There are infinite aspects, the word ‘mother’ conjures up in our psyche. The first few memories which are evoked are of the personal- The natural mother, female relatives like the grandmother, the step-mother and the mother-in-law. Other than these obvious evocations, the word educes images of the figurative, the infinite, the natural and the divine.
This primary relationship, is considered by most psychologists to be the bedrock of the individual psyche. The mother complex of the son is a term we are all familiar with. It was probably 2005 or maybe ’06, when I read Carl Jung’s theory on the ‘Mother complex of the daughter.’ I can’t recall how much I understood about the hypertrophy of the maternal element, the overdevelopment of the Eros, the identity with the mother or the resistance to the mother. What I do remember is feeling half normal, after reading it. It was only then, I realized that irrespective of how ‘abnormal’, my family setup may have seemed to me as a child, under the surface there lay a generality and a shared commonality with other families and other daughters.
The rest of it, I have only started to understand years, later. I will at some point share Jung’s views. But this is not an exercise to understand my psyche or flaunt my views on yours. A few years, a senior photographer, who was working on a lovely portrait series on Mothers and Daughters, asked if I would like to be a part of it. I wriggled out of the process. I couldn’t explain to him why. Only recently, when another photographer friend asked to interview my Mom, I realized that though, one has been fairly open about one’s life, there are some aspects of it which are far too complex, to just put out there and they would have to be dealt with delicately.
We recently ran a campaign on this blog and almost all the women had such glorious things to write about their mothers. I can’t say those things. I can’t even say I loved my mother as a little girl! She was so unlike every one else, not just because she was unwell but because she was like a force of nature. At times placid and calm like still waters or a gentle drizzle on your wind shield, slightly blurring your vision and in the next moment thunderous and violent, like a hurricane. Yet, in her moments of lucidity, oh so charming and hilarious.
I can’t paint you a picture of my mother, without her looking like a poor victim of circumstance or a really unpleasant person. Neither, of which would be true. Yes, I can’t tell you stories of exemplary maternal sacrifices. I don’t have any memories of my mother fussing over me, stuffing my mouth with delicious home cooked meals… teaching me how to grow up to be a lady. I remember my Mother, zipping her way through Delhi streets in her Maruti, racing with whoever dared to. I have visions of a woman with impeccable taste and confidence-wearing mini skirts and backless blouses. I recall someone, who was always generous to a fault… a person who lived without any concept about her ‘station in life’. Her monthly dates- visiting cinemas and parlours- with the domestic help, blurred her children’s view of what was considered to be the norm. I remember someone, who had a keen understanding of human behaviour, yet no coping mechanism to deal with it- a person who was just too intelligent (as her Shrink’s put it) and too sensitive. I have memories of a woman who loved and hated life- both at the same time. Someone who gave my first alcoholic drink, told me about sex… someone who made me laugh and oh how much she made me cry.
I can’t tell you all that my Mother is because I sometimes see her through the frightened eyes of a 9 year old child, perpetually afraid her Mother might die the next day and at others through the skewed vision of a cynical, 35 year old daughter, whose tired of the tendencies. When I stop seeing her through a daughter’s eyes, without projecting my expectations on her, I see a woman with a misplaced Child Ego State, whose gone through life wanting to be mothered. Someone, whose done unpleasant things, so that she could get the attention she deserved.
I see a person whose lost most of the people she loved-son, siblings, parents-every four to five years someone passes away- and survived. A woman who has legendary survival instincts and a will and stubbournness that would put most people to shame. My Mother is a melting pot of dichotomous values- she can be so good in one moment and not so great so quick- it can make your head spin. I see someone who loves expensive things, yet doesn’t care for money. I see a woman who was like to a sister to her son, whose still like a love sick teenager around her husband and has always been a friend to her daughter. I see a woman who dances with the help and playfully chases her husband around the house with a glass a water, in her hand, threatening to chuck it at him. I see a person who has retained an innocence that’s impossible to find.