It has been more than a year since my cousin’s wedding and that dreaded phone call from Father. While I presumed that my parents were enjoying the grandeur of a big fat Indian wedding, Mother had been silently nursing a gnawing discomfort in her stomach.
The discomfort soon ballooned into pain and she ran out of excuses to cover it up amid anxious relatives — some of whom arrived at several diagnoses and suggested plausible solutions and home remedies that they believed could assuage her pain. By the end of the three-day celebration and after concerned relatives had packed and left, Mother’s agony pushed her to visit a doctor.
Hospitalisation in a place far from home quickly followed surgery.
Mother has always been petrified of doctors and hospitals. Whenever the situation to visit a doctor arose, she would cook up a list of excuses and if that failed she escaped into the confines of her sacred space — the kitchen — and cooked up a storm. Entrapped in the trance of her culinary magic, we succumbed to her excuses. In hindsight, we had come to believe that Mother had a solution to all her problems — just as she always had one for ours.
Mother was always there — from lending an ear to all our silly banter to magically revealing the location of a book or dress that somehow missed our line of sight for the entirety of our frustrating search. Her efforts were always taken for granted until it was my turn to wear Mother’s hat. I now know that patience is a virtue and not a boon that a new Mother is granted after the birth of her first child; that none of the objects that are strewn about after a busy morning grew legs and walked back into place and that it takes love, attention and effort to transform a house into a home.
During my first year in the UAE, Mother sneaked in a few recipes along with the weekly email from Father for she was convinced that I would starve the husband and myself with my cooking experiments. It took my first visit home and an obvious increase in my waistline to convince her that I could fend for myself. In the prevailing climate of reunion and joy I did not mention that my new home had the world’s cuisine at its heart and required only a phone call to bring a lavish spread to our table.
Mother — who is from a little hamlet — rarely involved in an overt display of affection or long discourses of advice, but through the years, I was unconsciously registering and imbibing her actions and reactions that has slowly and surely shaped my life and become the compass that has guided me when I was building my own family.
Post her surgery and recovery, we have understood that Mother is no magic machine and like one of us, she too requires to be cared and sometimes coaxed into ensuring that she is well taken care of. While she has learnt that her one-size-fits-all remedies and excuses might only give her more time at the hospital dreading needles and doctors, away from her favourite space — the kitchen — and to find it topsy-turvy after she makes a comeback.
After her new-found life lesson, Mother made that much-needed dental appointment. She must have been a dentist’s dream for she has quickly elevated to becoming a priority patient.
Dear Mothers, your efforts are often taken for granted as it is your children’s way of reassuring themselves that you are always there for them. While you continue to love, fret and worry for your children even years after they have left home, it will give your children immense happiness and relief if you were to take care of yourself too.
Here is a reminder that you are a woman like no other and will always hold a special place in your children’s heart.
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.