I was nineteen when my father was pulled away from us by the Meta force called death. My mother was just 40 and had lost her partner, her love just mid-way in her life. All she had left to live for was a son she and her husband had welcomed to life on 11th of December 1994.
Now, she had to make sure that her son did not feel left out, forlorn or isolated. She had to make sure that I didn’t feel the paucity and need of a father as much. She had to make sure that the void that my father’s departure had created in my life is something that she could make up for.
She had always been a strong and decisive woman for whom family was most important. And, what was left of that small family was her and I. And, she had to make sure that in the dire hour of affliction and adversity, we only grew closer and didn’t get mired in the tough times and challenges that life was about to throw our way.
Not to mention, she had to do it all at a time when she was the one, affected the most by my father’s untimely bereavement. The utopia that Papa and Maa had crafted with years of love, sacrifices and hard work was shattering down into smithereens right in front of her eyes and she could do nothing about it.
So, to deal with all of those visceral emotions, Papa’s memories, money hungry relatives, dealing with the myriad souls dropping into our house and at the same time also handling a cantankerous son was no doubt an enormous challenge for her.
And, despite everything inundating her life, she kept me her priority. She began to treat me like a companion and not like her kid. She began to adhere to my counsel at times. She began to let me make mistakes even if she knew I was headed the wrong way. She wanted me to develop the trust that she would stand by me no matter what.
She broke the barriers that ever existed between us. For instance, the son who had never had sex-talk with his parents had now begun to have elaborate discussions on the same with his conservative mother.
She began to listen to my views on open and live-in relationships and other such matters which have largely been a taboo topic for discussions among Indian parents and children in most cases.
Today, I can talk to her about sex, STDs, pornography, periods and several other such issues that are considered taboo in the majority of Indian families. She won’t ever try to budge me off for the topic may seem to be embarrassing or against the social culture that she had been brought up into.
I can talk to her if I gestate feelings for a special someone or have a crush. She understands that I’m young, and attraction is a natural phenomenon. Yes, she does caution me that I must not get into anything serious as that might hamper my dedication towards my career, and I respect that. After all, if she won’t be concerned for me, then who will?
I can share with her almost all the things that go around me and my life. She knows who I like or dislike. She knows that I don’t use curse words unless I am too blown away by some idiot, which may happen once in two months or so at an average. And, when that happens, I can easily call her and confess- “I was so damn enraged that I ended up making use of profanity, Maa.”
I guess those are some of the major issues that Indian kids mostly find tough to discuss with their parents. But, Maa and I confabulating over such matters is a prosaic affair today. And, that is only because it’s no more about a mother and a son conversing with each other. Rather, it’s all about two companions in life discussing each other’s lives and interests.
She also opened to me about business affairs and managing the household finances, which was again a territory I was barred from taking interest into back then. She began to seek my counsel and advisory on how she could manoeuvre her business to better heights.
She knew that I wasn’t matured and experienced enough to give her a well-thought suggestion or argument on very many of those subjects. But, still, she anyway asked for my opinions for she wanted me to feel involved in everything that her life was about.
All because she cared what I thought of everything that affects us, I and her, together and individually. She trusted me and my abilities blindly and made me a part of everything that she was a part of, and soon this enhanced and liberal engagement blossomed into a relationship stronger than what I had ever had with her or Papa in the days of yore.
After my father left us, she shrunk the distances between us, broke the societal barriers on what to and what not to talk about, exposed me to every facet of life that I was until then being shielded from by her and Papa, and gave me the liberty to open up with her on every and any thoughts, ideas and views with the prerequisite that she won’t judge me for what I am, who I was, or what I wanted to become.
On almost everything that we opened up about, there were so many instances when our views were not congenial. If I wished to head south on something, she would always want to head north. Had, everything been the way it was before Papa’s departure, my voices would have been quashed in such cases, no doubt.
But, now she would lend me her ears and time. She would listen to me and share with me her opinion when she won’t agree with mine. And, she would do it all embracing the tenet that, if I was not doing what she wanted me to do, it didn’t mean that I was not doing the right thing. She understood that life does not work in binary terms- one right and one wrong.
Today, I can chide her when I feel she did something wrong. She listens patiently, acknowledges her mistakes and makes amends. At least she tries to do that. Also, today I can stand up for her good when familial and societal pressures try to weigh down her interests.
And, mostly she does allows me to do so just like Papa would have stood up for her. In the past, my rising voice would have been shunned by her on the spot! She acknowledges that while my views and ways of leading myself differ from her, but we both only want the best for each other and ourselves.
So, she doesn’t quash my thoughts like earlier she used to. Rather, she allows me to open up to her, gives me the liberty to explore and experiment and finally pushes me to let my rationale decide what’s right and wrong for me, and for her.
She gave me the much-needed space to decipher terms and tenets based on which I wish to lead my living even if my ways are an anathema to what the society or family would have accepted. Because she understands that most of the familial and societal norms had done us, mother and son more harm than good after my father’s demise.
So, she allowed me to charter my own path, knowing that I am going to fall, get bruised, make mistakes and get hurt a lot of times. She did that because life had taught her that one learns his greatest lessons by experiencing and not just listening or reading.
So, she lets me be wrong and make mistakes, and she guides me on how to embrace those follies when I get discombobulated. And, that liberty from my mother and the metamorphosis of the previous bonding of a mother and a son into that of two companions in life has made all the wise difference after Papa had to leave.
And, that in a nutshell was a glimpse into how my Maa handled me, her nineteen-year-old broken son when she became a single mother and had to lead the challenging life of a single woman.
She needed someone she could rely on for anything and everything, and she honoured me with the opportunity to be that someone. And, I needed someone who would not look at me as a child, but as a grown up whom they can rely on. With the liberty that she had bestowed upon me and my ways, she became that someone I needed.
She is a moon and I am a star. We are meant to share the same space. Distances between us may at times grow and shrink, but nothing can break the eternal bond we share. That is something I can proudly say as of today.
And, it’s only because my mother tried to look for a companion in me.
I hope this answer augments some value to the reader’s perspective. Best wishes!