The year was 2013. It was in the narrow lanes of Goa, on an all-girls holiday, that K confided that her life ambition was to become a mother.
She was convinced that this was the path to her soul destination. I was already mother, to a 13-year-old son. I understood what she meant.
For me, from the time I was old enough to visualise my future, I knew I wanted a child. Motherhood made complete sense to me.
I didn’t fantasise about having a brood of children. I was clear that I wanted one child and no more. So when I became a mother it was a natural extension of my life. I embraced the stretch marks and the career break. K and I were on the same page about becoming mothers.
Years had passed since that holiday and K was now divorced. My memory went back to the Goa holiday. All K had desired was to become a mother. With the divorce news, all I hoped was that K meets someone soon, so she can experience the joy of motherhood that she so badly wanted.
It was on February 14, 2018, that we decided to meet. K walked in, glowing, post a yoga session. I asked her about her skin-care products. She smiled and said, “No more beer for me, it’s only wine from hereon.” We made fun of her. She took a sip of her wine and said, “I am pregnant”. I gulped my vodka and congratulated her. I didn’t ask her who the father was.
Soon K gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Social media posts had K as a new mother, glowing even more, with baby in tow. I put extra hearts on all her posts. I loved her courage to be a single mother. I was totally in awe. K continued planning her life around her little girl. Her support was her friends, her sister, nieces and the sister’s husband.
I vividly remember an evening at K’s place, it was her terrace where the sun was setting, K was busy cuddling her baby in her arms. In my heart, I said a little prayer for her. I bowed my head to the universe and wished her the world.
We all knew K had started to find her anchor in her little one. But K was changing. She had begun to miss a male figure in her life. She said it would be wonderful for her little one to have a father figure.
I realised that it must be hard work to raise a child alone. One needs the emotional support.
I also do know a few single fathers, committed to the role of raising their children. They are sadly under-represented. But the numbers are few and far between. On a majority, it is an accepted fact that the father isn’t fully responsible. Among friends, women confide that some men generally fail the role of equal parenting partnership.
The school support group I had were all mothers. We discussed tuition classes, doctors, allergies and school news. There was no school fathers’ group ever.
But in all this, K took pride in not writing the father’s name and religion. It was so progressive, I thought. Yet I also knew she wished she found someone.
It was two years and time had flown. I was recording a podcast when I received a call that K was no more. First it was disbelief, followed by what would happen now to the little one.
I rang my friends and the words tore into my heart. As I went for the service, there was K in the coffin, looking serene, decked in flowers and all packed in. As the body was being buried, I stepped back to look ahead.
There was a tree with a bench, under the shade of the tree, K’s little one was sitting in a red frock, chewing on a water bottle cap. She was surrounded by her nieces and her househelp.
K’s little one would never experience the joy of being raised by a free-spirited, brave mother. It has been more than a year now. I pass by the graveyard to go to the club or sometimes use that lane as a short route to avoid the Bengaluru traffic. My eye invariably wanders towards the trees and the epitaphs on the graves. I think of the walk in Goa, the pregnancy announcement, our interview on my podcast where she said, “I am raring to go Mohua. Motherhood was my best decision ever”.
K encouraged me wholeheartedly to reboot. She was among the first guests on my podcast in 2020. We spoke about her being a single mother and the immense soul connect we experienced with our children. But I guess we didn’t think of eventualities that day. We discussed holidays, work, love, men and the joy of being a mother. We didn’t discuss death and caregiving, as life was so certain at that moment.
K is no more. I often think if she had a partner, would it be different for her little one? I understand to be a single mother isn’t an easy path to walk on. Single mothers need emotional support, a supportive family and a group of very good friends.
In that group they need a very close-knit group of friends, whom they can relax with, or have them around when they want to spend time by themselves. The live-in or a part-time nanny and her help go a long way in enjoying the journey of watching your child grow.
The world is surely changing. There are different kinds of families. A 2019-2020 report by UN Women highlights that in India the number of “lone mothers” is rising, with 4.5 per cent (approximately 13 million) of all Indian households run by single mothers. Inspite of the rising numbers, society remains harsh on single women. So to fathom the life of a single mother seems daunting to me.
It is tough to walk the path without support and be in constant insecurity for the future. But as a mother, single or married, we march on to the tune in our heart that beats for the baby we birth.
Mohua Chinappa hosts a popular lifestyle podcast called The Mohua Show. She is also the author of recently released Nautanki Saala and Other Stories