Mothers, Sisters and Others

Light of Truth

Prema Jayakumar

A Mother’s Day has just passed and it is an apt time to talk of mothers. Not just of mothers but other women in our lives, celebrate the roles they play, especially in the lives of other women. The time has said, the Walrus in Alice, to speak of many things. So, let us join the Walrus and speak of these things and celebrate them.
It was the American feminist Robin Morgan who said that Sisterhood is powerful. You ask any woman who has talked when at the end of her tether to a sister or a close female friend, and what she took away from that conversation and you will that she says she took away strength and lost some of her tension. The problems would remain, because very often the listener cannot provide practical, physical help, but the fact that someone listened, empathised, perhaps advised, make you better equipped to deal with your present problems. And this quality is sometimes there even in chance encounters between women too. And make no mistake, there is a sorority that is very active. This is most visible when a woman is either pregnant or travelling with a small child. There is a very interesting advertisement on television that underlines this. A woman with a baby, sitting in a first class waiting room, drops a feeding bottle and the sweeper comes and picks it up for her, and they exchange a few words on babies. It looks entirely natural, because it is natural, universal.
A Stanford University study has been doing the rounds of Whatsapp. The statement appears to have been made by the head of the department of Psychology. I don’t know about its authenticity, but it sounded interesting and rather convincing. They were running through some data regarding longevity and found that if a man wanted to live a long and healthy life, he should get married. Married men scored higher on health and length of life. But for a woman, the parameter that decided her chances of living longer and healthier was different. It was not marriage, even a good marriage. It was the bond she shared with the other women in her life. It might be mothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, but the constant female influences in her life ensure health and a long life.
He explained, women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Just as physical exercise is good to keep your body in good trim, social contact with people you are comfortable with is also important to keep your mind in good trim. This appears to work better with other women rather than a mixed group. The un-stressful and supportive company where you relax creates serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of wellbeing. Once again, according to him, women have relationships that are about feelings, whereas men often form relationships around activities. I never did get the name of the professor, but the theory seems to make sense. I say it makes sense because friends women make seem to last longer than the friends men make. Changes in lifestyles and jobs do not seem to make the same difference to the friendships among women. And in my experience, when there are men involved in such close groups, the friendships share this character too.
The contribution of mothers, wives, in the lives of their children and husbands have been acknowledged and sung about. Adisankara himself has said ‘Ekasyapi na garbhabharabharanaklesasya yasyakshamo datum nishkritim unnatopi tanayo tasyai jananiai namah’ (No son, however great he is, is capable of repaying his mother for even one of the difficulties she went through to bear him and bring him up, so let us say namah to the mother) Various poets in different languages have joined the chorus. Motherhood has been glorified and almost made into a cult, sometimes a bondage and guilt-bearing state. But the gifts provided by friendship, be it among siblings or friends, have hardly been acknowledged.
So, thinking past the Mother’s Day this year, let us celebrate the unsung sorority of women, which provides support when needed, balm to wounded hearts, and just pleasure and relaxation in ordinary times.

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