Daily Recco, June 28: A Mirror Made of Rain, when mom does not know best
For all the trite wisdom on self-love floating around, we have all struggled to love, forgive, accept ourselves; and the story of Noomi Wadia is both cautionary and inspirational.
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Mother, we have been told, knows best. The stereotype of the gentle, selfless, 'Maa' is a favourite in life and in literature. Tujhe sab hai pata, hai na maa.
But what if the mother does not know best? What if her love for you is not selfless? In fact, if Maa is an alcoholic, clutches grudges close to her heart, and is mean, downright cruel?
Naheed Phiroze Patel's debut novel, A Mirror Made of Rain, explores this off-axis world, where young Noomi Wadia is on a giddy path of rebellion and self-destruction, suffocated in her world of “problematic” mother Asha, sweet-but-ineffectual father Jeh, and grandparents who uphold the 'normal' world she both desires and chafes against.
Here are three reasons the book is worth your time.
First is its raw portrayal of mental health. In a world coping with Covid-19 and its aftermath, issues around mental health are going to need all the awareness they can get, and Patel unflinchingly describes how caustic, exhausting, mental illness can be, for the patient as well as the caregiver.
Second is for the very important lesson the book holds – no love will fully heal you till you love, or at least accept, yourself. The ignored and lonely Noomi tries to attract love in return for sex, right from her early teens. Her mother Asha has been so long deprived of love she compulsively hurts those who love her, while being willing to make 'compromises' for company. But the hope of redemption for both women lies in learning to love themselves. For all the trite wisdom on self-love floating around on the internet, we have all struggled to love, forgive, accept ourselves, and the story of the Wadias is both cautionary and inspirational.
Third is for the book's examination of a mother's love – the enormous expectations, the quick condemnation, the guilt, and the never-ending responsibilities that come with it. The book, like life, has several models of motherhood and several motherly figures, all unique, none flawless, none without merits. But it is Asha and Noomi's relationship, as they switch roles of the caregiver and the one needing attention, that is the ugliest, yet the most forgiving portrayal of motherhood. Asha and Noomi are mirrors of each other, mirrors made of rain, forever changing and re-forming, distorting and exalting the other.
In the pandemic, whether you are home alone and lonely, or negotiating a new proximity with family, Noomi and her mom have lessons you probably need, for yourself and for others.