Yesterday, I attended a talk at the Tata literature festival on “ Writing as a Catharsis”. The panelist were Avni Doshi who has just released her debut novel “The girl in white cotton” which is about a complex relationship between mother and daughter. Then there was Istavan Voros and David Vann whose father committed suicide when he was just 13. David went on to write a novel about his father’s suicide but ended up committing suicide himself (in the novel of-course).
I guess that event yesterday and some feminist on twitter calling me sexist, triggered me and I had some revelation about myself and my relationship with my mother which I thought I would write in this blogpost. Yes, it is mostly about me, and a bit about my mother.
The Memorable Childhood Incident
I was seven or eight years old. I went to my mother and asked her I wanted her to make something sweet (sheera) for me, as I was hungry. She was having an emotional moment perhaps at the same time and she shooed me away. Not harshly but her expression was deadpan. That was perhaps the most painful of my memories of my mother. That day she had given up on me, or rather that day she had given up on herself perhaps. I would never ever again ask her to make anything for me. That was the last time, I asked something from her.
I felt betrayed. My own mother had given up on me, but I was also deadpan about it, like mother like son. I never showed my pain. I ignored her completely. My dad was the hero, he earned a lot of money and I didn’t need an alcoholic mother. But I was wrong.
After that day, things spiralled downhill for her. She was a raging alcoholic, I never again saw her sober from that day onwards. She used to drink when awake and go to sleep when drunk out of her senses. She was drinking to numb her pain. How could a woman in so much pain even think about the needs of a young child? I didn’t understand then, I never forgave her for not being responsible towards me. She was supposed to take care of my needs as Dad was working 8 am to 9 pm every day.
Soon things spiralled to rock bottom. She had become a threat to our safety, and every day we had one or another scene. One day I came home from school and saw my mother sitting on the window ledge and threatening to jump off the third floor. It was attention-seeking at its best. We all knew she wouldn’t jump, but I died thinking that my entire school now knows about (my mad) and alcoholic mother. Dad was summoned immediately and the crisis was taken care of.
Soon the divorce papers were done and mother was sent away.
Growing up without a mother
My dad took very good care of us as far as food and clothing were concerned, but he was old school and was never really could understand my emotional needs. It was hands-off parenting. As long as I was safely back home every day, no questions were asked as a child.
No one to talk about problems which a 10 year could understand.
A child needs to be talked to every day, a child needs to be questioned about all the things which happen daily in a non-intrusive way. This was missing in my childhood.
For eg –
I had a tuition teacher who taught me for 5 years and every day he would make me feel guilty how i was not doing my homework. He would talk down to me 30 minutes of the one hour of tuition time. I just blanked out and he went on lecturing. I didn’t hate him for it, I liked the guy, but he just didn’t inspire me. He just didn’t get me.
Dad never took one day of my homework. He was just too busy making money, I think if I had a functioning mom, she could have helped in my studies. But I wish my 5 years of school life was not wasted with an uninspiring tutor and I could at least tell someone about it.
But perhaps I am applying today’s “Helicopter parenting” standards to the completely care-free, hands-off parenting of the ’70s.
Eating food outside
I must be the youngest kid who started eating lunch everyday at a hotel, I must have been eight. Though my sister would manage some dal-chawal. I preferred to eat my lunch from the neighbourhood restaurant. Eating every day from the Udipi joint is not the greatest thing for a growing up.
Eating right is so important if you understand the gut-brain connection. Yup, eating right can make you bright. Forget about looking hot and sexy. A child needs sharp brains!!!
The Biggest Void
Our biggest voids define our life.
I think my biggest void is not having a woman to take care of me. I just cannot find a woman who genuinely cares. It is said that woman want grown-up men and at the same time, they also say that women make men grow up. What are the rites of passage for a boy to become a grown-up, I suspect the role is played either by the mother or by the wife or a woman who deeply cares?
This insecurity destroys my relationships and otherwise gets me glued on to some relationships where perhaps I shouldn’t be looking.
The sense of betrayal when a mother gives up on a child is biological and could perhaps take a lifetime to heal. Till then I will keep looking for a woman who will care enough or chase women who have the capability to care. I think it takes a certain madness to care for a grown-up child. 🙂
This Blogpost now raises another question? What it is to grow up without a father? Let’s explore that sometime. If you have been brought up by single parent. Do email me you thoughts on firstname.lastname@example.org.