We are 4 siblings, and my mother always had a challenge managing us. What made the situation difficult was that my dad was almost always traveling. I didn’t see my mom’s effort as a big deal until I had my own kid. And only then I could fathom how insurmountable of a challenge it is to raise not one, not two, but four kids, almost single-handedly.
My respect for her grew manifold. I am the last of the 4 and I would like to believe my mom loves me the most. I am comfortable in that bubble. I had a very protected childhood, but my mom the complete opposite. She was only a teenager when she lost her father and had to discontinue her studies soon after. And being one of the eldest children, she practically took care of her younger siblings as her own kids, and then there was the natural progression of being married and having children.
Amidst all this, my father traveled a lot, and more often than not, my mom had to take care of me and my siblings. Seeing all this, I had always wondered if my mom didn't have any aspirations. Is this the life she imagined while growing up? I can't really fault anyone but just the social structure in India doesn’t help, especially if you are a woman.
I remember promising my mom that I will someday make it to the IITs and IIMs and she would be driven around in chauffer driven Mercs. As most Indian aspirants, I didn’t make it to either of them and the dream died a premature death.
Flash forward 16 years, I am in Berlin and I have invited my parents to visit us. I pick them up at the airport and got a Merc cab, which is very common here. And I joke to my mom, well I completed part of the promise. She laughs it off. And then I tell her that I have booked her and dad a trip to Brussels, Switzerland, and Paris.
She held my hand and almost cried.
For me, it seemed like a routine mother’s emotion getting the better of her. And she asked my wife sheepishly if she could order some western outfits for her while she visits these places. Back in the day, my mother would scoff at the idea of wearing anything other than a Saree and here she was asking for western outfits. I wondered why, and I didn’t get the hint. When she returned to Berlin from her trip, she couldn’t help but talk about her trip for the 30 minutes we were in the “Merc” cab- almost like a child, and that is when it hit me. It was like her childhood flashing before her.
She had grown up reading about Europe, the Berlin Wall, WWII, the Belgian diamond, Mount Titlis- and growing up in a small town, she could have never imagined visiting these places or wearing those outfits that she always wanted to. Once we returned home, she hugged me again and got emotional. She showed me the pictures in those outfits, looking her Sunday best.
While I look at the picture of my mom and me, beside the remnants of the Berlin wall, I think of her as my own Wall. The wall that has stood by me since my birth and will always stand by me.
Love you mom.