What is the value of you, ma? You don’t need to be brave.
If there’s anything you going to read today. Let it be this. It will warm the hearts of moms, and it will resonate with daughters who have grown up seeing their mothers juggle every bit of their lives. Shayonnita Mallik shares a letter to her mom that will make us all cry and want to hug them.
I see you.
I see you sitting under the fan, towel on shoulder, stretching that crik in your neck when you think I’m gone. I see you in the afternoons, when you finally go to your room for a nap. I come sit by you, read, see your thin arms & tired fingers & thank sleep for being a solace. Even then you always nap with your door open—half awake so that you can snap up to help any one of us.
I see you when you look down at your hands and wonder how those fingers that played the harmonium before happy audiences are now chapped and rough.
I see you will yourself to finish another task, another job, another bartan for the day. I see you when you watch baba disappear into his room for yet another call. I see you when you turn on the news, half agony, half hope, for a sign of the end of this all. I see you awake when you’re pretending to sleep, mentally counting the provisions we may soon need. I see you in prose. I see you in poetry. I see you with affection, I see you with exasperation. I cannot understand you, I come from a different breed. “Woman” means something else, with much less of sacrifice to me.
But I see you. And I believe.
And so I act out of love.
So when you rant and nag and grumble, I listen. I grapple for patience as I chop up tomatoes; I gulp down my own fears to assuage yours. I laugh, and sing, and call it the ‘Bartan Olympics’. I rush to finish work, rush to get tasks done before you begin. I rush, because you won’t ask me. And you certainly won’t ask them. Aches and pains and soreness find easy home in your body. But mine, is a temporary hostel.
As I flip my rotis and keep you distracted (from worry) I mull.
What is the value of you, ma?
Nine months, every rupee, each moment you spent in the kitchen. Each moment where you could have done so much else, but you stood here, my varicose-veined-warrior packing tiffin after tiffin after tiffin for me. Each time you let me take the bigger piece.
Each time you told me that your rice was enough when it wasn’t. Why do I yell at you for going after the jhadu? Why do I creep up and wash three more vessels? Why do I not wait for baba, or bhai?
Because of you ma. I’ll wait. But you won’t. You’ll do it. Despite the aches. To save us work.
Of course. I get angry. The way you smile and nod and say they’re men and they don’t know. The way you imply that just because we’re women cooking and cleaning comes easier to us.
I argue. I rationalise. But I willingly lose. Because the loser of every debate in this house is you. You, who because you are “homemaker” will endlessly work. I see you ma. I see that you aren’t angry. You’re scared. You aren’t raging. You’re nervous. You aren’t shaking with irritation. You’re quivering, you’re anxious.
I see that you’re tired. And I say it’s okay.
You DON’T need to be brave.
You DON’T need to be superhuman.
You DON’T need to do it all.
You can choose to be just you, and not ‘ma’ for today.
I’m here ma. I’ll always be there.
I’m a 23-year-old media professional based out of Mumbai. In my free time I teach, read and write. Views expressed are author’s own.