What's the most liberating love of all?

It is interesting how differently people have perceived and reacted to my 'non-maternal status', none of which has changed the way I have lived or loved life.

By Asha Iyer Kumar

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Published: Tue 24 May 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 24 May 2016, 12:45 PM

In the several years of my marriage, I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked about my children, and been duly apologised to by the unsuspecting enquirer when I said to them calmly, just the two of us - the husband and I. There is always an unmistakable look of sympathy and regret on their face when they utter 'sorry' and I return their sentiments with a smile that conveys, 'oh, that's okay,'.
The more intrusive and archaic kind have quizzed me further and have offered advice and alternative options to fill the apparent gap in our lives, and I've paid heed to them patiently without a demur, and sometimes have even staved off grave remarks with oblique philosophical takes and casual humour. But a recent encounter with a stranger cracked me up, when pleasantries led to the inevitable, and she suddenly lit up and said, "Don't worry. It can happen even in old age. Didn't you hear about the seventy year old Indian woman who had her first child recently?"
I admired her optimism and appreciated her eagerness to make me feel reassured about what to her and a majority of women is 'inadequacy' and 'incompleteness' in life, an opinion she made known to me in no uncertain terms in the few minutes that we spoke. With a grin that suggested the preposterousness of her conviction, I said, putting my hand gently on her arm, "It doesn't matter to me, really," turned and left, wondering how scandalised my words must have left her, and if indeed she must have made sense of what I had just uttered.
It is interesting how differently people have perceived and reacted to my 'non-maternal status', none of which has changed the way I have lived or loved life. From the most sarcastic to the most progressive, I have taken them all gamely. There have been counterfeit concerns from people about our future, to whom I have averred that most parents in the present day live alone, so shall we. To those who said that life is barren and devoid of purpose in the absence of off spring, I said rather stoically that the purpose of life is what we make of it, and I have sufficient reasons to wake up every morning and live the day up fully.
People have made slant remarks about my ineligibility to talk about parenting travails for I have no clue about what the whole rigmarole is all about, and to them I have said modestly, "Of course, only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches." And then there are those jolly good fellows who have exclaimed with unconcealed envy, "How lucky! You are so free!" along with some who maliciously comment on my varied interests and pursuits with, "Oh you can afford it. You have no responsibilities." To them, I have replied, tongue-in-cheek, "Something for something."
However, there is something I haven't said to anyone, but have felt intensely throughout. One doesn't have to mother a child to experience forceful maternal emotions or have a child of her own to love like a mother. The capacity and scope that I have felt to love children are so expansive that the feeling of denial barely touches me. It is an emotion that pervades every little human thing that I see, to the exclusion of none. It is limitless, for it is not bound by sentiments of possession and undivided caring for only the ones that are mine. To love without possessing is the most liberating love of all, and the most selfless. It is like walking into a garden, watching the flower beds, running your hand through them, smelling them, expressing your deepest love for them and walking back home with a song on your lips, grateful to the cosmos for the experience.
It allows for impartial and unconditional love, for it makes no distinction between 'mine and others'. The students I tutor, my friends' children, my nephews and nieces and all the young souls that I cross paths with are sons and daughters to me, regardless of whether they acknowledge and reciprocate it, or not. And when a young lad I have known for years writes to me, "You are like another mother to me. My life wouldn't be like it is now, had it not been for you," or a bubbling ten-year-old that I teach exclaims, "Happy mother's day, Ma'am," I realise that life has come a full circle. Deprivations are part of existence, and every gap therein is filled with alternate joys.
Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based writer.

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