She believes in the dictum, “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.”
Melanie shares with Mums and stories a very interesting perspective of motherhood that most mums perhaps go through seeing children grow up and fly to their respective nests.
” Even before you actually become a mother, the responsibility of your new status is brought home to you, as soon as you are pronounced pregnant. Doctors, elders in the family and other well-wishers start telling you to eat healthy, so that your unborn baby can get its share of nourishment in the womb. Now you are onto drinking two glasses of milk, eating greens and other health foods, not forgetting the many supplements that your gynaecologist prescribes.
As the months pass by, you also become conscious of the life growing inside you. As your doctor does the ultra sound, you become privy to the heartbeats, which almost always sound like horses hooves, going clip clop in my ears. The other awareness is created by the occasional kick here or a kick there, making you wonder whether you are going to give birth to a potential footballer!
So, when ‘D Day’ actually arrives, all that I am nervous about is whether the baby is healthy and everything okay. I nearly forget to ask the sex of the newborn and am surprised at the hesitation, when I do. When the nurse finally says, “It is a girl,” she is amazed by my enthusiasm and joy and asks me again and again, whether I am truly happy about giving birth to a daughter.
She has often seen people weep and turn away from the baby, on hearing that the child is a girl. As for me, I am thrilled to have my own real baby doll quite unlike the vinyl ones. Not even the walkie talkie ones were that exciting!
But then start the real tests of motherhood- waking up many times in the night, to nurse my baby. Again, there is a diet to be followed, as elders tell you that what you eat can affect the baby’s digestion.
Once, after gorging on lichees, I am given a lesson in responsible eating, as my baby girl, Misha, cries with colic pain, for a good part of the night. Never again am I careless about my eating, throughout one year of nursing.
The responsibilities of motherhood are of course balanced by the many joys. From watching your baby smile, recognise you and others family members, turn over on her stomach and get frustrated in not being able to turn back again, say her first words, learn to crawl, sit, stand, walk- everything seems like a miracle of Nature.
I spend a lot of time reading to her and it is thrilling to find that she has absorbed and is able to recognise and pronounce difficult names, even when you point to the picture of the grand old man, Dadabhai Naoroji. You then start thinking and wondering whether your child is a prodigy and soon read up and realise that all children are like sponges. They absorb what is told to them very quickly and their speed of learning is really high from 0-5 years.
Before you know it, it is time to go to school and I make the move from a Montessori school of learning, where my daughter is having a whale of a time playing and learning, to a regular one. Feel terrible when Misha says, “Mama, I am missing my Montessori work,” when she is admitted to Baldwins. At school, I become active with the Parent Teacher Association and involve myself in the way that the school is being run, sometimes applauding and at other times rapping the school for inappropriate decisions, pertaining to the children.
When it is time for Misha to leave school, I am almost as sentimental as my daughter when it comes to her Graduation. Wearing her white sari, on which I get silver spangles embossed, my daughter looks the quintessential young lady, radiant, though I am not sure whether the light of the lamp that she is holding in her hand, has something to do with it.
Then it is another round of admissions for plus two and then the admission to a professional course. Strangely she chooses law almost making my words of her childhood come true… “You are fit to do law with your logical arguments!”
The shift to another city, Hyderabad, is a big wrench, as for 18 years my life had revolved around her. Gradually, I grow used to it and wait eagerly for the times that she comes home, or my husband and I visit Hyderabad. Throughout this period, there is an exchange of long handwritten letters as also e-mails. Phone calls are only over the weekend on the landlines, as we resist the purchase of a mobile phone for Misha.
After graduation, Misha is in and out of Bangalore, once for an assignment to Delhi and then a Masters’ degree in the UK. She is fortunate to win a Commonwealth Scholarship to study at the University of Warwick and persuades me to come and have a holiday with her.
Throughout my stay in the UK, there is a reversal of roles as Misha guides me in and out of Metro trains and stations, as we travel around London sightseeing and also manage other sights and sounds beyond the capital. Those days are idyllic with a lot of mother-daughter bonding. Even now, I consider that trip, as one of the best holidays of my life.
When Misha returns, it is back to a job and then of course the big decision, marriage. Luckily, she finds a spouse herself and then again, it is a big wrench. I cry my heart out after the wedding, knowing that things can never be the same again.
But I am fortunate, my daughter lives just round the corner and she and her spouse spend almost all their weekends at our place. Usually in India the word that is used is “married off,” which could almost be akin to the term, “washing your hands off.” But, I don’t think motherhood can ever be about that. At every stage of your child’s life, you are totally involved with her and though the physical umbilical cord may have been cut a long time ago, the emotional one stays forever. ”
Seen in the photograph, Melanie with her daughter Nimisha who is fondly known as ‘Misha’ at home.