Poster Child

My mother and I partake of a ritual every morning: over steaming mugs of jeera-infused water, we dissect the world. These sessions are therapeutic, but can be funny, speculative, serious, intense, sad, and many things besides. They have served to iron out a lot of my mental flaws, and helped me come to terms with many a heartbreak. Today though. Holy shit.

A family friend is in town. Although she resides in Dubai – which is where the families met and became friends – she comes to Mumbai almost twice a year. This time though, her daughters are in tow. We were friends back in Dubai, but as years have worn on, the friendship has lapsed into an acquaintance. There are many reasons for this, I suppose, and I do not regret it as such.

Her elder daughter was closer, being about a year younger than me. But she has drawn away from me the most. And this is in spite of quite a cordial relationship on social media. So, while I soon stopped expecting her to even call when she was in my city, I was a little surprised that she is here with her mother – who constantly asks me to do stuff for her – and still hasn’t picked up the phone to call.

Again, I put this down to many things, as estrangement [even this weird, social media OK, real relationship NOT OK version] can take many forms and be caused by multiple factors. But my mother’s theory on the matter today blew my mind.

Now, this family has a dad. Obviously. The dad was very fond of us, as a family. Back in Dubai, he was great friends with my father; he often turned to my mother for counsel and spiritual camaraderie; and he actively encouraged his daughter to spend time with me, believing I would be a good influence on her.

This girl was a genuinely nice person, but she wasn’t the dutiful daughter type. She wasn’t interested in religion or her Malayali roots. She didn’t identify with Indian culture, and her father was despairing of her direction. She wants the luxury lifestyle with parties and shopping and friends and shows and hotels and food. There is nothing wrong with either the father’s track nor his daughter’s; but hooboy, the twain were never going to meet.

I exerted no influence on her whatsoever. It was not my place, and she confided in me from time to time. I couldn’t betray that trust by feeding her nuggets that her father thought would bring about a change. Besides, who am I kidding? I was a teenager. There was no way I was a positive influence on anyone.

Anyway, back to the present, and mum and I were talking about these girls being in Mumbai. Then we spoke about another of her friends, whose elder son seems to hate my guts with a vengeance I cannot fathom. I have barely spoken to him on 3 occasions, and that too it was purely transactional. I had to send him something for his father; and the second time we were at his father’s house for lunch. That’s it. But, the guy visibly grits his teeth every time he speaks to me. I just don’t understand why. Geez. Also, I don’t really care.

And then my mother has an epiphany: both these people dislike me because their respective fathers have probably waxed eloquent about my many attributes.

Now this salvo made me sit up. It also made my jaw drop. My eyes may have bugged out as well. Suffice it to say, I was taken back.

“I am a poster child?!” is what I believe I managed to croak out in my infinite shock. “ME?! HOW?!”

My mother ignored me, of course, and continued pondering her train of thought. “Well, they’ve both seen you, and I’m sure they would love their children to be more like you,” she said.

I collapsed into my seat, feeling quite deflated. My mother and I have rows on the regular, where I am always at fault for being: uncaring, selfish, self-absorbed, irritable, having mindsets, being stubborn, and a myriad other things. I have no great opinion of myself as a result, especially since we had had a row just two days before. Let’s just say self-confidence is at a low ebb.

“They should have a little chat with you to see that I am not really worth emulating,” I said, still digesting these revelations.

My mum scowled at me, and the discussion continued.

And so has my amazement.

I cannot believe anyone thinks I am the poster child for a good son/daughter. It is patently absurd. My mother finds a million faults with me every time she gets upset, even sometimes going as far as to say that I treat her very badly and do not care for her at all. This is bad enough. However, I have also had boyfriends’ families feel that I am not good enough for their sons: not traditional enough, etc.

So this poster child theory? Can I just laugh my head off because of my incredulity? Thanks.


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