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Parent trap: Passing on the hurt

Of all the hurts that life doles out, it is the pain from the ones closest to us that stings

brunch Updated: Apr 27, 2019 23:43 IST
Shoba Narayan
Shoba Narayan
Hindustan Times
This Indian Life,hurt,pain
When loved ones annoy you, learn to breathe, count and through it, forgive... (Shutterstock)

The incident happened in Jaipur. I was a guest at a hotel, which was hosting a big fat Delhi wedding. Opulent, sumptuous, with white roses and fragrant tuberoses covering every available spot. The bride walked in, flanked by her parents. I sighed. She was so beautiful. The parents looked ecstatic. A lovely family. But wait, this is only half the story. The second half of the story begins like this.

“Only if you forgive her (your mother) will you truly be free....You and I are no angels. Our kids will have to learn to do the same with us”

Same hotel. This time, I am standing near the beautifully made up stage for the midnight pheras ceremony. All is quiet. I am in a dark corner admiring the flowers, photographing details, when the bride rushes in. She is dressed in a gorgeous Sabyasachi lehenga, jingling anklets and veil. She is crying.

The father is behind her. “It’s okay, beta,” he says, cajoling.

The young bride screams. “It’s not okay, papa. She is such a control freak. Petty, bitchy, shitty control freak. She is going to ruin my wedding. Who does she think she is? What the hell is she doing?”

“You know your mother, bachche. She means well….”

“No, she doesn’t. To her, my wedding is just a platform to show off to her friends. She doesn’t care about me.”

More jingling anklets. Rustling silk. Someone else is here. There is silence for a moment.

“Mama, I didn’t know you were here.” It is the bride. She sounds shocked, contrite.

Muffled tears. Sneezing into handkerchief. The mother speaks. “After all I have done, this is how you repay me?” she says.

Stilettos on a marble floor as she walks away.

Oh, the wounds we carry. A bride’s outburst against her mother. A mother’s pain on hearing her daughter calling her a bitch. An impotent father caught in between.

Of all the hurts that life doles out, it is the pain from the ones closest to us that stings. How do I know this? Because I have been that bride. Or a version of her. I have felt anger, venom and rising bile at my mother. For not allowing me to go on a road trip with friends, for punishing me, forcing me to apologise even though I didn’t feel sorry, for who she was, and who she had turned me into.

But this woman, my mother, is also the one who has made me who I am. She’s the one who has given me strength and self-confidence even as she tore me down and took me apart. She is the kernel from which I have sprung. She is my everything. In me, she lives.

How do I know this? Because I am doing the exact same thing to my daughters. I am the control freak, corrections officer, weirdo and yes, bitch. My daughters have railed against me about how I nag them into outraged submission. They hate me for it.

Oh, the wounds we carry.

So what now? Well, now I have to learn how to forgive my mother. And I have to hope that my daughters will one day learn to do the same, learn to forgive me. Because you know that bride in Jaipur? She lives in New York now. Her mother needs heart surgery. She flies to Delhi every week to be with her mother. She tells me that years of therapy haven’t erased the guilt that she feels about that outburst against her mother. At the same time, she hasn’t fully figured out how to forgive her mother for wrongs, real and imagined. So she atones, this daughter – now a mother of two boys. She atones by crying on transatlantic flights to India and using vodka as balm. Oh, the wounds she carries.

The last time I was in Delhi, I told my friend that it was time. We were in the ICU, sitting vigil next to the woman who had made my friend – her daughter – cry on her wedding day.

“Let go,” I told Ritu. “Not for her sake but for yours. Because only if you forgive her will you truly be free. And guess what? You and I are no angels. Our kids will have to learn to do the same with us.”

Thankfully there are protocols now that help us do this. The Christian tradition of forgiveness. “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” The Buddhist loving-kindness meditation. A new age one called ‘Cutting the ties that bind.’ Look it up. Then there is always psychotherapy where you talk to professionals about your feelings. Or simply taking a breath and counting. Which is what I do when my parents annoy me. The triggers are still there. It is just that I have learned to breathe, count and through it, forgive. I am not fully successful. I still get irritated at my folks. But I am dealing with it. I am trying my hardest not to act on it.

I am, I guess, trying to shed the wounds I carry. Or at least put some Band-Aid over it.

(This column addresses the issue of parenting our parents and other unique facets of This Indian Life and our culture. If you have stories about the weird and wonderful relationships that enrich or enervate your life, write in.)

This Indian Life appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, April 28, 2019

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First Published: Apr 27, 2019 22:17 IST