When my mother came to Mumbai in the 1989 she did not own a jeans in her wardrobe. She came to Mumbai from a relatively smaller town Gwalior, in Madhya Pradesh. My mother did not ever feel the need to wear a jeans in Gwalior. She was comfortable in her long skirts, sarees, salwar-kameez and long dresses. When she came to Mumbai after her marriage she had only one aim in mind to get her Master’s in Music and Physical Education. Mumbai changed her. When she took the train from Andheri to Marine Lines where her college was she saw and met women who were free, liberated and confident. Here fashion was an important thing. It was not just about wearing a saree but more about why wear a particular saree with a particular bindi. Fashion was a very individualistic statement for women in Mumbai. For my mother nothing resonated more with her spirit than a Denim Jeans.
I now know that a jeans for my mother was a metaphor for her struggle, her hard work, her independence, her will to never give up and the fabric that made her feel very comfortable to pursue her dreams. Can a pair of jeans really mean so much? For my mother who came from Gwalior to this mad city apparently it did!
My mother after getting her degree worked in famous schools in Mumbai- King George in Dadar Hindu colony, Mahila Sangh and Arya Vidya Mandir in Bandra for the next few years. In all these schools my mother was a music and a P.T. teacher. She was the most sort out teacher for both her staff and her students. (One of her students was Prateik Babbar and she had met Smita Patil when she had come to pick Prateik from school.) I remember going to her school sometimes and seeing her surrounded by a flock of students all the time. It didn’t take me too long to realise that my mother was a rock star in a denim jeans and it was an absolute privilege to be known as Aparna teacher’s daughter.
Everything changed for her when my father was transferred to Pune after living in Mumbai for seven years. My mother didn’t like the city too much. The culture was different. People were too laid back for her compared to Mumbai’s hustle. Being an independent woman all her life she quickly started interviewing in schools. She cracked the first school she interviewed for and became a teacher in Sharada Vidyalaya. She worked there for a few years and then something happened that changed her life.
I was 17 years old and playing and preparing for the Junior World Championships in Bangalore. My sister was giving her tenth standard Prelims. My mother was on leave from school to be with my sister to help her prepare. One morning, my mother got a call on the landline from my teammate that I had broken my knee and was admitted in the SAI hospital. When I spoke to my mother on the phone a few hours later it was the first time I heard fear in her voice. I had never known that emotion in her before that for 17 years of my life. She was always a super woman for me who feared nothing.
After my surgery I came home on crutches with my mother in the Udyan train from Bangalore. After coming back from Bangalore I felt a change in her. My injury and the fear of me never playing again had shook her quite a bit. She decided she will not go back to school and give all her attention to my injury and rehab. She was with me all through the process. My diet, my exercises, my medication, my pain, my tears everything. I recovered and went back to training and then eventually competing. My mother though never went back to work after that.
In the last 12 years my mother went from being known as Aparna teacher to being known as her daughters mother and Manager Saheb’s wife. The Aparna before the Mutatkar got lost somewhere. After she left her job all her jeans were back in the cupboard she would never wear them because may be she didn’t feel the same in them. Why did my mother never work or do anything remotely selfish for herself in all these years?, is a question I am still finding an answer to. When I think of her sacrifice it always makes a dent in my heart.
The great thing about time though is that it has this amazing power to heal and change. After my younger sister’s marriage I sat down with my mother and we talked. This is what she said to me, ” This is the first time in all these years that I feel free. Really free. I think I have done a great job of making all three of you (my father, my sister and myself) decent human beings. Though I have no idea who I am or who I was 20 years ago. I want to sing, to dance, to teach,to travel, and write again. I want to be selfish and do something because I want to do it.” I listened to this and I told her that all three of us would stand by everything she wanted to do. We owe that to her.
In the time that has passed since my sister’s wedding my mother has joined a yoga course and is looking to be a certified yoga teacher. She has pulled down the harmonium from the closet and started recording her old songs. She has started writing again. She and my father are planning to start a catering business after my father’s retirement in the next two years. She is planning trips with her old friends. She is slowly getting her confidence back. When she sent me a picture of herself in her old jeans, the Aparna before the Mutatkar came back to me in a flash. I realised that a jeans is a metaphor for my mother. I can’t wait to be known as Aparna’s daughter again. Aparna is slowly finding her way back and she is doing it in a pair of jeans.
It is really never too late to rediscover yourself or for that matter wear that old pair of jeans kept somewhere deep in your closet. Go Aparna!