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Header image: Courtesy Prof. Rohan Jayasekara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (2011 - 2014).
daughter wants me to be)……that is the question.
Should I be what I
am, or what my dear daughter (hereafter referred to as DD) wants me to be? I
wonder whether there are other mothers in this same situation?
From the time DD
was a little girl, she thought that her mother was not a “proper mummy”, be it
my size, mode of dress, my make-up, my abilities etc…etc…. Over the years it
has given me so much joy and amusement listening to her persuasive pleas of
trying to change her mother to fit her image of what a “proper mother” should
be. She has since grown up and married, and mother has grown old and retired,
but DD still continues her valiant efforts to “re-fashion” her ageing mother.
When DD was a
little girl, I had to pay numerous visits to her school to meet the Principal
on official matters. On these occasions, when she returned home, her one plea
would be, “Ma, please don’t come to school wearing a sari….. no other mother
wears a sari…..can’t you wear a dress or slacks?” The fact that I dropped in at
school on my way to work, or during my working hours, and that sari was my
official attire, did not satisfy DD.
Then came the
criticism of my culinary skills. I used to put in considerable effort in making
different types of sandwiches for DD to take to school for her morning snack.
However, on most days she used to come back and inform me that she had eaten
someone else’s sandwiches, and that they were “yummy”. I heard that A and B and
C’s mothers made “yummy” food, and that her lunch was much below par. My only
salvation was my cousin Shanthi, one of Sri Lanka’s foremost cookery experts,
and she used to give me tips on new fillings, and how to “improve” on my
sandwiches. With all this added effort, I still did not receive any
compliments, until one day I happened to casually meet one of DD’s little
friends, who said, “Aunty, Shari brings some “yummy” stuff to school, and we
all tuck into it”. It made my day. The euphoria did not last long.
DD used to walk
across the road from school to cousin Shanthi’s house to wait to be picked up
and taken home. Often this happened to be just after one of Shanthi’s cookery
classes, and DD used to sample the leftovers of the gourmet dishes turned out
by Shanthi. Then, for the next few months it was “why can’t you learn to cook
like Shanthi Akka…her food is simply out of this world.”I fully endorsed these sentiments, but as to
reaching Shanthi Casie Chetty’s standards was definitely out of the question.
Next came constant
criticism about my sewing skills, and my not being able to turn out dresses and
costumes as when the demands were made. “Niro’s mother can sew a dress in one
day, why can’t you?” I didn’t see the necessity of having to turn out a dress
in one day, but after much coaxing; I was “sent” to a sewing class on Saturday
afternoons, as all “proper mothers” knew how to sew their children’s clothes. I
enjoyed my sewing classes conducted by my dear friend Barbara, but sad to say,
I never graduated to producing instant outfits for DD.
school, DD spent the next decade teaching me the art of applying make-up, and
trying to get me to shed the tons of fat built up over the years. When it came
to her wedding, it was of paramount importance that Mother had to be knocked
into shape, and boy, what an effort that was. First it was to a Beauty Salon.
Where I was ‘measured’ and then had a rotating belt massaging the excess
adipose tissue. In less than five minutes I had fainted, and had to be given
first aid. Next it was “Dead Sea Mud”. Fantastic results initially, which made
me a “presentable” mother of the bride. However, my penchant for sweet snacks
“undid” the good work.
marriage DD did not give up her mission of “molding” her aging mother. I was
constantly being reminded of the svelte figures, perfect skin textures and good
looks of Aunty Swyrie,(our batch-mate
Swyrie) Aunty Dhushy and other dear friends, and whenever she found me
looking grubby and disheveled, she would say, “Why can’t you be like Aunty
Swyrie? Do you ever see her with her hair looking like as if she has come
through a cyclone?” Hard luck…few women can match up to Aunty Swyrie…. forget
it. My accessories also don’t seem to match up to DD’s standards. I was told
that my wristlet watch resembled one worn by Dubai-returned housemaids…(come to
think of it, I did buy it at the Dubai Duty Free shop!) and why couldn’t I buy
a Philippe Charriol like the one worn by Aunty Meropie. The fact that my
timepiece serves only to check the pulse rate of people was not a convincing
argument. In desperation she presented me with one of her discarded watches.
Then there came
the point in time when I had to contend with an additional critic, my dear
Son-In-Law (SIL). SIL is very polite, and does not address his observations directly
to me, but they get conveyed to me via DD. It appears that SIL is also
concerned about my vital statistics and general appearance. As such, one day I
was informed that SIL had been critical about the condition of my feet, which
sent me flying for a pedicure. The result satisfied both DD and SIL…but only
where my feet were concerned.
The next jolt I
got was when I heard that SIL had remarked to DD that I now resembled a boat!
Hubby tried to soften the blow by saying that there are boats and boats, and
that he could have been referring to a rowing boat/ catamaran/ Dvora FAC or
other “medium” sized boats, but I knew he was referring to something closer to
the “Queen Mary” or the “Titanic”. Oh dear…when does one “let go” as Clare
Senewiratne aptly wrote a few months ago.
As a last resort I
went to a famous Dietitian in Colombo, who gave me good advice and a diet
sheet. The fat began to melt, and the needle on the weighing scale kept moving
anti clockwise, and I was floating on cloud 9 for a few weeks…..till….till
hubby decided to have ‘Tiffin’ every evening, and came home waving éclairs and
cream buns tantalizingly in my face. It was not fair, for he knows that I have
no will power to resist a cream bun when it is held one inch from my mouth.
Wallop it I did, and that was the end of the diet.
Next came my
birthday and DD had presented me with a birthday gift of an array of cosmetics,
various types of eye make -up, anti-wrinkle creams and perfumes. . That
evening, I made a great effort to apply all that ‘beauty stuff’ so lovingly
given, hoping to be complimented on my ‘new look’ by my dear daughter. Imagine
the shock I got when all she said was “Ma, what have you done to your face? You
look like a Panda”!!! I read the other day that Pandas are becoming extinct,
but not to worry, there is one big one still roaming around in Nugegoda!
I give up……and let
go. No more diets, no fancy make-up, no trying to compete with Dvoras. I will
sail into the next world like the QE2.I
will be just myself, and my feelings are well described in a poem by an
anonymous author, irreverently titled “ The 23rd Pound”.
My appetite is my
shepherd, I always want.
It maketh me to
sit down and stuff myself.
It leadeth me to
my refrigerator repeatedly.
It leadeth me in
the path of McDonalds for a Big Mac.
It destroyeth my
Yea though I
knoweth I gaineth,
I will not stop eating,
For the food
tasteth so good.
The ice cream and
cream buns, they comfort me.
When the table is
spread before me, it exciteth me,
For I knoweth that
soon I shall dig in.
As I filleth my
My clothes runneth smaller.
Surely bulges and
excess weight shall follow me
all the days of my life,
And I will be fat
published in the “Lanka Woman” in the late 90s)