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Stupefied Mother
Magnificent India

Stupefied Mother

Vijay Sanghvi

Charu was stupefied. She could not describe her reaction to the total rebellion of her daughter Sanya on her 14th birthday. Her instructions were clear about which school friends she could invite for her birthday celebrations. She had told her not to invite her class mate Leila. But in her presence her daughter rang up Leila inviting her. Stupefied by her defiance, she threatened to cancel the celebrations but Sanya said, “Moms, I am now 14 years old. I decide who my friends can be and who cannot. You cannot dictate to me.”

Her remark hurt as she had been brought up with strict discipline. She had given instructions on what her daughter was expected to eat, wear and behave in public. Her own paranoid thinking had kept her daughter walk on lines she drew. She had never shown resistance even though she may have had a different opinion. At home, Charu could ensure what she ate or drank or wore. The isolation at home worked like magic.

It never occurred to her that her daughter came in direct and close contact with other girls at school. She could see and also hear how differently they lived. Charu was a strict disciplinarian.

Charu could not comprehend what was wrong with her child. After all no mother can control a child at all times, particularly when the child begins schooling. Schools are generally careful in selection of children for admission. The school management seeks children from similar social milieu for careful upbringing.

The Supreme Court has directed all schools to admit 25 per cent children from the weaker economic sections without thought of its impact on the entire school. Also the difficulties it would entail for the teachers. The economically weaker families have to live in different social conditions. Thus teacher is put in a dilemma and has to decide whether she could march ahead with the 75 per cent part that has different upbringing or carry remaining part that does not have that privilege. She cannot ignore either. The teacher strives to carry both together even while she is constantly aware of the impact of the final exam.

Charu was not concerned or even aware of the dilemma faced by schools. She was happy with the school her daughter went to. She had not read books by the noted American psychologist Dr. Howard Gardner who spent 30 years on research in child psychology. He has clearly noted that a child begins to behave independently as a child begins to shape its unique psyche and personality. She or he would begin to show signs of defiance to be different from the crowd around. The individual nature begins to be assertive as a child has no desire to be a part of the masses around. It is a sure sign of growing up, of wisdom and intelligence.

Sanya used to be a shy child. She was not open with her grandfather too. She used to obey her mother and carry out her every dictum. She was restrained from many activities with the same logic that dirt or germs would have a bad effect on her health. She lead an over protected life.

She had formed her own circle in her class with six other girls but was to spend a few hours with the family of only one girl or to invite her home. Their phone calls were often for seeking her help in their home work. It was a clear indication that she was the group leader and accepted by her friends as the most intelligent girl in her group. Her mother and her father did not read it as such and allow her more freedom to grow as a mature child. Instead they clamped her down. They decided her friends circle, who should be in and who should be kept away.

They were not even aware that Sanya had on her own kept Leila out of circle for two years to correct her behaviour. Her friend had heeded and improved but her mother sought to dictate to her without knowing the reality. Sanya asserted her right as a grown up to decide what she would like to do. It was her assertion that had stupefied Charu. Or was it the realization that she may be mother but no more? Her confusion indicated that she would need to adjust with the change and know the wishes of her daughter before passing judgment.

It may seem strange that a mother prefers and admires her son for similar defiance but is perplexed by rebellion in her daughter. She sees, perhaps, a quality of domination in her son but does not want in her daughter. Girls are expected to be obedient not defiant.

Is that subconscious acceptance of a secondary role for a woman? The problems start here…