Monday, August 6, 2012

Growing up is never easy....

"All my friends think you look very young and cute, not your age at all!" said Toshali, in her now famous grumpy look. It was a regular post-school-hour afternoon and I was folding clothes. I turned and smiled. She shrugged and said, "You don't, I dunno why they say that? You have wrinkles around your eyes and laugh lines and quite a few of your hair has turned grey." My grin turned from happy to amused as I turned back to folding clothes.

You all must have gathered that I am speaking of my daughter who is a teenager now and conscious of every detail that she was just a few months back oblivious to. Topping her chart of annoyance is 'Moi'. It used to be her brother but now I reign supreme. "You behave like a teen Maa and that is why you are so popular!!" She was not done yet, I realised. Usually I just let her speak till she has said it all and then I say my part, if there is scope to say anything in my defense. Today I was stumped.

I sat down on the bed and looked at her. "What is it that has put you off?" I asked. "I don't like the fact that people think we are sisters. You must look your age Maa. The other mums all look their age." I seriously did not like the way this conversation was going. I explained to her that most of the 'other mums' that she was referring to had older children and hence were years older than me. She refused to listen. Turning her head away resentfully she said, "When we walk into a room together people want to talk to you, not me." My fuse started to tick. A dull throbbing ache starts at the back of my head and spreads willfully towards a full blown out migraine. There is a sense of helplessness. I know what she is feeling, I can empathise on one level. Yet I feel ill-equipped to cope with her.

The words that want to spring out of my mouth are reactive. They hang on the tip of my tongue begging to be let loose. She wants a fight, I will give her one, my reflex churns choppy signals to my brain. It takes immense will to keep a reign on my words. The migraine will go away, but the words once uttered will not return unscathed. I suddenly wish there were more clothes to fold. But the pile is done. All sorted, nothing left for me to do apart from facing her, talking to her and dealing with my fuse.

I tell her then of my adolescence, "I grew up in the presence of a woman whose beauty is admired even today. I grew up hearing people say, 'You have nothing of your mum's looks.' It must have hurt then. I was your age, my face was full of acne, I was not slim, neither fair compared to the friends I had. I had to smile. I have never confronted my mother about this. I don't remember holding a grudge against her, maybe I did sub consciously, but those times were different and parents were 'parents', not 'friends' with whom you could pick a fight." Toshali gets restless and I know it is time to change my track as it must sound 'preachy' to her. So I change gears and start again, "To begin with I am happy that you are honest and vocal about your feelings. I think that is praiseworthy." She looks stumped now. But she says that I am digressing from the subject and I allow myself a hint of a smile that promises ultimately to alleviate my migraine. So I let the smile linger.

I tell her that what she perceives as young is actually agelessness. It is a period in a woman's life when she is sure of herself, knows her strengths and accepts her weaknesses. When she has travelled equally, inwards than outwards. Her experiences glints from her eyes and smile through her lips. "What you call beauty is actually maturity, a face that is calm in its understanding of the world and poised in its knowledge.", I tell her also, "The only way to reach this ageless quality is to live life. Enrich yourself with as many experiences as possible. Even this talk that we are having today will reflect from your face tomorrow and give it a desirable quality." A part of me tells me she is too young to understand all this, and the other part says,"Try her." I speak as she continues to listen.

"I have to wait it out, you mean?", she finally asks. My smile widens. She did get the jist of it. "You can say wait it out, I would say live it, feel the joy, the pain, the love and the bitterness and one day when you are on your own, your face will be transformed. What is a face, but a mirror of your experiences!! What is it that holds a gaze and makes people want to talk to you... it is nothing but your willingness to talk back. I do look my age, it is age alone that transforms a precocious girl to an ageless woman." She smiles, plucks a grey hair from my temple and laughs. "You are old.", she says and winks as she leaves the room. Well well... what can I say? I let her have the last laugh.

My migraine didn't bother me. That was good enough for the day.


dr.antony said...

That was a good narration indeed.

Without any doubt, the mother-daughter relation is the most intense of all relationships.

Until adolescence, it is a simple one of intimate love and devotion. During adolescence, when the teenage daughter is faced with the task of differentiating herself, the mother-daughter relationship can become one of alternating intimacy and hate. To develop a sense of self, girls feel a greater need to fight, disobey or rebel against their mother's control. My daughter was very close to her mother, but would come to me with complaints about her mom, because she was "too much interfering”. The emerging feeling of independence and freedom and a spirit of competition with the mother can sometimes make some conflicts. I know of many teenage girls who disliked their mothers at this stage. It is all part of growing up and children would later cherish these memories when they grow up. Enjoy the times!

Sanand said...

I've to admire the way this post has been narrated. The honesty of the discussion is noteworthy. We all go through stages and phases of rebellion or outbursts of jealousy.This is particularly apparent between mothers and daughters. Later, the daughters emulate their mothers with their daughters. That's the inevitable cycle of life.

Indrani said...

Typical growing up pangs. I have heard it from my daughter and smiled. They outgrow very soon.

Sneha said...

Well, Sujata, you've made me emotional at this. That's cause I remember my mother who passed away suddenly when I was just 18 (post some days after my birthday). She was my best friend; and I've been quite a self-confessed loner all my life and continue to. That void of the mother still remains; and I know it would continue to. Now in mid-twenties; I have to put up a facade to the world, deal with so much - but there's no one to guide me. It's been a long, painful journey - - but do tell Toshali that she's very lucky to have you. Reminiscing of your earlier post on Toshali and her gracefulness, I am so heartened to know how time swiftly passes by. She's grown to be a charming young lady. May God Bless the two of you and have a long life, and teach her what only a mother can teach a child. I missed that. I don't want anybody else to.

anilkurup said...

A fabulous narration.
The bond between the two of you folks is apparent. I liked the way you put it across.
And your statement that the face is the reflection of experience and life is striking.
It is only the more fortunate ones who can have such interactions .

Nikita Banerjee Bhagat said...

Gosh! Maybe we all go through this when we grow up in the shadow of a beautiful very loving) mother! My sister & me had the same gripe for the longest time that when my mum walked, people rushed to greet her and complimented her and not us! But today we are proud of her!

Also, my mum is often mistaken for a much younger self than her real age! I wish I canage so gracefully too. In short, your daughter is going to be proud of you soon :) Just a phase!

Destiny's child... said...

I just loved the way you explained it to Toshali. It's something not just for her but all women in general. It all comes from within, doesn't it? Loved the read. :)

Sneha said...

Btw, LOVED your one liner on Mars. Keep 'em coming! :D

sujata said...

@ Dr Antony: Yeah it is a phase and in retrospect will be enjoyable too. Thanks.

@Sanand: Thanks for visiting. I agree.

@ Indrani: I am sure. Will hang in there:)

@Sneha: I understand what you feel. Losing a parent is very tough and at a young age it is always a life changing experience. I lost my father, whom I was deeply attached to, when I was 19. But as the saying goes,' what does not kill us, makes us stronger.' You are a great person and a fantastic writer. I am sure you make your mom proud and I am sure she lives through you. Take care and love always.

@Anil: I guess every mom learns with every kid, I am too. Some mistakes, some victories... we fall and stumble and rise again. As long as the graph keeps on the incline, I am happy.

@Nikita: Poor mums :( what are we supposed to do? :)

@Destiny's child: Thanks. Good to see you again. I visited your page in between, but no post for a long time. Been busy??

Balachandran V said...

Sujata, you are a beautiful woman - the compliments more to your matured handling of the situation. This could be the typical adolescent problem, when they become so attention-craving. It will pass, and one day too soon, she will be proud of your! Loved the way you dealt with the sensitive issue!

Sumandebray said...

deep rooted philosophy ...... a part of it when tangent

as far as I am concerned, I am waiting for the day when daughter asks me ... "Daddy why do you look so old! "

Sumandebray said...

BTW ... if you allow a few robots to comment on ... it might make the life of a few lesser mortals a bit easy!

sujata said...

@ Balan Thanks. Yes, it is attention and they cannot have enough. If they clear this phase they will emerge with a better self esteem.

@SDR LOL!! That day will come sooner than you know :)

I will try to get rid of the problem today. Hope I succeed.

Haddock said...

Well written.
When we are young we are rebellious and adamant. Slowly when we realise things, its past the time to repent and make amends. But I think parents understand.
Like that painting by Manu Martin.

Sumandebray said...

If you can read this .....
you will know that you have succeeded :)

Nikita Banerjee Bhagat said...


Need to mail you something! Please drop me a test mail at :D

pawan chaugule said...

Hello ma'am,

I am Pawan, a student from IIT Powai. We host a technical festival at IIT every year,which is called Techfest.A segment of tecfest includes calling artist from all over the world to showcase their creations. And since ma'am I saw one of your origami creations, I was quite interested in humbly requesting you to come to Techfest the next year, in the month january.

Thank you
Hoping for a positive reply.