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“How about your children?’ I got asked again yesterday.

‘No, we don’t have children,’ I said smilingly.

‘Oh, I am sorry,’ the lady was very apologetic, almost as if she feared she had touched a raw nerve inadvertently and hurt me deeply.

I took her hand in mine, smiled and said, ‘No, you don’t have to be. It’s OK. I am fine with it.’

I have been in this position numerous times. It invariably happens when I meet people for the first time and have a conversation, especially with women. Interestingly, it has not always been this courteous.

I have had instances of people telling me that I am lucky to not have the hassles of parenthood. Occasionally, I have also had people telling me with a twinge of disdain that I would never understand the struggles of a mother, could not imagine the stress that comes with it at every stage of life and it was easy for me to wax eloquent on exam pressure, adolescent behavior and other parental concerns. I have even had people comment that I look young and slim for my age only because I never bore a child. Perhaps. Perhaps.

But here’s the real thing. I am a mother. In several ways. Every time someone apologizes when I say we have no children, this is what I want to tell them with my touch.

‘Don’t feel for me. I don’t feel deprived. Not because I have overcome it. Not because I have resigned to life and its vagaries. But because I have been a mother, without bearing a child or rearing one.

I have been a tutor for 18 years. And being a tutor is not the same as being a teacher in a school. The difference is the love that grows between me and my children in the long years that they spend with me. Every time I have taken a student in, I have felt as if I became a mother again. I adopt them for the period that they are with me, feel responsible, feed them with every nugget of knowledge, wisdom and love that I can and pray for their well-being.

I do whatever I can to bring out the best in them and not for a split second think that I can be sloppy in my duty.

It is unconditional, because I am fully conscious that they are not ‘mine’ in the real sense of the word and will leave me as soon as the time is up. But then, they would have left me even if they were ‘mine.’

The absence of possession makes me feel free. The fact that the children who come into my life, my students or others that I know, are not essentially ‘mine’ helps me love them equally. I have loved them impartially. I have accepted them into my life without judging their qualities.

There is no selfishness in my affection for them because there is no string attached. And at some point during our journey, they become part of my soul, and that is enough for me.

Today, as the world celebrates Mothers’ Day, I want to give all the mothers who handed their sons and daughters to me for a point in time a hug and thank them for giving me my moments of motherhood. I want to tell them that in a strange, unintended way, they added more meaning to my life.

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