My Mother’s Hands

A young filmmaker restless during the lockdown, looks at his mother’s hands which never rest.

“My mom has been going to office since forever. Even before I was born. The lockdown was the first time she was constantly with us at home. And she was always busy doing something or the other. There was no house help at that time, though we would all help around – bhaiyya, bhabhi and me. Even so, she was always working. Cooking, then working on her laptop, then doing meetings on her phone… sometimes, even while cooking alongside! This was also the time when I started working with The Third Eye. We were looking at women and labour, and I was constantly questioning things,” says Shivam Rastogi, filmmaker, MCRC Jamia alumnus, and video producer with The Third Eye.
Shivam found a 16 mm filter on Instagram and decided to make short videos of his mother at work, or more specifically, of her hands at work.

“I used to observe her. I was fascinated by her hands. Multitasking is something that she is really proud of. She feels like that it is an art that she has acquired over the years. I don’t know how to make her realize that she is working more than what is required and that she should not be working so much.”

Since she was 18 or 19, Shivam’s mother, Anshu Rastogi has been working in the same pharmaceutical company. “She is very dedicated, to the point of being a workaholic. I don’t know how she balances her personal and professional life, but she is very thorough. I think she gives more than what is required in both places. Even on vacations, she carries her laptop along. The days on which she doesn’t have to go to work, she is very confused…what is she to do at home?! So she digs up work to do and asks us to tag along. She will adjust the sofa covers, tidy up the drawers – she just can’t be still.”

At the end of the lockdown, Shivam makes a wish for her. “I would really like it if she makes her own decisions, no matter how small. Otherwise, she is very independent in all respects. But like, ‘khaane mein kya banana hai’? We keep telling her, why don’t you say what you want to eat? Sometimes, on weekends if she takes a nap, she feels super guilty after – ‘Itna kaam reh gaya’ or ‘aaj toh kaafi so gayi’! Over the years, her routine is structured in a way that she finds a rhythm in it and finds it hard to break away. In many ways, she has internalized the fact that her decisions and choices for herself are secondary and her commitment to the household is primary.”

Why did you not film your father?

“I feel that if I am showing one side of the story, then by default the other side of the story is also getting reflected. Her life is so much more interesting because she is doing so many things. With my dad…I don’t know, what would I have shot? In terms of shots?”

“I captured my mom doing so much work when actually my footage is limited to just 10-12 minutes. I told her that if I film you closely doing all that you do all day, I may run out of footage but your work will not stop.”

Shivam talks about where his film ends.

“I chose to end the film the way I did because that’s my imagination for her -- to relax, sit back and find time for herself.

Since she also goes to the office, her day is often fully packed. If not domestic, it’s her official work that spills over. Just as an exercise, one day my brother and I stopped and retraced her day to know what her leisure time was. We didn’t consider travelling time since her office is just 15 minutes away. My mother had to think! Finally, she admitted that her ‘down time’ was her working lunch at the office.”

What did she think of this film?

“When I showed this film to her, she wasn’t amused or amazed, it was just a tiny montage of what her day looks like. Even watching the film was part of her routine, in between TV shows at night.”

The Third Eye is being written and developed by a team of educators, documentary filmmakers, storytellers; people with extensive experience of gathering narratives, oral histories and developing contextual pedagogies for the rural and the marginalised.
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