Mother’s Role and Experiences in Delhi
By Lamhil Editorial Team
On 10th May 2009, the Kuki Worship Service Delhi celebrated Mother’s day to honour a special section amongst its members – the Mothers. About forty-four mothers went up the Alter to receive prayer blessing and a rose from our Chaplains Rev. Dino Lunkhosei Touthang and Rev. Letlal Haokip. This write-up is an attempt made by the Lamhil Editorial Team under the Kuki Students’ Organization (Delhi), to understand the important role and experiences of mothers of the Kuki community in Delhi from a closer vantage point.
Letlal, Associate Pastor of the Kuki Worship Service (Delhi), assured us that the membership of mothers came as close as to fifty-five. He went on to say that he is appreciative of the efforts made by the majority of mothers in Delhi to preserve our culture not only by imposing our dialect on their children, but also in their efforts to wear the ‘ponve’ or the traditional wrap-around in Church services. They are mostly educated, but the fact that they are educated and smart is not an obstacle to their loyalty to their cultural roots. They use their education to balance the essence of loyalty to traditional values and the need for adjustment and adaptation to the changing times and requirements of a globalize era.
We interviewed seven mothers, out of which four are working and three of them are fulltime homemakers. The question ranges from: daily schedules; their role in the lives of their children; conflict faced by them in fulfilling the various obligations expected of them and the issues and challenges faced by them in bringing up their children in a city and amongst an alien culture in a global home away from home situation.
A day consists of…
Weekdays for all mothers are monotonous, repetitive and hectic. A mother needs to be the first to get up and the last to sleep to ensure that everything and every member in the house is in order. She needs to wake up as early as 5 a.m.-6 a.m. in order to assist the rest of the family to get ready for the day. She has to prepare breakfast for her husband and children, and help the children get ready for school. Sometimes, the basic need of freshening oneself (brushing teeth) needed to be skipped in order to get food on the table on time. For a working mother, the tasks seem more hectic as she needs to get herself prepared after sending off the rest of her family.
The non-working mothers are not devoid of chores after the morning drama is over as they proceed to do daily menial task to fill up the rest of the day until their children get back from school. For a mother whose youngest child is still in the infant stage like Mrs. HS, she makes it a point to go home during lunch break to check on her children. Most mothers’ felt that weekends are the best days to look forward to where family can come together and relaxed. For Mrs. L, it is an advantageous time to encourage her children in the word of God after their tuitions are over.
The part they play in the lives of people around them…
Almost all mothers interviewed agreed that ‘disciplining’ remains the most important duty of a mother and that for every child the best role model they witness everyday is that of their mom. Hence, a mother can inculcate the importance of discipline in the life of her young ones. According to Mrs. BS, disciplining is often difficult as it is easily confused by the children with lack of love, but one can apply it by maintaining ‘restriction’ and ‘limitation’ and also by being consistent in making rules. Another important role is to teach the child the true concept of love and the art of loving others. Mrs. D and Mrs. HB added on the need for the equal participation of both parent in disciplining and bringing up a child in the right way.
On the question of role-conflict…
In the language of sociology, role-conflict arises when there are contradictory demands within a role or competing demands of two different roles. Our society bequeaths the role of socialization of children as more of the mother’s duty rather than the father. Therefore, most working mothers confess a sense of guilt in leaving behind their children at home. This is more acute when kids sometimes do not feel well. For Mrs. HN who works with the Delhi Police, there are situations when she cannot get leave from her work when she is most needed at home. Some moms however can balance their dual role with ease.
Mrs. BN, the Secretary of the Women Fellowship (KWSD), sums up the challenges faced by mothers in a city as: to impart ethnic culture to children so that they do not forget their root; to ensure that they speak our dialect fluently and to inculcate in them a strong Christian precepts so that they are not easily carried away by other religious teachings and beliefs. According to Mrs. HN, motherhood anywhere and in any society is a challenging role. In a joint family, though the core authority in the domestic domain lies with the mother-in-law, their task as the daughter-in-law is not devoid of household responsibilities. She opined that mothers in Delhi are more fortunate than their counterparts in villages due to smaller family sizes and more active assistance from their spouses.
For Mrs. HS, as a working mother, leaving the children 8-9 hours everyday in the care of other young relatives without grandparents or other elderly presence to guide the young ones is a difficult task. She further adds that as children in Delhi are growing up in the conspicuous presence of malls, cinemas and other places of entertainment which are expensive, a major challenge will be to know the extent of curbing and controlling their movements. For Mrs. D, the question of financial security, time pressure and living in a non-Christian environment place mothers in Delhi at a disadvantage to their counterparts in the home state.
There is less quality family time spent together and family ties weaken due to the distance especially for the children. A mother’s role is to bridge this gap. Mrs. L is of a similar opinion that the demand of high living expense is a major challenge. The city can be overwhelming with its high speed, dangerous environment in terms of unfriendly situations for people who are not acquainted with the language. The fact that Delhi has the highest crime rate in India also added up to this feeling of insecurity.
On the question of retaining our ethnic culture and dialect…
A mother’s role in retaining our ethnic culture and dialect in cities like Delhi is no doubt crucial given the fact that we are a marginalised and miniscule population. Most of the respondents supported the view that use of our dialect is important for cultural preservation and continuation as any community’s identity requires language as the carrier and reservoir. All of them agreed on the point that children should know about others’ culture and tradition, but it should not be at the cost of their own.
Mrs. D who spearheaded the women’s wing in Kuki Worship Service is of the view that mothers are in many ways the custodian of culture, tradition and identity. Therefore, if mothers make conscious effort in teaching the children about these, then the children will learn to appreciate and value them. Meanwhile, the fact that we belong to a globalize world necessitates that we encourage children to learn and appreciate others’ culture and traditions. Mrs. BN noted that children have a tendency to pick up languages and ape the culture of the society to which they are associated with daily.
In a city like Delhi, children pick up hindi very fast as their friends in the school and surroundings are hindi speaking group. Besides hindi, it is understood that they would also learn english in the school. Mother should never forget that she is the only channel through which her children learn and speak his or her mother tongue. Mother should admit a failure to her role if her children do not speak or understand his or her mother tongue.
In other words, mothers should take pride in enabling their children speak the language with ease. Mrs. HN who hails from Gamgiphai village highlights the advantages that one can gain living in a city such as the presence of good educational institutions and an appropriate environment for growth and personality development. However, it is important for a mother to closely and consistently scrutinize her children lest they succumb to the pull of the stronger cultural force.
Mrs. HS and Mrs. HB suggested that parents and families should make an effort to take the children back home for holidays to socialize them, help them appreciate and learn our ways of life from a relative setting. Mrs. HB wrote “it is a common dialect that pulls and binds people together. The children should be trained in such a way as to be able to communicate with older generations and grandparents at home.”
From what we have put together, for each mother, there are multiple roles expected of her, which she tackles with her own unique technique and wisdom. However, the commonality lies in every mother’s readiness to make the necessary sacrifice to put her own needs after that of her family to ensure that the house remains a ‘home’. At the community level, mothers are the silent backbone and play an irreplaceable role as the reservoir, preserver and transmitter of our cultures, customs and traditions.
LAMHIL is a monthly publication of the Kuki Students’ Organisation in the metropolis of Delhi, India.