Growing up I used to dread the PTA meetings. Not because I was a poor student-I was stellar, even if I say so myself :D- but because my mother would come to the meetings. My mom was and continues to be a dedicated parent. She was always there, through all the meetings and sports coaching and tournaments and fancy dress competitions. She picked out poems for my recitation competitions and taught me science and maths when I found it tough. She was committed to the growth of her children. But I didn't like her coming to my school. Because everyone would look and her and then exclaim to me 'You are a photocopy of your mother!' And I hated that. The tween-age me didn't want to look anything like her. Why? Because I didn't find my mother beautiful. And if I looked like her it meant I was also not beautiful, I reasoned.
One day the veil lifted and I saw my mother for what she truly is- a beautiful woman. I was going through her wedding pictures and it struck me, 'My god, this woman is gorgeous! Why did I ever think she was not beautiful?' I carried that guilt around for a long time, of being such a bad daughter, thinking that my mother is not pretty. Then, over conversations with my friends and relatives, I found that this is the case with a lot of girls, who grow up thinking that their mothers are not pretty. I think I know why that is. Because a lot of our mothers don't find themselves beautiful. They were never made to feel beautiful. No one has told them they are. And we, the daughters, have not heard our fathers or anyone else call them beautiful. So we internalise, falsely, the idea that since no one is complimenting them, they probably are not beautiful. What I heard growing up was that being dark means you are unattractive. And my mother is dark and I was dark. So we both were unattractive, in my naive mind.
It took me more than a decade and a lot of unlearning of toxic ideas to see the truth. Being dark or fair doesn't have anything to do with beauty. My mother, with her doe like eyes, arched brows, long luscious locks, and beautiful dusky skin, was so so beautiful. And I never saw it. And I never told her. Instead, I made her feel ugly by being offended when people told me I look like her. I should have been ecstatic, because that is the best compliment they could give me. I wish I'd said, 'Really?! Thank you! My mother is gorgeous.' I wish I'd told my mother that she is beautiful. Like she used to tell me when I was growing up. When she used to tell me that I have pretty eyes, I used to shrug it off, thinking she's just saying it to make me feel better. But she meant it, and her words did help me out of a very insecure phase eventually. And I, I never returned the favour. I wish my mother would look at herself with my eyes now. I wish she had found herself beautiful. I wish I can go back and make things right. I can wish a lot of things, but it's in what *I* do that I can make a change. Starting with seeing myself as beautiful. By appreciating and lifting up the women around me. By not falling to the temptation of comparing my body with those in billboards and pin up posters. And if I have daughters, helping them see themselves and other women as beautiful, in whatever sizes, shapes, hues they come.
And never, ever, berating myself in front of them. As for my mother, she continues to be my biggest cheerleader, unflinchingly by my side. She has invested every ounce of her energy in the wellbeing of her family, a debt we can not repay in a thousand lifetimes. Today her hands are calloused from decades of hard work and has crows feet when she smiles, but she is the most beautiful woman in my life. She is my anchor, the one I return to after touching faraway shores. She is my string, allowing me to float freely in the sky. She is the candle, burning herself to give me light. My mother is beautiful, inside out.
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