Mother's Day Special: A tale of two Mumbai mothers
Mothers find very little to complain about and are almost always content with what they have. This Mother’s Day, mid-day takes a look at two mothers who go out of their way to ensure that their children get the best
The home of the Ardads -- residents of Shivaji Nagar slums in Andheri (W) -- is very welcoming, much like Meena (43), housewife and mother. The warmth of the house, added to by her motherly embrace, makes one forget the torrid humidity that’s been enveloping the city. For Meena, the day starts at 5am with filling enough water to suffice her household for the day, while her husband wakes up at 4:30am in order to get to the Dadar vegetable market on time. He runs a small business by selling lemons at the Andheri vegetable market. But though they have limited means, Meena ensures that the economic status of her family does not affect the education and career prospects of her daughters, aged 17 and 24.
Meena Ardad with her daughter
"I am barely educated, but I was very sure that my daughters would never miss out on anything; neither because of our economic status, nor their gender. I have never craved to have a son because my daughters have always made me happy and proud," says the gritty mother, whose older daughter Manisha recently completed her education in Homeopathy, while her younger daughter Vandana represented India at the 8th World Taekwondo Culture Expo held in Korea last year and even came back with a silver medal.
While the daughters are doing well for themselves at present, reaching this point in life wasn’t always easy for the family. The Ardad’s older daughter always wished to be a doctor, but the financial constraints of the family were an issue. "We couldn’t afford the fees of any of the institutes in the city so she had to study at a medical college in Parbhani, with the help of a government scholarship," revealed Meena. At the tender age of five, her younger daughter Vandana wanted to learn Taekwondo, a form of martial art. While the cost of training was one problem, Vandana’s father was also worried about her safety and therefore vehemently refused to send her for the classes. However, knowing where her daughter’s interests lay, Vandana would often sneak out her daughter without her husband’s knowledge and drop her off to the Taekwondo training center. "All the time I was worried that my husband would find out, but I was also scared about my daughter’s safety," she added.
Today, she has little to complain about. "I have travelled a lot for Taekwondo competitions and at the same time I’ve also managed to keep my study record in good place. It makes my mother very happy to know that both my sister and I carved our own destiny without her help, but the truth is that none of this would have been possible had it not been for her perseverance and positive attitude, which was always backing us," said Vandana, who is currently awaiting her HSC results and also busy preparing for the Engineering entrance test. Ask Meena what her dream is for her daughters and she says, "I want them to be content, no matter what they do," before going back to prepare food for her husband, who will be home for lunch soon.
Not without their mother
Just a few meters away is the house of the Kanams. Jayashree Kanam (42) is a very busy woman. The sole breadwinner of her three-member family which includes her two daughters, Jayashree first finishes her own household work and then rushes to two other households where she works as a cook. Immediately after that she rushes to a nearby anganwadi, where she works as a helper. Once work is finished, she rushes home to cater to the needs of her teenage daughters who in return, also encourage and help her to study. Jayashree recently attempted for the second time to clear her SSC examinations.
Jayashree Kanam with her daughter
"I always felt one needs to be educated to ensure that his/her family is educated. I had given up on education, but after my husband’s death, I had to run the house on my own and had no option, but to complete my SSC," said Jayashree Kanam. Last year, both Jayashree and her younger daughter Shweta (16) had appeared for the SSC exams and while Shweta passed with flying colours, Jayashree had to reappear for her Mathematics examination this year. "I think I would have given up, but my daughters kept encouraging me to do better not for others, but for myself," she added.
Jayashree lost her husband to the 26/7 deluge of 2005, which claimed thousands of lives. With two jobs at hand, Jayashree barely managed to make ends meet as she also had two daughters to feed and educate. While her husband’s brother and his family helped them throughout, Jayashree always knew she had to be independent. "I also had two young girls look up to me; I couldn’t let them down. I always wanted to be well educated and along with my daughters’ education, I’m happy that I can also pursue mine," she added. Apart from bagging the SSC pass mark, Jayashree also wants to get a better post and a pay hike at the Anganwadi, which she will be eligible for only after she clears her SSC exams.
Jayashree’s older daughter Sheetal (19) is currently pursuing her TYBCom at Cosmos College in Andheri while Shweta just appeared for her class XI exams at Gyan Kendra Higher Education School. While both the girls ensure that their mother does not have to worry about their education, they do take keen interest in her education. "There are days when my mother feels like she will never pass her Maths paper and that’s when my sister and I sit her down and help solve some of the problems. She is still worried that she won’t pass the exam, but we keep reminding her that our love and respect for her will never subside because of this one exam," said Shweta. The typical scene at the Kanam’s house every evening is one where all three women sitting with their books on their laps and studying, helping and encouraging each other to do well, no matter what the circumstance.