"Spend more time with your books, rather than your friends. You won't regret it."
"Use your words sparingly and don't hurt anyone."
Anita Aikara talks about the life lessons she learnt from her mother.
We chat when we are together. That's almost every second day. We exchange pleasant phone calls daily.
Till just a few months ago, we lived in the same house. Now I'm married and I have moved.
My marriage hasn't done us apart -- instead I value my mother's presence even more. That's why I decided to write about my mother: my biggest critic and pillar of strength.
I was always daddy's little girl through childhood. My sister distinctly remembers the times we fought; almost every fight would end with me crying, and running to my father, complaining about my sister.
He would then gently lift me onto his lap and cajole me into forgiving her. After some coaxing, I would agree and then watch television, seated in my favourite spot, my father's lap.
After a fight with my sister, running up to my mother was always a bad idea. She would tell me why I shouldn't fight with my sister and make me apologise to her -- something I wasn't particularly fond of. My mother loves me dearly, but she never spares a chance to critique me.
My father is the pampering sort. But my mother is the one who pulled me up every time I didn't take the most mature decisions. She never minces her words nor uses her potion sparingly.
When I spent too much money shopping, she'd say, "Why not give a thought to saving money too!"
"Wear what you are comfortable in, and don't just get carried away by some trend!" would be her advice if I wear something not comfortable.
If I loudly voiced my opinions -- without hesitating to consider its impact on others -- she'd counsel me, "Use your words sparingly and don't hurt anyone."
Back in school, whenever I did badly, she'd say, "Spend more time with your books, rather than your friends. You won't regret it."
I remember announcing my decision to buy a car to her. I knew what I was in for. My mother would probably criticise it, blame me for splurging and not saving money in fixed deposits.
Surprisingly, Ma didn't do any of that.
Instead, she gave me a stern glance and then continued reading the newspaper. I thought her silence was a yes.
Sadly, I was mistaken.
The minute I turned my back, she looked up from the newspaper and said, "When was the last time you read the newspaper? Don't you know about the increasing accidents on Mumbai's roads?"
I did buy the car. But only after I had perfected my driving skills.
I didn't want to give my mother a chance criticise me again! And much to my amazement she was the first person to sit next to me, when I drove my car without any supervision.
That's what I love about my mother. She does criticise my decisions. But once the decision is made, she is always by my side. Whenever I need her, she's there.
When I am low, she invariably has an encouraging word; something that instantly lifts my spirits.
I wonder sometimes what's with her being so critical about some of the things I do. Then I look in the mirror and the answer stares back at me.
I know I have a knack of doing crazy things; stuff that could get me into trouble. That's why she is so critical. So I think twice before taking decisions.
Probably that's her way of watching out for my interests. That's her way of teaching me how to learn the ropes of life. She's the anchor that grounds my ship.
I know my mother is honest. While honesty is brutal, I figure it is always better in the long run.
Every time I decide to do something, her criticism -- or the fear of having to hear it -- makes me give my decision a thorough thought. So there is no room for error.
At times, I fear I may prove her right. Hence I make sure every decision I take is the right one.
Today I know she loves me dearly. But as a child she'd refuse to give in to my demands.
Ma wanted me to be grounded. She didn't believe in splurging on her children, because she wanted to teach us how to be happy with what we had.
She didn't agree with me when I was wrong. And made sure that I respected people for what they did. From her, I have learnt to be sensitive, empathetic, and kind.
Most importantly, Ma taught me how to love. She loved me unconditionally through every phase of my life.
There have been a number of times I have wanted to give up, but she never gave up on me.
I am not a mother. I know when I become one, I may not match up to my mother.
I doubt if I will be as strong, as supporting and as caring as Ma.
But then I am sure that she will make for a brilliant grandmother and my children will be blessed to have her around. They might whine and crib about her being extremely critical of what they do, but they will eventually understand she is preparing them in her own way.
Mothers can be our toughest critics. They are the ones we fall back on when the going gets tough.
The author's mother Jolly Aikara was a working mother. She beautifully juggled her career and family, including three naughty children. Today at 64, she is a homemaker, gladly prepared to embrace more responsibilities in life including the role of being a loving grandmother.