‘OHHH MAAAAA!!!’

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OHH MAAAAAAA! Isn’t this the first expression most of us spontaneously come up with in any moment of pain or pleasure???

As per the science of acoustics or sounds, the sounds A, O, M, and H are the most powerful of them all. Of these, M they say is the sound similar to that of the big bang sound of creation. Humming MMMMMMM creates powerful energy vibrations from the throat right up to the head. (Try it!) No wonder these are the sounds most commonly used in prayer mantras, greetings, and of course for Mother; eg. Aum, Om, Shalom, Ahem, Amin, Amen, Amma, Maai, Maa, Madre, Mater, Mummy, etc.

Yes, MMMMMM is the divine sound of creative energy, and Maa is the birth-giver! Maa could be otherwise defined as unconditional and eternal love, solace, peace, joy, sacrifice, first Guru, first friend, life, nurturer………, I could go on and on…………!!!!

All over the world, there are so many words for Mother, but for me, the best is just Maa!

The world cannot exist without mothers. As we all know, the male sperm can be combined with a female egg and fertilized even in a laboratory but the then fertilized embryo requires a mother’s womb to develop and to take birth from.

All of us share a very special relationship with our mothers and as mothers with our children. This special relationship exists across the globe regardless of nationality, race, religion, caste, creed, age, financial or social status. It is boundless, timeless, beyond life and death too!

Like all daughters do, I too have a very special bonding with Maa. Being a daughter and the eldest, as I grew up, I soon became her friend and confident too. She would often speak to me about herself and her life through which I have learnt a lot which has been useful in my later life.

Orphaned since the age of 2 yrs, Maa had spent all her growing up years with relatives, first with her mama-mami (maternal uncle and aunt) and then the with her bhai-bhabhi (brother and his wife) under whose care she was sent. While with them, she was constantly doing all to please them and be accepted and not be chided by them. (Try staying at the mercy of people other than your own family and see how it feels).

She remembered the best years of her life as those spent with her Naani (maternal grandmother) who brought her up until the age of ten and from whom she got unconditional love. Naani even allowed Maa to go to school which she was passionate about and she was a bright student too. But after the age of 10 years, when she was under the care of other relatives, she never got the opportunity to continue her studies, as she was constantly exploited by them using her as house help.

Now when I think of my mother, many memories come to my mind. In fact, I could write a book on them.

Despite being a daughter, my birth was celebrated. I grew up as an extremely loved and pampered girl, a very happy, lively child, singing and dancing all the way. I was the life of the family.  Perhaps, Maa wished to do all for me what she never had. She insisted I go to a convent school despite the chagrin of all other relatives.

On this Mother’s Day, of the many memories I have, the one I write about here is the one which would perhaps stir up something within all my readers too.

It was in September 1971, when I received the letter of me being selected as an air-hostess! The news came as a surprise to Maa as I had applied and gone secretly for interviews dressing up at a friend’s place.

Maa was aghast! “Oh my God!” she exclaimed, “What will I tell your grandmother and your aunts? No girl from our family has taken up such a bold job, they will kill me, No Never, you can’t go for this”, holding her head with both her hands she lamented in a pleading tone!!!!

I was so excited! And now, having to lose a coveted job after all the efforts and after competing with so many was no small loss. Totally shattered, my head was buzzing with just one question – “NOW WHAT SHALL I DO, HOW DO I SAVE THIS GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY???”

Though of course! Having lived trying to please all others all her life, I could understand Maa’s fears.

As if this outburst was not enough, what she said further was even more shocking.

“Come here my girl, let me tell you something,” she said. “Now what next,” I asked myself!!! I had butterflies in my stomach.

“Listen, my girl, when I was growing up, values and norms then were very different for women. Like you, even I wanted to fulfill my dreams, I wanted to carve my own path, reach out to my own goals of studying and becoming a doctor. But my dreams were cut short”. My Naani had explained… “We girls must learn to sacrifice our dreams and burn our wings. We must grow up to be good women and live for our families, be good wives, good daughters-in-law, and good mothers. You must learn all required for that”. Saying this Maa added “Now it’s your turn. Yes, it’s your turn now, JUST BURN THE WINGS OF YOUR DREAMS!” she said with a deep sigh and tears in her eyes.

She abruptly got up and hurriedly walked away before I could even finish asking her….. “and what about bhai, will he too……???” as if she had no more courage to face me, as if she had committed a crime…..

I was stunned! The young girl in me trembled….. she could not understand this!

BURN MY WINGS, WHY, WHY BUT WHY??? WAS IT A CRIME TO BE BORN A GIRL???

For the next 2 days, I was in a stony trance not saying a word to anyone. All others at home were confused at my behavior. Daadi was most worried. “It’s just a bad headache, don’t worry with some rest she will be alright soon”. Maa said to them looking the other way to hide her tears.

Wherever I went, whatever I did, the haunting and deafening echo of Maa’s words followed me “BURN YOUR WINGS, BURN YOUR WINGS, BURN YOUR WINGS!”

Eventually, after being thus tormented for 2 days, the third morning, I suddenly woke up hearing myself howling…. “NOOOO, I SHALL NOT BURN MY WINGS, MAA, I SHALL NOT BURN MY WINGS!!!”

Maa, Papa, Daadi, my younger siblings, altogether rushed towards me. “What happened, what are you saying”? Asked Maa! Sobbing away I screamed…. “MAA, PLEASE, I SHALL NOT BURN MY WINGS!!!”

Maa just looked at me knowingly, silently caressed my head, hugged me and calmed me. She told the others … “Don’t worry, our Minno (that’s how I was called affectionately at home) will be fine. She is a very sensible girl”. Yes, I did calm down outwardly, but within me was a storm which would quieten down only when I could sort it out with Maa.

Later, in the afternoon, when Maa was done with all the household chores, Papa was at work and my siblings at school, Daadi called me and Maa and asked what the matter was. Maa told her about my selection as an air-hostess and about what she told me. Now, before Maa could say anything more, very calmly but firmly, I said…. “Maa, I shall not burn my wings, and yes, you too get ready, I will help you too grow new wings again”. There was silence.

Both Maa and Daadi just looked at me. Maa spoke, “are you crazy?” It was Daadi’s turn now; “wait, just a minute, let’s listen to what she has to say.” She wanted to know all about the job first. I explained it all to her. I also mentioned about the opportunity I would get to travel and see so many new places and that at times I may have to stay out overnight. “But don’t worry,” I said, “I shall take care of myself. Trust me and yourself. You have given me good upbringing, values, and education. I love you all. I shall not let you down, ever.”

On hearing this Daadi got excited “Oh, is that so! And what did you say about wings for your mother?” “Oh Yes,” I said, “Maa always wanted to learn English and music, and study to be a Doctor. Well, we shall enroll her for English speaking classes. And soon there is going to be a course for civil defense and first aid in the neighborhood. Both Maa and me shall enroll together. By now Daadi was reassured and Maa was secretly excited too. I could see the glint of hope in her eyes despite her trying hard to hide it.

Daadi turned towards Maa and said, “our Minno is right, the world is changing, and we must move ahead with times. We must trust her. She is trying to set things right and help you too. We have brought her up well with good values and education. She is now old enough to understand right and wrong, she will never let us down.”

With that, a new chapter began in Maa’s life. She and I became each other’s support system. Now, though it was not easy for her yet, she, always stood by me, egging me on to chase my dreams, reminding me of my powerful wings while she grew hers!

With the fire within her thus ignited, she became more confident and actually started chasing her own lost dreams. She learnt English, the harmonium and started singing, which was another passion of hers. She learnt first aid, started running tailoring classes and did many more things which she was earlier hesitant to do.

And finally, with her new wings, she became the champion for change in our family and among her friends too. She would also explain to her friends about moving ahead with changing times.

I am so proud of her. She is my world, my beloved Maa, “OHHH Meri MAAAAA!”

– By Mina Tilakraj

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