Friday 3 February 2012

Retold: The story of a very educated mother – I

Her voice tinkling with laughter, my little daughter would hug me and chant, “My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets … Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.”
This story, though, is about a mother who decided to get educated in her late 30s. I have not met for many years the friend who told me about her Ma. I have just a sketchy recollection, so I am fleshing it out somewhat in my own way. If you happen to read this, my friend, forgive me for the fiction part:
Ma, from my digital sketchbook.

Strange as it may sound, my mom and I enrolled for our post-graduation together.

It must seem an awkward situation to be in – walking into college to study with your youthful and much prettier mother. But for me there couldn’t be a prouder moment.

Pa held a plum job in the state capital. An ambitious government servant, he lived only to network. As his first-born, I had long got used to his hectic way of life. If he wasn’t partying out, he would call over streams of like-minded colleagues for drinks and dinner.

The most difficult part for Ma used to be playing the hostess. She had grown up in a small town, never been to college and had little exposure to city life. My father had no qualms apologizing for Ma’s lack of sophistication and “the right background”.

It was as if, had he known he would get into officer cadre at the first try, he would have taken a more qualifiedbride. But in those days of arranged marriages at an early age, he was a husband and a father much before he struck gold.

Ma took his veiled and not-so-veiled barbs in her stride. She devoted herself entirely to raising her daughter and two sons.

To his credit, Pa saw to it that we went to the best school, the best college. Apart from that, he was an indifferent sort of father – on call, but preferably not to be called upon.

We had a retinue of servants and drivers. I believe this was Pa’s way of absolving himself of all his duties by her. He rarely accompanied her out.

I became her constant companion by default. Not just a deep mother-daughter bonding, but also standing in for my father when he ought to have been at her side – at my brothers’ school, when they were taken to the doctor, on unavoidable social calls, when she fell ill, when guests arrived in hordes.

More next week.

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