“I don’t know Radha, maybe it was a mistake to let my dreams go in the name of what seemed like love. Maybe it was a mistake to depend on Raghu for money.” Said mum to her friend. Radha sighed, almost feeling the regret my mom was feeling, and added, “at least you had dreams of value to miss. Mine was to get married.” And the dull silence broke into a sad laughter of reminiscence.
Mom was cleaning up after her friend left, the teacups were washed and arranged, and the table was back to its shiny self. “I need new books,” I told her with guilt. She looked at me smiling, “Of course, I’ll ask your dad for some extra money today.” And the guilt turned into a knot in my stomach.
How disappointing it was to see my mom depending on my father to the extent of disrespecting herself. She must have started out like me, a ten-year-old, with dreams of her own. She wanted to be a teacher she had told me. But she got married as soon as she completed her graduation, and my father found it ego shattering to let his wife work. “I can take care of you”, he had promised her. And today, he fought with her for every extra rupee in the name of house expenses.
A few years later…
“You just want to show off in front of your friends and family. Want to feign the role of a Memsaab. Don’t forget that I am just a clerk! Hold the purse strings, I always remind you, but no! You have to put Radhika in tuition. Why can’t you teach her? I ask? What is the use of that B.Sc. degree I ask” After a long pause “Why can’t you be a loving wife, or am I cursed for life with you? My friends sing praises of their dutiful wives, meanwhile I am stuck with you!” Father had his own regrets and dreams I guess; mom quietly packed his lunch while I skimmed through my 11th physics textbook to appear busy.
Conversations like these happened way too often than they should. From money for daal to an eraser, everything had to be approved by the Dictating breadwinner. And every time I reminded myself of my dream, just like my parents did. I wanted to earn a lot of money one day, and shower my mom with all the money bought happiness she missed out on.
A few years had passed when finally I got my first job, my stipend was Rs.500. A well-paying job it was, indeed, but mom was happier about the fact that I had made something of myself.
The first salary check I got was to be given to my mom, but a selfish desire shadowed my good intentions and I gave her the moony with regret, only to fulfil the promise I had made to a younger Radhika. She was ecstatic. I was sad. Something had happened over the years, I had turned selfish, and my mom seemed like a burden for a second. I was swept with guilt when I realised I had turned into my father!
Not trying to make excuses, but the child me hadn’t taken into account the ice-creams, dresses and birthday parties I had restrained myself from to avoid my mom being yelled at. So when I finally got the freedom of deciding my own budget, I didn’t want to share the happiness, not even with the woman who had suffered more than I did.
All those years a mom spends over preparing others to achieve their aspirations, while she shares tea over lost dreams. All those battles with dhobi bhaiya and sabji bhaiya to save that extra paise, feeling valiant over victory, only to get ingrates in return. Her dream was compromised just for her family. And we left her counting the change in her hidden box in the kitchen, amidst the grains of sand. Indeed a scary life, one of the Middle-class mother.