Editor: Jaishree Misra
Price: Rs 495
Not for the faint-hearted.
If this book could be summed up in one phrase, that would be it.
When approaching a topic as universal as motherhood, no point of view is the same and yet all are valid. And this book gives you 21 points of view.
It lures you in with proud feminist Smriti Lamech's Determination, telling the story of her own attempts at illegally determining the sex of her first child and her desperate wish for a daughter in a country that would label it strange, if not crazy, that she did not want a son. Is she concerned about how her son, now 8 years old, will feel when he learns this? "When you see how women are treated in our country, you automatically want a daughter to be born into a house where she is welcomed. My son understands this. He knows that after the initial shock of having a boy, he became our pleasant surprise. In fact, we always joked about it. We had a name picked out for a girl, Aliya, so we named him Ali for a short while until we thought of a name for him," Smriti smiles.
Anita Roy's Eating Baby is a laugh-out-loud piece on the eating habits of a new born infant. What does cauliflower puree have to do with a mother's existential crisis? As Roy says in her light-hearted re-telling of the trials and tribulations of feeding a baby, "(When) the baby slurped the puree...I burst into tears. I was ecstatic that he'd eaten something I'd cooked...and aghast that starting from now I'd have to do a repeat performance the next day, and the next, and the next..." "Probably the lightest and funniest story in the book and a personal favourite," says Aanchal Tulsiani, 27, director of Basil Jewels, "Eating Baby offers sunshine and joy and actually makes you look forward to the stress of feeding your own baby."
But in this collection of works, all is not mashed peas and lovingly pinned diapers.
Reminding us that mothers are women first and foremost, with their strengths, flaws and insecurities, is Nisha Susan, author of the dark fictional piece Missed Calls, a story of a lower middle class family where the bond between the mother and daughter sours to the point of attempted murder and eventual banishment. She drew her inspiration from a bond she witnessed between two women, one older and the other much younger, both wanting different things and each woman ruthless in her own way. "So the title Missed Calls refers not only to the actual missed calls between the daughter and her peers, but also encapsulates the utter disconnect between the mother and daughter in the story. After all," says Nisha, "even an age gap of 20 years can make people feel like they're from two different universes and this happens sometimes in the mother-daughter relationship."
Of Mothers and Others also does sufficient justice to the 'Others'.
It talks of surrogacy-the business of motherhood and the corruption within the system, dealing secondarily with the man-woman dynamic in a fictional story where the woman, by being a surrogate, becomes financially independent of her increasingly withdrawn and resentful husband, in Shake Her: She is Like the Tree that Grows Money!
Tishani Doshi's thought-provoking selected poems The Deliverer and The River of Girls follow the theme of the unwanted status of the girl child in rural and even urban India.
In Name: Amba Dalmia, author Manju Kapoor talks with startling candour of the heart-wrenching pain of losing her older daughter Amba when she was only 21 years old, and the resultant stages of intense grief she felt by outliving her child.
Talking also of the difficulties in the joint adoption of older siblings, the lasting emotional trauma of physical abuse in the mother-child relationship, and even touching upon the matter of women who choose to remain childless much to the resultant disbelief of their family and peers; Of Mothers and Others has clearly veered away from presenting the clichéd and uni-dimensional portrayal of motherhood as a sunny, happy, rewarding state of being. Instead it presents an intellectually stimulating collection of poems and stories exploring motherhood in all its aspects-tender, over-whelming, and sometimes even unwanted. A great read, but to re-iterate, it's not for the faint-hearted.