Saturday, June 24, 2017

On the dynamics of a healthy marriage...........

Mamma,
I don’t know if it’s okay for me to write to you about this. But having seen the life you lead I feel it is time I came out with my observations. I truly hope I am wrong but my gut feeling says that you are at the receiving end of an abusive relationship with daddy. Please don’t get shocked. I am no teenager. I am now married and I understand the dynamics of family life. I have been observing you from the time that I could gauge your moods. I was perhaps 6 or 7 years old when I could understand the meaning of your words as well as silence. In fact I would find your silence oppressive and long for you to return to your ‘normal’ mood.

I took me a while to understand that your mood swings had something to do with daddy. You took care to keep it to yourself but we children have a way of understanding that all is not well between parents. The days you went into a silent mode coincided with the days when daddy went about beaming at those around him with the look of a conqueror. As a child I took care not to annoy or upset you on those days but I still did not understand what went wrong between the two of you.
It happened on a rare occasion that you chose to sleep in my room. Daddy came looking for you. I pretended to sleep. The conversation that followed is something I did not understand till I graduated from school.

“Hey, stop fussing” It was daddy talking in a hushed tone.
“Not today, please” I heard you protest. “You know I fast on Thursdays”.
“Fasting on Thursdays eh? Enough of this drama. Come on”.
“I don’t feel up to it”.
“Who is asking you?”

I then peeped from beneath my sheets and saw him leading you out of the room. You followed him like a lamb being led to a slaughter house. I knew then that something was very wrong though I didn’t understand what. Everything fell in place much later when Sr. Superior arranged for a program on sex education and the speaker highlighted the rights of a woman in matters pertaining to sex. I truly wanted to ask you why you let him bully you against your will. I realized how much you must hate yourself for not having a say in the matter. I also understood that you were being blamed for giving birth to a daughter because daddy often said in apparent jest that your clan was famous for producing daughters as was evident that you were one among five sisters. He joked about it so often that it ceased to be a joke. I also noticed that any reference by daddy to your ‘clan’ was always subtly tempered with sarcasm and you put on a mask of silence.

To be frank your submissive nature annoyed me as a teenager. But I now understand how hard it must have been on you. My husband is a wonderful person who believes in respecting women. His parents share a wonderful relationship and it is a pleasure having them over.  I now realize what was missing in your marriage. There was no equality. It was a kind of master – slave arrangement. But it is not too late to assert yourself. I am with you. Carve a niche for yourself. I plan to start a counselling center, for women in an abusive relationship, along with a few friends. Why don’t you join us? You need to come out of your silent mode. You don’t have to discuss your personal experience or drag daddy’s name into it. Just take the first step by lending a sympathetic ear to women who come forward to share their stories. The rest will follow. You’d be surprised at the kind of physical, emotional and mental torture women undergo just to keep their marriage going. The issue ought to be discussed and our men folk need to learn to acknowledge and accept  their women as equal partners and learn to treat them with love, affection and respect. Daddy was brought up to believe that a man could lord over his wife. Once you assert yourself he may change his opinion for the better. Why not give it a try? Think about it………………
Hugs!!!
Yours,
Neha  

This post is my 2nd post written for the Blogathon series # A Letter To Her by Women’s Web. I appreciate the initiative taken to create awareness about domestic violence in society.


Note: I would like to read MeenaKandaswamy’s book When I Hit You because I understand that it deals with domestic violence that happens everywhere but society refuses to admit it.  I would love to read what the author has to say and I hope it helps me extend a helping hand to any victim of domestic violence whom I come across.    



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Domestic Violence - When enough is enough.

My child,
I cannot believe that you are already eighteen years old and will be leaving for college in about a year from now. I wish to share with you the story of women belonging to three generations who for very different reasons put up with domestic violence. I feel that you are old enough to understand and when your turn to get married comes, you will be bold enough to say ‘NO’ to physical, emotional and mental abuse from your partner.

As a child I witnessed the plight of an aunt of mine who was married off at the age of sixteen though she was a brilliant student who passed her matriculation examination with flying colors. Her father wanted to send her to college but her mother felt that she ought to get married. Her handwriting was beautiful and her house keeping skills excellent. On festive occasions she’d make beautiful ‘rangolis’ that would make passersby stop to admire. She’d make a perfect housewife. And so she did. But her husband was never appreciative of what she did. He’d find fault at everything she did right from the food she cooked to the way she folded clothes. Her husband was spiritually inclined and would spend his time performing an elaborate morning puja and reading religious texts. He resigned from his job for the very purpose and her's was the onus of coping with his tantrums. He punished her by refusing to talk to her for weeks if she dared to show the slightest disinclination to act as per his command. His silence hurt more than his words and she literally fell at his feet and apologized for any suggestion she had dared to make. As a child I often wondered how a person who was spiritually inclined could spit venom on his wife for minor lapses and why she put up with it. I later heard that while the world praised her for being the role model for others to emulate, her own mother in law once remarked that her son needed to be put in his place and it was her tolerant behavior that was responsible for the pathetic life she led. However, that was eighty years ago when verbal abuse was not even considered worth a mention and physical abuse happened when the woman ‘asked for it’. Emotional abuse?? A woman was not supposed to have emotions. Unknown to others she could wipe a tear if she felt hurt – the rest was part of life.

Having said this, I must admit that our generation was no better. A woman could work outside her home but the husband controlled her income. I have known working women hand over their entire salary to the husband, accept a pocket allowance from him and use the cheapest mode of transport to travel to work for to save money even if it meant leaving home early. The smarter ones resorted to scheming and plotting and ‘stole’ a small amount from their own salary for their pocket expenses by claiming that they had contributed towards a gift for friend’s anniversary or a child’s birthday party. An unexpected salary raise or a double increment went unreported and the extra money tucked in a secret pocket in her purse to be used later. A wife who dared to resist the arrangement was trying to show off that she brought home a salary and was ‘put’ in place by the husband. Why did they cope with it you may ask? Those were days when women lived in joint families and the job allowed them a life of their own and a few friends with whom they could be themselves. The domineering husband would be tolerated in lieu of some eight to ten hours of freedom.  

The next generation revolted and announced that their financial independence had to be respected and no one could question their spending habit. They could order food from outside or hire a maid to cook and clean. The husband was asked to help at home. This new found assertiveness did not go down well with their men. If their wives earned more than them and/or were offered foreign assignments it hurt their ego. After all they had been pampered by their mothers and had always had their way. According equal status to their womenfolk was unheard of. Such women had to be put in place. Quarrels and snide remarks followed by physical violence took over. The bolder ones were able to say NO to abuse in whatever form. But most of them gave in and became subdued for the sake of peace in the family. The once assertive woman had been truly ‘put’ in place by her man.

You may have noticed that I have not included physical violence in the first two generations. Do you think it didn’t happen? It did. But in their case it was an accepted thing in society. No one would interfere – not even one’s parents. The woman would console herself by saying that he was burdened with the demands of a joint family and she was the only one who could serve as an outlet for his frustration. Moreover she was financially dependent on him - even if she had inherited a legacy from her parents or had a job or sold homemade pickles and papads that fetched her money.

 The reason for compromise was different in the third case. These women lacked the confidence to walk out of an abusive relationship. They valued the protection offered by the husband – never mind if it was an abusive one.

I want you to be different. Have the confidence to insist on mutual respect in your marriage. If you don’t get it don’t hesitate to clamor for it. A girl known to me rang up her mother in law after the first instance of physical abuse. She asked her to warn her son to never ever raise his hand on her. She would not only walk out of the marriage but would see to it that he was put behind the bars. The words had a magical effect and her husband understood that she meant what he said. There is no shame in letting on to your well wishers that you are at the receiving end of an abusive relationship. One can never guess the amount of domestic violence that prevails in society because no one wants to discuss it. As in the case of rape victims where the offender gets away with what he did while the victim is shamed, victims of domestic violence are blamed for annoying their abusive partners. Not all men are bad or abusive. I hope you find a wonderful husband for yourself. Even if you lead a normal life where both of you have mutual respect keep your eyes and ears open for what’s going on around you and extend a helping hand and stand up for any woman who is in an abusive relationship. She could be your house help, a neighbor relative, friend or colleague. And if you are blessed with a son treat him at par with your daughter and train both of them to love and respect one another. We need a whole generation to be groomed in this manner for the society that we live in to be hundred percent functional.
Your Grand aunt and friend.
              
 This post is my contribution to the Blogathon series # A Letter To Her by Women’s Web. I appreciate the initiative taken to create awareness about domestic violence in society.


Note: I would like to read MeenaKandaswamy’s book When I Hit You because the incidents of domestic violence never get reported because it is considered a private thing to be restricted to the four walls of one’s home. The topic is close to my heart having seen various degrees of domestic violence around me. I would love to read what the author has to say and I hope it helps me extend a helping hand to any victim of domestic violence whom I come across.    

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Gup Shup again

The writing bug has struck me again. After all I can rave and rant to my heart’s content in my blog world and forget all about it within minutes knowing that my readers would lend me their ears without ever being judgmental. So here I go!

If I had cribbed about my husband’s quirks in earlier posts I take it back. No, not entirely. He is a quirk alright but I realised that quirky husbands could be useful too. Let me elaborate-

 My dining table was polished 15 years back. I’ve been cribbing about the cushions needing replacement and how a fresh coat of paint was due etc.  etc., for the past five years. The cushion cover is fixed and cannot be removed and washed and they looked soiled. My rants fell on deaf ears and my husband of forty four years continued to either watch TV or read the newspaper. I then gave him the ultimatum.

“I am giving away the dining table and the chairs today” I declared “We can get a new set”.

Now, the announcement had the desired effect. No, don’t imagine that he agreed to get it polished. He didn't. We both love the dining table. It is sturdy but very light. We bought it when money was tight 30 years back. I know that a similar set would cost a fortune even if we could get one of the same quality and I had no intention of getting rid of it. My husband is a lover of stuff purchased with hard earned money. He also will not throw away what his parents or mine bought with their hard earned money. So the thought of giving up the dining table away woke him from his reverie and our familiar ‘nok jhok’ commenced.

“Why replace the cushions? They seem good enough”. 

“Don’t you see how dirty the cover is? And one cannot remove it to wash. I don’t feel like sitting on it”.

“It was your idea to put cushion. The earlier arrangement of a ply board covered with sunmica was good enough”.

“Does it mean that they can’t be replaced even in fifteen years? Call a carpenter and get it done. Or else I am just throwing it away”.

“What if I wash it?”

“Are you crazy? The cover cannot be removed and washed. It has to be replaced”.

“And if I wash it clean? I will unscrew the board with the cushion and wash it”.

And if you mess it up and it gets misshapen I will replace it”.

“Only if I don't do a good job of it”.

I was secretly relieved. I was certain that the flop idea of washing the cushion with the cover intact would never work and I would have my way. I advised him to try washing one at a time and offered to help if required.

“No need. I will manage”.

It was then that realised that I had underestimated my better half’s potential. He carefully dismantled the ply board with the cushion, turned it upside down and soaked it in soap water for half an hour. He then gently scrubbed it clean and rinsed it with fresh water without letting a drop trickle down to the wooden board.

And to my surprise the cushion was sparkling clean and looked almost new. He is washing the rest one by one without dismantling them. And between you and me I must say that he’s doing a good job of it. 

He was all smiles - gloating over his success. I could not deny him the pleasure. This was a time when defeat was a delight.

He now plans to polish it himself and I plan to keep my skepticism to myself. Once bitten, twice shy??









Thursday, May 18, 2017

Just my thoughts - 2

The writer in me seems to be hibernating. However much I wish to write I am not able to put down my thoughts on paper. Paper?? Well, I cannot write on paper these days. I only type out my thoughts in a word document and copy/paste it on my blog. It seems strange because I was known for the long and interesting letters that I wrote from my hostel. In fact, while in a boarding school, our letters were censored and our principal would make a weekly announcement on the best or most interesting letter written by the boarders and mine would be often declared the best. And how about all those exams that I answered? In these days of ticks and crosses I don’t think people consider long and descriptive answers worth a second glance but our days were different. We wrote out elaborate descriptive answers and a good answer would fetch us 5/10. No one heard of people scoring 90+ in language and literature. It was only in Mathematics that people got distinction marks.

Don’t get me wrong. I don't grudge the present system. But, with all the high scores one obtains, the proper application of the knowledge thus gained seems to be wanting. Getting a job means that one is trained to put theoretical knowledge to use and all promotions and perks depend on how well one’s skill is applied and how much the company benefits by such an application. To add to one’s woes ‘lay off’ has become common and loyalty to the organisation is limited because of lack of job security. I wouldn't know if the attitude is harmful in the long run. It is too early to say. I have worked in my college for 35 years and even after retirement I still feel connected to the institution. I willingly help out as much as I can and feel included. Would the current bunch of young office goers feel the same? I am not too sure about it.

The entire country is watching the arguments for and against ‘Triple Talaq’ and I feel happy to see victimised women opening up and sharing their experiences on TV. I do not for a moment claim that women are not ill treated in communities where Triple Talaq is not allowed. But divorcing a wedded wife for no fault of hers by uttering the word Talaq thrice over the phone or writing it on paper appears to be a practice that allows men to get away without giving the divorced wife any financial support by way of alimony. I hear that counselling the couple and advising them to make an effort to stay together precedes the process of actual divorce and just uttering Talaq thrice is not valid. Why then is it not practised? I am not competent enough to discuss the validity of the practice and wouldn't know if it is allowed in the Holy Quran. But I do feel that women have suffered for long enough and ought to be allowed to voice their protest even if a very small percentage of Muslim women are actually affected by it.

Polygamy is prevalent in almost all communities but it is not openly endorsed by society except among the followers of Islam. Yes, when men lost their lives in the battlefield and their wives had no one to support them society might have allowed the practice. But today it seems to be a license for men with roving eyes to resort to polygamy while the first wife is forced to remain a silent onlooker. At a time when census reports say that the male/female ratio is skewed in favour of men is it still necessary to allow the practice?

These are my views. I do not claim to know much about polygamy, nikah halala and Triple Talaq except what I was told by friends. A Muslim friend of mine explained the circumstances under which men were allowed to marry a second or third time and her explanation seemed acceptable enough. Over time, I believe, women were silenced and such practices were modified to suit men. 

Long back when I was in college a friend’s dad had three wives of whom the third wife was the most beautiful as well as the smartest. The first wife had no children and he married her younger sister who was my friend’s mother. My friend would joke that she was glad that her chinnamma was smart enough to put a stop to his adding a fourth wife to the list. All this happened when my friend did not belong to a community that permitted polygamy. 

I would be interested to know whether the Supreme Court would decide in favour or against Triple Talaq. There seems to be a provision in the marriage contract or ‘nikahnama’ wherein a women can insert a clause disallowing Talaq. If this is true I feel women ought to be rightfully informed of the provision and encouraged to exercise their right. 

It is long since I wrote and my writing is not very organised. I am just putting down whatever comes to my mind. Let me get going. I may improve with time. I have been lazing for long enough. Health was also a cause for concern. I haven’t been in great health for the past month. Writing is an activity I have always enjoyed. I need to get back to it to keep myself engaged if not for anything else.









Thursday, July 28, 2016

Old age Blues......

An elderly relative passed away today. She was 92 years old and had lived a full life. She was lucky to have all her children living in Chennai. She’d take turns to stay with them for a few months in a year. Her grandchildren are married and she has been blessed with 8 great grandchildren. She lived hassle free life with her children taking proper care of her. However, her death raised a question in my mind. How many of us are lucky to have at least one child nearby to come rushing when we need them? I am afraid - thanks to technology - that with the world getting smaller, the gap between parents and their children has hopelessly widened.

A look around me tells me a different story from that of the aforementioned lady. Elderly couple lead lonely lives waiting for weekly calls from their children. Very often the weekly calls become monthly ones. Reason?? Well, in foreign shores weekends are busier than weekdays with everything from stocking the refrigerator to washing clothes is squeezed into the available 48 hours. Children have their dance/music/karate/swimming classes and while one parent takes care of the shopping the other escorts the children to one or the other of these classes. Apart from this they organize birthday/Deepavali/Christmas parties as well as play dates for their children. Who can blame them if calls to their parents are postponed?

I am not blaming anyone. When my children were growing up I just wanted them to have good education. Good education gave them good opportunities and helped them spread their wings. I could not deny them a bright and prosperous future that awaited them. Visits to their homes have been eye openers. Their life is as much a struggle as mine was forty years back. Luckily for me, I had my job and a select group of friends who doubled up for family. So I have learned to lead my life in a productive manner. I cannot bring myself to complain having seen their busy schedule. 

Most of the time I am okay. I accept that this was what I had wanted. There are however times when I feel depressed. Like when my husband fell ill or when I had to deal with my arthritis. Waiting for my Kerala style massage at Arogya bhavan I could not help remembering the time when our house was full of people and I was attending to five sick people in our one bedroom flat. Here, I was driving myself to the clinic from college and driving home once the massage was over. There seemed no point disturbing my husband and asking him to wait at the reception area for an hour although he would have gladly come over if I had wanted him to.

 Who is responsible for this situation? Was it wrong to educate our children? Or was it wrong to want them to reach for the skies? I see that I am not alone. I have several friends and relatives who go globe trotting to spend time with their children. But they almost always wish to return to their niche. They don’t feel inclined to stay anywhere else for longer than necessary. 

Adjustment problems tend to crop up in spite the best effort from both groups. Children exposed to an alien culture are unable to bond the way we did when we visited our grandparents. And with gadgets replacing story times the next best option is to get computer/internet savvy and focus one’s attention on a gadget of our own instead of poking one’s nose into their lives. 

I don’t know if I am being pessimistic or cynical. Maybe a bit of both. The best thing to do would be to get involved in some activity and keeping one’s self busy. We have in our township two ladies - nearing eighty years of age - who head NGOs and find no time to brood. I am in awe of their enthusiasm and plan to assist them in whatever way I am able to. After all happiness is just a state of mind. 

While I think can manage my old age and the loneliness that is bound to follow by blogging and interacting wth virtual as well as actual friends I worry myself sick when I think of my husband who is a loner and depends solely on me for company. He is not into the social media and TV shows make up for social interaction. He watches a few Tamil serials and very often on returning home from college I can hear him talking while I climb up to my 3rd floor apartment. If you think he’s entertaining friends you are mistaken. He is so involved in the TV program that he is literally in conversation with the characters in the serial and very often seems to know what would be said next!

I have no problem with that except that he doesn’t know a single phone number except mine and when in distress and I am unavailable he cannot call a single person to help. What if I fall ill and need medical aid? We have a doctor in the complex but my husband won’t know to look for his number in my cell phone! He is so laid back and is happy to let me handle things like drawing money from the ATM or booking tickets online. In America I don’t get to use my i Pad because he uses it to watch his favorite shows and read the newspaper. So it is evident that he can become net savvy when he wants to. But apart from that he couldn’t care less. 

My friend has a different take in the matter. She says that her husband would take care of things while she took it easy just like my husband. When her husband died an untimely death she had to learn things the hard way. May be she is right. Why should I imagine that I am indispensable and he would not be able to manage without me? Maybe he would when it came to that.


But my question is does it have to happen only if and when tragedy strikes? Why not before?

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Life in America - 2

I am in Atlanta right now. At my son's place. He has done his best to make us comfortable by stocking his kitchen with grocery and his fridge with vegetables, milk, fruits and of course 'desi' yoghurt. My husband cannot gulp down a single meal without 'dahi'. I remember the time we landed in Patna on a hot evening in May. After a refreshing bath we went around looking for rice and curd - typical of the Tambrahm couple we were. Little did we expect that procuring plain curd and rice would be such a difficult (nearly impossible) task in the capital of Bihar. 

Plain rice at night? Curd? People looked at us as if were aliens from another planet. All that a few places could offer was sweetened curd and fried rice. We managed without curd that night. My husband put on a 'sour' look that seemed to say that it was my fault not to have brought curd with me from Jamshedpur. 

I digress. Coming back to life in America...........

With all good intentions my son had purchased a food processor. I wish he hadn't. Or that my husband hadn't noticed it. 

"Why don't we prepare idlis"? he asked eyes lighting up at the thought of idlis as an alternative to multi-grained bread that I gave him for breakfast. Now, please don't get me wrong. I have made enough idlis in my forty three years of marriage and was really looking forward to an idli-free vacation in America. I have written about my experiences with a manual grinder here.  

"I don't think it is sturdy enough to grind rice" I said. I was happy to put the fear of God into his head.
"If it gets spoilt, fixing it will be more expensive than buying a new one. We don't have Munna here". 

Munna was the electrician who repaired our 35 year old Sumeet mixer in Jamshedpur. My husband is so full of praise for him that he doesn't let my friends throw off their old superannuated mixers offering to get them repaired by Munna.

But as God would will it, my better half spotted a packet of idli rava in the Indian store and picked it up right away giving me no time to think of a new excuse. 

"Now you only have to grind dal". He was elated and went looking for dal and found it in no time.

"We are here just for two months" I tried to dissuade him. "What will R do with all this after we leave"? My protest fell on deaf ears. Son was smiling to himself understanding my ploy but refusing to take sides.

The very next day the idli project began.

"Did you soak dal for idli"?

The man is after my blood. I decided to mess up the proportion and make really horrible idli and blame it on idli rava. I am glad to say that I almost succeeded. The idli came out really hard and the project was a disaster. 

But I have married a scientist who worked in a research lab. He doesn't give up easily. The next time he asked me to try a different proportion, stood by my side while I soaked dal monitored my efficiency in using the food processor saying 'stop' and 'start' at the appropriate moments advising me on when to add water.............

To cut a looooong story short, Idli came out perfect and he is bent on buying another packet of idli rawa before we leave. To add to my sorrow he is hinting at trying out 'adai' and 'vadai' offering to guide me if required. 

I almost hear you ask -

''What is the connection between life in America and preparation of idli''?

Idli is easy on the stomach but a lot of preparation goes into serving this health friendly breakfast item. I truly wish that one didn't find a mini India in every corner of America and would have loved to live on milk, cereal and bread rather than using the delicate food processor that I have here. It has a single jar made of brittle plastic and cannot be left in the sink like the metal jar we have back home.  

 My domestic help Baby would have taken care of washing the jar in Jamshedpur. Out here I am a new incarnation of Baby and till I wash, wipe and put away the jar and mixer I remain tensed. I really wonder if idlis are worth the trouble. Of course juicers, mixers and grinders suited to the pounding, crushing and grating techniques employed in Tambrahm cuisine are available here. But I truly don't want to burden my son with gadgets that he may not use and to see them gather dust after we leave would be equally wasteful.  

Do I really want to put my better half on cereal and bread for the entire period that we stay here?

Of course not. I was just joking. He also adjusts a lot and has no complaints against the food I serve him.

I had earlier written that I feigned to be deaf. That was in an different era - eighteen years ago to be precise. Now I am half deaf and so is my husband. We keep saying "What? Eh? Oh?" to each other all the time. But with all my selective and actual deafness the truth is that I cannot deny him the food of his preference once in a while. Our 'nok jhoks' have reduced drastically and a realization that we only have each other, with whom to share our joy and sorrow, in this alien territory has set in. Please don't imagine that we are absolute angels. Once we reach familiar territory the 'spice of life' will automatically be added. 

And of course we have Eddie to fuss over. He has been adopted from a rescue home by my son and is an absolute delight. My husband runs miles from canines but Eddie is an exception. He loves to stroke Eddies' back and for his part Eddie puts out his paw to indicate that he wants he wants to be stroked more. He takes turns to approach us merrily wagging his tail.

Yes life in America is different. It has its merits and demerits. The internet access is definitely better here and the online library facility helps me read books on my i Pad something that I have come to appreciate and makes me want the same facility in India. Exercising (read walking) on the treadmill in the gym is something I will miss when I return. I must look out for a gym near my house and monitor my exercise routine when I go back. Walking in the crowded park near our house tends to make me cautious and reduces my speed. Moreover, one tends to meet known people and with a 'hello' and 'namaste' thrown in morning walks turn into social interaction. I do miss it here but walking for health benefits is also important.

I wrote two papers after I came here on the 'Role of Multimedia in Higher Education' and 'Improving the Quality of Higher Education in India' and felt good about it. So life here is not just about idli and vada or pulling husband's leg for his food preference. Life in America is about spending some quality time with our children and understanding about their life in foreign shores. 


  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

I am in Atlanta this Mother's Day. Celebrated the day with my son and his friends. We had Mother’s Day lunch at an Indian restaurant. The food was good and so was the company. It was almost when we were leaving that my son’s friend asked me as to how we celebrated Mother’s Day in India. No, this friend was not an American but an Indian who had, like my own children, taken up a job in the US of A and had been here for several years. I don’t remember what exactly was my response to his question. I said something to the effect that Mother’s Day was a western concept and is now catching up in India too. I also mentioned that with the joint family system breaking up and children relocating to foreign shores it was perhaps natural to set aside a day exclusively for parents. 

His question however had me thinking. When I was growing up we did not have a day set apart for our mothers or fathers. Women fasted and prayed for their husbands and sons. The girl child was honored during Navaratri. Brothers were accorded due importance during Rakhi and Kartik poornima. Shrardh was performed for dead ancestors. But children were never encouraged to pray for the well being of parents when alive. Neither mother nor father. But why?

It looks as if an entire society took it for granted that parents would always remain pillars of strength and their well being did not require  divine intervention. It also perhaps understood that children would automatically take responsibility for aging parents treat them with dignity and consider them as part of their family. 

Praying for the well being of sons and honoring the girl child was perhaps due to the fact that sons were expected to take care of parents in their old age and daughters were meant to be treated not as burdens but as special guests when they visited. It also indicates that the custom of celebrating certain festivals to strengthen the bond between brother and sister was a way of ensuring that they remained in touch even after their parents passed on. But parents required no such special occasions to bond with their children.

I think times have changed and so has society. Parents value their independence and want their personal space. Children too lead a busy life and much as they want to, are unable to spare time for their parents. Schools are encouraging their students to celebrate ‘grandparent’s day’ to appreciate their role in society. To keep pace with a changing society it may not be inappropriate to set apart a day in the year for one’s aging parents.

Treat them to dinner at a fancy restaurant - they may never muster courage to enter it on their own.

Order sugar free cakes for them and make them feel special.

Or……….

Spend a quiet evening with them talking about old times, relishing traditional home food and listening to golden oldies.

And……

Tell them how much you value their presence in your lives.

Let them tell your children about all the crazy things you did when you were a kid. They would love to hear them over and over again!

Finally the celebration must include both your parents and parents in law. Your in laws are entitled to your company as much as your own parents.

Happy Mother’s Day!