I woke up one December morning, groggy and very sleepy. With my eyes half closed, I walked into our living room to find Maa sitting with a cup of tea in her hands and tears rolling down her eyes. My brain tried to think of all possible reasons which could have caused this shower of tears. Puzzled, worried and not sure if I wanted to know, I enquired. I got no reply, but the tears had now graduated to audible sobs. Finally, after a little prodding, she said, “I couldn’t sleep all night. I don’t want you to be a lawyer. I have seen those lawyers who sit under an umbrella outside the district court. I really can’t bear my daughter joining them”. “Phew! This can be handled”, I thought, and it was. After some education (to the unexposed field of law beyond the small town of Korba), a few magazine articles, and a trip to National Law School, Bangalore, she had accepted my choice. That was in the year 2002 when I was in my 8th standard. Since then, I have seen those teary showers and heard about the sleepless nights quite a few times:
1) When I chose to stay with my grandparents (especially my hard-to-get-along-with grandfather) in Bangalore for my 11th and 12th standard so that I have access to law entrance coaching classes. “How will you adjust and manage”, she cried. With ups and downs, I actually survived the two years with my sanity mostly intact (thanks to my amazing grandmother!).
2) In law school, I started riding a motorbike and wanted to buy one for myself. “I don’t want to lose you in an accident”, she wept. She got her way, and I was rendered bike-less for life.
3) When she found out I had been depressed in college and was seeing a therapist. “I wish we lived in Bangalore”, she moaned. Secretly, I was glad that I could deal with my depression in my own way and at my own pace.
4) When I told her about a couple of my failed relationships. “What was lacking in our upbringing?”, she questioned. “Boyfriends?! This is not what we expected from you!”. I am not sure if boyfriend was the problem, or the “s” at the end of it. Anyway, it was actually a blessing to know what kind of person I absolutely did not want in my life.
5) When I made a trip to Goa to meet a stranger with whom I largely had a telephonic relationship and who was a Haryanvi from Delhi (imagine the state of my poor Kannadiga mother!). “How can you go alone? Will he marry you?! But he is from Delhi! Do his parents know?!”, and she went on. The boy turned out to be the most amazing person I know, who not only married me but also turned out to be my dear mother’s dream son-in-law.
Do consider the list only illustrative! But after every instance once the tears were gone, the sleep cycle completed, sanity prevailed. My mother had progressively started to realize that she had raised me well, made me a strong and independent woman, like her, who knows how to steer her way across the ocean of life. She trusted me, a little more every time, with my own life and at least attempted to consider that every decision I made would have some amount of perception and thought.
I was in my third year of working as a corporate lawyer. Now in Delhi, married, earning much more than any above average software engineer and taking fancy vacations with my husband, I was her ideal daughter. All she could have hoped for. It was September of 2015. I called Maa to tell her that I had just put in my papers. Knowing the long hours that I had been working, she was extremely supportive to the extent that she was relieved that I had decided to take a break. She said, “A couple of months break before you go back to a law firm would really help you cherish your job more”. “Of course, I like corporate law and I plan to join the workforce in January”, I confirmed.
A month later, I went to Korba to meet my folks. That evening I wanted to break the big news to them- dinner time conversation, I resolved. At around 6pm, I overheard Maa talking to her student’s mother on the phone. “I think Misha should also consider law as an option. It is a really good field to be in. My daughter, in fact, is currently in town. Misha can come meet her any day”, she said proudly. Okay, that just did not make things easy. Forget a handkerchief to wipe the potential tears, I geared myself up with a couple of towels and thought of the old uncle, who ran the 24-hour pharmacy, who could supply me with sleeping pills for the sleepless nights Maa was about to have, thanks to my news! But the inevitable dinner table conversation had to happen. “Maa”, I started. “You remember the spiritual program Pankaj and I went to last week.” Pause. “You know what good came of it, Pankaj finally gave me his DSLR camera to play with.” Everyone knew Pankaj’s camera was his prized possession, not to be meddled by clumsy mortals like me. “I have recently been experimenting with it a lot and have been reading up quite a bit.” My parents were enjoying their meal, happy to listen to their daughter’s stories, which they had missed. “You know the camera really calms me down and makes me happy”, I continued. “You should also try to meditate!”, my mother interrupted, “It will help you be calm”. “Well, sure. Anyway, I have decided that I want to change my profession and become a photographer, a wedding photographer.” I looked up at my parents, who were still trying to process what had happened. So, I decided to continue. “Photography is exciting, there is so much to learn, I would be doing creative work, I would meet new people, I would be amongst families so no safety issues, and I would be amongst people in love on their happiest days. All in all, the positive energy will energize me and our lives”, I listed. The quiet in the room made me realize I was in the most crucial negotiation meeting of my life. After a minute, my dad asked “Have you spoken to Pankaj about it?”. “Of course, I have! I live with the man, he knew the minute I knew.” Maa was ready to break her silence, but against my anticipation, she calmly asked me, “Are you sure? Will you be happy? Will you be independent?”. “Yes, it will take some time to earn money but I think this is what I want to do and I have thought it through.” After another half an hour of discussion, surprisingly like any regular topic, we had moved on to other topics. But life had taught me my lessons. I knew I had to wait till morning to watch the tears and hear about the sleepless night.
I woke up the next morning to find my parents enjoying a chirpy banter and their morning tea. I joined them. At a serene moment, Maa looked at me and said, “We have confidence in you and we know you will be fine”. That was all I needed to hear before I officially sealed the deal of becoming Rachita Nadig, the photographer.
After a year or so, Pankaj also took a sabbatical and we moved to Goa. Work continued in Delhi (which still has a home) and other cities and I travelled a lot every month. One day, my childhood friend called me and asked “Didn’t aunty say anything about your move?”. I told him, “After her cool reaction to my career change, I think the fact I got married and did not turn out to be a lesbian is Maa’s greatest relief. Every other ‘shock’ now is just an expected turn.” He laughed and agreed (PS: I am pretty sure, even in that case she would eventually be okay with it).
I know Maa sleeps well now, and not just that, she is proud of me.
Rachita Nadig (Author)
Lawyer turned photographer | Storyteller