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Yours Thanklessly

‘Maternal gratitude’ gathering hits a new high, or low. Are you sure you’re mom enough?


It’s a relief that the majority of mothers (or to be gender neutral, parents)  in this country haven’t heard or read about ‘attachment parenting’ –  an oxymoron rolling out of an industry called ‘pop psychology’ (an illegitimate child of pop culture and dumbed down academic psychology). Competitive parenting in general, and competitive motherhood in particular, has made inroads into mainstream international media. If young American mothers weren’t asking for a performance appraisal of their maternal role, the latest cover story of Time magazine (US Edition, May 21, 2012) may push them to do so. The cover has a photograph of 26 year old Lynne Grumet, a blonde stay-at-home mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son, and the question that the cover story poses is ‘unmotherly’ competitive: “Are You Mom Enough?”

 

 

And then, there is another arena of stiff competition. But thankfully, it has not yet been ritualised as an annual fixture for maternal gratitude gathering. More relief. The majority of mothers in this country are blissfully oblivious of a day named after them (Mother’s Day). They are happy in realising the essence of motherhood in sublime thanklessness rather than in plastic gratitude of the Archies assembly line. Coveted tokenism of ‘love you Mom’ five times a day and ‘thanks Mom’ as an annual fetish somehow militates against the language of silence that epitomises the radiance of motherhood. However, speaking the language of ‘give and take’, the market has to work within the syntax of a ‘client-service provider’ relation. So if the service provider has been so efficient in delivery, corporate communication demands thanksgiving and some ceremonial tokenism. If Archies wasn’t enough to make you thankful clients of maternal services, FMCG giant Procter & Gamble has other mushy ways of doing so. The Times of India (May 13, 2012) played willing stage manager as P&G (self-proclaimed ‘proud sponsor of mothers’) showed how marketable motherhood can be.

 

Archies may have hit a goldmine in the consumerist urge for going overt and loud about everything; an urge that has creeped into the middle class consciousness of urban India in the post liberalisation phase. The upper class already had these fossilised relations, with daily or even hourly exchanges of corporate sweet nothings like ‘thanks you/love you/miss you’ and other pleasantries in personal relations. The urge to climb the expression ladder of relations was driven by a ‘me too’ bandwagon effect that upward mobility produced in the middle class, as well as by visual imageries of ‘communicated relations’ that air waves were bringing (Hollywoodesque and sometimes pink bubble gum Bollywoodesque).

The expressions industry (now dominated by mobile telephone service providers and web enabled services) sought to optimise an opportunity that was rooted in the reticence of a large middle class – a class that had gained purchasing power and was ready to splurge. The reticence was identified by Hindi poet, Dhumil in these lines: Riste Hain/ Par Khulte Nahi Hain/ Aur Apne Khoon me itna bhi loha nahi paate/ Jisse ek chabhi banwate/ Aur Bhasa Ke Bhunashi Taale Ko kholte/ Aur kuchh himmatj juttate/ Aur Ghar Ki Deewar Ko Chhu Kar Kehte / Ye mera ghar hai/ Aur ye meri  maa hai.

Attachment Parenting and Milky Affection, a Private Bus Driver and Sow Female Pig as Mother

The stereotypes of parental affection abound and slick templates of expression reinforce them. In the process, some people are surely laughing all the way to the bank. But attachment parenting doesn’t need stereotypes. It just needs breaking down these stereotypes. Parental affection is not restricted to a good looking mom breastfeeding her son. It can be observed in the milky parental affection that can even be reflected in the eyes of a father whose profession is as mundane as that of a private bus driver. Watch (in the video) how the poet, Nagarjun, explains the presence of a mother in ‘dhudiya vatsalaya’ (the milky parental affection) from the eyes of a private bus driver for his seven-year-old daughter.

 

प्राइवेट बस का ड्राइवर है तो क्या हुआ,
सात साल की बच्ची का पिता तो है!
सामने गियर से उपर
हुक से लटका रक्खी हैं
काँच की चार चूड़ियाँ गुलाबी
बस की रफ़्तार के मुताबिक
हिलती रहती हैं…
झुककर मैंने पूछ लिया
खा गया मानो झटका
अधेड़ उम्र का मुच्छड़  रोबीला चेहरा
आहिस्ते से बोला: हाँ साब
लाख कहता हूँ नहीं मानती मुनिया
टाँगे हुए है कई दिनों से
अपनी अमानत
यहाँ अब्बा की नज़रों के सामने
मैं भी सोचता हूँ

क्या बिगाड़ती हैं चूड़ियाँ
किस ज़ुर्म पे हटा दूँ इनको यहाँ से?
और ड्राइवर ने एक नज़र मुझे देखा
और मैंने एक नज़र उसे देखा।

छलक रहा था दूधिया वात्सल्य बड़ी-बड़ी आँखों में
तरलता हावी थी सीधे-साधे प्रश्न पर
और अब वे निगाहें फिर से हो गईं सड़क की ओर
और मैंने झुककर कहा –

हाँ भाई, मैं भी पिता हूँ
वो तो बस यूँ ही पूछ लिया आपसे
वर्ना किसे नहीं भाएँगी?
नन्हीं कलाइयों की गुलाबी चूड़ियाँ!

But the poet doesn’t stop here. His universal exploration of motherhood makes him a keen observer of maternal existence of a sow.  Nagarjun vividly describes the motherly grace and glory of the sow: Poosh ki gunguni dhoop me/pashar kar leti hai/yeh bhi to madre- hind ki beti hai/bhare poore barah thannowali/moti tagadi mada suwar/ chhavno ko pil rahi hai doodh/mann mizaz theek hai/kar rahi hai aaram/ akharti nahi hai bhare-poore thanno ki kheench taan/ doodhmoohe chhavno ki rag rag me machal rahi hai akhir issi ki to jaan/ pashar kar leti hai/ paini daatowali mada suwar.

Do you remember that in his brilliant take on absurdity in his work Outsider, Camus once said that society condemns to death any man who doesn’t cry at the death of his mother? If that is the case, what is the fate of the man who laughs at the consumerist fetish of Mother’s Day? I hope I am safe. I hope the honchos of the expression industry and market managers of sweet nothings don’t read this piece. And there is more reason for my safety, my mother can’t read English and is happy without Mother’s Day ( I hope the idiot box doesn’t drive home the ritualistic ‘necessity’ of this fetish).

 

Image Source [http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20120521,00.html]

 

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