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