As a child, I was in awe of the role that my mother played in my life. But I was baffled 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 it worked out in my favor, I wasn’t comfortable with the kind of power that this woman could wield over me. It weakened me in a peculiar way that she could correct all my wrongs – without even consulting me.
Only as an adult, I realized how important it was to have had a loving and supportive mother while growing up. I could never adequately convey to her just how grateful I was. I still cannot; at least, not in ways that she may want me to.
After I was born, my mom had to give up on her career as a professor, a career she held close to her heart, to take care of me. Along the way, she has relinquished varying degrees of her strength and dignity to create a better life for me. When I was young, she had to apologize to the neighbors for my tomfoolery. Come up with answers to justify my insolence to teachers. Protect me from facing the consequences of my irresponsible actions. Worse, deal with my adolescent angst as patiently as possible.
As I grew older, it began to amaze me that she continued to do so without expecting anything in return besides my own safety and success. It was merely unfortunate that we had always disagreed on the grounds they should be measured upon. But most of the time, she was always the first to compromise.
As for the rest of us, in the family, we do not wear our hearts on our sleeves. We are a bit awkward about displaying our feelings for one another. While it has not diminished the value that we brought to each other’s lives, it has made it tougher to sense the roots beneath the soles of our feet. And if it was not for her tireless efforts, I may have felt out of place and disconnected – no matter where I was or who I was with.
Also, earlier this month I found out that her grand uncle used to love photographing birds in the city.
I can never do justice to everything she has done for me. I cannot pay her back for all the love, affection, and pocket money she has given me. Maybe I should hug her tightly and tell her that she means to more to me than a sentimental blog post.
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 Kodaikanal hills, I saw a Bonnet Macaque feed her child and put him to sleep. Eager to take a few photographs, I moved towards them. Stepping over dry leaves to catch a better glimpse of them, I was starting to become a nuisance.
His mama was none too pleased with me. Because the little fellow seemed threatened by my presence. So, she began flaying her arms, threateningly, at me. But I ignored her and continued being an intrusive dolt. It didn’t strike me then that I was interrupting a moment of tenderness between a woman and her child (watch video).
It was as though my priorities were more important than hers simply because they were mine. I am unsure whether I was merely confident or if I was being a selfish jerk.
I am sorry, mama Macaque. I can only promise to try and be nicer from this moment on.
She gave me roots
as I kept pestering her
for a million other things.
Then, she gave me the freedom,
to grow myself
a fresh pair
(Photographs: Bandipur, Valparai, Chennai)