Monday, October 25, 2010

Tough Love

I am a single woman, working and living with my two children in Singapore. My mother is a single woman too, dad having passed away 4 years ago. She lives a retired life in the hills of North India.

We see each other two perhaps three times a year. She comes to visit me once or twice a year and I go visit her when I am in India on business.  We are very close and talk to each other on phone every other day. I idolize her. My deepest desire is to be like her one day.  

I know of many Indian women whose mothers come and live with them for extended periods of time for all kinds of reasons. One of them calls her mom over whenever her husband travels and another has hers come over when the maid gives trouble. I listen to these tales incredulously. I can’t call my mom over unless I plan a trip with her to, say, Mongolia, Burma, Sabah, Bali or Turkey. No kidding. I am planning a Trans-Siberian train trip for next summer!

Although I miss my mother incessantly and am deserving of a mother’s constant care in anybody’s books, I do not demand that she be with me. Once or twice when I demanded, circumstances (visa, dad’s health) didn’t permit her to come and once she told me plainly that she wanted to live in her own home. I stopped demanding. But not before some gut-wrenching, frustration-laden, self-destructive, self-pitying, tearless, I don’t-need-anyone sessions with myself.

The honest truth is that by leading her life in her own way, and letting me lead mine in my way, my mother has helped me grow into a full-fledged person. By not running to me every time my world crashed around me, she has taught me to hold myself together under any situation. By not being physically present to support me all the time, she has forced me to find a support structure of my own. And the lesson I have learned in the process is that though life is tough at times, it is not really that tough. I can handle it.

Yet I don’t feel abandoned in any way. That she is there, in a small Himachal town, leading a powerful, simple and fulfilled life, is my biggest source of strength and hope for myself. I hope I can give this type of tough love to my kids one day.

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