Dear Friends, Many years ago, a mother of 3 young children was frequently at odds with her husband. It was not quite the marriage she had imagined. He worked long hours as a labourer and the warmth she enjoyed when they were courting in Malaysia had disappeared. To supplement the family income, she worked as a cleaner and after school, the children were in our care until she came home. As we got to know her and the children better, we became party to the disagreements at home and became concerned with mother’s expressed disdain for her middle child. We hypothesized that the boy reminded her of her husband and in her mind, he would leave with his father should the marriage break up since he was born in Malaysia.
We had many conversations about her inconsistent parenting, the impact it was having on the boy and when she wondered if the boy was perhaps a “curse,” we accompanied her to meet with a Hindu priest. After verifying the birth dates of all family members, the priest did some calculations with the help of a holy book he had on his table. Then he assured the mother her son was definitely not a curse but a blessing that would enrich her life tremendously. Mother was sceptical, but the priest insisted it was written in the book. He then mentioned a song which mother was familiar with and asked her to consider why the song was about mothers and not fathers. We left the temple that day with instructions for the mother to place a small packet of seeds under her son’s pillow for 14 days. These seeds were to be removed in the morning and deposited at the temple before she went off to work.
Two weeks ago, I met this mother over breakfast. She draws $600 as a cleaner for the Town Council responsible for her neighbourhood. It is a decent arrangement she tells me as she gets paid for cleaning her own backyard every morning. Later in the day she takes on another cleaning job at an industrial area drawing a similar amount. Home is a 2-room rental flat shared with her daughter who is a technician and her youngest son who is training with the Institute for Technical Education. Her ex-husband has a rental flat of his own and both children visit him frequently, stayover at times and convey their mother’s regards.
The middle child completed his N Level and several stints at various institutions as well. It appeared that he never got over the rejection he received and coped in a way that got him wanted by the law. While on the run, he failed to take his Oath of Citizenship and after he was released from an institution, he became stateless and remains in the country with a special pass issued by the Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority. Now 25 and married with 2 children, his family lives with his in-laws and on his wife’s salary as a storekeeper. Determined to be a good family man, he reconciled with his mother and visits her with his children frequently.
Mother is filled with joy whenever she meets her grandchildren and wishes that she had more time with them. As we talked about family difficulties in the past and how she could not always have all her children living with her, she pointed out quickly that all was well now because her children are all “big now.” She even stressed that she is on good terms with her first son and is very concerned and confused about his statelessness and would do everything she could to help him. She them smiled broadly when I suggested that all her children have been a blessing as they look out for their father, honour her as a mother and continue to care for each other as a family. Maybe, fulfilment is not a search far and wide but a look over our shoulder to recognise those around us and to start having more faith in each other.
Enjoy your week.
May the light that fills our world sweeten our hearts and kiss our eyes with understanding. Happy Deepavali everyone.