Saturday, September 19, 2009

This One's for You, Ma

She doesn’t like attention. “I want to hear your story!,” I eagerly ask her. She replies with a nonchalant “nothing interesting has happened in my life”. I’ve grown up in the shadow of a woman who could do no wrong. When she was born, my nana got promoted. My mother became a sign of good luck. All the relatives wanted to take her to their home. Babli, as she was nicknamed, was the cute baby that didn’t cause a fuss.

She was the oldest daughter in a family of five, three of which were girls. While the middle daughter was a lover of the arts and the youngest one a tomboy, Babli was the quaint follower of rules. The good one, my grandmother fondly recalls. I look at her black and white photographs. There is one where she’s standing by a trophy. I don’t know if she won it. Decked in a plan salwar kameez, her expression is stoic as she stares into the camera. Her round features are beautiful, her skin flawless, her almond-shaped eyes piercing. She must have been a heartbreaker. “On Bhai Dooj I would tie a rakhi on the wrist of every boy in my class,” she once told me. “There was one boy who said he didn’t want me to tie a rakhi on him. I started crying.” I can imagine her as a young girl, distraught that a boy doesn’t want her as a sister. This innocence in her still comes out sometimes, like the time we were playing Monopoly and Papa was trying to swindle her of some property.

From what I know of her, Mammi’s life is far from uninteresting. She studied Economics at Miranda House and then got married, only to become a devoted housewife for over two decades. In 1999 my mother took my brother and I to the United States, believing we had a better opportunity of succeeding in the land where dreams supposedly came true. I have vivid memories of her walks to HEB where she worked as a bagger. She took some computer programming courses to improve her chances of a job. I still remember the postcard she got in the mail that welcomed her into the Texas Department of Insurance as a Computer Programmer. I was so proud of her. She’s worked there for over ten years now, and while others have moved on to bigger and better things, my mother has stuck loyally to the job that provided her with stability.

I want to hear her story, if she’s willing to tell me. I want to see her as a person who felt things that I’m feeling, not as a standard I can never measure up to. But what can I do, she doesn’t like attention.

Mammi and I in Sofia, Bulgaria:

1 comment:

  1. "There was one boy who said he didn’t want me to tie a rakhi on him. I started crying."

    that gave me a laugh...