A Working Mom is a “Soti Hui Sherni”. Don’t Mess With Her


A Working Mom is a “Soti Hui Sherni”. Don’t Mess With Her

Illustration: Akshita Monga

There are two kinds of sleeping animals you should never, ever provoke for fear of tremendous reprisal: One is a lioness, the other is a working mom. If you do, however, make this grave mistake, then God alone save you from the wrath. I discovered the “soti hui sherni” in me a few weeks ago, when my humongous Mumbai society decided to have an annual cultural programme, where cultural and sport activities are organised with a degree of professionalism that would put IIFA and IPL to shame and everyone from zero to 100 years old is expected to participate.

My son is three, and I was told that he would be participating in the fancy-dress competition, the only one he and his peers were eligible for. A group of moms decided that better than sending a young child on stage alone, with blinding lights and loud music, it might be a good idea to send them as a group. They’d feel confident and perform better. Sounds great right? I thought so too, considering I am a working mom who works a manic job at a TV production house. I am about as aware of these important intra-society milestones as my three-year-old is aware of the pros and cons of investing in cryptocurrency.

A well-meaning neighbour mommy, aware of my plight, decided to pull me into the WhatsApp group consisting of six moms who had grouped their children together to perform under one highly original theme. In fact, it made me wonder why no one had ever thought of it before and made movies and sold merchandise around it. It was… superheroes! I was hardly in a position to snark at it – rather, I was happy my child would, for a change, be a part of something.

At this point, it is important to introduce you to the WhatsApp group’s admin, Mrs C, a mother of two. As is the case with these responsibilities, Mrs C was under a cute misconception that being the admin equalled being the monitor of the mommy class, with unlimited power. I should have had an inkling about this the day she called for a meeting at her place to “discuss and decide” the order and music of the performance, how to prep our kids, just short of taking a workshop on “How to raise children to give Ted Talks by the age of two.”

Anyway, the meeting was called with burnt French fries for the children and homemade laddoos for the moms. In the midst of the usual Batman, Spider-Man, Catwoman, Wonder Woman entries, my filmy Marathi + Hindi + Broken-English-speaking child only wanted to be one thing: Baahubali. This, however, did not pass Mrs C’s exacting standards. “I’m sorry dear,” she said, “but Baahubali is not really a superhero. If he wants to be a desi superhero, I don’t mind if he picks Shaktimaan or Krishh. But Baahubali, I cannot allow. I hope you understand dear.”

Wait a second. Was I back in a conference room in office where my client was actually telling me that he does not approve my idea as the TG demographic is not right? I shook out of my reverie to see the words “I will not approve dear”, “I’m sorry dear” forming speech bubbles in a room full of kids fighting over the remaining French fries on the floor. Nope. We were still in a room discussing what a three-year-old should wear for a fancy fucking dress, which isn’t even a competition. Who made the rule book for this and why haven’t I read it?

The “soti hui sherni” in me had finally been awakened. No one tells my child what he can or can’t become, especially not a hectoring adult with a class-monitor hangover. I held my polite face and told her that I’d come back with my decision, as my son didn’t want to become any other superhero although he loved all of them, thanks to his crazy father, who is also a child. I didn’t even know how the hell would I turn him into Baahubali. But. Challenge accepted.

When you are a working mom to a three-year-old, life is divided between client presentations and meetings vs pre-school routines and PTA meetings.

I withdrew from the group politely, saying I did not wish to disturb the group dynamics being a last-minute entrant, and that I’d send my child separately. By now the other mothers, realising the ridiculousness of it all, jumped to my defence and added me back, telling Mrs C that they’d love to see Baahubali as part of the theme.

Not one to be slighted, Mrs C wrote a long essay and withdrew from the group, saying that she’d been working very hard on her kid’s costume and that she did not wish to be sabotaged by her own group. So, she’d send her kid separately. When we asked her who her child would be playing, she said, “I would not like to reveal that right now, dear, as other moms might steal the idea and I’m paying so much for the customised outfit.” If there were competitive Mommy-lympics, Mrs C would have walked off with the top prize for passive-aggressive pettiness, dear.

Anyway, on D-Day, after five hours of labour, my husband and I were able to prepare our little Baahubali, who would be the final act. The act was a hit, met with thunderous applause and smiles. The kids were thrilled, and all the moms relieved, jonesing for a glass of wine.

Just then, the host announced that there has been a last-minute entry. The youngest-ever participant was a four-month old cutie… Mrs C’s infant. This was going to be amusing.

Mrs C walked on stage with the baby dressed as an apple. There were aawws and aahs from the audience and despite what had passed between Mrs C and me, I have to admit, it was a sweet idea. But I wasn’t prepared for the master-stroke.

Mrs C, produced a few placards and read them out loud.

Is it a superhero? No!

Is it a Baahubali? No!

What is it?

This *dramatic pause* is the future of India!

Wait what?

First off, that made no sense. And second, had Mrs C just tried to slam the performance of thumb-sucking toddlers who had gone on stage for the first time? And last, “Is it a Baahubali?” was not even grammatically correct.

Maybe, the joke was on us. I had just gotten schooled in mommy politics, where everything from potty-training to the number of classes you enrolled your child in was competition. The sticky marsh where working moms were judged for not being involved enough.

But maybe, Mrs C had accidentally ignited an instinct I didn’t know I had buried.

When you are a working mom to a three-year-old, life is divided between client presentations and meetings vs pre-school routines and PTA meetings. There is, of course, the added pressure of ensuring that the child doesn’t miss out on an social or cultural activities that other kids are exposed to. So, while I am very grateful to the mothers who take the lead in ensuring all kids participate in big or small events, it is the unreasonable, judgey ones that get my goat. If my kid is not happy, the “soti hui sherni” will awaken. And awaken with a vengeance.  

For that alone, maybe I should send Mrs C a thank you note. I’ll have done my bit – but I suspect it will piss her off.