That evening when my dadi asked me if I’d be all right with my dad’s second marriage, I was taken aback. I was 14 then. It had been over a year since I had lost my mother, and the world as I knew it had crumbled before my eyes. Building a new world from those pieces, sans my mom seemed impossible. But that day, sitting next to my grandmom, I realised that my dad needed a companion. Even at that age, I realised I would soon get busy with my own life and my dad would be left alone.
But the day Anita, then around 40, decked up as a bride, came into our house, I suddenly felt a lot less pragmatic. I was not able to purge my mind of the notions of the quintessential wicked stepmother. But then she came up to me and started talking. Suddenly, I felt at home.
That was the beginning. Over the years, Anita has become my ‘mummy’. But the journey was long; the ride bumpy. Though I never resented Anita, I was in my teens and a rebel at heart, so small things became issues. Sometimes I’d even compare Anita with my own mom.
Anita was rather strict. With my own mother, I never had to explain my frequent late nights and sleepovers. But perhaps because I was not her own child, Anita felt extra responsible for me. She would often freak out, at times she would even scold. And I’d imagine that well-deserved scolding as stepmotherly treatment.
But after I left home, the wrinkles in our relationship started to ease out. During my divorce, she stood by me like a rock. We started to open up to each other and the more I saw things from her perspective, the more I began
to empathise with her. When Mummy was diagnosed with cancer I was devastated. I realised how important she is to me. Indeed, we had some rough patches, but today we are like any normal mother and daughter. We shop, we gossip, we exchange saris. And how she spoils me! The last time I asked her to send me a salwar, she sent me a boxful in all imaginable colours!
—As told to Ananya Ghosh
From HT Brunch, May 8, 2016
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