To The Woman I Have Always Loved From Afar

Photography by Hansol Choi

Photography by Hansol Choi

“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story,
Because hers is where yours begin.”
– Mitch Albom

I think that everyone in the world would unanimously agree that the safest place where you can be is in a mother’s heart. It’s a bottomless pit, an uninhibited place where love and forgiveness reigns always.
Being a daughter to an Indian mother I have a very complicated love hate relationship with my mother. I have found it extremely difficult and myself incompetent to ever define what is it between us. Who is she to me? A woman whose genetics I share, who is responsible for giving me the most valued possession, life. Above all, she is an enigma, one I might never understand.
The bits and pieces, the nuances of her character that makes her my mother, no one else’s, but mine.

Growing up, we were always at loggerheads, never agreed on anything. We still do. Somehow seeing around me, hearing my friends talk about mothers being a friend to them, I was confused. Because mine never was. We were not that kind of people. Having extremely different ideologies, I was more often than not resentful and bitter towards her in my heart. The frustration and desperation to be what she wanted me to be, made me adopt a recalcitrant attitude towards her. The things I did to gain her attention or doing just to spite her was often succeeded by rebuke, I got a kick out of riling her up. I didn’t realise for a long time why I did so. Now, I know that it was redundant. The constant angst about not being enough according to her principles drifted me away from her. Not that it ever deterred her from doing what she did best, that is being a mother, loving me despite my assumed hatred. Trying to cross oceans when I wouldn’t even pass a small puddle. The stuck up ego problem towards authority that we have as adolescents, prevented me from ever acknowledging and giving her the dues she deserved. I stubbornly refused to ever see her perspective on things she was right on, which happened most of the times.

All the times, she pushed me too far, got under my skin, I hated it. All the times she refused to take my side, I hated it. All the times she made me feel insignificant, I hated it. All the times she called out on my faults, I hated it. All the times she let me fall, I hated it. All the times she let my tears fall, I hated it. All the times she refused to listen to what I couldn’t say, I hated it. All the times she wanted me to be what I wasn’t, I hated it. All I wanted was to hear that I was okay to be so conflicted. I kept all these bottled up.  But, I know even when she pushed my buttons,  she wanted me to be at a place she never could reach herself. I was angry and I guess we both were afraid of rejection. While I had no cause, she certainly did to some degree. But, while I shied away, she never did from showing that she did indeed cherish me.

As I transited into adulthood, I made a decision to leave home in order to study. When I thought about it, I was ecstatic over having my freedom, living life full size. But of all the things that I knew I would miss, it was her that I missed the most. Not my room that was a sacred place for me, not my father who I claimed to love the most, not my friends that I were leaving behind, but a woman that stayed in the background of my heart. It was her love I missed like a warm patch she left behind on the bed in the mornings, sleeping beside me. The extra meals she made, even when I skipped food due to epic tantrums, the most hated gibes from morning till night. The scrapes she cleaned, the pieces she put back together. The constant aura of protection that surrounded me whose manifestation was my mother, suddenly seemed out of reach. Everywhere I went, I would catch glimpses of her. It was a constant ache, a place I never knew she had occupied so strongly and adamantly refused to vacate, not that I wanted it. I shed tears for her, sure I had cried because of her so many time, but never for her. A love she never expressed openly, but it showed in each sacrifice she made, each decision she took, though I never approved, each taunt that I knew would cut her deep, she took it in stride. Even now when we argue, when hurtful words that can never be taken back are spewed, she still manages to crack me by calling me to see that I am fine or not. It doesn’t matter we aren’t on talking terms, but to her, I take preference above all else. This disintegrates me very single time. All the things that I so conveniently overlooked, I want to apologise for.

There are so many things that I never thanked my mother for. First of all, never giving up on me. I know that bringing me up would have not been an easy task, but she did it magnificently. Never thought about abandoning her duties. Ever. I am so awed by this miraculous quality that mothers possess, to a much higher degree than fathers. The complete and utter submission of themselves for our good, something I am not capable of achieving as a child. She has had an immensely struggle driven life, one I have observed closely, one she never wishes on me or anybody else. The resilience that always carried her forward, is an inheritance to me from her. The strong sense of individuality and positive countenance is from her. The poise, the serenity, the fierceness, the forgiveness is from her. For this I’ll be eternally grateful. The extra miles she scaled so that distances seem less to me, the nights she spent lying in bed, when sleep was miles away from my eyes, I want to thank for. The strict demeanour that taught me to differentiate between right and wrong, not being a pushover, I am thankful for. For making me push my boundaries when all I wanted to do was run and hide. For seeing things in me no one ever saw and making me believe it. For believing in me when no one did, for being the one to pull me from a dark place when I was lonely, for completing me when I was empty. For attempting to be my safe place, when all else was too dangerous. For understanding me, when I hoped no one understood. For having my back, while being bent herself. For giving me open skies while remaining beneath the soil to strengthen my footing at the same time.

In our relationship hurt and anger has always been a precursor to understanding. There are so many things I still wish I could so to her, complaints that never made their way out of my system. Ask her, demand answers as my right, but I know the time isn’t now. I don’t have that courage nor the emotional stability. Maybe one day, I will.

Now, when she is in the later stages of her blurring vigour, all frayed edges, sunken eyes, I realise that she has never been more beautiful. She is starting to bend just a little, tires easily but the shine remains the same, the confident gait, though a little slow still caries her onwards everyday. She is the backbone to all of us in the family. Being away from her gave me a fresh space to think things through. I have been obstinate this whole time, but I also know that even when I pretended to despise her, all I wanted was to love her. To make her accept me as I am. It was her I gravitated to in times of need, it was her I wanted to secretly please the most. I know that whenever I am in a dark place, she will attempt to pull me out of it, if not, she will not let me face it alone. I always say that I am a Daddy’s girl because loving him comes as easy as breathing. But loving mom takes every fibre of my being, redefines my limitations. I have to try and try to make each other understand, I like the effort.

There are so many grounds we still have to cover, I know we might not be on the same page ever, but I will try to read silences when she doesn’t speak and meanings when she does. She still doesn’t give me an easy way out, nagging all the time, but it is a comfort in the deafening foreign voices around me. I’ll try to make myself worthy of her, not make her feel like she needs to change for me to love her. It isn’t easy being a mom, she isn’t perfect, but neither am I. I guess that balances it pretty well. She might think that I hate her, but I love her really much, she makes me incandescently happy and blessed. I just hope that one day, I will be able to say all these things to her. Till then I am content to love her from far.

A daughter I seldom was

Submitted to ArtParasites by Sakshi