“Navas is going back to Kerala. Looks like he has left his job. At least, that’s what he said,” Thatha, my help at home was telling me.
“Hmmm,” I nodded.
“He is not too sure. Doesn’t look his mechanical motor thing is doing so well. He wants to start something in Kerala,” she added as she spoke of her cousin who called her a few minutes back.
I continued filling my water bottle from the dispenser. It was almost 12 midnight and I was preparing to go to bed. As I lifted my head, closed the bottle and picked up my phone from the table, she said that one line that had me sit down for another hour and a half.
In conclusion, she added, “ His mother is looking to get him married now. She is too old and needs company” For a second, I tried to assess what I had just heard. Not even that it isn’t something people back home aren’t used to saying time and again.
But, just to be sure, I asked, “ Who feels lonely?”
She replied very casually, “ His mother.”
Some relationships are very simply taken for granted. And in India, one that tops the list is the one the daughter in law is expected to maintain with her husband’s mother.
“Why will Navas get married if his mother feels lonely?”, my doubt was very genuine.
“Who else will, if his mother isn’t keeping too well?” I received another question that flew past my head.
I couldn’t take it further.
Why does a boy’s mother enjoy the advantage of company in her old age and sickness, one that is denied to the girl’s parents while all they do is watch their daughter leave and wipe off a silent tear?
I don’t want to be understood wrong here. Taking care of both sides of parents as they age is the most beautiful thing any son, daughter, son in law and daughter in law can possibly do. The responsibility is as certain as the laws of nature and there is no denying that. The conversations I don’t approve of are ones like this where the roles are fixed and advantages set.
I could have just thought of what she said as stupidity and owing to zero awareness and gone to bed that night. But, we must understand that change begins at home. And most of all because Thatha has a son.
Some things we say are said so casually that we often do not understand the repercussions we leave on the people growing up in the homes. As a boy growing up, he almost certainly assigns this role that his wife will fulfill in future by being company to his mother. It would rather be just if the boy understood that his mother’s old age demanded his attention, not the convenience of bringing home a girl who would compensate for his presence in the house.
No, this isn’t a big deal and I get that. Nor is it the first time somebody has thought this way. It is not that relationship I want to try and make correction.
However I think the boys of today need to raised different. They cannot grow up thinking of their lives to be way too luxurious and easier than the girls. And sometimes we wonder how we can make that possible. One of the simplest ways is stop saying things like this in front of them that grants them easy advantage over the next door girl.
Stop telling them, “Don’t cry, that s what girls do.”
Stop telling them, “Go out and play. Are you a girl sitting and home?”
Stop telling them, “Don’t sulk like a girl”
Stop telling them, “Be strong. You are a boy.”
Stop telling them, ” Get married. I am lonely.”
None of this is said to put the girl to shame, but somehow unknowingly at some point they assume an undue gender superiority and carry that forward.
And like I want to assert time and again, the most powerful of mothers today is the mother of a boy. Not because of her advantage of having a son. But because this one woman can tomorrow bestow respect to an entire generation of girls just by raising her boys right. Let no girl feel little, because your boy feels big.
So, who takes care of the boy’s mother?