Before I began typing, I called my mother. It is a Sunday morning, and she picked up my call on her cellphone.

We spoke about my grandfather in her home, my in-laws in my home. My children, our husbands and other necessary details were all well.

Then she lowered her voice tenderly and said, “What is the matter? What are you not telling me?"

“Nothing," I said. “I just phoned to speak to you. Just like that."

You see, my mother is not used to receiving calls from me. I don’t call her for days on end, sometimes for weeks. I think of her, I look at the phone, but the call doesn’t happen. In the beginning she used to point it out to me.

“I never know what is going on in your life," she would say. “Renu’s daughters call her everyday from Dubai and Minnesota. Mandeep talks to her daughter several times a day. Arvind calls his mother everyday at the same time."

But Natasha wouldn’t call her mum. And her mum, Sudha, could not figure out why.

I talk to my mother several times a day, I’m a perfectly loving daughter in that sense. I just don’t pick up the phone and dial her number. I have conversations in my head and I talk about her and often I talk like her and that seems to satiate me perfectly.

It has always been simpler for me to be my father’s daughter. He is loving, and he is authoritarian and he is a workaholic. In response I am equally loving and rebellious and a copy of his professional self. We disagree openly, we back off from each other and go back to work and that is all the distraction and sublimation we seem to need.

On the other hand, it has taken me decades to find peace with being my mother’s daughter. It has been the most necessary journey in my life.

There were years when I had to disconnect from home to feel alive. The lessons they wanted to teach me came too soon for me. Be humble. You can’t always get what you want. Learn to compromise. Shut down your feelings when they overwhelm you, and carry on doing what you must.

These are all very useful tactics eventually in different contexts, but they came too soon for the girl growing up to become her own person. So I ran. I flew. I left home early and came back as late as I could. I found ways to travel all the time.

It was not easy for her to let me go, yet my mother enabled it. Sudha made things happen without letting it look like she had anything to do with it. This is the superpower of mothers, I suppose.

Sudha is generous and trusting and makes friends easily. She is the most powerful person I know. Like women are taught to be, my mother seems afraid of her power too. She rarely expresses anger or speaks up when someone is unfair to her. She helped us with our homework all the time, she’s a whiz at math and her English and Hindi grammar is impeccable, but she never had the confidence to speak in English when we were growing up. She would often behave like she didn’t really know as much as she did, as if it was rude to be seen as a very smart woman.

When I was 10 years old, I worried that my mother was ugly. I looked at fairer, richer, shinier women and wondered why my mother didn’t have a posh mask like theirs. Twenty years later, on the day of my wedding, when I looked up at the mirror after I had been made-up like a bride, I gasped. “Oh my God, I look just like my mother," I thought. I had never looked prettier. Sudha and I must have found a way to grow closer.

I find that words still come in the way of the real connection I have with my mother. She is eager to protect me and advise me. It slows me down and confuses me. Everything she wants to teach me is already in me. The less we chat, the more distilled and clear her messages get. When we meet, we speak in hugs and kisses, expressing intimacies that have been pending far too long. I get into her bed and put her soft pillow on my head and curl up for a nap. I feel at home.

This is an unfinished story, a small chapter in our book together. Let me call her again and take this further.

Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three. She writes a fortnightly column on family and relationships.

Also Read | Natasha’s previous Lounge columns

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