As Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself thinking of Nirupa Roy, the ever-giving celluloid mother who dominated my Bollywood-saturated childhood. In Amar Akbar Anthony, there is a scene where a blind Roy has been struck by a car, and her three sons, who represent the major religious communities of India, give her blood through direct transfusion. The sons are able to save their mother, Bharati.
Bharati. As in Bharat Maata. Mother India.
Saving Mother feels good.
Which is probably why the government of Maharashtra has taken it upon itself to save the Bharatiya gai maata or Mother Indian cow. Again, it probably feels good to exert some regulatory muscle on her behalf and ban beef.
There is rhetoric of saving mothers all over the place.
The environmental movement is trying to save Mother Earth. We are told that we have been bad children, and plundered the gifts of our mother wantonly. We have been rapacious, over-consuming little tykes, sucking dry the source.
Saving Mother Earth would feel good.
The reproductive rights movement is trying to save Purvi Patel. In Indiana, a jury sentenced Purvi Patel to twenty years in prison for feticide. Deborah Tuerkheimer, in an article titled “How Not to Protect Pregnant Women,” writes that “special victim status for fetuses sets a dangerous precedent.” (New York Times, April 13, 2015).
Even though Purvi Patel might have been a “bad” mother, saving her would feel good.
Sometimes, though, it’s a bit more complicated. Manil Suri points out in the New York Times (“A Ban on Beef is Not the Answer,” April 17, 2015) that the beef ban jeopardises the livelihood of Hindu dalits as well as those of other religious communities. In our rush to protect our icons of maternal selflessness, we have to be careful not to jeopardize the rights of others.
So, on Mother’s Day, call your mother. Send her flowers and chocolates. Make her a special breakfast. But, unless she specifically asks for this, feel free not to save her.
Geetika Pathania Jain is Managing Editor of India Currrents Magazine.