sneak preview
Ideal Mother

By: Ranjita Biswas

Ideal Mother
I have an aunt, who, now in her 80s, is receiving an award this week bestowed by a well-known women writers’ group in Assam in recognition of her being an “Ideal Mother” (adarsha matri). Ideal? For what, perhaps you would wonder. Devoting her life to bringing up her children , looking after her husband and in-laws in an extended family- never bothering to look after herself or her needs et al? After all society, even today, admires all these ‘self sacrifices’ in a woman.

 And as my aunt, Makhoni Saikia, belongs to an age when these so-called values were even more emphasized on, there is nothing unusual about thinking in this strain.

 

Well, let me tell you about her. She was brought up in a semi-village, was married off  just after admission in a college , entered a house full of people, did her graduation ( of course, with full support of  my  grandmother who herself had done only three standards in a primary school),  while performing  all the duties of a daughter-in-law, and brought up four daughters. She never let ‘not having a son’ bog her down and insisted on giving them a good education. She used to say, I remember, “Getting married is no big deal; everyone can do it if there’s no other problem. Housework or cooking you can learn later. If you are intelligent you can pick it up easily but study now.’’

 

She even took up a job in between to add to the family coffer as she sent all her daughters to study in Delhi’s top institutions. Today, all her daughters are professionals at the top of their fields. And yes, they are happily married and have grown up children.

 

My aunt also took up writing meanwhile and even now, years after her retirement, continues to contribute to vernacular magazines. Another feather in her cap the writers’ group ‘Lekhika Sangstha’ has  taken cognizance of.
If she is not an ideal mother, who is?

 

I often wonder as I see many educated mothers even in cities losing sleep over a daughter’s marriage prospect, discriminating between son and daughter and wallowing in self pity if giving  birth to more than one daughter. Why can’t they bring up their daughters the same way as they would have done a son, as my aunt did?  We talk a lot about equal rights,  ‘Beti Bachao’ campaign etc. etc. but  the  beginning is, or should be , made at the core- in the family.

 

Conversing with my aunt is still a pleasure and challenge. She is so up to date! And she loves discussing about literature. She doesn’t bother too much with the aches and pains that come inevitably with age.

 

I wish there were more women like her in our midst. Perhaps there are; we simply don’t know about them - in some village, some small or big town, doing their own thing quietly. To all those recognized, and the unsung ones, we can only salute for taking the message of equality of women forward in their own way.