A woman is endowed with the ability to create. Man initiates the process but then withdraws into the role of a spectator. Some empathise with the woman in the creative process while others look on.
In this process of creation the mother occupies a special place in one’s life which cannot be replaced by anyone else. The strongest bond between any two individuals is the one between any human being and his or her mother. The umbilical cord ties the child to the mother. Though the child attains freedom with the cutting of the cord, the sensitive central spot remains indelible and permanent.
The author points out that psyche and the role of the mother have been a fertile ground for academic studies and creative writing through the ages. The traditional image of the mother is that of a person who gives herself completely to her children once she gives birth. In Irawati Karve’s Yugantha, Gandhari regrets, “I had no life of my own. All my life, their moments of happiness were my moments of happiness; their moments of sorrow were mine.”
Ancient history and literature write of the bond between a mother and her son — the bond between Kaushalya and Rama; Kunti and the Pandavas; Renuka and Parashurama; Jijabai and Shivaji. The influence of the mother over her son and the respect she wields is beyond doubt. The greatest insult that a man feels even today is an abusive word for his mother. Some say that of all the bonds, the most primal bond is between a mother and her daughter, which starts at an early age when the girl wants to be like her mother. This attitude undergoes a change during youth as the daughter may want to be different. However, later in life, she begins to rediscover her mother and finds a friend in her.
This book, which is a collection belonging to the 20th century India, ordinary housewives of a century ago emerge as women of substance and as a source of strength, contrary to the image of docility and weakness generally presented to the world by litterateurs and academicians. The real women presented here are generous, sometimes generous to a fault; in the face of hunger and want they do not discriminate between their own children and those of others. They are in fact liberated from within.
Indira Goswami, who is an English author from Assam, talks of her beautiful mother Ambika. Indira’s mother wanted her daughter to marry into a well-off family of Assam but Indira gets married to a Kannadiga. Her mother “wanted to commit suicide — and I know everything,” says Indira.
Another writer, but from Bengal now and more famous as the former wife of economist Amartya Sen, has her own story to tell. When Amartya divorces Nabaneeta when she is 34-year old only, her mother Radharani blames her daughter for not holding on to her husband. Nabaneeta says, “My mother made my life more miserable than it had to be.” Nevertheless after Radharani’s death and when her own daughters have grown up, Nabaneeta admits, “Today the nest is empty as both my fledglings have flown away to their workplaces. I miss them every day. But I miss my mother most. I miss her every minute. She was the wind beneath my wings, although I never took off.”
Padma Sachdev, writer in Dogri and Hindi, says that whenever she feels pain, “I call out to my mother. Come to think of it, even a 100-year old man calls out to his mother when in pain. Has anyone heard a person call out to his father?”
Jayashree, professor at Hyderabad, talks about her mother who like a shadow brought up her children, never asking for anything for herself.
Brucellish Sangma talks of her biological mother and her stepmother, both of whom have showered love on her.
Himanshri, a retired lecturer, speaks of her mother’s death, a mother “whose presence filled the whole house on every occasion, was in a deep sleep that day…” and after the funeral, she says, “I returned home in a reduced state, an incomplete me. And I remain so even today.”
The stories in this collection show that about a century ago, mothers were married to much older men, did not have much formal education but somehow fulfilled their desire to be educated. The daughters learn to appreciate their mothers’ positive qualities only after their death and more so when they have daughters of their own. Daughters bring in a fresh realisation of the ever-turning wheel of creation. This book should be read by all women.
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