Son’s guilt on Mother’s Day
Days are complicated, particularly the ones dedicated to things, people and occasions. So while many of you are already dreading another Monday, marketing firms must have already drilled it into your heads that May 11, Sunday, is Mother’s Day. The barrage is obvious; there are huge discounts on clothes, shoes and jewellery for her; and you are being chided into feeling all gooey, cutesy and mushy about your mommy. Aarish Chhabra writeschandigarh Updated: May 11, 2014 10:59 IST
Days are complicated, particularly the ones dedicated to things, people and occasions. So while many of you are already dreading another Monday, marketing firms must have already drilled it into your heads that May 11, Sunday, is Mother’s Day. The barrage is obvious; there are huge discounts on clothes, shoes and jewellery for her; and you are being chided into feeling all gooey, cutesy and mushy about your mommy.
Now, I don’t know what you guys are doing about it, but the feeling that’s washing over me is guilt. No, the guilt is not about the inability to buy all that jewellery for her. I know my salary’s limitations. Actually, there are two people to blame for my feeling: Guddu and Munawwar Rana.
Guddu is the lead character in a cartoon strip called Garbage Bin, which was quite the rage on Facebook till a few months ago, before people got busy with Narendra Modi’s mommy issues. It is now making a comeback. Munawwar Rana, as his sonorous name suggests, iss a shayar, or poet, who is finally on Twitter after flirting with our senses through SMSes sent by friends. He is sensitive, and brutal.
Oddly named, Garbage Bin is basically about the adventures of a pre-teen and his friends in typically Indian settings. From playing ‘book cricket’ to fighting over Contra, to forgetting to do homework and being turned into a ‘murga’ at school, the strip created by Faisal Mohammed plays well on nostalgia.
But with its subtle social commentary, it has also been hammering home the fact that your mother demands no love, no gifts, no respect, and no reciprocation of any kind, for her love for you. Many have said this earlier, and there have been comic strips before. But Garbage Bin depicts it in such rudimentary situations that it rings truer than ever. So while one of the strips will show the mother crying at you not eating properly, another will show how she bears insults and still cooks your favourite dish. You just need to make that puppy face for a second, and her anger melts away into tears. You are her world, while Papa is a worldly creature.
Munawwar Rana is more dangerous than Guddu. This poet has refused to limit himself to some nationalistic, rousing verse, or even worse, romantic love poetry. He does all that too, with élan mostly; but his forte lies in breaking down that wall between our two parallel depictions of mother. Most of us tend to treat our moms very differently from the way we treat our dads. At the same time, we glorify The Mother as a goddess in our religious chores. Both versions hardly meet, and the paradox is convenient: Treat her as the lesser parent, but put Her on a pedestal otherwise.
Rana shatters this irony with his couplets that have the same resonance as Guddu’s comic strip. He writes, ‘Is tarah mere gunahon ko woh dho deti hai, Maa bahut gusse mein hoti hai toh ro deti haihai’ (Washing away all my crimes with her tears, my mother cries when the anger gets to her), and ‘Ye aisa karz hai jo main ada kar nahin sakta; main jab tak ghar na lautoon, Maa sajde mein rehti hai’ (It’s a debt I can’t repay, that my mother cannot sleep till I get home).
Typically mild-mannered and paanchewing like most Urdu poets, Rana stands out for treating the mother as
his poetry’s ‘maashooq’ (muse). For instance, here’s a couplet that would typically have been written about a girlfriend, but remains real and rooted when the Lover is replaced by Mother: ‘Duaayein Maa ki pahunchaane ko meelon-meel aati hain, ki jab pardes jaane ke liye beta nikalta hai’ (Mother’s blessings travel miles with him, up to the destination; when a son ventures out towards a foreign land).
Much is lost in my amateur translations from the graceful Urdu to a workman’s English; but the message is clear. We can debate the positive changes in our society, our newfound modernity, and women empowerment some other time. Father’s Day is not here yet. Today, I am busy with guilt. So let me conclude with another couplet from Rana that would hopefully make us all reflect on the way we treat our mothers: ‘Kisi ko ghar mila, kisi ke hisse mein dukaan aayi; main sabse chhota tha, mere hisse mein maa aayi’ (Someone got the house, another got the family shop; I was the youngest, so I got mother as my share).