Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

"Ma, Maa", Mr. Bhattacharya's stentorian voice resonated across the still sleepy neighborhood.

The two gray pigeons trying to catch the last snatches of sleep in their filigreed skylight home, flapped their wings in annoyance and flew up to the terrace. Mangala, the neighborhood milkman's much pampered cow, shook herself and hurriedly called out with a matching "Moooo", as she shuffled to get on her four legs. The far eastern horizon beyond the neem tree, behind the mismatched houses of the neighborhood, further from the swanky new flat building, now had strokes of pink on a slate background and the last of the twinkling stars knew it was time to wrap up their nightly glamour and take rest.

"Your neighbor Bhattacharjee kaku is  very religious. Too much I would say," the Sens' youngest son's brand new wife, who had married into the salmon pink two storeyed house across the Bhattacharya's colonial gray one,  jangled her shiny gold bangles in irritation.

"Aha, it has been 26 years and there has not been even one single morning when Bhattacharjee Didi's son has been a minute late for his morning prayers. Winter, Spring, Summer, Monsoon-- always the same. Such devotion for Ma Kaali. And such love and respect for his own Mother. It is Ma's blessing that he is doing so well in his work and getting promoted so quickly," said Mrs.Sen softly to herself. Sleep did not come easy to her these days, her arthiritic knee was getting worse and the pain kept her awake many nights. "Blessings from Mothers are precious. But do my own sons realize that ?" she muttered with disdain

Unaware of  what his neighbors thought, Mr.Bhattacharya, CIO of McNally and Sand, freshly bathed and pious at 4:30 in the morning, picked Ma's favorite flowers, the scarlet hibiscus from his sprawling garden. He had four varieties of hibiscus. The crimson, pale pink, the soft egg yolk yellow and of course the scarlet, rokto joba, the Mother's favorite. Gently he plucked the flowers from their  stem, the petals wet with morning dew, and put them in his saaji as he sang a Kaali Bhajan in a low voice that lacked sweetness or tune. What he lacked in tune, he made up in his earnestness though.

After he had offered his prayers in the marble floored prayer room and lighted enough incense to fill the whole house with fragrance, he went to meet his Mother. On dot at 6:10. This was his everyday routine. One and half hour spent for Ma Kaali and then 20 minutes for his own mother Suhasini. In this twenty minutes he made sure that Suhasini was taking her medicine and doing the exercises suggested by the therapist. If time permitted, they also discussed the state of the country and listened to Suhasini reminisce about her childhood in Jamalpur.

For Suhasini, these were precious 20 minutes. She had led a hard life with a husband whose temper was legendary and a mother-in-law known for her miserliness. It was only in her old age, as a widow, that she finally could experience a comfortable life. And for that she was grateful to her son. She had been an ordinary Mother, with little time for her son in a life filled with drudgery and hardship. But the boy had worked hard and made a name for himself. In his busy life, he had not forgotten his Mother and pampered her with all the affulencies that she never could have imagined for herself.

Yes, she knew, he had a temper, as bad as his father if not worse. At times she even felt a pang for Sunita, her daughter-in-law. But she kept quiet. Everyone on this earth is born with their fate written on their forehead. Who was she to interfere and upset that ?

When the clock on the dining room wall struck 7:30, Mr.Bhattacharya came down to breakfast. He did the same every morning. In fact he was so punctual that you could adjust your clock by him.

"What is this ?" he shouted. His face puffed up, his jaws stern. The early morning piousness had been wiped off  by an almost cruel expression. Suhasini, counted her rudraksha beads faster. The Sen's youngest son's new wife, in the salmon pink house across, nodded her head in disdain and said "There, he goes again like clockwork".

"Why did you make Luchi for breakfast ?How many times have I told you that on first Thursdays of every month, I will have only crisp buttered toast and sausage for breakfast ? Did your Masters in International Affairs not teach you even this ?" Mr. Bhattacharya thundered.

With a powerful swipe of his right wrist, he sent the platter of white puffed luchis hurtling across the rosewood dining table. The airy luchis, floated in the air for a millisecond before they plopped on the shiny expensive moasic. The bowl of sada alu charchari lazily hit the wall and landed with a thud, the steel bowl making a clattering sound. In the kitchen, Sunita, his wife of 20 years stopped midway in her effort to make the next luchi puff up right.

Mr.Bhattacharya uttered profanities and called names. She kept quiet. She had learned the power of silence in her 20 years of marriage. It was not that he was a bad man and she had learned to shake off words like water from a duck's back.

"You cannot handle even simple affairs at home, how do you work at that bank of yours ? Some sorry state it must be in. Don't know what you would have done if you worked in a corporate office like mine ? They would have fired you the very next day. And remember, if I see such carelessness again, I will make sure that you are kicked out of this house," he wagged his finger and announced before stomping off to his chauffered car that waited at the front gate.

Sunita still silent, switched off the stove and went on her task of picking up the deflated luchis from the floor.

"Bouma, how many times have I told you that my son has a bit of a temper. If you would only be a little more careful when he is around, " Suhasini said in a liquid whisper, her 63 year old voice tinged with guilt. "Had she been a good Mother?" the doubt rose like bile in her throat.

"At least I am better off than Malati," thought Sunita. Malati, their house help, had called in sick again today. Her husband had beaten her black and blue last night. "At least I don't get beaten up like her," she comforted herself.

"Don't understand why she just doesn't walk out. She is educated, earns a good living and still...," the Sen's youngest son's new wife  gossiped to her colleague over the water cooler.


There is a little backdrop to this story. It was triggered by this ad, from a series called "Ma jaisa Koi Nahi" by Mother Dairy and which I got as a forward either on last year's Mother's Day or later. BTW, there are other Mother Dairy ads in the same series which are perfectly fine but it was this that I had got and this that I will talk about today.

That an ad from a reputed company would think it was completely natural for the husband to behave in such crass manner and then promote it on national television, amazed me. Don't know what they were trying to prove but then such scenarios do happen in many homes. It is easy to say that an educated women could walk out of the situation or try to make it better. But I have been privy to a couple of such women and however educated and strong they are, when looked at from their viewpoint it is easier said than done.

In a world that celebrates Motherhood but has little respect for its women -- Happy Mother's Day.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. very nice short story. sadly, it is not unrealistic. Male chauvinistic pigs are still thriving in 21st century India

    1. Thanks Supriya. I wouldn't say India alone, it is more or less same in other parts of the world too

  3. I don't know what to say!

    Yesterday, the news was of an 81-year-old woman raped by a man 40 years younger!

    On a nicer note, I just made your jhinge posto, minus the chingri, and am looking forward to lunch.

    1. I have stopped reading news these days. You liking jhinge posto ?

  4. Hmmm..Realy dont know what more to say..We worship Goddess and still fail to respect women in our lives-thats a reality..but on the contrary there are cases,I have seen many male members adjusting themselves for the peace in their families.Just don't get biased I would say..But compared to stats and numbers, they are few and rare.Happy Mother's day..hugs and smiles

    1. There are always good people and bad people irrespective of Men and women. But while certain behavior seems completely acceptable from one gender, not so much from the other.

  5. Hi Sandeepa,

    As always a very nice post. However, my today's comments are not about your post, but the Mother Dairy ad. As luck would have it, I am working on a Mother Dairy Milk project since last week. This film was a surprise. Hence I started research,...and found that though this film was done, but, the same was never aired in any broadcast medium in India, as it is not showing women or their condition in the right spirit. However, I understand in today's digital explosion, any ad film becomes a viral in no time, hence it was forwarded to you. . My humble request,therefore, is since this film has not passed SnP(Standards & Practices) benchmark of any channel in India or abroad, please remove this from your post...The other two films are pretty Ok, may be you will find them inspiring as well to write a post on them.

    1. Dear BWM

      I respect your views and your need to justify your client "Mother Dairy". In fact I have nothing against Mother Dairy at all and love their products and this one ad is no way going to do anything to their image.

      This film/youtube video is not a secret video passed on by e-mail. It is prevalent on YouTube and is one of the videos uploaded by MotherDairy channel(though i don't know who controls that) along with their other "ma jaisa koi nahin" ads. It has also been uploaded by some more accounts.

      My aim is not really to write inspiring posts based on ads. If that was true, I wished I had written books on "Utterly Butterly Ads". My aim is not to endorse products either.

      All I wanted to say, that I have known situations as described in the ad, but making a ad film out of it for a branded company somehow seems to justify the behavior. The company really has nothing to do with it, since the Milk part is kind of hidden in the whole message. But yes, the agencies should have been more aware in the first place.

      That a group of educated men/women working together,most probably in a renowned ad agency, would spend money and intellect to highlight behavior like this; that is what seems amazing to me. Now why it did not pass S&P is a question for another day.

    2. Here is the YouTube channel:

    3. And BWM, since you are in the industry, I think the ad was made by Ogilvy Mather

  6. Bong Mom,
    i really really loved your post and could tell u one thing, often Moms tolerate a lot, thinking the peace of their kids' lives. Believe me they do worse for their kids.Because the silence often teaches wrong to kids.
    i love "Mother dairy" but i can understand where from it came. its there under-flowing through our society. we may ignore still its there. we may shut our eyes/ears and say,"we are not like those". but we cannot deny its existence. its there in different form of oppression.
    Happy Mother's day.

    1. I know Aditi. Not only for kids, for themselves too. It is hard to leave a secure life and step into the unknown, so most women compromise and adjust. And the observer is no one to judge. That is why, in the story, there is no solution.

  7. there was a person exactly like Bhatcharjee babu in my hubby's household, and his behavior (throwing dishes around (kanshar thala) was described in admiring tones...was held up as a glad that I am raising my own family so far away from those types of role models.
    on another note: I really enjoyed this piece of writing; could not read the other one you posted on FB (alongside an article by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni) keep writing.

  8. We seem to have forgotten the age old wisdom of the Indian heritage - Where women are worshiped, Gods live.

    And the unsaid corollary to this is: where women are not worshiped, Gods leave.

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  11. Khub bhalo laaglo pore, Sandeepa. You end it beautifully with the three different perspectives.

  12. You have written it so well Bongmom, could visualize everything

  13. Onek onek din por abar tomar lekha ... mon bhore gelo. :-)

  14. Time was when I was part of such a household, Sandeepa. And it took me 4 years and a lot of hardening of heart, mind, soul and what not before I could walk out of it. Unfortunately, in our country, a girl's parents worry more about "what society will think if you come back?" rather than the fact that they might lose their child forever. Threats of suicide and my own worsening health was what prompted my parents to "allow me back". The fact that I had a good job and just landed an even better one probably worked in my favor. And I've been very lucky to have come out mostly unscathed and with my mental balance intact. I think about all those women who stick on, no matter what, and who may have no recourse due to parents' non cooperation or lack of jobs etc.


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