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Constant hum of the desi mother

Let's make no bones about it. Motherhood is a job that needs to be done well. It is an obligation that must be fulfilled with finesse, passion and warmth, simply because the life of another human being is at stake. Shobha Sengupta writes.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2011 22:51 IST

Let's make no bones about it. Motherhood is a job that needs to be done well. It is an obligation that must be fulfilled with finesse, passion and warmth, simply because the life of another human being is at stake.

Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has sparked off much debate everywhere. But what about the Indian mum? Does she get it right? Is she the right mix - neither the obsessive 'Chinese' variety nor the laidback 'American'? Does she manage to juggle her motherhood with the validation of her self through her work outside of the home? What is the working mum like at home? Does she have her priorities right? And what should her priorities be anyway?

While arranging for an event, I wondered if it was only a particular class of mothers who entered bookstores. These mothers were terribly politically correct and did not believe in strict discipline. "We let our children be. They need space to grow in. We try to instil the right values; grades aren't important." Yet, these were mothers who wanted to send their children to Ivy League schools.

Upon probing, I discovered that the Indian mother (housewife or working) put her life on hold if her child had exams or had to be carted for cricket classes. 'Giving space' was only in principle. In reality, she was forever hovering around her little one, making sure the child was well fed, had done her homework and was continually honing her extra-curricular skills.

I caught myself thinking: the Indian moms' nonchalance was just a show for public consumption. Would they let their children 'be' if their grades were slipping? Would they give them 'space' if they were out all day at the malls? Or are today's mums too busy watching their weight, going for yoga or simply busy earning good money?

Well, I'm not like that, I said to myself. My 14-year-old daughter was studying in her room. 'Aha,' I thought, 'Let me show her what motherhood is all about.' "Baby, please bring your social science books. Let us study together." "Aw come on, Mom, I've been studying for the last hour. Please let's watch Friends." Next thing I knew, we were sitting in front of the telly. I had wanted to watch Friends, anyway.

Shobha Sengupta is owner of Quill and Canvas, a bookstore-art gallery

The views expressed by the author are personal.