lt all started on the eventful day when I decided to watch the television play which was the talk of the town. At parties and get togethers, I felt completely left out as friends and relatives discussed the play with much enthusiasm, and as I had picked up most of the story while listening to their conversation, I switched on the TV on that day.
The play was boring as I had expected it to be, but what caught my attention was the ladies appearing in the (endless) commercials which dotted the play (or should I say the play dotted the commercials!). I was particularly impressed by the appearance of these home-makers, dressed in spotless dresses and singing cheerfully while they served tempting looking meals to their family (cooked in the most health friendly oil) or washing load after load of laundry (displaying a particular washing powder). One of them was happily displaying her microwave oven and her cooking speed could bring to shame the most efficient housewife. All of them looked so attractive, dressed in the trendiest and most fashionable clothes and wearing matching accessories from head to toe!
I felt ashamed of myself as I thoughtfully observed my crumpled dress, disheveled hair and the bathroom slippers I was wearing. All the care I took of myself (when I was not going out anywhere) was a quick shower and change, tying my hair into a joora before they even dried up properly. The ladies in the ads didn`t let their efficiency interfere with their appearance. Why couldn`t I spare some time for myself to improve my looks? I scolded myself.
Making new resolves to improve my appearance, I switched off the TV and proceeded to the kitchen to prepare dinner, but stopping half way I rushed to my room. I must change first, I reminded myself. After a quick shower I dressed in a freshly pressed suit and sporting a light makeup, I rushed to the kitchen. “Where are you going Mummy? I need your help in my Algebra homework,” my ten your old son called out. “No, Sunny I am not going anywhere,” I exclaimed as I switched on the oven. He looked a little puzzled but continued with his homework.
The next morning I was about to hurry to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for my college going eldest. But again I remembered my resolve and taking a shower I changed to a clean dress and quickly dabbed on some moisturizer and lipstick. I was rummaging in the drawers for some matching jewellery when I heard my son yelling, “Mama where is my breakfast? I am getting late for my class.” “Just coming, son,” I called back as I abandoned my search. As soon as he saw me my son let out a groan, “O Mama, please don`t ask me to drop you anywhere, I am already late for college!” Trying to keep my cool I assured him that I was not going anywhere and quickly gave him a banana and a glass of milk (all I could manage in the few moments he could spare).
My daughter stepped out of her room ready to catch the school bus, “Mama where are you going so early in the morning? Please be sure to be at home when I come back from school.” I stared at her in frustration. The children were so used to my shabby looks at home that it was hard to convince them I had no intentions of venturing out of the house if on a certain day I chose to look presentable!
The maasi rang the bell. “Baji tussi kahin ja rahe ho?” she asked in her half Urdu and half Punjabi. I felt like…….never mind what I felt like, as I busied myself with my daily chores. One week passed. I was keeping my resolve and somehow carving out time for myself. My efforts definitely were showing results, and a sense of satisfaction surged to my mind as I glanced at myself in the mirror. But alas! My efficiency at home seemed to deteriorate.
The extra time I spent pressing that extra dress, laying out the matching accessories with it and grooming myself was taking its toll. I had to make compromises in the intricate meals I loved preparing for my children. The house did not look as clean as it used to do. I simply did not have the time to keep each nook and cranny as spick and span as I did earlier on! The pile of laundry was ever increasing as were the dresses needing to be pressed which peeped at me from the closet next to the ironing board.
It all ended on the day my children burst out at me. My daughter complained that she did not feel like eating because the food was not tasty at all, just not like Mama`s cooking. My college going son exclaimed that he had always the uneasy feeling that I would ask him to drop me somewhere, but the last straw came from my ten-year-old son, “I don`t like you!” He said tearfully, “You do not look like my Mama anymore; you look like the aunties on the television”.
Noting my crestfallen look, my sensitive daughter rushed to me and folding her arms round me declared lovingly, “Mama we don`t love you for what you look like, we love you for what you are!”
It was dinner time. With a rueful smile, I glanced at myself in the lounge mirror and trying to straighten out the wrinkles from my dress with my hands and rearrange my hair (again with my hands), I marched towards the kitchen — to serve dinner to my children like a good Mama!