Thursday, March 13, 2014


I was crazy about babies when I was growing up. Wherever there was a baby, you would find me there - cuddling them, petting them, even distracting them if they cried.

I had no doubts about becoming a mother. I gave up my job to be ready for her and the fact that work from home worked out for me is only incidental. Despite some doubts, we had the second one too.

For a few years after that, I could not go near other babies. Not because mine were possessive, but I was 'scarred'. The responsibilities, I thought, weighed me down. I thought it was all the bottom wiping and the constant checking that had tired me out.

But as I read 'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult, I understand this change a bit better. No, mercifully, I do not have to live through the nightmare the parents in the book live through. But I can see what makes parenting of multiple children difficult - the arguments, debates, back-answer... all those are incidental. What is more difficult is to make choices.

If both children have a different demand, which one do you give in to? If both need attention and care, how do you make sure each gets their due? Worse, if one is unwell and the other is well, can the latter be expected to understand any neglect by parents? How do you balance their needs in times of crisis?

I remember an incident that came to light soon after tsunami hit the coasts of Tamil Nadu. A western mother found herself in the sea with two young children. She could save only one. She had to let go of the other. A celebrity Indian author and mother of six wrote scathingly about the mother for having made a choice; she felt the mother should have tried to save both.

Which mother wouldn't? But isn't that what makes motherhood the greatest challenge? Many things are expected of you, and yet you are as limited as the next human being. Deification does nothing to minimise the frustration of not living up to those ideals. Even simple things like nourishment can weigh heavily on her mind.

No one prepares you for this, no one wants to scare you, maybe. And yes, rewards far outweigh the troubles. But like in everything, the road to that success is filled with challenges that you traverse alone, or, if you are lucky like me, with a husband who shoulders your responsibilities.

For the Fitzgerald family in the book, the choice is that much more difficult. One daughter has leukemia and they have a third child just so she can be a donor for her sister. The eldest son turns destructive because of neglect. The youngest child sues her parents for rights to her body when she is just 13.

Picoult excels in bringing out how each one reacts to the situation. It is difficult to pin point and say who is right and who is wrong. You want them all to come out winners. In a well-knit family, maybe that is possible. Waiting to complete the novel.

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