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Being the board mother
By: Shefali Tripathi Mehta
The end of the academic year requires me to relinquish my title. Surprisingly, I am reluctant to let go of that which I was as reluctant to assume. That of a Board Mother.
No mistake here. Not ‘bored’ mother. Yeah, I know many. I’m them plus this — Board. This title came by virtue of the daughter’s appearance in her first Board exams.
I laughed off the initial dose of friendly dos and don’ts. A fellow Board Mother was getting the house painted before the academic year. In other Board homes birthdays were being celebrated, relatives being visited, vacations taken and books read — all a year in advance. Never were life’s forever-pending joys and jobs so readily and hurriedly being checked off.
During the early part of the session, we took a few breaks. Now and then. On weekends and on longer weekends. It’s easy to lose count when you’re a Board Mum. You can’t be bothered with the small stuff. And it’s ALL small stuff compared to the Boards. Then a friend enquired if the breaks and travels were not ‘distracting’ for the daughter. Distracting from? Nitwit that I am, I shot off before I could gather my Board motherly persona. Now she thinks my long-term (Board results stick for life, you see) memory loss is a definite distress signal.
I must be doing something dreadfully wrong! The thought engulfed me ominously. Visiting the other board homes, I realised that ours was acutely devoid of a broad Board feel. Giving myself to hyperventilate every now and then, I tried to uphold an alarmed air about the house. Only the air was alarmed. No movies, no celebrations, no eating out, the teacher told me in the raised-index-finger tone after the pre-pre-pre Boards. She also set a strict study schedule for daughter. Eight hours of study every day. There are eight hours in a day? This time, I kept the trap shut.
My days dragged. I lapped up film reviews not worrying if they revealed too much. No way was I going to catch a movie. Television-watching was restricted to the news, volume to a suggestion. It’s another thing that the Board daughter took a 15 minute break from studying every five minutes and watched TV. Needing fresh air, she strolled out for a couple of hours every evening, while I made badam shake and besan ladoos. Don’t shout at her, she needs all the TLC she can get, the grandmums reminded in glaring-eyed tones over phone. And the phone! I was allowed to hide under the covers and talk only if my withdrawal symptoms threatened to come between my daughter and her studies.
I never really chummed up with neighbours. Actually if they wanted to, with me, they’d need nice, heavy ice picks. But suddenly, I was so exposed! Every time I stepped out and noticed a movement at a distance, it quickly metamorphosized into a neighbour outfitted with a triumphant smile and walking straight up to me. So what if I didn’t know them from their block — Pine or Needle, or by face — the fighting fellows of somewhere upstairs or the barking dog dudes from somewhere downstairs. They knew me. Board Mum was an invisible marathon bib I was wearing at all times.