Ma and the gajar ka halwa syndrome
Updated: Jul 6
A substantial population of the heroes of Hindi cinema grew up eating “ma ke haath ka gajar halwa”. Be it success at a running race or a heartbreak; getting a job or losing one, ma was ever ready with a steaming hot plate of gajar ka halwa (irrespective of the season). Few spoonfuls of this halwa and all the sufferings were gone
Films they say are a reflection of our society. So what do we understand about “mother” from our films. From the self sacrificing mother of Deewar to the evil scheming mother of “Beta”, the role of mother has been significant in our films. She is the one who makes or breaks the protagonist of the film.
What about our society then? How do we portray a mother? Scrolls and scrolls have been written about the unconditional love of the mother. From carrying you for nine months, to the labour pain to the shaping of your personality; poets, writes, artists all have glorified motherhood.
No one denies the love of a mother towards her child, no matter how old he/she is. I have experienced that love from my mother and I experience it for my child. What I don’t understand is the need to glorify it.
From the Vedas and Purans, from Freudians to modern psychiatrists/psychologists, from teachers to laymen we have focused on the role of mother in the life of the child. A badly behaved child is often considered a reflection of a bad mother. From an incompetent daughter in-law to an irritating husband, the blame solely lies on the mother.
We all have been brought up with the concept of an “ideal mother”. A self sacrificing, all loving, never tiring, all forgiving being. Did I just describe God? Oh yes, mother is God, right?
So what does this image of an ideal mother do to us? Let’s think of a young woman planning to have a child. Everyone around her tells her how blessed she is. She can’t complain of the morning sickness, cramps, fatigue , mood swings because she is going to be a “mother”.
Then she has a child for whom she has to feel an instant attachment and immense love for from the word “go” never mind her fatigue and raging hormones. Yes, she will look after her child, feed it, clean it, bathe it but is the added pressure necessary. Does she become an evil mother if she expresses the need for a break or sleep or solitude?
As the child grows up a mother’s world is supposed to revolve around her child. Life becomes a no win situation for her. Her child cries when she is away she is a useless mother, if the child doesn’t cry it’s because she doesn’t love the child enough. If she works after pregnancy she is blamed of neglect, if she doesn’t she is blamed of not planning for the child’s future. If she cuddles the child often she is spoiling it, if she doesn’t she is cold.
And then there are these innumerable “parenting classes” which expect you to have the patience of a saint and firmness of a king. A mother is expected to do everything right. Can you imagine the amount of anxiety this can induce in a person.
Don’t forget the blindfolded judges waiting at every nook and corner. You go out with a date alone with your husband and you are not fit to be mother. You don’t love your child enough if you don’t spend every waking minute with it. You fall asleep when the child is awake and you are accused of neglect. You have a maidfor cooking and you are depriving the child of ghar ka khana.
No wonder we grow up with a total disregard for our mothers. We demand and we expect from them. Yes of course we love them but how often do we ask her what she wants. I met this young man who loved taking his mother to fancy restaurants to thank her for all the lovely food she cooked. Never once did he think that maybe just maybe she doesn’t like that rich spicy food. “ I don’t allow my mother to do any work at home”, said another. His mother reported of feeling bored the whole day doing nothing.
Now let’s talk about men. It is so unfair to them when we glorify motherhood. The poor father has a role to play too which is totally neglected or looked at only through financial terms. And then we fight with our husbands for not taking responsibility of our kids. They were brought up to believe that their mother was the whole and sole in their upbringing and that their wives are sacrificing so much to bring up the kid. Why exactly should he take more interest in the kids?
As a society we call our nation “motherland”..Bharat Ma. So we go ahead and use her, soil her clothes, make fun of her, leave her without a second thought yet expect her to love us and provide the best to us. That’s how we have been brought up to treat our mother so why is it strange?
A mother is first and foremost a human being. She has needs, feelings, emotions and choices. She has rational and irrational demands. A sudden change in the role does not invalidate these. There is no such thing as a perfect mother.
A sensible mother is a person who acknowledges that she is not God. She accepts that becoming a mother does not mean not being a human being. She will have her ups and downs. She will have moments when she will regret having a kid, she will want minutes of solitude outside of the loo and she will want to whack the child once in a while.
The kid did not come with an instructional manual. Motherhood is about learning on the job through trials and errors and enjoying them too.
I love being a mother but I love being me too…and that’s what I will teach my kid.