Megha was teaching her 5 year old son, Aarav. It was a picture book which had several different pictures along with their names, written below. Aarav saw the picture of a white colored monument and told his mummy, “This is Taj Mahal, we visited that, isn’t it?”. Megha smiled and said, “Yes, you are absolutely right”. She helped Aarav to memorize the spelling of ‘Taj Mahal’ and they kept on reading a few more pages and memorizing spellings of different names of the pictures, one after the other. Then there was one chapter in the book, which talked about the ‘opposites’. There was ‘day’ and ‘night’, where it had two pictures, one of a ‘sunny day’ and another of a ‘star studded dark sky’. Similarly there were the pair of ‘small’ and ‘big’, where the pictures showed a ‘mouse’ and an ‘elephant’ respectively. The next pair of opposite pictures had one woman in each, the woman in the first picture was very fair, and she was smiling. The second picture’s woman was dark in color, and looked sad.
Megha was doing her office work in the laptop simultaneously, so she hurriedly read what was written below the two pictures. It said ‘beautiful’ for the fair woman’s picture, and ‘ugly’ for the dark one’s.
Aarav instantly said, “Oh mummy, then Nikita aunty is ugly and you are beautiful?” Aarav’s words hit her suddenly and she looked up from her screen, at him. She went blank for a while because she was unable to understand how to respond to the little boy. The pictures in the book assigned beauty with the skin colour of the women, and that was highly problematic, she knew. But Aarav needs to complete his homework as well, she impatiently tried to make her mind to come up with a sensible yet comprehensive answer to his question. Aarav asked again,”What happened? Are you sad mummy?”
Megha smiled and said, ” No son, I am not sad. But your answer was half wrong and half correct. You are correct when you say that your mummy is beautiful, but you are wrong to say that Nikita aunty is ugly.” Aarav said,”But mummy it’s written in the picture book that the black colored woman is ugly and Nikita aunty is black..”
Megha intervened and said, “No, you have not understood it correctly son. The woman is called ugly in the picture because she is not smiling, have a look again. All women are beautiful when they smile, therefore you have to make everyone smile with your good behaviour, ok? Also it’s very bad to call someone ugly. Always remember this. And next day at school when your Ma’am says something about the ugly women, just tell her that your mummy had taught you that every woman is beautiful. We just need to know the spelling of the word ‘ugly’ because all the bad people who make others cry, they are ugly. Now memorize these words soon.”
Aarav was by then in standard 3, they were having dinner which was cooked by Aarav’s father, Mayank.
Aarav suddenly said, “Daddy, why do you cook more than mummy does? It is written in our book that moms cook delicious food and dads work hard outside the homes.” Mayank laughed out loud and said,”Son, in your book it is written than moms cook food and dads work outside, but you see for yourself, your mom cooks food and works outside as well. I also cook food and work outside. I cook a little more because I love trying new recipes and feeding them to you and mom. Cooking is a need for survival, we all should know it. If someday you are alone and your mummy and I, both are not with you, then what would you eat? Aarav smiled and said, “Okay dad, I will learn cooking, but firstly I want to bake a cake please.”
The following afternoon when Aarav came back from school, Megha was shocked when she noticed light bruises near his lips. After putting on an ointment on the bruises, she enquired about his day at school. Aarav said, “Mummy, you have to make a complaint to the teachers, Sourav has slapped me so hard just because I said that he had two fathers but no mother.” Megha replied, “Son, it’s so wrong that he has slapped you, I shall talk to him and make him understand that it’s wrong to beat up someone, but at first I have to tell you, what you have mocked him for, is very insensitive and wrong. Wait I shall explain you thoroughly. Megha drew several small pictures on a sheet of paper and said, “Look at them, all of these families I have drawn, are perfect homes.” She had drawn a family of a man and a woman with a child, a family of two men with a child, another one of two women with a child, and even a family of one man with a child, also of one woman with a child, and the last family of a man and a woman with no child.
Megha explained to Aarav that each one of the families she had drawn on the paper, were examples of perfect families and happy homes. Aarav nodded and said, “Sorry Mummy, I shall say sorry to Sourav also. Both of his fathers are amazing, when they come for parents’ teachers’ meetings.” Megha said, “One more important thing Aarav, do not assume that both of the parents of Sourav, are his fathers. One of them, or both of them could be his mother too. A mother can be of any gender, it’s not necessary that she needs to be a woman. So, always be sensitive about such things.”
Aarav was then a 15 year old big boy. That day, the mother and the son duo had gone to a shopping mall. Near the food court, a small crowd of people were laughing and gossiping among each other. Megha noticed her son Aarav also smirking, while he was staring at a girl. That particular girl was embarassed as she sat on a chair in a corner, while blood slowly dripped down her legs. Megha immediately rushed to the girl and took her to the restroom. After a while she came back and told Aarav, “You should never again laugh at any woman like this. She just needed some assistance and not smirky looks and laughter. I should have taught you about this before, it’s a mistake on my part.” Then she took out a sanitary napkin from her bag and gave that to him and continued,”Women bleed every month, after they hit puberty, which you have already known by now, from your biology book. This is a natural process, therefore all kinds of stigma and taboo associated with menstruation, commonly called the Periods, are insensitive and wrong. I really want you to be one responsible person, and carry this sanitary napkin in your bag, so that if someday you find a woman like we found just a while ago, you could actually help hee and not make fun of the situation.” Aarav said, “I am so sorry mummy, I shouldn’t have been so insensitive. I shall make sure that I help a woman from the next time.” He put the napkin in his bag then.
Aarav is now a 30 year old man who runs a successful business of a chain of hotels. Due to the sudden outbreak of a pandemic, his business is immensely hampered, so he has plans to cut short the human resource. While he was on a call, dictating rules to the HR, about the proceedings of a mass deduction of employees from his business, Megha looked into his eyes and said, “You have grown up so much,you don’t need my parenting anymore, but I regret that you have forgotten one of my very first teachings to you; when you were 4 years old and we went to the park, you looked at some men digging a large pit toiling under the sun, and you told me that it saddened you. I had said that I wanted you to become such a big man one day, that you could come of use for the less fortunate ones in the world. You had smiled and agreed that day.”
Aarav with his teary eyes looked at his mother and said, “You have always shown me the correct path, sorry I was distracted in my business. I didn’t forget anything you taught.” He dialled his HR again and cancelled his decision of firing his employees, and ensured that the full salary of all of them be transferred to their accounts.
Lastly he smiled at Megha and said, “Thank you mother, for making me a better person throughout my life, than I would have become without your parenting.”
This fiction is not to blame all the mothers whose sons now have become misogynists, homophobics and elitists. Parenting is a full time responsibility and it goes on for our entire lives. The responsibility of parenting is not on the shoulders of a mother just, but also of the father, the teachers, the elders and so on. I believe that with a little effort from all of us, we can make our upcoming generations more sensitive and aware about our society. You can also be mothering your neighbour’s little daughter or the children you teach at your play school. The formative years of children’s lives, is the time when correct information and values should be passed on to them. It’s a responsibility on all of us, and we should make an effort for a better tomorrow and a beautiful society, for our children.