This Mother’s Day, Guardian Media Limited brings you two first-person accounts on mothering by mothers and grandmothers.
Anvar Zia Sutana Mathur
My name is Anvar Zia Sutana Mathur. I was born in Bangalore, India, and I was raised by my mother and maternal grandparents because my father died when I was a small child.
I was educated in India and Pakistan in boarding school. I got married in my 20s and had three children. I came to the West Indies with my husband, an engineer and former army officer who had a contract to build the Claude Noel Highway. After the highway was built, we never went back. Trinidad is my home now. Two of my three children live in Trinidad. I lost a son to cancer several years ago.
Everybody’s core values are formed from the time they are born to six. I was brought up by my mother and grandparents, in a devout Muslim family in Savanur, South India, and travelled around India with them.
My grandfather Abdul Majid Khan was a respected Nawab of Savanur British India with solid moral and spiritual values. He was educated in Western schools and universities and army academies, but his religion and values always came before his western education, and he did wise and beneficial things, and I recalled these lessons in later years.
His humility, good manners, and strong Islamic faith were a part of him. He was polite and kind to everybody, no matter what their station in life was. Rank and wealth did not hold value to him. He cared about honesty, a willingness to work hard, the courage to tell the truth even when it could get you in trouble, the humility to apologise when you were wrong, to say ‘thank you and ‘please’. He did many acts of charity, but thought it distasteful to speak about it saying ‘self-praise is no praise.’ He taught me that charity is the best way to spend your wealth after caring for your needs, that there is no need for excessive spending and prove you have so much more than your neighbours and friends.
In reality, showing off does not matter, as when we die, we don’t take any of our goods and chattels with us. When my grandfather interacted with people in unfortunate circumstances, he said, ‘There go I but for the grace of God.’ Taking nothing for granted.
My single mother was strict and said, ‘We are not our children’s friends. We are here to make sure we create good humans who fulfil their potential and contribute to this earth. We are not in a popularity contest with others for their affection. If we love our children, we must teach them what’s correct, even if at the time our children don’t like it, or at the cost of their affection. She made sure I learned the Holy Q’uran, which I started to recite at the age of four. In our families, it was known as the Bismillah ceremony when the child uses the first word of the Holy Q’uran. She made sure I learned Arabic, Urdu, and Persian before going to a convent school. She believed I should have solid values and be well acquainted with the teachings of my religion.
I found peace of mind and strength in old texts and religious guidance because my mother said it carries an answer to every difficulty. She was right. Long after my mother died, I found peace of mind and strength from the early guidance. I learned to be patient and forgiving and overlook other people’s ill-treatment or unfair attitude because human nature is frail, and every human being can make a mistake.
I was taught to look within and see how soft and weak my own nature could be and how easily I could have made that same mistake which I regarded as something unpleasant in someone else. So, to overlook and forgive has been my endeavour, which has helped me to avoid malice and unkindness in my own life, even if others did not treat me as they should have.
My mother made me play sports as she felt it was important for girls to be as active as the boys. She made me learn music because she felt we must be all we can be and use as much of our minds as we could.
When my children were young, I was sometimes harsh with them and scolded them because I wanted them to grow up with a moral compass. I realise now I could have done the same without anger as people respond better to kindness.
I’ve met many mothers in Trinidad who have unfortunately been left by themselves to bring up children by husbands who don’t provide. These mothers show courage. It’s wonderful to see independent, educated working women in Trinidad doing so well, saving their money, looking after themselves. To them, I say, don’t neglect your children as they get their ideas about life and thinking from their parents, will learn not by being told but by the life you lead, and that will give them a moral compass. Remain honourable no matter the circumstances. There is no such thing as a free lunch. It sounds sanctimonious, but it’s sound advice.
When we speak of Jihad in Islam, we speak of a battle with ourselves. We should learn to control our senses. When we go off the rails, it may give us temporary pleasure, but it will cause great harm and hurt to our families. Drinking is prohibited in Islam, and alcohol impairs your judgment and leads to domestic violence and deaths.
We know in each life some rain must fall. I lost a handsome, brilliant son in the prime of his life. We all face disappointments, heartache, the death of our loved ones, anxiety and sadness. In these moments, we think, where is God, who is supposed to be full of love? In Islam, the Sufi concept is that pain is given to us to refine our character, to refine you, to shine brighter, cut and polished like a diamond. In Islam, heaven lies at the mother’s feet.
Always be respectful to the elderly, remembering you will get old too. The elderly deserve respect because they built up a society which contributed to your well-being. Young people call me mother, giving me the highest esteem.
Don’t be sad if your mother is no longer here today on Mother’s Day. Remember, a mother lives in your heart and never stops blessing you.
“My name is Rhonda Taylor. I’m 54 years old. I was born in Belmont. My parents are Verville Taylor and Doreen Taylor, who worked at the city corporations and had nine children. I am the sixth. I went to school in Belmont. Since I was 19 I’ve worked in a casino and as a housekeeper. I had five children–four boys and a girl –by three husbands. I have three grandchildren.
My mother was loving but strict. She brought us up to do the right things, ‘don’t steal,’ ‘don’t lie, and ‘go to school’ and get an education. She would give us licks for disrespecting people, especially older people, not saying ‘good morning,’ not saying ‘thank you or ‘please’, and being disobedient.
I was 12 when she left the house and us for two years as my father was abusive to her. My father was mother and father to us, loving...and thank God never abused his children.
My mother was a strong woman. After she built a home in Picton, she took us back and was a single parent. Seeing my mother being abused, the mother or father fighting, I told myself that’s a relationship I don’t want. I walked away from several abusive relationships and marriages and built my own home like my mother.
My advice to young women is to study and work, and when you are independent and can look after yourself, settle down. You should never stay in an abusive relationship because of love. You have to love yourself first. You have to know when to walk away.
My first breaking point was one Carnival when my husband had too much to drink and lashed me in the stadium in the middle of thousands of people when I tried to stop him. ‘No, enough is enough.’ I went to the police station, made a report and took him to court. They gave him a restraining order, and that was it; I never went back.
My advice to abused women is to go to the police station, go to court, look after yourself, seek help and leave. Keep your dignity. There is always work, an honest day’s job, an honest day’s pay. I see women staying in abusive marriages saying, ‘he loves me–that is why he lashes me,’ or ‘I love him,’ or ‘I have so many children. How will I feed my children? If you think of yourself, you seek a better life. Even if you’re not educated, look for a job, and support yourself. You don’t need skills for domestic work, a security job, or even packing bags in a grocery. The police have social welfare for battered women or trustworthy friends...You must have somebody who will help you. I would help women like that; I would make room in my house and say, ‘come and stay until you catch yourself.’ All women should do that for one another.
Two of my children died. Two were taken away from me to live away from me by their grandparents to NYC. I was sad. I was young, escaping an abusive relationship, and unable to take responsibility. Melissa called me every day, always sending a barrel for me, and visited. She died in 2015 in an accident. I loved her, and she was taken away from me. I see Hakim sometimes.
My last child, CJ, died when he was 14 years old while I was at work. He died in the WASA reservoir, jumped in to save a friend, and drowned.
Sheldon, my loving child, is close to me and is very protective of me. I have three grandchildren, and they are the light of my life. My last son, Kiron, speaks his mind, but I know he loves me.
I dealt with sadness and suffering and loss, domestic abuse and the loss of my children by putting my heart into work, reading, going to church and spending time with my girlfriends and children and grandchildren. When I help other people, I forget my own problems. If a girlfriend needs a shoulder to cry on, I’m there, if someone needs practical help.
After my son CJ died, I buried myself in my work, and when I reached home at night, I was tired. I had family and friends, but there is always a moment when you are by yourself, and after a month or two, you don’t see family and friends, and that’s when you have to have work.
Treat elderly people as your mothers, do the right thing, and you will always find peace and joy in your life even if deprived of your own mother.
Treat your parents, especially your mother, kindly because she nurtures you, sacrifices for you, teaches you right from wrong, helps you be a good citizen and protects you from wasting this short life.
As a grandmother, I would tell mothers, yes, you must live and enjoy life, but for a stable long, happy life where you don’t have to depend on a man, study, work, get a job and save to look after yourself and make sure you bring up your boy children to be good fathers so they don’t abuse or abandon women. Happy Mother’s Day. “