By Bhante Suniti Bhikkhuni and Mayura Choudhari
Every human who is sensitive towards their mother, who gives her whole life to the children does not wait for mother's day to thank her. But still, this day has become a symbolic day and is being celebrated from 1908. Worldwide it has become a practice now to greet their mothers, wish them, give them greeting cards and gifts. People celebrate it by doing something for their mother, which she might like, such as cooking her favourite food that day, obeying her for this one day, etc. They pay their gratitude towards their mothers on this day through various beautiful gestures. Some who do not have mothers become emotionally looking at other's celebrations and go into memories of their mothers, look at her pictures from the old photo album and even post them on social media sharing an incident from the memories. But then, people also realised that only biological mothers aren't supposed to be celebrated on this day, so this practice of celebration expanded to other women like teachers and the elder motherly women.
In this article, I would like to put light on motherhood, which is a quality that can be found in all, men, women, trans people and for that matter almost all living beings, irrespective of gender. A sense of motherhood, which is not learned by giving birth to a child but maybe by nurturing a child. Naturally, every mother takes care of her child. In India, every woman dreams of becoming a mother or we can say she dreams of giving birth to her child to experience all the natural physical processes. This is also because the Indian culture stigmatizes her of being sterile and thus bad omen and desecrated if she cannot give birth to a child. Every parent, especially the mothers force their daughters to get married and become a mother. In this forced tradition, most of the girls or women when giving birth to a child do not think of their future and upbringing of the child. So sometimes this doesn't let motherhood develop in a mother. Usually, mothers are ready to do anything for their children, to face any challenge. But to become a real mother, she needs to develop that compassion to even treat other's children like her own. Here I want to differentiate between mother and motherhood. So why only biologically females are celebrated as mothers, Why can't a males or other genders giving motherly care to a motherless child be wished on this day? Some might be doing it too but the practice has not become common in public. The real motherhood quality can be found even in males. We have seen elder sisters become mothers of their younger siblings at a small age when both of the parents are working. But it is very rare to find an elder brother turning out his younger sibling's mother. If mothers develop motherhood quality even in their sons, today's world would have been more gender-sensitive and free from toxic masculinity. Motherhood doesn't mean pampering the child. Mothers not always are limited to feeding their children, cooking for them, and washing their clothes, etc. And fatherhood isn't limited to taking care of a child's education and material needs. This is nothing but gender construction. Society has given determined gender roles to men and women when they become parents. Thus father is not supposed to cry in front of his children whereas mothers can. Some fathers beat their wives in front of their children. This develops an image of an angry and strict father and an emotional victim mother. And thus children become close to their mothers and a little distant to their father.
I feel something is missing in this process, what is it? The important missing factor is the nurturing of the child which develops the child into a good human being, which is done by both, mother and father. What does this nurturing be called? Naturally, the feminine quality which teaches the child to grow is found in every living being like animals and birds. This feminine quality is called motherhood, which is naturally found in the mothers or the females and has to be developed in fathers and males. Thus pampering children cannot be said as motherhood qualities as so many times we see lack of this quality even in mothers. Teaching a child how to talk, how to walk, how to behave in day to day life is the process of mental development. Thus we can say just pampering is not motherhood but scolding for wrong and showing the correct path is also motherhood. As human beings are given supreme status among all living beings, this nurturing or development of mind and becoming sensitive towards others is unique and should be given more importance.
Some mothers really nurtured their children can be the good examples to be mentioned here, who did not give birth but they have nurtured them so well that these children are well known human beings in the world. A mother named queen Mahaprajapati should be remembered for her endeavor to up bring up Siddhartha Gautama (not her biological son but her younger sister queen Mahamaya's). Though she did not give birth to Siddhartha her motherhood developed him as a sentient being whose teachings include gender equality. He was the one to say, "Even prostitute has the right to be respected". Thus Queen Prajapati Gautami has changed to our perspective of looking at Stepmothers. I would like to focus on the Buddha's personality as well. Buddha's statue is altogether a school which teaches motherhood. The emotions on his face with motherly quality (Mamta) says everything; Peace, Compassion, Friendliness, Happiness, Mamta (mothers love), Affection, Care, Concern and last but not the least a smile which attracts a child. Thus the important message of Buddha for the Bhikkhu sangha is to "Treat each and everyone as your child". Other legends to be mentioned here are Krantisurya Jotiba Phule and Krantijoti Savitribai Phule who are great examples of motherhood. They had so much concern for the underprivileged society that they left their own house to work for them. This decision was like a mother who is ready to do anything for the benefit of the child. They both faced ill-treatment from society. The motherhood in Jotiba was so intensive that he stopped a pregnant widow from committing suicide, brought her home, took care like own daughter, and gave their family name to the newborn child. They both did not have their child, but nowhere they failed in the upbringing of the adopted child and also opened doors for all the widows, unwanted mothers, women and children deprived of home and they were provided with motherly and parental care. No one can match this couple in their motherhood. Another couple to be mentioned here would be Babasahaheb and Ramai. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who is given the title 'Baba' means father but was never less than a mother. He was brought up and nurtured by his mother Bhimai and after her death by paternal aunt Meerabai, they should be given their part of gratitude to give us a person like Baba. Baba who never differentiated anyone based on caste, region, religion, language or most important gender. He thought of everyone's development and benefit while writing the constitution of India as if a mother thinks of the development of her children. You might have questions in mind that how can Babasahab be called a good mother or father when he couldn't even save the lives of his children. The question itself is an answer, this indeed is the biggest sacrifice that Babasaheb and Mata Ramai did, they sacrificed the lives of their blood to nurture crores of their children.
It is not easy to see own child die in hands, Ramai tried all possible ways to save her children but couldn't. Her last words (taking Babasaheb's hand in her hand) were, " Please Promise me, you will not get despondent after my death, we could not save our children, but our community is our child, promise me that you will save them from this Brahmanical system."
You might have heard the story of a great mother Gauri Sawant, who is a Transwoman. She might not give birth to a child but yes she is a great mother. few years back when we saw a television advertisement of some product which I don't remember now, but I definitely cannot forget her motherhood shown in that Public service announcement. There might be many such people who struggle to even express their motherhood and their right to motherhood.
All the above personalities who never lived for their children but extended their care, love and affection for the people at large. There may be many more such legends that are not included in this article but no one should be deprived of our side to pay our tribute and gratitude for their great work. They are all the heroes of mother's day. Both of our parents put efforts to make us what we are, so why do we get our identity only with our father's name, it will be our gratitude to mothers if we all be known by name of our mother as well. Atta Deepa Bhava
Author: Bhante Suniti Bhikkhuni
Co-author: Mayura Choudhari is a Co-founder of The Colourboard and Documentary Filmmaker.