And so the Internet fable goes like this:
“A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans.
She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minute she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee into a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.”
You can read the remaining story here
The story to me is interesting at many levels:
- The mother talks about the possible but limited identities that a daughter can embrace in the face of diversity.
- All the possible identities are perishable foods which do not have a brain, body, nervous system of their own. They are at the mercy of the hands that throw them into the boiling water.
- So what does it matter whether one is egg, carrot or coffee beans?
And then I wondered
- Why did the mother not tell her daughter about the other options that existed? For instance, she could have used the analogy of the jungle and told her daughter about the herd of elephants always led by the Matriarch. And how under her able leadership, once Kandula the Asian elephant strategically placed blocks one above the other and propping himself on them was able to reach fruit far beyond his reach.
- Why did she not tell her daughter about the lioness who was always lithe and super agile? And who could blend seamlessly with the surroundings? So that she could pounce upon her prey with effortless ease? or about the antelopes who never learned from their mistakes? And visited the same watering hole hours within one of their herd members being killed?
- Why didn’t the mother tell her daughter about the Jaguar cubs? Who after 6 months of getting trained under their mother to thrive and flourish in the forests and create their own lessons in independence? Or about the owls who are fiercely quiet in their flight and who have no qualms about divorcing their mates in the hope of a better life.
I remember when the lockdown was first announced, for the few days I would wake up with anxiety every morning and set about my cleaning process. I was forever sweeping, making beds, doing laundry, mopping and removing cobwebs. It was as though I wanted to prove to the world that I was a super homemaker despite the lockdown, despite COVID, despite everything.Then one evening I sat on the bed and asked myself what was I identifying at the moment. Truth be told I had no clue. All I had wanted to do was control something that was beyond my control.
Did I want to be like the tossed coffee beans altering my surrounding but losing myself in the process?
Today being Mother’s day, I wondered how I would have responded had my daughter come to me with a similar problem. I would have perhaps served her carrot pudding along with an omelette and coffee. I would have then asked her what would she prefer to be? A sunflower that turns her face towards the Sun? Or a rose that preserves her fragrance? She would have tossed her head back and laughed out aloud. Because in her mind, she would have already chosen to be someone else. A banyan tree perhaps. That multiplies in spirit every day, every moment. I would of course not know. But I would be okay with me being ignorant. For me it is enough that she connects with the unlimited-ness of her choices. Because you see that is what being resilient means.
Happy Mother’s Day.
©: Sridevi Datta