As a child, I was in awe of the role that my mother played in my life. I found it baffling that she had the final say on everything I did. She could take decisions on my behalf. Order me around to do chores. Create arbitrary rules I had to abide by. Even though this worked out in my favour most of the time, I wasn’t comfortable with the kind of power she could wield. It weakened me in a peculiar way that she could correct all my wrongs – without even consulting me.
I had never understood her influence until much later. Only as an adult did I realize how important it was to have had a loving and supportive mother while growing up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t show her just how grateful I was. At least, not in ways that she might have wanted me to.
My mom had to give up on her career as a professor, something she held close to her heart, to take care of me after I was born. Along the way, she has relinquished varying degrees of her strength, dignity, and honesty to create a better life for me. She has had to apologize to the neighbours for my tomfoolery. Come up with reasonable answers to justify my insolence to teachers. Offer to shield me from facing the consequences of some of my actions.
As I became older, it began to amaze me that she did so without expecting anything in return besides my own safety and success. It’s just that we had always disagreed on the grounds they were measured upon.
And even today, she is the first to compromise.
I don’t think I can ever do justice to the positive influence she has had in my life. But I feel contented that I will never hold her responsible for any of the negativity.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of witnessing the roles that mothers play in the animal kingdom. During one lazy afternoon in the hills, I saw a Bonnet Macaque feed her child and put him to sleep. I took no attempt to hide my presence. It was noisy as I had to step over dry leaves to catch a better glimpse of them.
His mother was none too pleased with me. The little fellow kept waking up, sensing a threat. She began flaying her arms, threateningly, at me. But I ignored her and continued being an intrusive jerk of a photographer.
It didn’t strike me then that I was interrupting a tender moment. It was as though my priorities were more important than theirs simply because they were mine.
I am sorry, mom.
(Photographs: Kodaikanal, Bandipur, Valparai, Munnar, Vedanthangal)