BoTree House

My Mother


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.

Debu Majumdar
December 23, 1997