The Toughest Job in the World

DSC_0494Happy Mothers Day to all the wonderful moms doing the toughest job in the world. But especially to the three moms in my life. Three women who keep me on the straight and narrow. Three women who have loved and stood by me even when I was least deserving of their love and support. For seeing in me what I failed to see in myself and standing by my side offering support when I went through some turbulent times in my own head. In the throes of a deep and debilitating depression from which I scarcely believed I would emerge in one piece. It would be an understatement of colossal proportions to say I wouldn’t have come through but for them. They have unique personalities but there’s one thing the three of them have in common. You mess with their children only at your own peril. They will never make excuses for their children’s poor behavior or less than ideal character traits that sometimes show up in the most inopportune of times. But they are the rocks of Gibraltar that will stand by their children at all times. Proud but hesitant to take credit for their achievements and always ready to take more than their share of undeserved blame when their children don’t act or behave like they taught them to, wondering whether they could have done something better in raising them.  Their children squeeze every ounce of patience they have. They bend but never break. They love in a way such as only a mother can. Unconditionally. Even when you’ve been a horse’s ass. Every other kind of love, in my opinion, has a limit, a threshold beyond which isn’t possible to give more. A (or I should say this) father’s love does too, although I hope to never see that threshold or limit.

My mother is the kindest, gentlest person I have ever known in my life. If there was ever such a thing as an angel that walked this earth, it has to be Chitra. Pardon the hyperbole but she is my mother, I am biased and that is how I feel about her. I was not an easy kid to raise, by any standards. I have disappointed her numerous times but she refuses to see anything but the best in me. I haven’t exactly been the son of the decade or the year even but I promise to strive every day, to be worthy of the upbringing she gave me. Despite the challenges she faced as a woman in a deeply patriarchal and conservative society.

My sister is the only other person alive outside of my own self that is like our dad, The two of us together make quite the Hariharan. That a person with barely above average intelligence who never worked really hard at anything in life can have everything that a man could hope to have in life; a nice house, a nice car, a respectable job and a loving family is, in large part due to the example she set and the path she treaded before me. A path I could follow in. The firstborn of firstborns she set the standard for achievement in our family. It is hard to grow up the younger sibling of an overachieving woman such as her but I would have it no other way. She is, outside my parents the one most responsible for me having moved to the United States and making something useful of myself. She has encouraged my flights of fancy to be a writer, athlete, singer, photographer and a few other things I fail to remember right about now. I have never met a person that has such an incredible sense of good and bad. Of right and wrong.
She wears her emotions on her sleeve (not unlike me) but one thing she is not is insincere. In anything she does. But make no mistake, she will call my bullshit out every time. Like the one time I had taken to introducing myself as “Lucky” to Americans and Westerners because my name is a mouthful and I was embarrassed by it. For one, if you’re going to name me after a character in a Hindu epic why not first place Ram? Why second (or even third place behind the ever faithful Bharat) Lakshman for cryin’ out loud? The guy that got tricked into letting Ravana abduct Sita. Plus some others named Lakshman spell their names which means some people address me as Laxman in writing, which makes for an unseemly Laxative-man. Back to that one time, she waited until the third person departed and went, in a way only she and I talk to each other: “Abey, yeh Lucky kya hai?” Which loosely translates to “The f*** is this Lucky business?” In other words, never ever forget where you came from.

There are times that she has needed me in the past few years when I, caught up in my own turbulence wasn’t there for her and was frankly, a grade A ass**** in the truest sense of the word. Or like my favorite television writer says “an unwiped ass”. I have not sensed one ounce of resentment from her. I cannot fix anything from the past but I do promise to be the brother that you have deserved all along.

Its been almost fifteen years since we married and it has not been perfect. Far from it rather, most of it being my fault. It was the summer of 2001 when I first saw the woman who would, for some inexplicable reason not only think I was good looking but fall for my personality. And I fell for her. Hard. Anyone that has spent half a minute with her knows that she is impossible to not like or fall in love with. To say that I am the exact opposite and not the easiest of people to live with would be another colossal understatement. Indeed, she could have had her pick of successful men to choose from. But she chose me. A man graduating with a Masters degree at the age of twenty five with no great prospects on the horizon for landing a halfway decent job. When I did land a job I made a measly twenty five thousand dollars a year but she still picked me. Over all the other doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, would be executives that would have lined up for her. She picked me and that is one of the proudest of my “achievements” in life. I’ve always said, only half jokingly, that if she had a do-over I wouldn’t be so lucky. But me? I would again, have it no other way. She has stood by me through thick and thin, through the calm and the turbulent, through the best of times and through the worst.
There is no one else I’d rather grow old with. She grinned and bore it when other women would, condescendingly ask her why she didn’t go back to work immediately after the boys were born. As if it were some kind of a contract. Women who would have their mothers from India as free day care for six months. Women who would have the mother in law come and relieve said mothers so their visits overlapped for a few days. You know, so their rhythm to go to work and make the extra eighty (or how many ever) thousand dollars a year isn’t disturbed. She is raising her own children at times as a single mother for all intents and purposes when I am out traveling for days at a time. I apologize if the previous sentence sounds and comes across as resentful. It does only because I resented it. Every. Single. Time. When we as a couple never told anyone anything about how they should raise their children or live their lives. Ever. Because how one raises their children is a deeply personal thing. What good character traits our boys have are all hers, all the defects mine. To her the only thing I can say is, quoting James Garfield as he wrote to his wife Lucretia:
” I hope when you,….balance up the whole of my wayward self, you will still find, after many proper and heavy deductions are made, a small balance left on which you can base some respect and affection.”

To these three incredible mothers in my life. I am truly honored to call myself your  son,  brother and husband.

Thank you.
Lakshman Hariharan
05/12/2018, Prosper, TX.

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