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1. You can be frank with me. I am your friend.

When I was around 16, my mother asked me if I had seen a blue film yet. When she discovered the poorly hidden poster I had brought from Germany, she knew in an instant what it was and teasingly warned me about getting caught by the warden if I put it up in my room. I have checked out girls in the mall with her. Indian parents can get really tipsy about their children and alcohol, but I can freely tell her when I am going out for drinks. She trusts that she has raised me alright and I won’t do anything to hurt anyone or myself.

2. Appreciate more.

If you like something, don’t hesitate to tell it to the other person. There is nothing worse than spending all your energy in doing something good for someone and not even getting a trace of appreciation in return.

She has done an amazing lot in her life for the family and usually receives very less appreciation in return. The house would literally fall down without her. Sometimes she gets really pissed off with the way people take her for granted. And that’s how I know how much it means to people to get appreciated for their hard work. And I can see it too – in the surprise of the fellow debater when I compliment him for his oratory skills, in the hearty laugh of the batch mate who has gone out of his way to help me, as indeed in the blush of the girl sitting on the next coffee table.

3. Criticize your loved ones.

If you don’t tell them what’s wrong with them, who will? If you don’t like something I am doing, just tell it to me. Don’t keep accumulating small things and then throw them out all at once.

We have a lot of fights in my house. I am angry with my mother because she is always so protective of me. My mother is pissed off because my father because goes out of his way to keep the house dirty. My father laments my disrespect for my grandparents. And this just keeps going on. But you know what? We keep correcting each other at all these small things. We fight, but we are laughing our lungs out the next minute. But these are like choti choti ladaais, as my cousin once said. It’s been a really really long time since we had – to use her terminology – a jung! Besides, we’re bettering each other by pointing these things out.

4.  You have no idea what you are capable of.

Don’t dismiss something as impossible just because someone says it’s difficult. Give it a shot.

Until my tenth standard, I didn’t know something called IIT existed. Then my mother said that this was a wonderful place and that I should consider this as an option. A little bit of research and all I heard was that this was the hardest place to get into and that I would have to essentially sacrifice the next two years of my life if I were to even stand a chance of getting admitted. A chill went down my spine, and as is the case with all new things, I resisted. She asked me to give it a shot. Today, I can’t thank her enough for opening this door for me. I’m not saying I would have been in hell if not for IIT, but the place has certainly shaped my personality in a great way in the last four years.

5. Let’s keep it clean.

My mother is obsessed with keeping the house neat and clean. She just cannot rest until she knows that every little thing is in its designated place. And this habit has unconsciously slipped into me as well. I like to keep things organized around me.  It’s nothing compared to her standards, of course. She still finds it unbelievably messy. (She loves to be melodramatic too. It runs in the family, I guess!) But still, my room is amongst the cleanest in the wing. Clothes are hanging behind the door – not lying on the floor. The books are kept in a stack – not very neat, but it’s a stack nevertheless. Sometimes I am feeling low for some intangible reason and then I just clean up a little bit, and the mood invariably brightens up!
6.  Judge people.

Now this is a little counter intuitive. Let me explain. I am never able to make opinions about people. Every time someone does something or acts in a particular way, I refuse to believe that the person will necessarily behave in the same way the next time a similar situation arises. While this may sound really awesome and altruistic, the downside is that I never know for sure who are the people that really care for me and who are the ones that are just pretending. I never know who my real friends are. Maybe that is the reason I see myself as someone with a number of good friends, but no one really that I could call an alter ego.

7. Have preferences, but don’t be so rigid as to hurt someone due to them.

I come from a Jain family. While growing up, we never had potatoes, onions or garlic in our kitchen. So I didn’t eat those things in my early years.  When I first tasted a potato – maybe it was a badly made sabzi – I developed a dislike for it. When I was about 10, I went to a friend’s birthday party where they had pav bhaji for dinner. So badly did I hate potatoes then that I insisted that I would not eat it. Now people feel bad when they throw a party and guests don’t eat what they offer. So my friend’s mother made something else for me. I don’t remember what. What I do remember is the scolding I got from my mother when she came to know about this.

My parents lost two children after I was born. My sister died when she was 6 months old; another child was born dead. I can’t imagine how much it must hurt to go through something like that. I mean a lot to my parents. Almost too much. My mother used to protect me from the slightest difficulty. And then they had to send me away for college. It was terribly hard for her, but she did because she knew that was the best thing for me. When I was going to Germany for an internship, she was petrified (the word doesn’t quite capture how she felt) by the thought of me living alone, with absolutely no one I knew beforehand. But she never allows her preferences to get in the way of what is good for me.

There must a hundred other things that I have learned from her. Thanks for everything Ma. I love you!

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