your eyes carelessly scan this page millions of women are in various
stages of childbirth - in fields, and huts, homes, apartments, hospitals
and health centres. A few are alone and scared, but many, even the poor or
obscure, are not.
matter where or how this happens, it is seen as an important event. Every
birth is greeted with a unanimous astonishment and acknowledgement of the
vast unknown. Despite the problems of overpopulation, India recently
celebrated the birth of its billionth baby. The birth is greeted with
shouts in every conceivable language and culture of “It’s a
lifetime of intensity is poured into these moments: the wave of undiluted
pain comes pounding in, subsides and rolls back with a more forceful
crash, forcing out cries that burst out from the depths of a woman. From
her cocoon of pain she dimly hears shouts to bear down, hold back, push,
as if they are from another world, nothing to do with her. The faces of
doctors and midwives in crisp blinding white of glints of steel, masks and
gloves are a blur. She barely feels the hands she is clutching for
wrapped up in red life-forming placenta, a tiny body emerges out of her
ripped body. With the child, she is handed a lifetime injection of love
tinged with the pain that comes from loving too much. Her tears, her sweat
pouring from her brow, her flowing and clotted mess of blood is mingled
now with relief, laugher, and exhaustion, wonder, and above all hope.
something changes in the woman - she is no longer a human being with
selfish desires. Even after cord is cut, even if she or her baby dies the
mystical ties that bind her to the child remains tightly bound, flowing
somewhere together into the stream of the universe.
mother and child, Madonna and bambino, have been immortalised by great
painters, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli; in Hindu Mythology; in
the earliest cave etchings, in world art, literature and history.
this is no static tableau to be admired at in an art gallery. There are
millions of living paintings around us in our modern age. The images no
less endearing for their ordinary-ness, perhaps more so, since they go
unrecognised unseen. Consider a few:
A mother sits in her working clothes pumping out breast milk into a
container for her newborn and swallows her tears after dropping her child
to the baby sitter so she looks smart for the office meeting. Like a
juggler she finds ways to somehow hold down a job, find time for her
child, rush to the supermarket and drug store, make PTA meetings, and time
to bake a birthday cake.
A mother gets her pay docked, and puts up with angry employers and
threats so she can spend the day taking her sick child to the hospital. An
inner barometer in her will happily forego self-preservation to safeguard
her child’s health.
A mother sits in a camp where hundreds like her are battling
famine, with her baby to her breast, too weak to even brush away flies,
but her grip on her baby doesn’t weaken even after she or the baby dies.
A mother at home spends all day taking care of three children:
makes sure they brush their teeth, get their meals on time, wipes bottoms,
and tears, fights back anger when they don’t listen or disrespect her,
takes them to school and lessons, spends time over their homework,
admonishes, hugs, and praises, dispenses advice and medicine, separates
fights, and tries to teach them the small curtsies like please and thank
you and the big ones, like right from wrong.
between there somewhere she forgets who she is, suppresses her longing for
her paintbrush or office, travel or ambition. She wonders at night, when
it’s quiet or over the kitchen sink, where all the years, and the
carefree laughter and the sense of possibility went. Forgets that she has
a body and mind that needs care. When her children are grown and
sophisticated, they come and go, like butterflies, chastising her for her
old fashioned ways. She continues to love them, and suffer pangs of pain
when they are in trouble or go away, or buy a motorcycle or are out too
A mother sits by her critically ill child who nearly drowned for
trying to save a friend. As she passes her hands over his brow she thanks
God for his courage, his good heart, and then goes numb with fear, rocking
up and down as if in a trance, “I can’t lose him, I can’t lose
him.” She is not alone. A thousand mothers feel for her.
A mother thinks of the worst thing that could ever happen to her is
her child dying before she does. The child dies. But she never lets the
child go. She holds on to that child, and by a supreme act of will, keeps
him or her alive in her heart, because if she didn’t do that she
A mother shops and laughs, travels and gossips with her children
who drop in all the time to see her. Somehow she is among the luckiest
ones. She has learned to hold on, not with guilt, or recriminations, but
with a wacky sense of humour and wit that never grows old. She has become
their friend without asking for anything in return because she too has
made a full life for herself. She has given them the gift of independence,
of huge spaces and possibilities, of going after impossible dreams,
because she was brave and wise enough to recognise that although she loves
her children she has her own destiny. She may have had to go away for
periods of time - may have not always been there to comb their hair or
pick them up after a fall, but by allowing herself to fulfil her own
potential she has given them the gift of theirs.
are so many types of mothers. Call it a mystic tie, a finer, purer tie
than any ties that bind. Whatever it is, you, our mothers gone, and
mothers present, mothers to be, and mothers who’ve lost their children,
working mothers, frail mothers, mothers who’ve adopted, and those
who’ve had to give up their babies, will go on being what you’ve
always been, angels in this bedraggled earth of ours.
difference is even if it is just for one day, today, Mothers’ Day, we