On the eve of Mother’s day, I want to tell my mom, “Thank You”.
- Thank you for loving me every second, whether I did right or wrong. You were there to pat me on my back and hug me when I did the right thing and teach me a lesson when I was wrong. Yet, you never stopped loving me.
- Thank you for making us, your daughters, your priority no matter what. You always took the backseat and we never thanked you for making us the stars in your life.
- Thank you for teaching us the value of family, respect, faith and culture. We realize the meaning of the “lectures” now! 🙂
- Thank you for being the rock in our lives…always.
- Thank you for the millions of hugs and kisses.
- Thank you for still treating me as your baby ( I am 30 and a mother of one…going on my second!).
- Thank you for knowing what I want to say, even before I say it.
- And thank you for the many things that I have selfishly forgotten.
As I find out that I am going to me a mom for the second time, I realize more than ever that being a mom is not just about raising a child, it is about raising a healthy and happy family and you, mama, have done just that. So thank you for being my mama.
Happy Mother’s Day! Love you! 🙂
This past week has caused me to think about what it means to be a woman, specifically a woman born Indian. Until recently, I did not think that I was any different than anyone else. I thank my parents’ upbringing for that. They gave us a strong foundation by instilling cultural values, the ability to differentiate between right and wrong and confidence in making our decisions. We are a family of 3 girls (yes, brown people, THREE girls !) and from an early age were given freedom in making our choices. Sure, our parents guided us when they felt we may not be making the right decision but more often than not, they would give us their reasoning and let us decide. We were always involved in decisions that may affect our family, be it as trivial as buying a new appliance for the home or the next expat assignment that my dad should accept. I realized this week that my parents may have been an exception to the general parenting style in India.
Over the course of the last few days, horrible cases of infant and newborn girls being killed by their own family have surfaced in India. These are just a few of the ones that the Indian media has broadcast in the hundreds and thousands of infanticide cases that happen each day. Be it foeticide, infanticide, dowry killings, rape or murder, Indian women have learned to live with no rights. Those women that are lucky enough to not be subjected to any of the above, still have to endure other kinds of humiliation. Just a couple of days ago, a fairness cream ad was released which advertised the product’s power of skin lightning around the vagina. Come on! Do our vaginas now have to be white to have sex?! What kind of a message is being sent to the new generation; that you will only have a happy life if you are fair skinned? One more thing for society to ask of women…pile it on.
All this happens in a land where the majority of its people worship Devis or Goddesses and is widely known as a spiritual haven. It is a country where the literacy rate is 74%, roughly 3 times the population of US, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and one with a space program and nuclear energy. Yet, every day women are deprived of their basic rights.
Somewhere, I think Indian women are one of the causes for their own degradation. Had we raised our voices against physical, mental and emotional abuse to us and our children and not worried about the “shame” it would bring to the family, our situation would not have been this deplorable. As Mary Wollstonecraft said, ” I do not wish them to have power over men, but over themselves.” We forget that as women, WE are the ones giving birth to the sons AND daughters. This oppression has to be stopped and women have to unite and raise their voices together.
Illustration courtesy: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/index.html
I sometimes catch myself thinking about names for our second baby. No, I am not pregnant…yet. But, when I hear a good name for a boy or a girl (please God, let the next one be a girl!), I wonder if it would be a good name for our next child.
With our son, Kabir, we knew we wanted an Indian name which was meaningful but short and easy to pronounce. Kabir means “the great one”. We didn’t follow tradition and hold a naming ceremony but instead shortlisted 2 names that we loved and that met with some degree of consent from family. When K arrived, we knew from the twinkle in his eyes that he was a Kabir.
Traditionally, in Hindu families in India, parents hold a naming ceremony for the new baby during which family comes to bless the baby and a priest determines the best alphabets for the baby’s name, based on the baby’s astrological chart or kundli. The baby is named using one of the shortlisted alphabets. There are many variations on the naming ceremony in India, depending on the region of the country and the religion of the new parents. Out of curiosity, I Googled “naming traditions around the world” and found a few very interesting ones:
- Buddhist: the naming process is similar to the one described above, except that the name is announced a month later by the priest when the parents bring the baby to the temple for blessings.
- Australia Aborigine: a tribe in north-east Australia will name a baby during the birthing process. The mid-wife calls out the names of the child’s living relatives and the name chosen is the one that was said the moment the placenta was delivered.
- Latvia: the godparents choose the baby’s name in a ceremony that involves a feast and dancing. The godparents vow to care for the baby during the ceremony.
- Nigeria: the Yoruba community names their baby girls on the 7th day after the birth and baby boys after the 9th day. Many names are given to the baby and one of them is to describe the circumstance of the birth such as Idowu for a child “born after twins”. The oldest member of the family chooses the name for the baby which is announced during the naming celebrations.
I hear more and more names that are deeply en-rooted in ethnic cultures today. I do think this is more to have a unique and fashionable name than anything else. I know that if our next baby is a girl, we will be scouring baby names books looking for a different, trendy yet meaningful name, be it from any culture. Maybe a Nevah, Anoushka, Kara or Sophie…
Yesterday, I had an opportunity to sit with a 94 year old engineer who had, against all odds, saved his family from the massacre during the partition of India in 1947, resulting in the present day India and Pakistan. He was able to save himself and his family from being counted in the 500,000 or so people that perished during this time.
The partition of India caused a mass migration of people from one country to the other; the largest movement of people in recorded history.
Bauji (means father or grandfather), as I will call him now, was a young 29 year old with a wife, 4 year old son and a newborn daughter. He lived in the province of Jhang, which now falls in Pakistan. His young family and he were forced to flee from their home to India with nothing but the clothes on their back and some jewelry that they hid under their clothes. His newborn daughter was 4 days old when they started their journey, during which they cheated death twice, got separated and then reunited. He vividly remembers seeing bodies of people lying in trucks and the panic, fear and mistrust among people.
His story made me realize that there must have been thousands of such heart-wrenching stories. Of the millions of people that migrated from one country to the other, many must have lost loved ones, left behind family members who didn’t want to leave their homes and others became homeless. Their stories have gotten lost in trying to make a life for themselves in their new homes.
Bauji and Mataji (grandmother) went on to raise a family of well-educated and successful children. They now live here in Canada and are respected members of the South Asian community. I feel blessed that they shared their story with me.