Norah L. Tochhawng

Indraprastha College for Women, New Delhi, India

I am my mother.

I have her hands and my mouth settles into a quiet frown as the day grows longer.

When I’m tired and my legs ache from the weight of the children I bore,

I sit at the dining table and make myself tea – sweet, creamy and piping hot.

The mirror tells me a story I wish weren’t mine.

My skin, loose and coloured with weird lines and scars, has sagged from the burden of being a mother.

The image of youth is still a plague in my head.

And all the dreams I had to keep aside,

All the loving and the laughing that had awaited my arrival,

My whole life kept behind me so that I may wed.

The responsibilities I keep, the expectations I desire to meet,

Etched on my flesh like when my daughters drew on the plain white walls of our tiny apartment.

Some days, I find myself all alone in bed – cold and confused.

The tolls of my marriage gnaw at us and drive us apart.

I wonder then if I ever knew love at all.

When I have lived all my life, is this all that there is to it?

I cannot accept that the love I have for my daughters might be the only kind of love I’ll ever know.

I have my mother’s lips and sometimes, I speak like her.

My tone gets low and weary when I worry,

Then loud and piercing when my daughters hurt me.

I try to hurt them like they might know better.

The years keep slipping away from me and I forget who I am.

My daughters shape themselves into the kind of women they would’ve liked me to be.

I can barely recognise myself.

When I look at them I see all that I was and then, all that I could have been.

They have my hands, my lips and my eyes

And they tell stories and love and laugh.

I try to hold on to the moments we have

But they suffocate under my grip.

So, I let them go and set them free

And I can only hope that they love me enough to remember me.

Then ensues that lonesome and longing wait,

For them to come and remind me a little of the love we used to keep.

I am my daughter.

I have my mother’s hands and my father’s smile.

I care about the world and I get caught up in the dreadful tide of change.

There’s this longingness for a future built on better grounds than what was given to me.

I believe there’s a bigger purpose in life and I chase it like I might lose sight of it all at once.

I’m scared to meet my mother’s eyes because they remind me of what life might do to you.

Oh, but I love her, I do, I love her till my bones ache

But I cannot love her enough to be her.

I claw at my flesh and I put on clothes that fit me weirdly.

And when I bring myself to look in the mirror, I can’t help but hate it all.

I have my mother’s hips; I have her thighs.

I have her belly and now, they are starting to have their lines.

I love my mother, I love her, I do!

But I can’t help depriving myself of nurture, of love, of food.

I can’t bear looking like her

Else my future might look like hers too.

I am my mother’s daughter.

I walk like her.

I put one foot in front of the other, with my head tilted to the side.

My limbs are taking me down the path that she knows all too well.

Part of her wants me to, but part of her is barring me,

Part of me is wanting her and part of me is fleeing.

I have an abundance of dreams – some great expectations – that I am so very determined to conquer.

And with my mother’s love heavy on my back, I trudge, I falter, I persist.

The years are only just slipping away; I and my future with them.

When I stand up and cross boundaries and dance,

The world cradles me in her arms and loves me so very gently.

Sometimes I feel that I might make it out of that abyss of longingness.

I cannot be my mother.

I cannot be my mother.

I cannot be my mother.

And yet I am, I have her eyes. 

I have her lips, her hands, her belly and her thighs. 

When I grow tired from the weight of the world, 

I drink tea at the dining table – sweet, creamy and piping hot.

At 3 am, I am restless, cold and confused.

I carry my mother’s thoughts and worries,

I carry them because I have come to realise that they were always mine.

As time wedges itself between us, 

My mother is slowly weakened by her maturity – the kind that only comes with age.

And as she leaves her youth behind,

She’s unaware that it’s being passed on.

And when I look in the mirror, I cry a little.

I am my mother.

I am my mother and not just my mother’s daughter.

I am my mother and I have her life.

I live as she might have and I love as she does.

And when I feel the tides of change rushing in and drowning me

I run back to her like a child, like a leech,

And I feed on the love she always keeps for me.