My mother recently went on a tiny vacation with her sister. Those days, my brother returned home very late from work every night. I found something or the other to do with my day, when I wasn’t at work. My dad, who we’ve generally known to be the busiest of us all, was the only one left out. He ate, slept, prayed excessively, did a lot of household chores, stared at the TV and distracted me with a million things while I was home staring at the TV. So one night, I decided to take my father out for ice cream.
The man seemed to have got the wings that Red Bull promises but never delivers. He whizzed across the house trying to finish everything in time for us to leave and poured dinner down my food pipe, lest I take time to finish it. Cinderella must have taken more time to finish her chores and get ready in order to make it to Prince Charming’s ball.
And then, something happened. Something that made him slump right back on that couch next to me and glue himself back on to the serials that he was watching. He felt bad about going without my brother and mom. “Once your mom is back, we will all go – the whole family!”
Keeping this in mind, I once tried suggesting a friend to take only his sister out, just the two of them. They could get to know each other afresh. He came back and told me that it’s just not him to take one member of his family out like that. Everyone goes together.
It’s a really beautiful and heartwarming thing – this family spirit. It makes you feel like no matter where you go in the world or how lost you are, you’re never alone. You have a home and people to call your own. You belong to them. And that sense of belonging and familiarity also comes from all the things your family has seen of you from birth, all the things you share with them that won’t make sense to anybody else in the world, like your mother tongue, memories or insider jokes.
But here’s the thing that troubled me about this incident. If we would have gone for that ice cream, my dad and I would have known each other a little beyond family.
I mean, to me, my dad is the one who stands behind me watching with bated breath, while I’m applying kohl, out of fear that I might hurt my eye. While I’m leaving for work, he’ll ask me to go carefully lest I slip over my stilettos and hurt myself. He’s the one who beams at people who say I look like him or am like him. He’s the person who travels in buses and walks home so his children and wife never stop living like royalty. He’s the one who relatives and friends might misunderstand or fight with or accuse of a million things; but the minute they need someone, he’s the first person they call without so much as a second thought.
My mother, to me, is the person who walks ahead of me, turns behind and points to places where she thinks I might stumble or hurt myself. She’s the person who calls me on all my bluffs, takes one look at my face and decodes my heart and sets me in line with her sternness and inimitable wit. She’s the one who might chide me for meeting my friends and cousins every now and then or bending over backwards for them. She’s the one who at times thinks they’re more important to me than she is, but goes out of her way to be kind and caring towards them.
The first time I saw my mother with her school best friends, though, she was this beautiful, young, spirited, funny, charming woman, who I’d never known before.
They’re still those people who I look back and wave to three times wherever I’m going, just to feel that they’re there right behind me. They fall under the rare species of humans whose mere presence makes me feel safe enough to believe that nothing at all can happen to me. I love them as my parents and would choose them over and over again. But as people who are not parents? I don’t even frankly know them.
And believe it or not, that’s really important.
I mean, we once tried to ask my mom what she wants to do on her birthday and she unknowingly suggested all the things we enjoy. There was nothing she could come up with that she personally likes. That she forgot who she is in so many years of taking care of us is probably an issue. That we had to ask her and didn’t know for ourselves who she is as a person and what she might like as an individual is a bigger issue.
Frankly, somewhere I’ve never stopped suspecting that my mom loves me a bit more jut because I’m like my dad. It’s possible to be that crazy about a person that the only reason you want to have his babies is to have more of him in the world. Or that you cherish someone so much that you treasure finding his characteristics in his parents, his siblings or his children. To me, that’s priceless.
But that happens when you get to know a person that much. So many of us keep that reserved only for people outside of our family. Because what’s to know about the people we grew up with, right?
Sometimes it’s the person’s stories you don’t know. Sometimes you know their stories and are content with thinking that you know all there is to know about them. You don’t know the changes that have come in their lives, how they feel, what they go through, how they think, what are their fears and insecurities, what ticks them off, what sets their blood racing, what makes them happy or calms them down, what are their perspectives on things that are not related to you.
These are things we find out about our friends, about our significant others. You’d have painfully long conversations with your friends over endless hours of coffee or phone. You’d take your own sweet time trying out a person to see if he or she fits you and your life. Or rather, if you start out being in love with someone, there’s no end to how many miles you’d go to know every small detail about them, to share every small detail about yourself with them. Then why not give your family members the same privilege? They’re more than your parents, grandparents, siblings and relatives. They’re people too.
There’s an old saying that declares that when children become adults, parents become friends. But there’s more to friendship than just kids who don’t fear their parents anymore or parents who don’t scold or thrash their kids anymore. There’s more to it than being able to tell your mom about the guy you love or being able to drink with your dad. This getting to know them as individuals? This is that extra there is to friendship. This is when you can understand them and be there for them in a better way.
My mother is really good at drawing and singing. Her wit is something I envy at times. She enjoys shopping and exhibitions fascinate her even if she spends whole days on her feet and comes back home with nothing. We could take her out to fancy dinners, call all our relatives, gift her costly dresses and jewellery. It might make me happy to be able to gift her all such things but what she really enjoys is probably being taken to a Marathi play or a classical music performance and her kids sharing the knowledge and understanding of music that she has. We’ve taken her to travel a million places and made her sit from 4 in the morning at a point amidst clouds, where she was freezing to a point where it physically hurt her, to catch one glimpse of Everest. This was our way to give her what would qualify as an unforgettable life moment. To her, that could be as simple as going through photo albums and playing cards. That’s what I know so far. I’m soon going to start with my dad and brother too.
These things are as important as knowing the core of a person. I could ramble on for pages about it, but I’m sure, World, that what I want to share with you and your people, I’ve made amply clear. Know them to love them better. Trust me, whoever came up with ‘you’re never done getting to know someone’ really knew what they were talking about.