I’ve always loved how knowledgeable my mum is about the culture and values of my North-Indian heritage – she has always pushed bilingual language skills, whilst also raising my sister and I with strong British identities. As a British-Asian, I’m privileged to enjoy the best of a diverse UK, and in part, it’s because my mum made time to connect with my grandmothers. My mum, Geeta, lived within the extended family at 19. It was through spending time with her mother-in-law (who she actually calls ‘mummiji’ – meaning mum), and listening to her life stories, that she gained a deep understanding of her values and past experiences in India.
I recently asked my mum what the best ‘pearls of wisdom’ were that she learnt from her mother-in-law (my dadima) and mum (nanima). In today’s blog, I share a few of those with you. These pearls of wisdom are universal, and by no means exclusive to my mum and family – you may relate to some of them, or may not agree with any.
Mum’s Pearls of Wisdom- Told through Me…
1. “Juggle the important things- it makes life easier.”
My nanima worked shifts in factories, and despite how tired she was, she always managed to maintain a clean and tidy home, and put home-cooked meals on the table (read Kamla’s chapter in dadima’s book). This was not necessarily the ‘right’ approach, it was out of necessity that she did, as with many women (and men) who needed to build a life in the UK. It was from seeing her own mother juggle, that my mum learnt how to balance a full-time job, with running a household, and being a mother. With time, mum has learnt to let things slide, and prioritise what matters, and I’m so glad she has!
2. “Invest time in your education and career when you’re young and have the energy.”
My nanima always wanted her 3 children to be educated and not struggle like her. Working in factories, with my nanaji, to make ends meet, she wanted a different lifestyle for her children. Although my mum had my sister and I at a young age, she pursued her parents’ educational values, and completed her studying after having us, whilst working full-time, and building an academic career. It was extremely tough for her, and my sister and I have seen her ‘burning the candle at both ends’ over the years. She is now a senior academic in a university, with a PhD , and we’re so proud of her drive to help us, and many others. Mum believes in the power of education, for girls in particular (read Angela’s story in dadima’s book, which touches on a similar topic).
3. “Home-building is an invaluable skill to uphold.”
My nanima and dadima are strong home-builders, nurturers and cooks. However career-minded and educated my mum is, she always keeps the home together through her love and hard work, and strongly believes in the importance of home-cooking, rather than take-aways and too many restaurants. Mum would, and still does, batch-cook and freeze when she is really busy at work. The kitchen really is the heart of our home and the most loving space. She learnt to cook from mainly from my dadima and my aunts.
4. “Be patient and don’t cry over spilt milk.”
My mum always says that my dadima has the patience of a saint, especially with all her grandchildren and 6 children of her own. Through living in the extended family with a mother-in-law who has so much experience and perspective, mum said that she learnt to worry less about everyday trivial things, and just let small things pass. My nanima doesn’t like conflicts or arguments, and as I write in dadima’s book, her quote is: “You must develop the wisdom and courage to know when to ignore someone’s negative words and actions, and know when to invest energy in battling it out”(p.190, dadima’s book).
5. “Stay true to your values, and never forget your roots.”
My grandmothers hold strong life and religious values which they have developed through life’s experiences. Their morals and ethics always guide their actions. My mum is now a highly educated woman, and has established a career, home and family life. However, she always remembers that it was through the sacrifices of her parents (and my dad), that she was able to follow her dreams and build a life alongside my father. She is always proud of her humble working-class roots, and reminds my sister and I to never to take anything for granted, and not waste food or money. My mum believes in standing up for what you believe in and has a strong sense of justice. However hard the journey or consequences may be, she never gives up. Mum’s values have guided us as daughters to think carefully about the consequences of our actions, and our broader contributions to society.
Alongside my mum, my sister and I, are fortunate to have the love and wisdom of wonderful grandmothers, aunts, and mum’s friends. Thank you to all of them from the bottom of my heart. Mum always says that she doesn’t always know best, and is far from perfect. Luckily, my sister and I can talk to close aunts for advice as needed.
Happy Mother’s Day – Mothering Sunday! Thinking of anyone who has lost their mother, or is alone for whatever reason today. Respect and love to all mothers, and motherly figures, for all that they do – for sharing their love, wisdom, challenges, and life experiences. You are the best life coaches, as you’ve walked the winding road ahead!
Watch this space for my future father’s day blog, where grandfathers and fathers will get their due shout-out and respect!