Why Mother's Day passes the VHP test, unlike V-Day

Prabha Chandran
New Delhi

Excuse me, did you hear the VHP or the Shiv Sena making a stink about Mother 's Day? Where's the hysteria that attended Valentine's Day? I decided to check with the local Hallmark and Archies stores: no ma'am, they said, no threats and we don't expect any problems either.

What? No Mr Thackeray to give us a lesson in cultural imperialism on May 13?

Is Mother's Day, I wondered, any less a Western import than Valentine's Day? Does it not "commercialise" the mother-child love relationship the same way Valentine's makes commerce out of romantic love?

Why is it more acceptable in Hindutva to buy your mother a card and flowers but not your lover or your girlfriend?

The answer, of course, is that the majority of Indians still believe there's something illicit about romantic love. The lover has, at best, a dubious social status - probably just one notch up commercial sex worker but we're too polite to admit it.

Go on, tell the truth - how many of you married "a suitable boy" rather than the love of your life? I see couples necking clandestinely in the park where I jog everyday but I never see them romancing each other at the glitzy parties I attend.

Arranged marriages are still the norm in India - even NRIs come back to their ancestral land to marry for the "right reasons"; which don't include love.

"This love and dating business is making it so difficult to protect our sons," complains the wife of India's leading pharma millionaire, "girls are so chalak these days they phasao our sons even before we can introduce them to the right partners."

In the hippest Indian families, the right socio-economic-caste background is what matters in a spouse, not the chemistry you ignite in each other. Why, even astrological considerations take precedence over feelings of the heart when it's time to making the Big Decision. (Why haven't our buniyas thought of an Astrologer's Day?)

In this arrangement, it's your dharma to love your mom no matter how whacky or wicked she might be - but your spouse has to earn your affection. Ergo: it's OK to glorify your devi maa etc on Mother's Day but don't upset the family hierarchy by doing the same for your spouse on Valentine's Day.

In this land of mamma's boys cutting the apron strings is much harder than cutting the umbilical cord - not surprisingly, the single biggest cause of divorce in our family courts is still bad ole mother-in-law.

She is also omnipresent in dowry cases. And the man who stands by his wife against this Medea-mother is a wimpy biwi ka ghulam who has failed in his dharma as a son. This is what our shastras teach us.

And who is the Indian mother of today? At the lower end of the social spectrum she has the same social status as cattle while at the upper echelons of society she is a memsahib who spends her days attending kitty parties while her servants raise her kids.

Arguably, there is no one more spoilt than the rich bitch Indian mamma who has servants at her beck and call and disdains the idea of dipping her manicured nails in work.

If she belongs to the middle class majority however, she's working both at home and in the office to give her kids a standard of living and opportunities they really can't afford.

She's better off than her poorest sisters who still can't read or limit the size of their families in the new millennium and who often go to bed hungry despite the record food stocks.

She's also living longer but she's smoking and drinking more every year and her chances of succumbing to heart disease, diabetes and cancer are rising alarmingly. So are her encounters with depression and stress as she struggles to nurture her children and husband, she automatically gives them precedence before her own needs. She lives in self-denial to an extent her equally well-educated Western sisters would consider obscene.

It is to this mother, that I would like to raise a toast - no, that's Western, do an arti - on Mother's Day. But when I do that, I hope I don't forget that she is also someone's wife, mistress and lover.

That while I celebrate her magical ability to conceive and nurture life - sometimes at the expense of her own - I also remember that she has the fantasies and desires of a woman. Like receiving a love letter on Valentine' s Day.

Referred by:Balram Sampla
Published on: May 14, 2001
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