Second mothers

My mother was one of nine siblings. As a child, I watched her maternal home in a tiny village in South India,  play host to many, including me. Though the permanent residents were only my grand mother and my youngest uncle, the house was always full of floating population. Cousins posted nearby who used the house as base during week days, daughters who dropped in for short visits, sons and grandsons stopping by on their way to somewhere… and my own mother who used to shuttle between her government job in her hometown and Chennai till she got the much-awaited transfer.

So my brother and I used to stay there for months on end sometimes. Till my mother finally got her transfer when I was about 10.

During my stays, I spent a lot of time with a cousin. Though she’s technically my cousin, she’s only a few years younger than my mom, so she was more like an aunt. She has a bubbly personality, her kohl-rimmed eyes sparkling with mirth all the time. Being a school teacher, she was on to my tricks even before my own mother realised what I was up to. She was my hero. Thanks to her influence early on, I still cannot step out of home without drawing kohl in my eyes.

Once we settled down in Chennai, our meetings were reduced to occasional weddings. She too got married and was soon busy with the throes of raising her children while holding on to a full time job.

After a few more years even I stopped going for weddings due to the pressures of  academia and later, a career. I met her sporadically, may be once in 2 or 3 years.

I met her after a long gap of 8 years at a wedding, a few days ago. And the years just fell away. Except for the fact that she is a grand mother now and looks so frail and old, thanks to her illness, her eyes hold the same sparkle even now. We chatted away as much as we could and reminisced about my childhood and her youth.

Soon, it was time to go & I bid her good bye with a sudden lump in my throat.

On my way home I wondered, ‘Will my son ever have bonds like these?’

As a kid, I had so many mother figures in my life. My grandmothers, aunts, older cousins or sometimes even neighbours. I’ve spent days with and weeks with these women, stayed in their homes, eaten their food, confided in them and worried them to no end with my antics.

Of course, mostly it was because my own mother was so busy working full time & keeping house, she hardly had the luxury of a leisurely chat with me. Though my mother was a rock solid influence in shaping my health, conscience and general happiness, my emotional growth was pretty much dependant on these women who always lent a ear to my make-up queries and troubled teenage woes.

But apart from me and my mother-in-law, my son absolutely has no one else as a mother figure in his life.

True, he has his aunts and my best friends. But he sees them all with me around and only for short periods of time. He can never be close enough to go to them with his problems.

On the other hand, unlike my mother, I’m always around, ready to comfort him and offer him advice 24/7.

So I consoled myself that he does not really have the need for that kind of bonds in his life.

But after nine long years of my mother’s passing, it sure felt nice to look up to someone who cared for you as a child, feel safe and protected and not be the adult for once.




Wedding Plans 2029

I’d taken my son for lunch with a friend. The restaurant had a gift shop attached and we were browsing. He picked up a roll of giftwrapping sheet and started having an imaginary sword fight. “Amma!” he demanded. “I want this!”

“It’s not a sword.” I informed him. “It’s a paper to wrap a gift.”

“So what? Maybe I want a gift!”

“Look at the pink bow! It’s paper you wrap when you gift a girl! Not you!”

“Maybe I’ll gift something to A” He told me. She was his classmate in kindergarten.

After some hearty crying on his side, I relented and got it for him.

When my friend met us at the restaurant, she asked him, “What’s that, baby?” pointing to the roll of paper.

Without batting an eyelid he replied, “Oh, this is for a gift I’m going to give my girlfriend.”

I almost fell off.

Later I convinced myself that he could have just meant a girl who’s a friend. He was way too young to talk about romance.


Almost a year later I picked him up from a play-date at his friend S’s house. A had come too.

Back home,  I heard him in the shower. He was having an imaginary fight with his friend.

“S!!! I am going to marry A when we grow up! Not you!”

Startled, I listened to a heated exchange between him and the imaginary S in the bathroom.

When he came out, I casually asked him, “What was that about marrying A?”

I am going to marry her Amma!” He announced. “Not S! I  told him that!”

Not knowing how to react, I quickly changed the topic.

Next day, S was home for a play date.

Sure enough I heard them arguing. I went into the room to hear both of them shouting “Not You! She likes me better! I shall marry her!”

Amused, I butted in. “Why don’t you ask her instead of wasting your time fighting with each other?”

“We did!” replied S. “She said she didn’t know! So I asked her if she can marry both of us. She laughed and said, ‘Chee! how can I have 2 husbands?’ So now we’re fighting again!”

I kept a very straight face and made my exit.

Later in the evening, I had a talk with my son. “You’re too young to talk about marriage!” I told him.

“You’re only 5. I don’t want you discussing your wedding till you’re 25, alright?” I told him briskly.

“Okay,” He said, not too happily.

Next evening, he came up to me and asked, “So I can get married anyday after I am 25?”

I quickly thought of an escape route.

“Not really. There are so many procedures involved.” I started  rattling on, so I can put him off the ‘wedding’.

“You need to find a good day. Then book a hall. Look at the menu. Decide on the food. Then print invites. Go around inviting each and every guest.  Buy new clothes for people. Exchange them if they don’t like it…  It’s a long process.”

He mulled about it for a long time.

Then turned to me and said, ” So you’ll take care of all that, won’t you?’

So people, if you know of any wedding hall free in 2029, do let me know…