Last week, the mother had a special birthday treat—brand new son-in-law (who absolutely digs her) and brand old daughter descended to wish her. Since the siblings were both away, I thought I should do the honours, so I took the day off and zoomed across to her.
Now, she is one of those people who doesn’t know her real birth date (the one on the passport is fake, she claims). So for years, she has been devouring the horoscopes of Virgo and Libra—she claims she is a mix of both, plus a dash of Cancer (that’s what her passport birthday makes her)
Technically, since she was born on Vijayadashmi (Dussehra), we end up wishing her on that day—it’s easier to remember, unlike other geriatrics in the family with not-so-significant birthdays.
For the mother, it was a dream birthday, and she was all aflutter (nothing new about that). Imagine the rebellious first-born me, not just married, but showing up dutifully with the husband (the current apple of her eye) at her door! But of course, mother being mother, made it more about us than about her. The wishes were accepted in the most coy, dismissive manner, and brushed aside to focus on other things —like how to stuff us with food, and leave us spent and somnambulistic.
So there was a four course meal— highlights including a carrot kheer in honour of brand new son-in-law, rice papads and gooseberry pickle for me, tamarind and ginger chutney for him, apart from the elaborate spread co-anchored by the father. And after all this, she also gave us a doggy bag home, apart from my Dussehra baksheesh.
The next day, she called to moan that, in her excitement, she had completely forgotten the vadaIs and appams. She also apologized for being preoccupied with her Dussehra engagements and wished she had more time to spend with us. Needless to say, we were overwhelmed.
But it wasn’t just about us. The mother would have been the same enthused, hospitable self had a neighbour come visiting, or a distant cousin, an acquaintance, and even those so-called near-and-dear ones who drop in once in a blue moon for their goody bags, but never bothered to show up at my wedding or check on her while she was in hospital. Her theory is, you have to do what comes naturally to you, and not expect anything in return.
But I am not my mother, and thank god for that. I call a spade a spade and a slime ball a slime ball. Unlike mom’s “innocent even while proven guilty” philosophy, I have a “guilty until proven innocent for now” one, and have no qualms about it.
I don’t know which one of us is happier, but my hunch is, my mother is. Like her mother was.