It is hard to decipher at first; the change is so subtle, almost invisible. But it was there nonetheless. It was hard to digest either – the slow descent of parents from the holy pedestal of saintliness to what they really are – people.
We have all heard the Mahabharata lore of how Yudhishthira’s rath used to float a little above the ground, because of his impeccable track record. I guess this was the case with my parents, too, in my eyes. I have been born and raised in one of the most backward regions of the country geographically, politically, and temporally – Bihar of the ’90s. In an environment where casteism, crime, and corruption ruled the roost, I grew up in a protected cocoon. I was provided with the best of resources that a single income family under the 4th Pay Commission could afford.
No efforts were spared in all-round development. In fact, I can go on record saying that my institutions had less role to play in my academic achievements than my parents.
Naturally, the position held by my parents in my young, naive mind was nothing short of divine. Moreover, ours was never a PDA family. There was hardly any concept of hugs, or explicit words of praise. A good report card would earn you a pat on the back. The Great Indian Middle Class does not believe in outward expressions of love of any kind!
But Yudhishthira’s rath did lose its exalted status; the parents too did start to lose some of the haloes around them.
With the power of retrospection, I can safely say I never had a rebellious teenage phase. I was a docile, obedient daughter who loved to share her day with her parents. But there were instances when the sharing did not end up being all too pleasant. The first inflection was particularly striking, and I did not want to believe the cold, bare truth – my parents were wrong!
With the (super)power of retrospection, I can again be safe while declaring that my rebellious phase came a little later, in my early twenties. The exhilaration of college life and impending start to professional life was a heady cocktail, enough to make me feel that I had become ‘adult’ enough. Yet, admittedly, I still did not go against their wishes. But there was a slight difference; it wasn’t due to their fear or awe anymore. It was borne more out of sheer pity.
Yes, my parents were growing old. The first signs were there. There were admissions of mistakes, failure, and ignorance. There was the rite of passage when I taught them using a smartphone. They did resist for as long as they could, though! I could understand what it must have felt like to make me write my first alphabet.
Here was my mighty father, one who I had always looked upon as being capable of solving any problem, struggling to come to terms with a major part of his office moving online. Here was my smart mother, one who used to read Booker-winning works and the Hindi daily with equal ease, trying to make sense of millennial lingo in contemporary writings.
With each passing year, they were becoming less divine and more human. I could now realize the faults in their thought process, I could even correct their financial planning. I came to realize they weren’t always super friendly to everyone. There came situations which were not pleasant when I had heated arguments with them. I even found myself having heated arguments on their behalf. They were dumbfounded – never had they ever thought I might stand up for them the way I have done at times.
Life has come full circle with me becoming a parent. I look at my little baby, looking at me helplessly, trusting me to keep him fed, warm, and dry, safe from all the strange noises and sights around him. He clings on to me whenever he encounters people or places he has never seen before, his tiny fingers clutching at my dress, imploring me never to let go. He wakes up from sleep and looks for me, then smiles the most beatific smile on spotting me. Where does this put me? Did becoming a mother endow me with superpowers of some kind? No. I am as awkward, as fumbling, as trying-to-make-my-way-through-life as ever. Yet, there is a tiny human being who is dependent on me for his very survival. A person who would evolve a personality, a career, an outlook, based on how I would have raised him.
And this is what has probably made me come closer to my parents than ever before. This second inflection has been more striking than the first – my parents are human! They are not supposed to be correct all the time, they are not supposed to look out for me all my life. They had once been as fumbling, as lost as I am, and with no Google to help them out! Yet, they have raised two kids and made them responsible enough to take care of themselves. Sure, there were mistakes along the way. Sure, their efforts did not bear as much fruit as they would have liked. But they did see through the rough and tumble of life and kept me feeling as cared for, as protected as they could. And also managed to make their child look up to them through rose-tinted glasses.
I do not hope I turn out to be like them, as a parent. I would instead make my own mistakes, I would rather find my own way with my child. I would rather have my child discover my fallibility much sooner. I would rather have my child, and I support each other, learn, and grow together. I would rather be human, not divine. How much of this would I be able to accomplish, only time would tell.
As for my own mumma and papa, instead of looking up, i can now look into their eyes and smile.
Aastha Sneha Pathak is a full time mother. When not mothering or working as a railway officer, she loves to curl up with a book and a cup of coffee.