Musings: Mamma Mia?

By Krishna Pamidi

Exploring the roles of moms around the world

Photo courtesy: Krishna Pamidi

Photo courtesy: Krishna Pamidi


The thought of watching The Avengers: Endgame in just three short months has gotten me musing on superheroes for quite a bit now. So much so that I transitioned from pondering fictional superheroes to real-life superheroes when the time came to, well, muse on something new here. And as soon as I thought of superheroes, only one person jumped right to mind: the amazing mom. I believe my mother and millions of others around the world are genuinely powerful figures who are largely equal to our on-screen superheroes. A particular incident comes running back to me whenever I think of my mom.

Thirteen years ago, I ran helter-skelter after a school bus in an effort to catch it and make my way home — only to trip on loose sand and tear the skin off my knee. I limped home, blood gushing down my right leg. When I got home, no word could escape my young 6-year-old mouth amidst all the uncontrollable bawling. Instantly, my mother sat me down and tried profusely to sooth the pain. Ointments, antibacterials and food seemed to be the cure. I went to bed with my knee resting in her lap that night. It was only years later that I discovered that she had just gotten off the phone with our neighbor that night— a neighbor whose son engaged in a nasty fistfight with me the night before.

That night my mother was most uncharacteristic. If normal behavior had prevailed, I would have been grounded till yesterday but at that moment, when I walked in bloody and crying, I saw the disappointment and general feral rage simply leave her eyes and the overwhelming maternal instincts kick in. Talk about luck.

Actually now that I think about it, that was the most normal thing any mother possibly could’ve and should’ve done. But it was not characteristic especially of my mother for one more reason: that was the first time I thought she did the same thing that any of my other Indian friends’ mothers would do. As I was growing up, I would realize more and more just how different my mom was to them.

She wasn’t made to fit the mold of the Indian mother. She held education in high regard, but not religiously so. She couldn't fathom the behavior of her parallels: they held a more authoritarian role in their children’s lives, an unjustified authoritarian role in her opinion.

‘Talking loudly is not the same as getting your point understood’, she’d say about parents she was familiar with. Smart thing to say right?

What was unfortunate was that she was the only one of her kind, as far as I know.

She does two things impeccably well among a plethora of others. One, she plays a mean game of monopoly and two, she can always see the bigger picture. The latter I can attest to more, because as I grew up, I realized that as the freedom that my Indian friends had was eventually diminishing, I was always able to do more or less whatever I wanted to do. She trusted me enough to ask me about my life and I always felt comfortable enough to share the exciting details of my not-so-exciting life. Looking back, that is possibly the healthiest aspect of my relationship with my mother, because her respect for discretion allowed me to comfortably share the more intimate details of my life.

Things are a lot different on this side of the Atlantic. In the land of the star spangled banner and some of the greatest v8 engines of history, it gets decidedly more straightforward.

The one sweet thing about American mothers is that they never run out of cookies (Thanks Mrs. Martino!). This is especially true when you’re a chubby kid. Not that I was chubby by any means.

In all seriousness however, one of the many things I admire about the American mother, from simply hanging around my American friends’ homes is their ability and willingness to do more. The simple notion of finding a place in society and working tirelessly for a legacy no matter how big or small is simply inspiring for all men and women. And I can say this affected my own home after I saw Mrs. Pamidi transform from the dutiful Hindu wife and mother to a responsible woman who perceived and expected more of herself after spending time with other mothers. More than giving me my freedom and respect, she began elevating her expectations of herself as well.

My mother, Mrs. Pamidi, works at ‘Our Children’s Place’, a small time local daycare centre that looks like something out of ‘Baby’s Day Out.’ She encounters quite a few mothers, all with different stories, but with a similar unique sense of responsibility and care that stretches beyond their own home. She tells me about her conversations with the mayor of the town and the socially active wives of the state senators who are just as much involved in the matters of state as their spouses—and it has led her to do her part.

At the end of the day, she is still Indian. She would ditch all her beloved work and responsibilities for pani puri. She still makes killer Aloo parathas and she can watch entire decades worth of soap operas without moving an inch. She has a soft spot for the motherland and understandably so, but I have never felt as if it did enough for her. From my perspective, I’ve always encountered this dormant but constantly fizzling energy inside of her, an itch to do something beyond taking care of her home and kids, an itch to do something beyond socializing with the local aunties. In many ways she reminds me of Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, the founders of the hit spinning class company Soulcycle. They, too, started their company because they had an itch to make something. Something bigger than themselves.

The way it boils down, for Mrs. Pamidi is quite simple. She may be Indian at heart but she wasn’t just Indian. January 4th 2009, was the first time she had a whiff of American habits and that was in Montana of all places too. The point here is that she always had a sense of belonging In America. She connected well with the American values and found her identity. She went from being my mother to being Mrs. Pamidi, and looking back I realize that if she hadn’t let go of her justified disappointment that day I showed up crying, if she had grounded me till yesterday or if she had fought her maternal instincts, I wouldn’t know that there was more to her. I wouldn’t know that my mother is really more than just my mother.

In “Musings,” sophomore Krishna Pamidi shares a new adventure every week about the grand modesty that is called life by exploring the global twists to universal experiences.