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Mothers - Then and Now

June 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 188

I still remember the day when my mother, who gave birth to eight children in all, brought one of my younger siblings into this world.

As usual, in the windy morning, she was sweeping the courtyard after preparing and serving breakfast to father and to her five children. Heaping the withered leaves and twigs she had swept off the courtyard under the huge tamarind tree, she panted for a while. As if suddenly remembering an important appointment she hastily gathered the litter in a wicker tray and emptied it into the waste pit before swinging into action.

Hastily she changed into an old sari, settled dispute between two of her children and my elder siblings before seeing them off to school and waited for the mid-wife, who delivered most of the children of the locality, including two of her own children, myself included, earlier. This was how most of the mothers delivered their babies even in town suburbs those days -without any hullabaloo and attention-gathering.

A week or so after delivering a child mother would be back to her normal self. Sometimes grandmother would be around offering her a helping hand and telling us bedtime stories. In due course, the new member of the family would become the hub of everyone's attention and thus we all shared mother's obligation of taking care of the baby.

Mother might be a great inspiration to modern day designers of domestic robots. I have never seen mother lying on bed asleep or sick those days. Her typical day would start with caring the fowls, cackling in the wooden cage, in the early morning. She would have completed a variety of chores before a second one from the house, father included, ever got up from bed that would be a nightmare to most of the domestic helps of modern day. Setting free the birds from the stinking cage and feeding them, she would clean the cowshed, fill the manger with paddy straw and milk the animal before sizing the fire wood logs and lighting up the hearth for preparing breakfast.

Her morning routine in the kitchen, like grating coconut or grinding coconut with green chilli on the stone pestle for making delicious chutney for the breakfast, would waken up the children one by one. Sometime later, amid helping the tiny ones to bathe and dress, she would serve breakfast to everyone and in a while the children would join the neighbourhood children for a walk to the nearby school.

After exchanging morning pleasantries with neighbours while cleaning utensils and washing clothes by the well side she would start preparing the afternoon meals for the children. She would try a variety of curries everyday by varying the combination of spices in her wooden spice box before finely grinding them on the stone pestle. Mother had neither heard of ready-made masala mix available in the market place nor used any pre-powdered spices for preparing the meal. In between, some neighbourhood woman would turn up for sharing a gossip or an event that occurred or about to occur in the surroundings which would give the thrill of watching a modern day soap on TV.

At lunch time, while patiently listening to the happenings of the forenoon at school from the children, she would serve them hot meal. And after the children went back to school having eaten mother's delicious food, she might show up for a while at the courtyard to discuss with the neighbourhood women, who would have by then gathered under the neem tree across the street.

Topics ranging from recipes, cinema, politics and matters published in newspapers would be discussed in addition, of course, to more gossiping. Instead of having an afternoon nap mother believed sharing the mind and talking to the neighbourhood women would keep her informed of things going on in the surroundings.

Also, in the days when wet grinders and mixers were unheard of, mother would prepare dosa and iddli mix in the hand grinder, unendingly spinning the stone, pivoted to the hole by the centre of the circular stone while listening to movie songs on Ceylon radio. Sometimes she would pound raw rice and roast the flour on a broad mud dish and store the powder for making kozha puttu, a delicacy preferred by most of us for breakfast. On holidays mother would try different chores like parboiling paddy in the huge bronze pot, stacking paddy straw, cleaning the house and even collecting grass from the nearby lands for the cow.Mother made the best evening bites in the locality. Her murukku, adirasam and paniyaram, stored in huge biscuit tins during the Deepavali season are mouth-watering even now.

Mother knew almost every individual of the locality including his or her status, thanks to the frequent meet up with the women under the neem tree in the afternoons. Her knowledge on the world then too would challenge that of any modern day housewife.

Amid all her house keeping, mother, like most of the women of the neighbourhoods, had time for movies once in a while at the town cinema theatres, and shopping in the town market places. She was known in the neighbourhoods for her bargaining tactics. She regularly attended our school-day functions as well.

Mother believed in leading a life of co-existence with her neighbours. She would leave the fowls and milch animals under the care of neighbours while visiting grandma or other relatives with family for a few days. Similarly, she would happily look after other's birds and animals when they were away. Mostly, we went together as a family to marriage and other functions in the neighbourhoods.

Gone are the days of such humble and efficient housekeeping. One could imagine the treatment the modern day housewives get from other family members the moment they are confirmed pregnant.

And what happens when the children are ready to go to school? Many houses turn topsy-turvey at the school bus not turning up one morning. How many mothers residing amid the helter-skelter of city lives today know the names of the neighbours let alone getting to know each other?

Besides, modern day mothers are mostly enslaved to the new gadgets in their kitchens and elsewhere. Power failure, an absenting domestic help or the day-to-day affairs of the school children, which hardly controlled the likes of my mother those days, have a high bearing on the daily lives of housewives nowadays.

Today, housewives in urbanised and even in semi-urbanised areas barely get time to talk to other family members constructively. They seem to empathise with imaginary characters from TV soaps than with live characters dwelling around them. Also they prefer to talk to unseen faces over mobile phones for hours against sparing a few minutes to talk to fellow residents.

The tribe of my mother are an endangered lot today. Present generation mothers are lucky if they have a grandma at home recollecting and reminding practices and wisdom of olden days to the present generation mothers now and then.

A week or so after delivering a child mother would be back to her normal self. Sometimes grandmother would be around offering her a helping hand and telling us bedtime stories. In due course, the new member of the family would become the hub of everyone's attention and thus we all shared mother's obligation of taking care of the baby.

Mother might be a great inspiration to modern day designers of domestic robots. I have never seen mother lying on bed asleep or sick those days. Her typical day would start with caring the fowls, cackling in the wooden cage, in the early morning. She would have completed a variety of chores before a second one from the house, father included, ever got up from bed that would be a nightmare to most of the domestic helps of modern day.

After exchanging morning pleasantries with neighbours while cleaning utensils and washing clothes by the well side she would start preparing the afternoon meals for the children. She would try a variety of curries everyday by varying the combination of spices in her wooden spice box before finely grinding them on the stone pestle. Mother had neither heard of ready-made masala mix available in the market place nor used any pre-powdered spices for preparing the meal. In between, some neighbourhood woman would turn up for sharing a gossip or an event that occurred or about to occur in the surroundings which would give the thrill of watching a modern day soap on TV.

Also, in the days when wet grinders and mixers were unheard of, mother would prepare dosa and iddli mix in the hand grinder, unendingly spinning the stone, pivoted to the hole by the centre of the circular stone while listening to movie songs on Ceylon radio.

Source: EzineArticles
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