By Lubaba Mukhtar
I am ayesha, a failure as a daughter to a very successful mother.
My mother is a successful woman. She is successful because she is satisfied with what she has in life, with what she has done, with what she has achieved, with what she has sacrificed, and with what she could never get.
I am a failure because I achieve more every day; every day I struggle to get more, every day I try harder to get something else, but no matter how much I get; no matter how much I have, I am never satisfied, never satiated. There is something bothering me, making me restless all the time.
People write poetry and stories about how their mothers sacrificed their comforts when they were babies; how their mothers slept on the wet side of bed to keep them dry. How their mothers would stay awake all night when they were sick as a baby. People talk of times of which they have no memories. I will talk of a time which I remember.
I reached class 9 and my struggle to get the best marks possible started. I would go to school, go to academy, study hard at night. I worked as much as my body allowed me. I had a purpose, a goal to achieve. My mum only had my dreams to protect. She is a working woman, a teacher in a govt. school. She leaves early in the morning for her job and comes back home at 2:30 when me and my brothers arrive from school. We throw down our bags and groan and complain of the heat and how we had to listen to so many teachers. She goes into the kitchen listening to us, smiling at our complains and starts making chapattis for us. The gravy is already prepared because she wakes up at 6 in the morning to do it so we wouldn’t have to wait long for our food when we come back home.
We sit at the dining table and enjoy fresh rotis while she mills away in the kitchen in the scorching heat. We take a long refreshing nap after we are satiated, she stays awake and irons our clothes for the next day. She hasn’t yet finished her ironing when my father arrives for his lunch break. She serves him and gets back to other chores. We wake up and take out our homework and learning. She can’t rest again because she has to help us with our studies; we can’t afford tuitions. She is working, working, working. She doesn’t sit down for a minute. I have a headache from all the learning so I ask her to make me a cup of tea. She does so without question. She starts preparing our dinner. We have dinner, take tv break, relax a little; my mother is still working washing dishes, washing clothes, dusting the house. The only support she has is a maid who comes for 2 hours and sweeps the floors.
My younger brothers go to bed at 10:30. I have to stay awake and study. My dad comes home, he is served dinner, then some fruits and tea an hour later. He is tired from all the day’s work, he goes to sleep.
I am scared of sitting alone in the lounge to study, so my mother doesn’t go to bed. She comes to lie down on the other sofa and sleeps there. I cram my books in a loud voice near her but she doesn’t stop me although she is the lightest sleeper I know. She can’t even sleep properly with the lights on. But for me and my fears, she sleeps in the noise of my cramming and the bright lights of the lounge and on the uncomfortable sofa.
I feel tired at around 2am and go to bed; I wake up mum on the way so she can go to bed. She wakes up with drooping, tired eyes and goes to her room. I go to sleep and wake up at 7 to get ready for school. My mum has been awake for an hour already.
The day repeats itself as usual.
The day of my matriculation result arrives and one day before the result is announced, I receive a call from the board office telling me I have achieved 2nd position in board. The only person happier than me is my mother.
I have to deliver a speech in my school the day I have to receive my prize. I have written the most typical speech possible. I thank God, my parents, my teachers. Just as I am about to start rambling about my hard work, my diligence and dedication; the image of my mother’s tired uncomplaining face appears before my eyes. I go blank. I look at the paper I am holding in my hands, I try to start speaking again when the image of my mother’s tired sleepy face when she slept on the sofa for me pops into my head. I cannot say anything. I am tongue tied. I thank everyone and get down from the stage. Everyone takes my abrupt pause and silence as an indication of me being overwhelmed by emotions and joy. But it is not joy piercing my heart; it is regret and pain and gratitude to my mother.
I am a selfish, mean person. Never have I asked my mother if she needs anything, never have I tried to overcome my fear of sitting alone so she can get a good night’s sleep, never have I appreciated or thanked her. Why was I so blind?
I go home and my mum is the first one to kiss my face and announce that she has prepared my favorite meal.
I look at her face, her happy eyes, her sincere smile, the dark circles under her eyes and I cannot fight back my tears anymore.
She has never been appreciated. All my childhood and even now I have heard men of my family degrading her and other working women. They always say the same thing: “these women rest all day long, they go for a few hours’ job and boast of what they do and what they earn as though they climb Mount Everest every day. They do nothing as compared to what we men do.”
The only thing the men don’t understand is the work women do every day, every hour without pay, without appreciation, without acknowledgement. And the worst thing is, we, their children are just as blind and just as self-centered.
“The babies of a crab spider as soon as they are born cling to their mothers and suck its life out of her. We humans are no different. We just suck out the life out of our mothers slowly and more painfully and over a longer period of time.”