The first editorial in Anandabazar Patrika, Sunday 22nd September edition, was as follows (the translation is mine):
“Mothers and lies
Worship of mothers is a perennial thing. It is taken for granted that a mother would hug her child to her breast and gladly make any sacrifice for its sake. A child may be a black sheep, a mother never, she cannot be. No doubt there is some truth in this notion, but a great deal of blind faith and melodrama also work to keep it alive. A stern look at reality will show us a lot of mothers who make mincemeat of their wards’ love lives and sex lives, or otherwise perpetually cramp their personal space and limit their individual growth as human beings. In most of the cases of ‘honour killings’ that have been reported in recent times, a mother has been either directly involved, or given her full consent to the horror. Giving birth is merely a biological ability: it does not by itself glorify anybody spiritually. To raise a child well and educate him to live a valuable life is no mean task, and to do that one has to work hard at evolving into a good human being first. Mothers all around us incite their children to win the ratrace even by hurting the interests of their friends, and drive deep into them the disgusting habit of blaming everybody but themselves for their woes. And in most cases they inculcate this kind of meanness because they ‘love’ their children. Just as many animals enthusiastically devour some of their young so that the rest might have a better chance of survival. A certain species of eagle watches quietly while the stronger of its fledglings bully and kill the weaker ones. The panda bear mother, if it gives birth to twins, nurtures one and abandons the other. Perhaps natural selection favours this kind of arrangement, but surely the babies that are rejected and killed do not find much truth in the adage that a mother’s love is the most wonderful thing in the world!
Recently an American wrote this obituary shortly after the death of his mother: ‘Six of her eight children are alive, whom she subjected to every sort of persecution all her life…on behalf of all the children she made part of her unholy, malice-driven life, I am happily celebrating her demise, and hoping that next time round she might be at the receiving end of the same kind of barbarous cruelty and humiliation.’ This particular mother might have been an aberration, but even ordinary mothers all around us beat their children, mock them harshly, drown them in the pit of self-loathing by comparing them endlessly with others to their disadvantage, obstructing every attempt they make to find a little happiness in their own lives, and drive myriad little needles so deep into their souls that the wounds rankle lifelong, and destroy all possibility of their living decent lives of their own. Many mothers are certainly good mothers; however, it is equally true that many of them are cruel, abusive, or at least totally indifferent to their children. On the internet you can find blogs titled ‘I hate my kids’; there are even ‘groups’ of such like-minded mothers. All relationships can be the cause of either joy or sorrow: the mother-child relation is no exception to this rule. Camus created quite a stir by asserting this unpleasant truth in The Outsider. In that novel it was the son who was unbothered about his mother’s death. One rarely meets mothers who are indifferent to their children, even abusive in dealing with them, in literature. But one does in reality.”
S.C.: To the above, I shall add only that I do not personally think this is a gender thing. It’s only that the indiscriminate deification of mothers gets to me sometimes, seeing that there are lots of fathers who try very hard to be good parents, and lots of mothers who don’t. The crucial point is that so few people work at being good parents, so few even know that it has to be worked at, or that it is such hard work: and yet, especially in this country, somehow manage to raise children who feel it is their ‘duty’ to feel love and respect and be attentive to their parents’ needs lifelong, including the need to be shielded from all criticism within the family and without: my parents, my parents über alles. Also, for the sake of variety I suppose, there are parents who try very hard, and eventually get kicked in the face for their pains... it is indeed the best of all possible worlds.