By Gulrukh Tausif
There are a few dire warnings, threats and statements which desi mothers are prone to make, and these are handed down generations like precious heirlooms.
When I was growing up, I would roll my eyes, grind my teeth, or swear to myself that I would never say such things to my children but I guess unconsciously we absorb a lot of things from our parents. Now that we have children of our own, and we face similar obstinacy, battles and questions, we cannot resist using the same ploys our parents, especially moms, used on us.
The Flying Chappal Threat:
This is the perennial threat that is issued most during summer vacations and weekends. Sick and tired of seeing children lying comatose on beds all day or walking like zombies between the fridge and television, this “Uthtay ho ya jooti aye” threat was issued to me and my siblings on a daily basis. Maybe my mother thought she can frighten us into doing something constructive with our time. I am sorry to say that it failed to galvanize us siblings 25 years ago and falls on deaf ears in my household too.
The “Because I say so” dictum:
The ultimate response to every “Why” question throughout history has to be “because I say so.” It is a feeble way to establish authority or put an end to all pesky questions children come up with. Mothers use it as a way to re-assure themselves that they are the ones laying down the rules in the house and not the pint size toddler asking mutinously why she cannot have the fourth scoop of ice-cream.
The “if your friend jumps into a well” question:
Throughout my school and college years, if I dared to bring up a friend’s name in order to win an argument, the “If your friend jumped off a cliff/into a well, would you do it, too?” was the pat response that my mom used to win every debate.
It was no use telling her that my friend was not jumping into a well but was going to a cinema to watch the latest blockbuster or visiting the latest mall for some window shopping but in eyes of my mom, these activities translated to the same thing. I also use the same dictum with reasonable success against my children because it is so much fun to say it and then see them roll their eyes.
The “famine in Africa” reminder
Mealtimes are constant battles nowadays with picky eaters who refuse to eat anything remotely healthy and nutritious. They think it is an affront to eat plain rice, daal, chapatti and vegetable dishes when there are pizzas, burgers, tacos and street food available.
When I remind my children there are children starving in Africa who would love to have the food that they are wasting, I can almost hear my mother say the same thing.
The addiction-to-TV accusation:
In my childhood cartoons were precious and we were seldom allowed to watch movies. However on rare occasions when we were allowed to watch TV, we would get as close to the screen as possible as all family members would crowd in the same room to watch the favorite programme or cricket match. So I felt it was very unjust when our parents said “TV ka nasha hai tum logon ko” or “TV may ghuss ker baith jao.” Guess my horror when I find myself saying the same words to my children.
The ‘does money grow on trees’ question:
I must confess that this question which we grew up listening to whenever we asked for new clothes or shoes is a little obsolete now. Our children know that money does not grow on trees. They think it spills out of ATM machines.
The eyes vs button comparison:
Isn’t it strange that children’s eyes are usually very sharp when it comes to most things that they should not see or observe but send them to find a certain item from a drawer or room, and they will always come back empty handed?
Children also spend a lot of time looking for books, pens, and other stationary items that are right before their eyes on the study table and can waste an enormous amount of time looking for them while studying.
Often exasperated by our inability to find our socks or a matching thread, my mother would say “Aankhain hain ya button?”And yes, I say exactly the same words to my children for the exact same offense.
The hygiene mantra:
Brush your teeth. Comb your hair. Use soap and water. What’s that smell? When did you last change your socks? What’s THAT on your bed? What’s THIS under your bed? When did you last clean your room? Every time I hear these questions coming out of my mouth, I mentally apologize to my mother for this can only be cosmic retribution for my childhood misdemeanors.
Well history tends to repeat itself and I guess, I do sound like my mom while dealing with my own children. And maybe it is not such a bad thing after all.
Comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org