Saturday, July 26, 2008

Raja Ravi Verma’s painting of Sakuntala, the prime character of Abhijñānaśākuntalam by poet Kalidasa . Sakuntala is the lady to whom her mother Menaka left after being realised that she could not rear her daughter. (Source : Wikipedia )


To compound matters, I had a tempestuous relationship with my mother, and feared the inevitable kickback sure to follow such a final and dramatic departure from daughterhood. What if, instead of joy and excitement, my mother felt threatened by the baby, and pushed even further into the margins of my life? What if, then, out of jealousy and her own discontent, she launched covert or not-so-covert strikes against my irrefutable separateness, now symbolized so completely by becoming a mother myself?
Because mothers make us, because they map our emotional terrain before we even know we are capable of having an emotional terrain, they know just where to stick the dynamite. With a few small power plays—a skeptical comment, the withholding of approval or praise—a mother can devastate a daughter. Decades of subtle undermining can stunt a daughter, or so monopolize her energy that she in effect stunts herself. Muted, fearful, riddled with self-doubt, she can remain trapped in daughterhood forever, the one place she feels confident she knows the rules.
(Excerpt from Rebecca Walker’s Baby Love : Publisher: Riverhead Books : 2007)
The conflict between American mother-daughter feminists Alice Walker and Rebecca Walker is well known chapter for Western feminism . Alice Walker , the mother , the second wave feminist , obviously had an anti mother hood ideas as the other western feminists of her time .But Rebecca Walker, her daughter and a feminist of third wave discussed in her book ‘Baby Love’ about how motherhood freed women like herself from their roles as daughters, and how this provided the much-needed perspective to heal themselves from damaged mother-daughter relationships and claim their full adulthood. What happened? This latest article is mired in unresolved childish hurt and anger (especially in the chapter “How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart”), which would be all well and good except that she strikes out at her mother by striking out at feminism. I personally think, the bitterness between her and her mother, as any woman who has ever fallen out with her mother knows, it is a very painful experience and note to self, one that probably shouldn’t be written about too much in public.
In her book Baby Love, Rebecca Walker writes directly about unadulterated excitement and pride about becoming a mother .Rebecca argues that motherhood frees us from childhood, it is the most important step a woman can take because it creates another human being and because it makes a woman an adult. I found this to be true for myself .In one of my story AMRUTA PRATIKSHA RE (Waiting for Manna )(1989), published much more before the Baby Love, where I want to discuss the queries after a lifetime of wondering whether to have children, wondering if the sacrifices are worth it, wondering if life is full to bursting enough already - how does our generation of women decide to have children?
Though I find myself nearer to Rebecca than to Alice on mother hood topic and I have told before that the motherhood-sexuality conflict is created by only Western Feminist, but for me Alice and Rebecca’s conflict is a different issue from these motherhood-sexuality (or to say Feminism) split .The conflict of mother and daughter sometimes creates the discomforts of their inequality by falling back on the motherhood mystique .
It is also a strange fact to note that Alice Walker always tried to avoid the conflict between her and Rebecca, in public. I think, the conflict between the two personalities is not due to theoretical inclination but rather due to a personal and psychological reason. Rebecca is a bisexual and was known for her relationship with Meshell Ndegeocello, but she became pregnant with her boy friend and as a mother Alice perhaps couldn’t bear this status .There are always hidden expectations on both sides. A mother has some expectations by which she tries to measure her daughter with that scale . She always wishes her daughter to be disciplined and bar her daughter to do all those activities which she has not done in her life. Similarly, a daughter has also some expectations from her mother and she always thinks her mother too old to lead a personal and being youthful getting attention from the public .These opposite polar thoughts make both mother and daughter to possess ambivalent love/hate relationship.

There are competitions and jealousy which operate between every mother and her young adult daughter .They have tendencies to deny each other’s private lives .I don’t know practically what is the relation between mothers and daughtes in Western Culture .I find ,it is quite natural for a family in Western world , where a girl could invite her boy friend to their home .But in Eastern world, such possibilities are very rare happenings and though the urban upper middle class people allow love marriages but still dating of their daughter with her boy friend always makes the parents to keep the news secret from the society and a girl can’t dare to invite her boy friend to their drawing room .In such cases, it is a normal phenomena that a girl couldn’t imagine her mother would have any extra marital relationship or her mother would have any boy friend .On the same time a mother also always dislikes to find her daughter spending more times over phone talking to any stranger . The fashionable dresses or make ups may also create jealousy in a mother’s mind But this is not all. I have witnessed a good friendship between mother and daughter, where the mother tries to make her failure dreams through her daughter and we see a very unstylish mother tries to make her daughter more fashionable and smarter . In one of my story AGNEYA GIRI (Volcano) I tried to paint such type of psychological agony of mother daughter conflicts/.friendships.
The relation between a married daughter with her mother even more critical, fragile and competitive . The married daughter always considered by her mother as ‘other’.The mother and the daughter have two different families and there concerns are also different and hence more to sharing the utilities an undecided jealousy also develops in the same time .But no way this is any final statement to say that the ‘love’ between mother and daughter is in diminished stage after the marriage of the later..In total scenario of Rebecca’s blaming her mother depicts the jealousy , where Alice’s mature mind as well as the ‘love’ for her daughter’s carrier made her to avoid these tactfully from the public .
The mother of a young adult girl had been to pass through two phase, a girl hood and also a daughter in law hood and at this phase she finds herself nearer to the white haired aged woman and is about to enjoy all freedoms those are meant for masculine world . So when she thinks over her daughter’s future life she tries to mould her daughter to cope herself in daughter in law hood environment without suffering in any socio-psychological setback.

The social structures in Eastern world demands the girl to act more as a daughter in law in a family than to a wife of some one .So, unlike to Western girls the south Asian girls are commonly depicted as requiring veiling and modesty. There are dress decorum, speech censorship and even the movement restrictions. For the married woman (in case of daughter in law) , they have to cover their heads while appearing to any stranger or elder person and few decades back, in the rural areas , they were not allowed to roam on the village lane but one can see the rules were not so strict for the unmarried girls and for the older woman., who left their homes to roam village lanes with their heads and faces uncovered .Even the white haired aged women can roam publicly baring to the waist on hot days, without regard for showing their long-dry breasts. The younger adults’ views of older women as having the power to limit a daughter-in-law’s movements, to interfere with a son’s marital intimacies, and the like; yet the older women usually speak of feeling that they were losing in the contest for a son’s affection, loyalty, and favor. Indian widowhood rarely distinguished between the consequences of widowhood for a woman in her youth and for a woman past menopause, although one can find striking differences. Older women were, in important ways, “like men,” implying that what differentiates a “man” from a “woman” is not constant over the life course. This is I think a different social scenario, which makes South Asian Feminism a distinct different from that of Western.
The Western Society has been changed a lot since Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”. Rather we can find the similar society that the novel depicted in Asian countries where the daughter’s marriage is still remains with the parent’s responsibilities. In The Joy Luck Club (1989), by Amy Tan, the characters Suyuan and June have a mother-daughter relationship fraught with conflict, but ultimately rooted in deep love and commitment for one another. Amy Tan , Chinese American immigrant writer also focuses on mother-daughter relationships in her another novel The Kitchen God's Wife .In my two of short stories AGNAYAGIRI (Volcano) and DUKHA APRAMITA (Sorrows Unending ) I focus on the mother daughter relationship .But in Western contemporary fictions the mother and daughter relationships appear on totally another dimension to which it is difficult to accept for an Eastern mind .For example in the novel ‘The Horse Whisperer’ by Nicholas Evans ,the mother Annie falls in love with her daughter Grace’s fiancé Tom .Relationships change due to mishaps such as accidents leading to physical disabilities. In the novel, The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans, the relationship between a mother daughter change drastically for the better after the daughter is burdened with a physical disability and it creates a lot of mother daughter conflict .This type of conflict though would not be ruled out in Eastern social scenario, but I think the Mother-daughter conflict sources and responses among Western families are still not well understood. Conflict sources were mothers' unsolicited advice, daughters and mothers not living up to expectations of the other, and daughters' independence of mothers. Responses to conflict included voicing concerns, displaying loyalty, and utilizing the assistance of family. That is why the conflict between Alice walker and Rebecca Walker is discussed, and suggestions for future research on mother-daughter conflict within the Western context are provided.