The world may evolve, friends change, and life overtake us. What will remain constant in all this are our mothers and their good ol’ desi mom habits. Indian moms are precious beings. Peculiar, but precious. They have a way of understanding all that we don’t say (and sometimes even not understanding what we do say). Their desi taunts and melodrama may sound monotonous to our ears. But in all honesty, our ears would be deprived without hearing them at least once a day.
Here are some things our moms say to us that bug us so, but also make us love them more:
1. Eat some fruit
Praise be to our persistent, caring mothers for shoving fruits down our throats that we wouldn’t otherwise have in their absence. At an age where our youthful, lazy bodies would much rather stick to a junk diet, desi moms make sure to slip in some nutritional crunch. I am a 20-something working woman who, to date, has to have her mother force-feed her a fruit a day. True story: Very graciously, she once served me pizza for breakfast. Just as I was reeling from not being able to believe my lucky stars, she followed it up with a plate of assorted cut fruits. Like a toddler tricked into eating healthy food with the promise of a treat. Exactly how is a woman expected to harmonise a slice of heaven with a hellish apple?
But I guess fruits are a love language only desi moms know how to speak, that we initially detest but grow into appreciating. Can you imagine loving someone so unconditionally as to keep pumping nutrition into their body without being asked? Would a boyfriend, girlfriend, or husband ever show such keen selflessness? If there’s anyone capable of such magnanimity, it is only and only the dear desi mother.
2. Why are your jeans ripped? Give, I’ll sew it
Oh, my sweet dear innocent mother! The ripped clothes trend will always be something our parents, mothers in particular, will probably never be able to wrap their heads around. They, who have spent an entire lifetime in neatly pressed, creased clothes, have no patience for deliberately crusty, torn attire that the youth so enjoys donning. I laughed at Lucky’s plight in Main Hoon Na when Kirron Kher asks if she can sew his blade-ripped t-shirt in “do minute.” But today, I’m often as exasperated as him when my own mother calls me a tramp for stepping out in jeans that have careless tears and exposed threads.
Although, always in hindsight, I chuckle at her endearing ghastliness at my ripped jeans. Because that is always the extent of her reaction to them. Despite all the annoyance it causes her – the sight of untidy fashion – she respects my choice of wearing them. No matter how much her hands itch to reach for her sewing kit and “unrip” my jeans.
3. Jab dekho phone par ho, I’ll burn it
A child’s phone is the arch-nemesis of any Indian mother. The bane of her existence. Almost as if it were her eyes straining from her child’s heightened screen time. Indian moms love blaming our mobiles for the mess our lives are in. Sleep schedule gone for a toss? I know it’s that damn phone. Didn’t shut the gas on the third cooker seeti? Must have been glued to the phone. Caught a cold because it’s chilly outside? Whatever the weather, I know that phone was involved in some way. We’ve all heard our moms say this, and so much more.
Now, relentless hours of poring into either the phone or laptop screen during the lockdown with nowhere to go, I’m coming round to the Indian mother’s sweet obsession of burning phones. “Ye phone main jala doongi ab” doesn’t seem so much as a threat now as it does a relaxing assurance. This is what the lockdown has made us: sick of our phones and more like our mothers.
4. Wear this jumper, trust me it looks good
Remember those high-necked jumpers from the 90s our mothers insisted looked good on us but we hated wearing for the itchiness and breathlessness they caused our tiny necks? Well, guess what made a comeback in the Instagram era as one of the hottest fashion trends of our time. Those darned 90s jumpers we were so averse to have now become the touchstones of aesthetic winter fashion, featuring on just about every Pinterest mood board, luxury designs, and social media models.
As we scramble to lay our hands now on the latest designs of these pastel pullovers, our moms are more than justified in scoffing at us and rolling their eyes at us with their trademark “told you so”s. Because, really, they did tell us so. We were just cranky kids unwilling to accept our mothers’ predictive (sort of) fashion instincts.
5. What time are you coming home?
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve groaned at my mother asking me this question just as I was about to step out the door for a night of unhinged fun. Because your visions of a wild outing with your girlfriends immediately seem lame when someone brings up the concept of ending them at some point to return home. But if staying in Delhi has taught me anything, it’s that the streets cannot be trusted, especially at night. So as my teen rebellion slowly transformed to post-teen sobriety, I found myself wondering: Were my mother’s questions intrusive, or did they imply well-meaning concern?
For many mothers, staying out late is a safety hazard. But for many others, it may also be a matter of morality, where young women shouldn’t loaf on the streets. The latter will only resolve with dialogue, making your mother understand that having a good time is no crime for a woman. As for making lecherous men on the streets understand that very same thing… well, the struggle is always on.
6. Which boy are you talking to now!?
No matter how covertly you send messages to that new crush or how expertly you set up late-night meetings with your boyfriend, a desi mother’s snooping skills will always be superior. You may think you’re one step ahead in giving her the slip, but by the time you take it, she’ll already be waiting for you ten steps ahead. Indian mothers regard their daughters’ love interests with extreme suspicion. Their begrudging attitude can usually be tied to the worry emanating from the alleged loss of their daughters’ sanskaars during a romantic liaison before marriage. She’ll hold hands, she’ll have sex, she’ll get pregnant, what will people say!? A million things trouble them.
While this unsolicited Sherlock-ing is among the biggest reasons for an Indian daughter’s chagrin – which prompts her to get dropped off by a boyfriend two blocks away from her home – in a moment of reflection, one is able to find the humour in this dynamic. This is not to justify a parent’s encroachment of their child’s personal space. But sometimes, recalling a desi mom’s frown at the prospect of a boy in your life can be good practice in double-checking, triple-checking on your own if the guy truly does deserve you.
7. Hamare zamaane mein…
This is a classic that we’ve all grown up hearing. Thank you, generation gap. Nearly everything seemed to be different when our parents were younger: from how seriously they took conventional education to how obedient they were to their own parents’ commands. Since their lives were so different, digesting the ways of the new world becomes difficult for them, which is why their “hamare zamaane mein” throwbacks are so frequent. (As are our eyerolls at them.)
But in their wistful recollections of those darned “hamare zamaane mein”s – where marrying out of choice was blasphemous and women working independently was unthinkable – one can discern the progress we have made as a society. Our mothers probably didn’t have the plethora of opportunities we have today or have the power to claim today, which is why our liberated choices probably unsettle them so. Their idea of an “ideal” life – with marriage, kids, and domestic responsibility – may not correspond with ours, because women today want more. But that gives us all the more reason to push for a different world, fight for our choices, and widen the chasm that separates us from a gender imbalanced society to a balanced one. So we can proudly tell the forthcoming generations the changes we made “hamare zamaane mein.”
Views expressed are the author’s own.