Many summers ago, we were at our native village in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. Cooking meat used to be a big occasion in villages in those days. It still is. Mustard oil was being heated in a haandi (earthen cooking utensil) to make Laal Maas, a traditional mutton dish of Rajasthan. My mother asked me to pour some water in a utensil kept near the chulha. I was an absent-minded kid, about 8 years old, who had always disappointed his parents. I poured water straight onto the hot oil in the haandi. The oil-water mix crackled and jumped. I stepped back and so did my mother and an uncle who were preparing the mutton dish. Luckily no one was injured. I don’t remember being scolded by my mother that day. Her first reaction was to ask, whether I was okay. She had forgiven my mistake before I had even apologized.
Many years have passed. Though they have never given a hint, yet I know I’ve been a huge source of disappointment to my parents and myself in all these years: the prodigal son, the underachiever.
Tonight I was cooking mutton curry, heating mustard oil in a pan. I asked my mother to give me the cinnamon-clove-black pepper powder ground at home. She is sixty-five years old now and a vegetarian for more than two decades. She brought the finely ground powder and absent-mindedly added it to the under-heated oil. Obviously it didn’t splatter or crackle or jump. Yet, I reacted angrily, throwing a tantrum that the whole dish was ruined and under-heated oil would lead to a greasy mutton curry. It took me some 15-minutes to return to a normal mood. I didn’t apologize, being too egoistic as sons of my kind are. She must have been hurt yet her face didn’t betray any feeling. Stoic as ever she offered to grind the spices. I merely nodded. She had forgiven me. This much I know.
It is inevitable that in a few years she’ll be no more. Perhaps then I’ll apologize for all my mistakes. And I’ll realize how we kids were the centre of her Universe and how she loved me selflessly. And I will recognize that the first and the last true miracle I saw was her caring presence around us and the sacrifices she made. And who’d witness my meltdown, my apology? Who’d care? No one.
For others you might be a drinking game, an object of ridicule, a peg to hang their weaknesses or achievements on. For your mother(and father) you are a piece of their flesh, a living breathing perfect piece. You share umbilical connection with your mother. She remains the one true person around us whom we take for granted, and sometimes treat her like furniture. She stoically bears our whims and fancies. My late grandmother used to say that the sacrifices by a mother are such that even if our skins were refashioned as slippers for our mothers we won’t be able to pay back debts we owe. Obviously no mother would ever ask such a gruesome repayment of debt. Yet it’s a significant metaphor.
Mother is much more than love, patience and kindness personified. She is a human being with feelings. She craves affection too. Treat her with love and kindness, like she had treated you when you were young and restless. Be patient, be compassionate. Show respect before it’s too late.