Tomorrow I will not be gifting my mother either flowers or a card. No spa treatment. No manicure-pedicure. Like all the other 364 days this year, I will call her, perhaps pop in to fill her medicine box, make sure she has lunch on time, exchange a bit of family gossip, bring her up to speed with her grandkids. But, no plans for a card.
Why not? Perhaps it is because I’m struck by a sense of grammatical confusion on where to place the apostrophe. Is it mothers’ day, a day that celebrates all mothers all over the world, or is it mother’s day, a day devoted to the woman who brought you up (and, with a bit of luck, drilled a sense of grammar into you?).
Still, to each their own. If you’re planning to buy stuffed toys and book a table for brunch, by all means go ahead. I certainly lucked out: brunch and an uphill hike was my splendid celebration gifted by my daughters, a week in advance.
But not all of us are as lucky. If it is mothers’ rather than just mother’s day, you might want to spare a thought for mothers who aren’t as lucky. Mothers who, for instance, battle inequity and indignity as the victims of domestic violence which in India kills more women than those killed by terror attacks every year — 8,383 deaths due to domestic violence in 2009, compared to 2,231 in terror attacks for the same year.
Spare a thought also for that traumatised mother who watches over her raped and sodomised four-year-old daughter as she recovers at AIIMS. What kind of courage does such a mother summon as she consoles her child so unspeakably brutalised? How long before she can go back to work as a domestic helper, leaving her child alone at home? Will she battle for justice or will she, like so many others, give up and just try and get on with her life?
Spare a thought for the mothers of those daughters who report a rape every 20 minutes — and the countless others who don’t. Spare a prayer for the mothers of one in three daughters between the ages of 19 and 49 who in a startling national family health survey said they had experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence.
Spare a thought for the widows, most of them mothers, dumped in ashrams in Vrindavan and Mathura. They wait for death and salvation, dependent on the charity of others, abandoned by their families, shunned by society.
Spare a thought also for the findings of State of the World’s Mothers (2013) by the NGO Save the Children. It lists the mothers we will never know; those 56,000 who die in childbirth in India every year due to excessive bleeding, anaemia, high blood pressure, unsafe abortions or infection — mostly preventable at a small cost. It lists for the first time the 309,000 children who will not live beyond a day after being born — that’s in India alone.
Yes, we’ve made huge strides in tackling maternal mortality, cutting by nearly half the number of deaths since 1990. Still, we come out as the country with the most maternal deaths anywhere in the world — more than even Nigeria — or to look at the story another way, India accounts for 19 per cent of the world’s maternal mortality deaths.
“Any report on the state of the world’s mothers is by definition a report on the state of the world, full stop,” writes Melinda Gates in the introduction to State of the World’s Mothers (2013). Adds Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, US, “Every night millions of mothers around the world lean over their sleeping newborns and pray that they will be safe, healthy and happy.”
If mother’s day is to have any meaning beyond a hastily bought card, it must become mothers’ day. It must become a day when we pledge to the physical, financial and social well being of every mother, every daughter, every woman on this planet. Happy Mothers’ Day.
The views expressed by the author are personal