To the one who (unknowingly) showed me how to be a feminist.
It is said that a parent is a child’s first teacher and though it is an old, maybe cliché line, it is the biggest truth of my life.
Mom, you were born at a time when the term ‘feminism’ was not commonly heard, yet, throughout my life, you have laid the foundation for me to be a steadfast feminist. More importantly, you’ve done that not by saying, but by being.
You weren’t allowed to follow your aspirations, but you pledged to let me walk the path I chose. You never expected me to be an engineer, doctor or MBA graduate, instead always encouraged me to discover myself and follow my heart. When I chose to study communication and later decided to work in the social sector, everyone told me that I was being naïve and making wrong choices, but not you. You saw that I was passionate about my work and not only supported me but also helped me believe in myself every time I felt like giving up. That strength to own my choices, I learnt from you.
Whenever I fell, you helped me stand up, brushed the dirt off assuring me that I’ll be alright and just needed to rest so that the wound could heal. You allowed me to breathe, take a break and rest before I walked again. Subtly, you left me with this essential learning to inculcate in all aspects of my life.
Life hasn’t been kind to you, but amidst all your struggles you always found moments to ‘live’. Every evening we played different sports and the way you enjoyed that hour made the experience memorable for me. I loved to see you dance your heart out at some family functions or at home during our dance sessions. And, how can I forget our movie outings, shopping trips, food dates and our love for orange slush? It was just the two of us, and looking back I would never have it any other way!
Remember when my boards were around the corner and I was super-nervous? You suddenly took me out for a film. I was in awe of you! After all, I had not seen a parent forcibly make their child take a break from studies for a fun evening. That day, and all the others, our lives have been filled with adversities but this never stopped you. You taught me how to pause and enjoy life even when everything else was a mess and people thought it wasn’t ‘decent’ enough.
A person who had never before stepped out of the house alone was suddenly required to learn to navigate the city. I understand that it must have been challenging for you, but eventually, you figured out the city well enough to take me around with you, making sure that I knew everything that you hadn’t. You didn’t flinch even for a second when you had to take me to four different cities for college entrances.
Then, you decided to work after a gap of more than 20 years and showed me that ambitions are not limited by age.
You came from a family steeped in traditions to an explicitly conservative one. We both know how our life has been, and I cannot think of a person better equipped to not only survive in the most challenging of situations and still have the courage to stand up for themselves.
You negotiated for your self-respect even though you were trained to be silent and endure.
Your resilience was visible in the ways that you refused to allow anyone to mess with me, and more importantly in the various ways, you stood your ground when people called you names or levied accusations. I am sure it wasn’t easy for you, often you fell (well, you’re human!) but you ultimately stood up with immense courage, all-set to face the world.
You’re one person I’ve seen navigate stereotypical expectations, endure severe storms and still break-through innumerable barriers. While you’ve shown me how to respect others and be compassionate enough to understand their struggles, you have also taught me how to take control of my life and not let anyone else determine the way I choose to live.
As the mother of a millennial who is open about her mental health, trust issues and under-confidence, you have been the epitome of compassion. My journey of healing would not have been easy if you weren’t there to support me patiently.
Your spirit of inquisitiveness, learning and speaking your mind is something I hope to carry with me. Your patience, courage, resilience and everything (because I’m struggling with words now) that you are, makes me who I am today.
Life threw you lemons, you made a lemon cake!
Happy Teachers Day to my best teacher!
Subjects can be taught in schools, you taught me how to live my life.