alex Haley brought to light the hitherto unknown facts about slavery and the plight of African American families living in America. Published in 1976, the book was an instant hit and adopted into TV series. Haley was sued by Harold Courlander, a white author who claimed that the author of Roots had lifted passages and plot from his novel The African. Haley admitted that though he didn’t plagiarize, a part of material had originally appeared in The African. The case was later settled out of court for $ 6, 50,000.
Most recently, editions of Trump’s former ally Monica Crowley’s What the (Bleep) Just Happened were pulled from sale amid accusations that the author had plagiarized a part of her work. As more skeletons tumbled out of cupboards, it was proved that her previous works including the PhD dissertation was plagiarized. A book can be written on the rise and fall of Monica Crowley as the plagiarism costed her not just the literary fame but a white house job too. She was disqualified from joining the US National Security Council. JK Rowling was once accused of plagiarism with a British author claiming that JKR had stolen ideas from a book titled The adventures of Willy the Wizard and used it in Harry Potter and the goblet of Fire. But later these charges were proved wrong.
Much has been written about How Opal Mehta got kissed, got wild and got a life, a young adult novel by an Indian American Kaavya Viswanathan. She wrote the novel just after high school. Overnight the Harvard grad became a role model of millions aspiring writers. After being put on a pedestal, she was thrown down when it was discovered that several parts of the bestselling novel were lifted from Salman Rushdie’s work and various other sources. The unsold copies of her book were recalled and destroyed by the publisher and her contract for the second book cancelled. The plagiarism charges against Ms Viswanathan not only pulled the curtains down on her literary career but also busted every Indian’s American dream. The author had a distinct style of writing, it wouldn’t have been difficult for her to produce better content herself then why she had to steal someone’s material? Can’t answer this.
I browsed the internet for any other Indian books which have been involved in plagiarism controversy in the past but thankfully the internet doesn’t show any results except CB’s latest book.
Plagiarism is every author’s biggest fear. Someday someone will come from nowhere and shout from the roof top that the author has taken the easy route of copying the content from a source. Even if the fear of plagiarism lurks in the mind of every author but nothing prepares her/him for a public allegation, a court case, a full-fledged battle in the media. Even if CB is innocent (which hopefully he is), sure he must be having sleepless nights. I remember when I was submitting my debut novel The Other End of the Corridor to the publishers, I checked multiple times if any sentence in my book had been unintentionally inspired from any of the books that I had read multiple times. Thankfully there was none.
Look at the positive side, controversies always do good to the writers. Art and literature thrive on controversies. Remember Raj Kapoor, just before the release of his every movie, a controversy would appear from nowhere – an affair with the leading heroine or something more sensational which will drive more people to the theatres. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses flew off the shelves after the ban on the book. There is a joke among literary circle, if your book is not selling well then create a controversy around it and then sit back and watch the drama unfold. This is definitely not true in CB’s case as his book is already # 1 and there are enough controversies about him. For sure, the man who made India read doesn’t need more.
According to dictionary.com, Plagiarism is an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own as by not crediting the original author. Is stealing an idea or a part of a plot is plagiarism? The dictionary doesn’t say so. Love story by Oliver Twist was the first love story before literature was inundated with mushy love stories. Most of the romance novels revolve around the same plot with a few changes in scenes, names, and scenario. It is like old wine in a new bottle but does it mean that the ideas are stolen? Every reader would know that it is not the plot but the treatment to the plot which makes a book distinct.
Any author worth his/her ink knows the consequences of plagiarism. The question is not if CB had read AB’s story or if she gave her book to him at the Bangalore Lit Fest, their plots could still have similarities even if he hadn’t read the book. The plagiarism accusation on a bestselling author doesn’t come as a surprise. It is not that successful authors can’t steal the ideas. They can though they have the potential to create better material than the stolen text. What is surprising is that if CB were to copy content from someone’s work, would he be so naive to pick the entire plot, the characters, the flow to make sure that both the works look similar. The similarities could just be a coincidence and coincidences are not the prerogative of only fiction, they happen in real life too. Irrespective of whether the similarities (if any) are mere coincidence or intentional, the justice should be done but let the trial be done by the court and not by the media.
In our back lane, there is a dhobhi. It’s a 8 x 8 room, two tables for ironing on either side of the room. Every time when I went to give and take clothes, Kumar will be ironing the clothes, his wife either ironing on the other table or sitting on a plastic chair just outside the shop, husband and wife chit chatting, laughing, joking, having a word or two with the customers, it was a happy sight to see husband and wife bonding. They have a son and a daughter, both married, well qualified and earning well.
Soon the business grew. More work. More money. ‘I should hire someone to help me, I can’t iron so many clothes,’ Kumar often whined, smiling all the while.
Now when I go to the shop, Kumar is ironing the clothes with his back towards the hired help who is ironing on the other table, a heap of un ironed clothes on one side and a pile of ready ones on the other. The pile is going bigger but I also notice that Kumar rarely smiles now. ‘Amma doesn’t come to the shop these days?’ I ask Kumar referring to his wife.
‘Where is the place for three people in the shop? She must be somewhere,’ he replies, head bent over the table, hand working on the iron. Take back the ironed clothes, give the money and done, the man is too busy for a small chit chat with the customers.
I feel happy for the middle aged couple. They are making more money but I miss the smiles. I miss seeing husband wife together, sharing , laughing. The smiles have vanished in the pursuit of success. Does material success always bring happiness?
While browsing the shelves of Just Books library, KD Road, I stumbled upon Custody by Manju Kapur. Having read three books by this author – Difficult Daughters, Home, Immigrant, I was sure this one would be as engrossing as the previous three. Custody surpasses my expectations in story line as well as narration. Ms Kapur’s themes are always simple about everyday lives of middle class. The first scene shows an illicit relationship. The story has the hook which keeps the reader glued till the last page and then back to page one to savor the book once again. Shagun is a young, married woman with two small children, a well earning husband, a comfortable home and everything else that makes the life of an Indian woman complete but Shagun wants more from life. In the pursuit of an illicit love, she is ready to give up everything.
The story throws light on the institution of marriage. After how many years of marriage one can say my marriage is now secure. The answer is never. A fling, an affair can strike one of the partners at any age, creating a storm in the lives of the couple and enveloping in it everyone else around –in-laws, parents, children and the most important relations between siblings. Does one of the partners has to be a villain for the other to fall out of love and fall in love with another person? Not necessary. Does a woman, a wife has a right to follow her heart? To pursue one relationship, should one sacrifice all other relations? The book leaves the reader with questions to ponder over. The author doesn’t sit in judgement over right or wrong. It asks you to find your own answer. It only gives one message – in such relations no one is a winner, everyone is a loser.
The most impressive is the description of mundane life of people. I have yet to come across an author who had observed human relations as closely as Manju Kapur herself. Her writing style is a mix of narrating and showing.
My best friend’s daughter recently got a job in Saudi Arabia. ‘How can you allow your daughter to go to an Arab country? Don’t you know women are treated like second rate citizens there?’ I fumed. It was beyond my imagination how could an educated mother send her young daughter to Saudi Arabia for a job.
My friend replied calmly, ‘If she was working in Delhi or any other city in India, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night but I know she will be safe in Saudi. No man will dare misbehave with her.’
Today, women are in the board rooms, in space, factories, and even in armed forces but irrespective of their status, strata and education, they aren’t safe on the roads, not even on the streets outside their house.
One more incident of molestation, one more blood boiling statement blaming victim’s western attire for the offensive act. Don’t know which is worse – the indecent act or the disgusting statement. Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi said women in Bengaluru had been molested on New Year’s Eve because they were wearing ‘short clothes’, hours after the Centre condemned Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara’s similar victim-blaming comments. Azmi, like Parameshwara, claimed that the women faced repeated sexual harassment on the city’s streets because they had not conformed to ‘Indian culture’. Damn! Does groping and molesting women conform to the Indian culture? Not a word on how men are expected to behave.
First it was Delhi and now it is Bengaluru which have brought shame to India. It is spreading like some kind of contagious disease. Can’t say if the crimes on women are actually increasing in number or there are more number of such incidents which come to light.
Twenty Five years ago when during exams I used to study at night until the wee hours; in between cramming the boring lessons, it was a common practice for the students to take short breaks by having a quick stroll on the street. In the April heat, we looked forward to stepping out of the house even for just a while to soak in some cool breeze. A ten minute walk in the quiet of the night was refreshing enough to glue me back to my books for another couple of hours. The street opposite our house in Sector 22 in Chandigarh was dimly lit as some of the blubs would always be fused and I clearly remember in the dead of the night, dressed in my night clothes, I used to be the only one on the road engrossed in my thoughts, marching from one end to another, while my parents slept inside peacefully. On those days, it was a ritual in summers for most families to have an after dinner stroll on the street. People indulged in simple joys of walking on the roads. ‘Those days’ were just twenty five years ago but it feels like another era, a different world altogether when women felt safe on the roads. When I narrate the stories of ‘our times’ to my sons, they ask me, eyebrows raised in awe. ‘You used to go for walks alone? On the road? At midnight?’
Fast forward to the present times. After dinner strolls at night – alone or with a companion is unheard of for the fear of not only molesters but also of stray dogs, chain snatchers and thugs.
Nowhere there are statements from minsters or anyone that we need to put a leash on perverts. Punish the criminal and not the victim. Every time such an incident happens, men with misogynic mentality give disgusting statements and further shame the country. Are we saying, it’s okay to molest a woman? There are also no statements demanding better law and order, more stringent laws which could deter men. There are only statements how women should dress up, how they shouldn’t venture out alone at night. Seriously!
Media go overboard while reporting such incidents but when the culprits get caught, the media need to follow up , and report with the same fervour about the punishment meted out to them, publish their photographs to let public know about those men who shame their entire gender.
Are women public property that they can be groped at anyone’s free will? Do they need to be dictated how to dress up, do they need to be told where to go and at what time to go. Disgraceful! Unacceptable! It’s time to get it straight, it’s time to fight it out.
(This interview with Vasanthi Hariprakash was published in Star of Mysore on Jan 14, 2016)
The name Vasanthi Hariprakash rings a bell (and a sweet sounding one at that) for the listeners of India’s first private FM station Radio City 91.1. Goooood Morning Bangalore…Vasanthi’s energetic voice woke up the garden city, morning after morning when she hosted the prime time breakfast show from 2004 – 08, brightening up the listeners’ mornings with a quote here and a concern there, her enthusiasm upbeat, her tone unchanged as she chatted with celebrities and lesser mortals. No wonder, during her four year stint as a Radio Jockey, the listenership of the breakfast show of the channel went up phenomenally.
The same lively voice had mesmerized the listeners of All India Radio across the country at the 103rd session of Indian Science Congress held at namma Mysuru recently where Vasanthi was the official AIR commentator for the two day session inaugurated by the Prime Minister. “I have anchored and moderated many shows but giving a live commentary is the first time experience. It is indeed very challenging to present a live commentary as unlike radio/ TV shows, there is no scope for retakes or editing. One has to be very sure of what one has to speak. Before I took this assignment, it appeared very daunting but when I started, it wasn’t so difficult,” says Vasanthi who believes that the future of radio listening is going to be better and brighter in India. The onset of 24/7 Television had temporarily slumped the popularity of radio listening in India until the advent of private radio stations which made radio listening fashionable. Vasanthi also anchored Women Science Congress and other sessions during the 103rd National Science Congress.
It must be a high moment for a person when one makes thousands and lakhs of people experience a mega event with one’s voice literally. Yes, it gives a high but not to the RJ but to yours truly as I listen to her awestruck, talking about anchoring shows featuring the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, interviewing Big B, and countless other celebrities from various walks of life that Vasanthi has quizzed in her career as a representative of popular brand names or as an independent journalist.
For the uninitiated, Vasanthi Hariprakash is an independent journalist, moderator, panelist, columnist for a rural newspaper and anchor at social, cultural events. She has also modelled for saris made by Assamese women weavers. Starting her career as a sub editor with Indian Express where she was the coordinator for network for women in India, she later ventured into Radio, NDTV as a special correspondent.
It is not every one’s cup of coffee or tea to chuck a regular job and set out in your professional journey to carve an identity for yourself all over again. Vasanthi who has crossed from one medium to another, from print to radio, to TV, anchoring, moderating, interviewing, walks the path less trodden with elan and grace.
There has to be a charisma about that bubbly voice when the endorsement for her shows comes from none other than Mr N.R. Narayana Murthy himself. “I listen to Vasanthi’s shows whenever I can. I notice she has a genuine desire to make a difference to the world around her. She has the power to mould the opinion of over 2 million listeners through her radio show,” says Mr Murthy.
Recipient of many awards like Best English RJ of the Year – Indian Excellence in Radio Award for the year 2007 awarded by the India Radio Forum at Mumbai, Radio City CEO Award for excellence & best performance on the Breakfast Show, Outstanding Journalism Student for Year 1992-93 awarded by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore and Dazzling Daughter Award given by Bangalore University for professional achievements, in July 2010, Vasanthi was recently invited by dairy scientists in Netherlands as a media advisor on organic dairy farming and to anchor the international symposium. By the time, this piece sees the light of the day, she will be off to Brazil on another such independent assignment.
“How easy or difficult is the life of a freelancer?’ I ask.
“When I resigned from my job from NDTV to do something of my own, I didn’t care whether I would be successful or not, I just wanted to break that 24/7 cycle. I wanted to spend more time with my son. The main objective of life is to be happy. To take a decision if you should be sticking to your regular job or break free, you need to have a conversation with yourself. You may be doing a regular job and still have that satisfaction of using your optimum potential but if you are not doing justice to your potential, you need to wake up and do something about it,” says the chirpy lady.
Having her manicured fingers in multiple pies, Vasanthi is everywhere literally. In between being a mythology storyteller on goddesses of India at a musical concert, moderating panel discussions for channels, mentoring adolescents for a US Consulate programme, being media advisors and motivational speaker to corporates, she squeezes in time to have a cup of tea with a fan.
“How do you manage time?” I can’t help asking.
She looks up at the ceiling thoughtfully to find a crisp answer to my question. “When I take up an assignment, until it finishes, I use every little time to complete that task in hand. It’s like stealing even a minute from here and there either to do some research or reading up about the event that I am going to host. Most women, working or at home, manage multiple tasks together. It is of utmost importance to have a good support system and a supportive family. I couldn’t have done the radio shows if my mother was not around to help me. Most importantly, don’t forget that you are a person first. Send out signals in whatever way possible to your family that you have your own life; don’t attempt to do everything yourself. Women need to do justice to their potential.” I couldn’t agree more.
Vasanthi who resides in Bangaluru looks for every opportunity however small or big it is to visit the city that she is in love with. “Mysore has got so much of character. We tend to associate places with people. Mysore will always be a special city for me as my father’s sister used to live here. I used to frequent this place often even a child.”
Don’t be surprised if you bump into this charming Radio Anchor at the Mysore railway station taking a selfie or enjoying neer dosa in a south Indian eatery in Saraswathi Puram.
Remember, Sridevi from the Bollywood blockbuster English Vinglish who enrolls in an English speaking course to uplift her self-esteem when she finds herself lacking in comparison with her daughter because of her inability to converse fluently in English. Middle age is definitely not a show-stopper when she decides to go back to school. In the end, she enriches her life as well as that of her children and family. The daughter who was earlier ashamed to even introduce her mother to her teachers is now a proud daughter. Sridevi in the role of the mother perfectly symbolizes a progressive thinking woman. Agreed, it is not easy to be a child in today’s highly competitive and fast-paced world but it is even tougher to be a mother.
A mother’s responsibility doesn’t end with packing variety in tiffin box every day and taking care of the physical needs of the child. That is the easier part and can be delegated to the house help. A mother needs to be more than just a mother; she needs to be a companion, friend, advisor, counsellor, playmate, entertainer, motivator, role model, disciplinarian and confidant to her child all at the same time. A mother should be in sync with the world of her children’s even if it means staying abreast with the latest in everything including technology, gadgets, smart phones, music or whatever it takes to match her steps with those of her children. She needs to continuously push the boundaries.
Whether she is a stay-at-home mom or a working mother, her role and responsibilities as a mother remains the same. For sure, you have heard of part-time jobs, part-time business and even part-time girlfriend but ever heard of part-time mothers? Mothers – working outside or at home are always full-time. A mother may delegate her children related tasks to her own mother/-in-law but she still remains a full-time mother. This piece is not about whether a working woman or a homemaker makes a better mother. Whether you want to be a working woman or a homemaker- it is your personal choice.
Along with doing what it takes to be a progressive thinking mom, it is equally important for her to cut the umbilical cord early in life for various reasons.
Having her child on her mind 24/7 is no testimony of her motherly quotient. The need of the hour is to strike a fine balance between a contented mother and an over ambitious one. On the one hand, there is no escape for her from motivating her child to excel and on the other hand, she has to ensure that the child is not burdened with parents’ unfulfilled aspirations. If her world revolves only around the thoughts and anxieties about her child’s well being, unknowingly she is bound to raise expectations from her children. Such mothers suffer from empty nest syndrome and are likely to go into depression when the children leave the nest and become independent.
Moreover, it is claustrophobic for a child if the mother doesn’t provide a breather to him.
It is good for the child as well as for the mother that the mother has a Me time. This does not mean that she should not be available if the child wants to reach out to her for any physical or emotional requirement.
There are times when a mother needs to feed her own passions, to think of herself as a person, an individual and a separate entity because she is an individual first and then a wife and a mother. Why should her own desires and dreams always take a back seat in comparison to her child’s aspirations? For sure, the two are not mutually exclusive.
There are many activities which a mother can pursue to carve an entity for herself like learn a new skill or language, nurture a hobby that had been lying dormant for many years, make new friends, meet new people, join an NGO, gardening, fitness, reading, blogging, travelling so on and so forth; if nothing else teach children of your maid servant. She just needs to explore and there will be plenty that will catch her fancy to engage her mind productively. Cultivating a hobby will broaden her perspective towards life and give her exposure to empower her as a person, as a woman and as a mother. Her child will still be the most important person (or the second most important depending whether the child or husband comes first) in her life; wanting to maintain an identity of her own does not change that in any way.
You can still be the World’s Best Mom to your child. Whatever you do, go get a life of your own – both for the sake of your happiness as well as for the happiness of your precious child because only a happy mother can raise a happy child.
Happy Mother’s Day.
(This piece was originally published in Star of Mysore on 10th May 2015)