08 March 2009

Mother

After writing a poem about daughter in my last post, it seems natural to move on to the subject of 'Mother'.

I saw a movie called 'Mother' on HBO today. It was an eye-opener in many ways.

The movie is about a mother and her 2 sons. One of them is 'well-adjusted' - married with kids and with a thriving career. The other one is a struggling writer with 2 failed marriages behind him. The writer son and the mother share a difficult relationship - they exchange insults at every possible opportunity. Although the mother speaks gently, her words are like barbs and the son feels he is being criticized all the time. The other son is mama's boy; he video-calls her everyday. He is quite put out when his mother cancels a weekend visit due to her other son visiting her out of the blue. His wife accuses him of not understanding his mother any better than his brother, but that he's just more clingy.

The mother stays alone in the family house. The writer son decides to come over to stay with his mother to work over his relationship with her. He is quite surprised with the objections put forward by his mother to his plan. His room has been converted into a sewing room and he cannot just go back to his life with her as a boy. Their conversations basically serve as an exercise to put down the son by the mother and to willfully misunderstand the mother by the son. The mother even has a 'male-friend' and the son is quite baffled by this knowledge too. Eventually, the son comes to know that his mother wanted to be a writer. However, her husband quashed her ambition of publishing her writings early in the marriage. The son concludes that that is why his mother was always critical of him; as she is resentful of the fact that he was a writer. The other son was safe as he didn't write hence he was 'closer'. The mother too realises that this could be true and they work out the tension in their relationship.

Apart from the unravelling on the mother-son relationship enigma, there are a couple of things that struck me after watching this movie.

First is, how we love to stereotype our parents, esp. our mothers! While attending a soft skills training session at my organization recently, I came to know that conversations are basically of two types - 'first-order conversations' and 'second-order conversations'. The former is a statement such as 'This is my mother'. The latter is nothing but a discussion around the first order statement viz. mother is a person who loves unconditionally, who you can trust the most etc. Most perceptions are built due to second order conversations. The origin of the word mother is someone who gives birth. However, we have stereotyped this person as the possessor of qualities such as unconditional love, trustworthy, dependable, good cook, always affectionate etc. And then we are disappointed when our mothers fail to live up to this image. We forget that she is an individual with needs and wants beyond that of her children. I myself have been guilty of judging my mother in this manner.

Secondly, like the son in this movie, if we take the trouble to analyze our troubled relationship with someone we love, we too can come up with such eye-opening analysis which will help improve the relationship. If only we take the effort and time to go through this. Most people I know simply accept the way things are thinking that nothing can be done about it. They tend to either continue with status quo or they prefer to sever the ties with the person, be it their parents, sibling or partner. Neither is a very healthy way to live.

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