The Breakthrough Voice 22nd July, 2019

Cinderella Had One Fairy God-Mother – I Have Four.

Yes, money is important, and kudos to working mums, but what these four ladies have done is more than their fair share of work.

I got really lucky with the four angels in my life, who wear the masks of mortal humans, but secretly nurture superhuman powers. Yet, their powers aren’t openly acknowledged, because they are suppressed by the demons of Mr Patriarchy. But Mr Patriarchy is on its way to being defeated, along with Cousin Sexism and Nephew Discrimination, and the patience showed by these four angels is finally coming to fruition – as if they knew that one day, I would realize the importance of their hidden powers. 

I have always loved my Ma, Mashi (aunt), Dida (maternal grandmother) and Thamma (paternal grandmother), but in the past few years, I have come to respect them more and more. Some of them chose to give up their careers to marry the love of their lives, and have come to regret it later, and advised me to be financially autonomous before I settle down with someone. I was always grateful that I had such cool women in my life, who never stressed on marriage but my career. However, today I realize that in this process, they were belittling themselves and their contribution to the family. 

Yes, money is important, and kudos to working mums, but what these four ladies have done is more than their fair share of work. Yes, maybe the GDP doesn’t recognise it, and the wider society doesn’t recognize it, but to hell with them. I do and it’s time they do too. I had the most wonderful childhood thanks to the cumulative effort of all of them, and I am here to appreciate it. Maybe it’s a little late, and I’m so sorry about that. But here it is anyway. Yes, they told me that I would appreciate them only when I had to leave and trust me, I do. 

My Dida is one of the most talented women I know, and the energy and enthusiasm she displays at the age of 71 is something neither her daughters nor grand-daughters could ever catch up with. Her ability to do multiple things at the same time is absolutely astounding. Last year, I took my friends to visit, and she whipped up biryani in less than two hours without any forewarning, even in the middle of Durga Puja!

In today’s world, I know how hard it can be to bring up a kid, especially in a city like Mumbai and I respect her choice to focus on that.

Almost everyone in the locality has worn clothes stitched by her and she’s even made soft toys for so many of us. Of course, she never charged anyone for this, and she did it for herself and for her own happiness. She kept herself busy after both her children moved away and never, at any point, showed the gloom of ageing. She took on old age in the most wonderful, positive and practical manner and devoted herself to being productive and happy. For someone like me, who always looks for things to complain about, she is indeed a refreshing idol. 

My childhood would be incredibly boring without my Thamma. An author of eight books, that too after the age of 48, could she be any more of a rockstar? She filled my childhood with the most beautiful stories and I remember calling her my best friend. No matter how busy she was, she always made time for me, and indulged in my ‘ranna-bati’ (role-playing cooking and housekeeping games), where I would always be the ‘Mem-saheb’, and turned her into the butler.

She humoured me by feigning fear every time I threatened to go off to boarding school and introduced me to the world of books at a very tiny age, something I would forever be grateful for. If I call myself a writer someday, know it would be because of all the effort she put in reciting all those stories to me, pushing her mind to the furthest pits of imagination and encouraging me to think.

Mashi is my favourite person on earth. She is an MBA, who chose to give up her job to bring up her daughter and dog. A lot of people may call it foolish, but I know how much courage it took for a pampered younger child and career-oriented woman to do so. To have the kind of self-conviction and confidence to be able to depend completely on someone else for finances is remarkable.

She silently did all the chores so that this ill-mannered and ungrateful kid could take her for granted

I know the effort she puts into making the best gobi-parathas I’ve ever tasted, to look after that gorgeous home she has built and being ever-ready to host not only me but all of my friends at her house, for days. In today’s world, I know how hard it can be to bring up a kid, especially in a city like Mumbai and I respect her choice to focus on that. She is the one I turn to whenever I feel the need to vent and share things I could never talk about with my mother. She has the most gorgeous laugh which can turn my day around just by its simplicity and good nature. 

Finally, Ma. Waking up to an alarm clock was unimaginable for me in school and what I personally miss the most is how she’d wake me up with a cup of coffee and a big smile, even though I would grumpily shoo her away to let me sleep a little longer. I can only imagine the kind of patience it would take to go through an entire day with a cranky kid like me… phew! I could only have a worry-free childhood and adolescence because she made it so. She silently did all the chores so that this ill-mannered and ungrateful kid could take her for granted, and I would have the audacity to ask her why she hasn’t cooked my favourite meal for dinner, after she spent the entire day in office and running from one place to another, paying electricity and phone bills. 

Back then, I would crave food from fancy restaurants, and I remember there were many instances where she cooked something nice but it was side-lined by some dish Baba had brought in from outside. Yet, she never seemed to be upset at this and quietly put what she cooked away, with a smiling face and something about how we could always eat it the next day. Funny how today, there is nothing I would prefer more than a simple home-cooked meal made by her.

There are innumerable instances that I today recall with guilt, shame and gratitude, times when I ought to have been grateful, but failed to do so. My selfless four angels, I’m so glad they chose to bless me as their child. May they always fly high and their invisible wings be strong enough to face the harsh winds.

Also Read: Double Burden Of Work: A Never-Ending And Thankless Cycle

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