Like mother, like daughter
Scratch any BB cream and see the guilt on mommy faces. Working or not, they feel they wrong their moppets. Stay-at-homes fear being cranky while others are apologetic about their 9 to 5 getaway. All childcare manuals are read upside down owing to severe sleep deprivation on the reader’s part. So that anyone who questions a woman’s mothering skills strikes oil each time.
My order for two doll-like daughters of impeccable manners got mixed up with someone else’s yawn of ‘surprise me, will you’. So here I am, locked up with two drama queens — next to whom Veronica Lodge can only be described as a small-town sulk — working on my magnum opus: Battle Hymn of the Lamb Mother.
Two decades ago, while mocking my own mother, I never dreamed there was such revenge around the corner, that there will one day be these two people in my own home who memorise side-splitting stuff about me and think nothing of sharing it. Who see me only as a punch line.
To tots who titter, we are old women. But when they have tots who titter, guess who will be the old woman? I worked this out scientifically backward from what people say about their kids — dads about sons and moms about daughters. Zoom in on the indulgent smile, the shrugging off of unattractive personality traits and disastrous love lives, and the dreamy forecasting of the rosiest of futures against all visible odds.
They want to right their wrongs, take the road less travelled, play the violin, be what they always wanted to be via their child. There is an airbrushing going on, of themselves. Our children are what we aspire to be. Which means we are actually our parents.
Just like the middle class is always looking longingly at richer folks when they talk of social equality and never at their driver Ramu, people wistfully eye their brood when talking of youth, and never their parents.
Flashback time! Why don’t you don the type of dated trousers your dad still favours, and go with him to his preferred eatery and nod animatedly at all his friends there? There’s nothing in it for you, that’s why. Now try it with offspring and notice the visible suppression of winces on his part. Tragic but true, you are to your son what your dad is to you. If this isn’t so, sue me, Freud.
Marriages mature the day the husband tells his wife how like her mother she is and she tells him how like his mom he is. Too many people will tell you how much you resemble your mother, in looks, in voice, in profile, while standing, while sleeping... Understandably, I have stopped calling my mother a bore. I am also patient with her anxious queries about her granddaughters at any given point in time.
‘Where are they?’ she is apt to call and ask pointblank. And instead of laughing at her overprotective irrationality, I give a precise, to-the-point reply, as if reporting to boss. If nothing else, my daughters have brought me up to be obedient.
I live in abject fear that one day the opposite sex will discover them and these members of the opposite sex will have doting mamas who will ask questions about my daughters I won’t be able to answer. And with the same air of sympathy my mother has around my husband, I think: go ahead, date them at your own risk.
In an era when most mothers exaggerated their daughter’s eligibility — ‘she organises the parties at home’ or ‘she bakes up a storm’ — my mother harped only on my utter unsuitability as a wife. Thanks to her, I can’t sew, cook or arrange flowers.
I have inherited the rare talent to fry water to a crisp. Whenever the smoke alarm on my floor goes off, it is always the stove in my flat; I never got the hang of watching a pot on fire. Other life skills I am currently imparting down the line are equally suspect, owing to the fact that no one officially imparted them to me from up the line.
Slowness is our thing, having taken the hare and tortoise tale to heart. Click fast-forward all you want, we look like a still life. The speed with which Kalki dons her stilettos in the Badtameez song — one minute she is rushing up to Ranbir, footwear in hand, and the next she is hugging him well shod — is not for us. Together we are Crouching Kids, Hidden Mom.
The girls don’t wear a thing I pick up for them, and won’t like a boy I introduce them to. What I tell them, like I was told before them, is that I will wholeheartedly be on the side of whoever they marry, if they marry. (Right now, all they talk about is Katrina Kaif, who, as daughter-in-law, I am guessing, will be too busy shooting to interrogate me deeply on my failings as a mom.)
Of course, it can all boomerang. They can bring home a stand-up comedian each and I will have to be mirth material for four instead of two. Either way, I shall look at their wedding like my mom did at my wedding — shell-shocked that someone was actually marrying her daughter!
My grandmother married at 9, my mother at 16, and me at 30. Going by this almost doubling of age gap from generation to generation, I am expecting my daughters to think of marriage, if at all they do, when they are 60. By which time, senility alone will have me cruise beatifically through their weddings.