you and me

An Ode to My Mum: The Life She Led.

My mum is the one woman who I will never be able to live up to, or indeed, live without. She is my shining star, my inspiration, and my go-to for everything.

Mum came to live in England as a young woman of about 25 years of age, with two children — my sister and me — in tow. Subservient and never allowed to have a voice, she toiled and labored in a strange country that showed her no mercy. It could have; this strange country could have been the freedom she longed for. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Not any fault of the country she came to live in or through any fault of her own did she choose the life she led. She was, and still is, a victim of circumstances.

The epitome of acceptance and obedience, Mum gave her all to those she loved and cared about. The boundaries and constraints of the culture within which she lived her daily life limited and controlled any free will she may have wished to express.

Aah, culture — what is it all about? Surely we are all guilty of it in some way or another. Follow it when it suits us, but disregard the bits we don’t like. For Mum, it was everything that could make her life as unbearable as possible.

Working was out of the question unless it was at home or in a factory run by Asians. However, it wasn’t long before an industrial sewing machine found its way into our home. If I close my eyes, I can still see the name Singer boldly emblazoned in gold lettering on the front of the machine. Mum sat at the helm. There she sat as her youngest child — another girl — lay on the sofa with a milk bottle stuck in her mouth.

Mum drove the fabric through the machine day in and day out to produce wonderful creations for next to nothing. A man would come to the door and drop off bundles of fabric, and then come to pick up the clothes she had created. The only thing that changed was the name on the machine. Singer was soon replaced by Brother.

With a husband who was stuck in his ways and could not adapt to change, and a mother-in-law who was the mother of all mothers-in-law, Mum served everyone’s needs but her own. I mean, what needs did she have anyway? What needs could an Indian woman have? Of course, that’s me being sarcastic. Mum just wasn’t allowed to express her needs and desires.

She had only one job: to bring up her children and look after the rest of the family, which included earning an income.

To me, my mum is a martyr. She lived by the philosophy that all Asian girls had instilled in them before they entered their marital home: it is better to stay silent than open your mouth and speak words best left unsaid, or as she imparted to us, “Ek chup, sau sukh” (staying quiet and compliant on a single instance can lead to one hundred instances of greater ease in life).

She never strayed from this belief, and perhaps that is why she has survived a one-sided relationship for all these years. She is an epitome of tolerance. She is a tower of strength, and she is my absolute rock.

Today, Mum is 80 years old. She cannot speak much English. This angers me. This angers all her children, and it is sad. It is not possible to fully understand why she cannot speak the language of the country in which she has lived for 55 years, except that perhaps no one ever gave her the opportunity to learn. Dad could have, but he didn’t.

Control, and the fear of losing that control, makes us do things we might regret later on in life. Don’t rock the boat, as they say. Though he never says it, I am sure Dad is full of regrets. He is aware that one day Mum may have to survive on her own, and the fear of her having to cope alone lies buried deep within him. If only he had had the courage and foresight to rock the boat when it mattered.

Mum still carries on — silent, unquestioning, and as dutiful as Day One. With just her and Dad now in a house full of memories, she still cooks and cleans and waits on her husband. He has mellowed somewhat, but woe betide her if she answers him back or expresses an opinion.

His love is apparent though, and they will mosey on in this way until death parts them. However, Mum can often be heard muttering something under her breath as if she would like to say it out loud but thinks better of it. When asked why she never says anything, she replies, “There’s only the tail end left now.”

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Indira Mahun was born in India but grew up in the UK. She had a colorful childhood and faced many challenges in her personal life, especially during the married years. Her children are her absolute life, as is her beautifully gorgeous grand-daughter who makes everything okay. Indira is a teacher, and loves the job and the satisfaction it brings. There’s nothing like the grin on a child’s face when they open their exam results. Indira has been divorced and widowed, and is now in a happy relationship. She will devour books, and is known to have read 11-12 books a week whilst on holiday. She also loves to write, and her ambition is to have her novel published one day. Indira also enjoys traveling and seeing the world, and has been lucky to have visited many places. Her motto is ‘live and let live’.

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