Today Riya has gone for an excursion from her school. Riya is my unofficial daughter. For a back up , in a brief she is my sister in laws daughter, who for some complicated reason and series of complicated events staying with us like our daughter, this is her family, we are her illegal (… )!!!) guardian and I am her unofficial/non technical mother. Trust me it is not easy for a person who never experienced motherhood to take care of a unknown teenager . And I am sure it was same for her. Yes, she is staying with us for last two and half years and we never met each other before she came here.
After a long running confusion in the family one fine morning riya and me understood we are about to live together. Understanding and acceptance does not come along, so we had a rough start. She was a problem child, with a traumatic, disturbing past, who got refused from three other families after her parents divorce and father’s death. I was known as carrier woman ( though I do not think I am…it’s just I loved my work, I loved making films) , for whom the every conversation with friends and relatives will end up with a predictable subject of my not being mother even after 5 years of my marriage.
I still remember the first day I met her, It was a winter evening, I was in the middle of my project, travelling in Rajasthan , but D ( my husband) had to bring her and I managed to left my project in-between and came back. I saw a little girl sitting with my family members , strangers for her, waiting for a uncertain future.
Four more months I tried to save my carrier, we tried to settle her down with another relative family. There was a small reason behind it, which really none believed except me and D. Riya came from bengal, knew only regional language , so somewhere we thought may be life will be easier for her if she can stay with some family inside Bengal, as we stay in New delhi, where the main languages in schools are Hindi and English. But somehow life had some other plans for us. She got rejected from another family, lost her job of unofficial daughter once more. I stopped working outside for the first time in 12 years. I joined my new lifetime job of being an unofficial mother. I remember I finished working on my last BBC film atDarjeeling,Himalayas, went to a sea beach alone, hiding, spent two days as if I am living last two days of my life. Then I came back to Delhi with Riya.
She was 11 years, never had a mother while growing up. Every concept of mother was from advertisements and films and trust me even the every concept of step mother was from those films…:)…for me it was nothing better, all the concept of mother daughter relationship comes from my relation with my mother. So she continued comparing me with those filmy mothers and most of the time step mothers and me compared her with my teenage ( most of the time I forget I had one of the most secured and beautiful childhood).
Riya started going to school, learnt the language,we both were fighting to come back to a normal life. She was a angry teenager loaded with attitude.I was a control freak late thirties women, who somewhere in her subconscious mind thinks she had to stop living for Riya.
In facebook sometimes I saw an interesting kind of marital/relationship status, open marriage/open relationship. Somewhere the relationship between Riya and me was open, anyone of us can time refused to stay with the other and noone can force us. The moment its a open relation speculation is unavoidable. The main speculations were ” I wanted to be great by doing this”, “I did this because I had no kids”, ” Riya stuck up with me because though we were never very close but we were financially well off family than others”.They got divided into two parties. One was the supporter of mine and others were her. it’s not that we ever asked for it, but I think being judgemental is a pretty common psyche. I remember there was a time when we both ended up being scared of people, everything happened between us had the same reason either because i am not her real mother or because she is not my own daughter. We got tired of those reminders, we started getting confused about our own intentions, I definitely started doubting myself. But I can not deny the role of some my friends and relatives, very few in number, but they understood Riya had nowhere to go, and I had nowhere better to send her.
Slowly we realised , we have a relationship between us , in our own way. Which has nothing to do with any concept of mother or daughter and even had nothing to do with what people think about us. More than a year was over , she was in her new class, settled down in some way.We both understood I need to go out, I need to work. she wanted her own space and get rid of my control freakishness and me , wanted to live in my own way, was trying get back my mind. I started working .
Eight months I worked continuously, I was hardly at home, even when at home , my mind is full of my work. She was busy with own world, her friends. And then we understood we want to be more with each other. For the first time I felt like being at home , because I want to be with her. She wanted to spend time with me than going out with her friends. We talked about my work, her study. we met each others friends; even sometimes hiding our unofficial relations (…:)…). this time we never had any issues with outsiders, we enjoyed a family vacation together. I helped her to do her school projects happily, she saw my documentary, gave comments. She asked me to be at home a little more, I have decided to work a lot less.
Today for the first time I am at home , and she is out of town for 3 days. I thought of being a free bird again for 3 days, i had a good start, got up in the morning at 1-30 pm ( okay its definitely not morning, rather afternoon), but at 2 pm when the time of her coming back from school passed away I realised I am missing all her mindless teenage school stories, I am missing shouting on her for spending time in front of the mirror, every time I am crossing her room I can feel the emptiness. Today I learned another important fact of my life I do not like home without Riya any more, it does not seems my home any more if she is not there.
In this whole write up I hardly mentioned D, my husband, her uncle, who I am sure gone through same kind of emotional experiences during this time. But this was exclusively mine and riya’s story, may be some years later some day we will read it sitting together…:)