|By Debu Majumdar
“Are you trying to be a Bahn-manush – a cave-man?” my mother would ask whenever she saw my long toenails. I remember those words each time I cut my nails, and wonder why I laughed at those words before.
When I was a senior in high school, I remember telling my mother, “Mother, should I become a headmaster of a school? That’s a good position.”
She said, “Good. You be a headmaster.” Her round face with the large red mark on her forehead would beam with joy.
Then, a few months later I’d tell her, “Mother, teaching in a college is a great profession. I’d like to be a professor.”
“Good,” she would happily tell me. “You be that.”
Sometime later, I’d tell her, “Mother, Government service is very good. Should I join the Indian Administrative Service?”
“What do they do?” she asked.
“They run the country. They are the most powerful people, like the magistrates.”
“That’s good. You be that.”
I told this to my sisters and we laughed.
“Mother doesn’t know anything. She is happy with whatever I want to do.
One day I teased my mother again. “Mother, I want to become a scientist. Like Newton or Einstein. Won’t that be wonderful?”
“That is very good. You can discover new things.”
I gave her a hug. She was content with whatever I became. She was married before she could finish high school with a man she had never seen before.
I wonder now how my mother had the innate knowledge to encourage her children to become what they desired to be – a teacher, a scientist, or a government officer – it didn’t matter. Because contentment is what mattered in the end, not the position. Life is much bigger. I understood it only forty years later.
December 23, 1997