When I was three, I moved to Mumbai to be with my Aunt and Uncle who adopted me. Since then over the next 10 years of my life, every vacation would be spent in Pune with my grandmother and birth mother. Every time summer/Diwali/Christmas vacation would roll around, my bags would be packed, my father would drop me at Aaji’s and pick up my brother and return in a day to Mumbai.
Looking back in this age of heightened awareness around child psychology and women’s liberation and nuclear families and what not, it seems strange – this living adjustment that we had.
My Aunt and Uncle; who are my Mother and Father in the truest sense, it doesn’t matter I wasn’t born to them, (as I had read the concept coined on this blog http://kaimhanta.blogspot.com/ ) I was born of their hearts I guess. They have a daughter and a son. My birth mother just had me at that time from her previous marriage. My Aunt let her son stay with her mother. My Aaji let me stay with my Aunt. Confusing? But we have all still managed to grow up without any relationship issues whatsoever, and me, my brother, my sister and parents are incredibly close.
Flashback to my vacations with Aaji and birthmother – Sometimes love can be nurturing, freeing, enriching and sometimes the same love tends to have the exact opposite effect – suffocating and limiting. My Aaji and birth mom took advantage of the limited time they spent with me to din into my head about how the world is a cruel place and how every one is out to take advantage of you. How I had no one in this world except for Aaji, birth mom and God (this statement has had an impact on my mind, for years later I would feel lonely for no reason and insecure). Every evening my birth mother would return back from work and a post mortem analysis of the day would be done. Even at that age, I used to wonder how the vilest and meanest of people found their way to my birth mom and brooded over whether there is any truth in the fact that my birth mom has super bad luck etc.
In those days, I was constantly compared to my adopted siblings and told how they were academically more brilliant than me, how they were quick in outside matters, independent and in other words the perfect kids while I was one with many many faults. Of course, my parents never ever thought this and never made me feel that way. My mother tells me that Aaji and birth mom used to criticize the ones they love the most to protect them from the evil eye. What twisted logic was that, I still fail to understand.
But I grew up with my Aaji actually trying to create a rift between me and my siblings while she tried to push me to be closer with my birth mom. My birth mom on the other hand was this beautiful Meena Kumari, the innocent one wronged by everyone with no fault of her own, the unlucky one who always met the wrong people, always had the worst luck in her life, and always got the short end of the deal.
My letters to my friends and parents were censored, I was asked to change wording. All the letters received from my friends were read and analyzed. Clearly there was no freedom of speech in that household…..As I start to write this, if you would ask my brother; how life was growing up with Aaji, he will very well have a different story because every one of us was treated differently by Aaji. I don’t want to make her out as an awful woman; she was extremely strong and independent. Even as a widow, she had the guts to stand up and support her pregnant daughter and lead her through the divorce. Somewhere in that duration, my birth mom stopped growing up and taking responsibility for her life and my Aaji became more protective of her daughter. They forgot their ages and time froze.
My poor mother was always torn between her loyalties as a daughter, sister and my mother. She would feel guilty when people would praise me and would feel that her sister is missing out on it. She would go out of her way to tell those people “but she is not my daughter, she is my sisters” because she didn’t want to take credit for the praise. For the longest time, that used to break my heart. Now my mother has realized that she is deserving of the praise – for being proud of how I have turned out to be, because she and my father are the ONLY ones responsible in this world for me being an independent, sane, sensible person. Everything I am today is because of them. And if my birth mom has missed out on this, it is because of the choices she made and the attitude she chose and the way she lived her life.
Children are very observant, they know right from wrong at an early age and when they grow up, they know about choices and how you could have turned a situation around with the right attitude. I could have been extremely proud of my birth mom today if she would have stood up, shaken herself out of the depression, after her divorce and gotten along with her life. After all she got married right after to an extremely well educated good man and everything is just right with her life now. She could have put a positive spin on every obstacle she faced instead of running home and crying in her old mother’s lap. She could have shown her daughter what it means to be a woman and I would have been proud to be her daughter. When now, the only thing I remind myself is how to not be like her. I wonder how life turns out this way.
My mother reminisces about her childhood and how my birth mom was a different person at that time. You can never predict what life is going to bring your way or your children’s. I am extremely grateful to have a wonderful husband and wonderful friends, parents, siblings…..I don’t know what surprises/difficulties/happiness life has in store for R and my baby, but whatever it is, I hope I can always be there for them with unwavering moral support and remind them that they always always have a choice in every situation – If you cannot change the outcome, you can change your attitude towards it. You can choose to cry and be miserable and wallow in self pity or you can get up, and live another day and hope that something better will come along soon.