I grew up in a noisy house with a lot of activity, officers coming over to catch up with dad over a cocktail and their wives seeking my mom's company, culinary tips and what not. The brass mementoes shone bright every day of the week. The carpet was dusted and sunned every other day. The drapes changed to match the mood and we always had beautiful table covers.My mom was very fond of fresh flowers, so we had loads and loads of them in glass vases.
Out of the seven days, we entertained guests almost three days.I spent a lot of time with the people who helped us run our home. My favorites were the chef, I called Ashok bhaiya and the driver, I remember as Ganesh. I don't remember them indulging me but I loved them because they let me follow them in everything they did and answered all my questions.
I once asked my mom while she was getting ready to go out for an officers mess party meant for only adults, " Mom, why don't you stay at home with me?" I whined and I sulked, " You are never home."
An army officer's wife is not paid by the Indian Army but she works as hard. She is a member of the Ladies Club and the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) and as her husband rises in hierarchy, her activities increase many fold and so does the hours spent out of the house. Coincidently, when I was just 4 my dad was the Commanding Officer (CO) and my beloved mom, the CO's wife. She was assigned responsibilities and looking after the welfare of all the soldier's wives in the battalion was one of them.
What intrigues me most is how my mom let me in her life, even when she was not beside me. Though she would be gone a lot, I never once felt distanced from her. My mom taught me everything she would learn in the ladies club- how to sew, knit, make flowers, cook, garden, dance, sing but most of all, she taught me how to express myself. And my love for expressing myself began early. The life she led, because she shared it with me, telling me about everything when she returned home, became my life too in a funny way.
When I close my eyes and go back to those times I see everything that happened through my mother's eyes. When we would enter the ladies club meet, she would whisper to me on how to greet other women. She taught me the need to extend to others and the beauty of association and solidarity. She taught me how to always hold myself like a lady and yet stand for what I believe.
Years later, now when I look back there has been not a single instance when my mom told me I shouldn't be doing this and I shouldn't be doing that. She taught me to live my own life, while she led hers. I saw and grew up seeing my mom as a strong, vibrant, social and compassionate woman. Most of all her life flowed into my life stream.
Today when there is a distinct divide on working women and housewives, the role of a mother in the child's formative years, I see many women who have had brilliant careers, give it all up to be able to be by the side of their children. And I wonder just how much difference will it make in the last.
I don't know what I have achieved so far and what I will achieve in my lifetime is significant or not, I don't know how great is my salary, I still don't know where life is going to take me. But there is one thing that is very clear to me. I know I am going to live everyday of my life like a winner. Just like my mom did. The picture of the woman I want to be is the picture my eyes captured when I was growing up.
To all those women who place guilt on themselves for being gone for hours everyday, I want you to know what a child really values in her mom. And in the final analysis, trust me, the hours you are out does not even come into the picture.
To me a mom is someone who allowed me to find a life I want to live while she lived her own.
Urmila Chanam Bangalore