Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bringing Up Mum

I've never really believed in a god or a goddess. I was never sure, the existence of his/her/it. It all seemed, infallible, unreal, and frankly, very frankly, a little silly in the face of intellect, and freewill.

I align with freewill.  Most of the time. I've never really turned to look up or for that matter, down, for answers that have always seemed obvious, when given a little thought. You'd have thought at least something would have rubbed off, being brought up in a Mumbai residential area that was practically a how-to guide to Roman Catholicism: four churches, one convent, iconic Christmas midnight masses, and many devotees. 

Instead, my devout but quietly so Catholic grandmother and mother, never pushed it. My experiences instead left me with a deep love of churches when empty and no guilt (thank, well, Mum), fond memories of always cute boys, the smell of incense and the beauty of certain hymns that brought me to tears. And, an overwhelming desire to taste a piece of communion. Since I was often the odd one out with no half time snack, I had to know. 

But none of it brought me closer to any sort of god. 

I went to temple too, for the mesmerising rituals, and to watch the devout close their eyes and beautifully prostrate themselves in front of evocative statues and to received a slash of ash on my forehead. It felt, clean and good. And I went because it was an opportunity to see my dad doing stuff I'd never seen him do before - praying, being number one. Later on, I toyed a little with Buddhism. It seemed perfect to me. The ultimate freewill lifestyle.

But despite the individual beauties' inherent to all religion and philosophy I'd come across, none of it every really hit my buttons. I always felt and still do, that if I wanted to have a conversation with anyone, I'd arrange for it myself, thanks.

A few years ago, my mum had another stroke. Since then, she's had a number of trips to the hospital. Each time, the beautiful, strong, amazing woman whom I owe, well, everything to, seems to weaken, just a little bit more. It breaks my heart a little bit more each time to see, to notice, to understand this. I think about the times after she is not here, which I can't quite imagine. Yes, I'll cope, but no, I really don't want to.

Of course, the bond between mothers and daughters can be tenuous, destructive, and debilitating. I won't attempt to paint a pink, pretty world. For many I know who've shared their lives with me, it's usually a war torn emotional battle field between the past, present and future. An ever present misunderstanding of self, and off spring. 

My mother and I, are no different. We've had our moments. We still do. Big and little. Joyous and frustrating. Agonising and anger filled. I look exactly like she did at this age, and I think, we have the same dreams and even, the same ambitions. Often I catch myself realising that apart from kids, I'm re living parts of my mother's life, but 20 years on. With more freedom, and certainly, freewill. Circles and cycles. 

I don't believe in forced filial piety. I see it every day living in Asia. Conversely, I've seen and experienced such distance between parents and children in so called Westernised societies. Both ironically have the same effect. That of distancing self from source, and misunderstanding of individual pain, fear, and loneliness. Nothing more, nothing less. But it seems, caught up in living, no one notices these things. Empathy, sympathy, and pure care, have disappeared for the "me", the "I", the self. I should know, once upon a time, that was me. 

These days, there is no question, no pause in my mind about what I would do for my mother. 

As this source of my feminine power ages, I'm the recipient of some of this incredible well of womanly strength. It hasn't always been given willingly to me, I can assure you. My mother is a survivor, a toughie, who may very well have coined the phrase "freewill" with an emphasis on the word, will. 

I've had to learn to accept - earlier than I'd ever expected, nourish, cherish, and keep safe this energy of hers. To learn to use and not misuse it. But to not deny it. It has not been easy. Ever. Some days, I'd gladly give it back to her. But as I come into its fullness, and when it matters the most, I know the answer is nothing complicated. 

 It's what I call, forever love. 

It drives me to protect, lift, nuture, cajole, scold, hug, and kiss. It makes me insane, guilty, angry, and pushy. It makes me cry, laugh. Yell. It consumes me, distances me, makes me a terrible mate. A rarely-present friend. All the while trying to remain true to my true self. I am never perfect in this love. 

It's an uncanny thing, this link between my mother and me. When felt most intensely, it is a thread that pulls, ever so slightly. An otherworldly tug.  A call, which is felt somewhere inside my muscles. A twitch that tells me when she needs me the most. 

You're probably asking what this has to do with god. Well, we've been talking lately. It's a funny conversation. Like one of those friendships which, regardless of time, distance and life's changes, moves in tandem with you. Keeps the threads from breaking. Keeps a distance, or a closeness. Automatically. Intuitively. 

I don't know when we started talking. I don't see who this god is. Not a person, a thing. Sometimes, I feel a force. A gentle nodding of the head. 

We talk about it all, this god and me. Sometimes, I forget to call. Sometimes, god forgets to call. No one takes it personally. We just pick up where we left off. Chewing the fat. 

Lately, there's been a bit of bargaining. When my mother is sick especially. Or lonely, or just needs the warmth of my hand on her neck, or my presence in her line of vision. When it's a day I can't understand, can't be there, can't decide, can't talk, can't tap into the gift of her source to me, I talk to this god person. 

And for all the cant's.. I bargain. Just for a little more time, to get it right, to hold her hand, to know her heart completely, and to feel her pride a little more, shining as it always has. 

Just a little more time, please, for this extraordinary forever love. 










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