An ode to my mum for Mother’s Day
There’s no Mother’s Day 2020 gift guide. In fact I’ve been a bit rubbish on gift guides full stop for 2020 so far. But hey, I feel like there are bigger issues at large for all of us. I know for many of you today, isn’t the Mother’s Day celebration you would have liked. It certainly isn’t for me.
But we’ll get through this confusing and scary time. COVID-19 will be a distant memory IA, and we’ll look back at this time and hopefully take stock that some good came out of it.
For my part, I promise to fix up later on in the year and get back to my gift guide curating ways.
Although the day isn’t quite what I expected, this Mother’s Day is pretty significant for me as I’m soon to welcome another little into the world. I couldn’t let it pass unmarked.
So let’s have some real talk. I know people think that Mother’s Day should be every day and that we should cherish our mums. But in truth, we don’t. Or at least I don’t all of the time.
Here’s an example. Like most of us, growing up I expected food to be on the table in a timely manner after school. Not only that, I expected the dishes I liked to be on the table. That meant chicken curry, meat curry, veg… I’d turn my nose up at daal, or spiced sardines (ironically these are the simple dishes I love now).
However, despite this, I wanted to play down the food I had at home. Being the only Asian in the village (or at least in the classroom) I didn’t want everyone to know I had curry most days. It was hard enough fitting in as it was, I didn’t need to stand out any further with the smell of spice.
I think this afflicted lots of British Asians growing up, especially those like me, being raised in a non-Asian environment.
Mother’s Day 2020 – an ode for all mums
Now of course, older (though not wiser) I’m more comfortable in my skin. And now I realise that I really ought to have appreciated my mum more.
Mum is the one who looked after me unconditionally. Mum is the proudest of all my career achievements. She is the one who I still call for advice now I’m a mum myself. She bought cream cakes when I came home from university weekend looking skinny. Mum is the one who packed a Capri-Sun and packet of crisps in my work bag so I wouldn’t go hungry, even though I was 26 and more than capable of looking after myself.
Now that I’m a mum myself, I can pass on the values my mum taught me, namely to be kind and be brilliant and not a little shit.
Mum is a huge inspiration in my life and her influence is echoed in my novel The Secret Diary of an Arranged Marriage. I wanted to share the passage with you from my book, which summarises the sacrifices mum made for me. Though it’s fictional, it very much comes from a place of reality – mum being selfless, while I was sometimes selfish…
But one thing mum does is prepare an abundance of samosas. She is nothing if not a feeder. I catch her folding vigorously the day before the first rishtaa visit. I’m about to head out to the shops but I notice she looks tired.
I sit down to help. “Mum, why do you have to go to so much effort? We could have just bought some samosas from the Asian shops. Some brands are pretty authentic, just like home cooking.”
Mum looks as though I’ve sworn at her. “Dooro!” This roughly translates to Oi, that’s out of order. “And have people say bad about our food? Everyone already talking so we don’t need any more –,” mum pauses. People must be talking about me and my single status. “Anyway, no. I make with hand.”
She returns to her folding. I tentatively spoon some keema onto one end of a strip of pastry and start folding. “But it’s such hard work for you. Maybe instead of samosas we could try something different. We could make kebabs. They just need to go in the oven. And we could buy a bunch of cupcakes. From the patisserie, not the supermarket. They’d love it so much they wouldn’t care if they’re shop bought.”
“I told you, home food! When you have daughters to get married, you buy cakes! You no have to cook smelly food. Be as English as want!”
“Mum, I didn’t say anything about wanting to be English. I love our food. It’s not smelly.”
“Not what you say before. I stopped eating shutki for you.”
“What? I never said don’t eat shutki. I hated the smell but –,”
“Yes, so I stopped. All things I do for you girls. Even don’t eating my favourite food so kids no embarrass.”
Mum blinks her eyes for a long second, like she’s holding back tears, before grabbing a spoonful of keema. Her samosas are perfect acute triangles. I look down at mine. It’s an isosceles and a wonky one at that. I’ve also overfilled my pastry, the oil is leaking out of the corner.
“How come yours are perfect, and mine are like this?” I ask.
“Look, I show you how,” mum demonstrates her well-honed folding technique. She creates a triangle, slowly, delicately, before adding in the keema. I was all gung-ho and just plonked on the mincemeat, forcing the pastry around it.
She’s made about 80 so far, all neatly lined up on a silver tray. Each one takes time and patience to make but is eaten in seconds. I bet she’s lost count of the number of times she’s covered this table with a clear plastic cloth and sat folding dozens of samosas, despite never getting round to eating any herself. I shouldn’t take for granted how much mum does for us. From making samosas by the truckload for boys I may not marry, to not eating her favourite food for years as we’re embarrassed by the smell.
I remember the stench of shutki wafting from round the corner on the walk home from school. During my first year of high school, a bunch of us would journey back together, even though we weren’t necessarily friends. This eclectic group included Carly. It was unfortunate that mine was the first house everyone would pass before cutting through the country park to get to their respective homes.
Carly once said: “Eww, what’s that?” Before realising, to my mortification and her amusement, that it’s coming from my house.
This led to a chorus of subtle sniggers and a helpful comment of: “Ooh, I think your dinner’s ready!”
Julia was the only one who pretended not to notice. To make matters worse, as we approached my house, I saw mum putting the bins out. That was the last thing I needed. As if the shutki stink wasn’t enough, my saree-clad mum was about to throw herself into the ethnic mix. I might as well have had a sign on my back, saying kick me, I’m different. I looked at mum. She read my mind and abandoned her domestic duty, leaving the bin in the middle of the garden before shuffling back indoors.
It feels shit now to think that my own mum knew she embarrassed me. Not in the usual way teenagers are embarrassed by their parents. I was embarrassed by what she represented – a world that I’d tried to deny. To make it easier for me, mum stopped making shutki on weekdays. Then, as I got older, I started hanging out with my friends on the weekend. Sometimes they would come and call for me. Mum avoided those weekends. Gradually, she made it less and less. I don’t remember exactly when she stopped making shutki but I was glad. And now I feel bad.
I probably should say sorry for being such a shit daughter but I don’t.
So yes, this year is different, but let’s have a Mother’s Day celebration however we can. Happy Mother’s Day to my mum, your mum and every mum.
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About the Author
I’m not a makeup artist, chef, lifestyle guru or stylist. I’m just me. And like you, I’m trying to make the best of most things, only I’m sharing my warts-and-all thoughts along the way.