'My mother told me to respect myself, no matter what I did': Maria Goretti

On Women's Day, the TV host and writer on her relationship with her mother

60-Maria-Goretti-with-mother-Joanna Maria Goretti with mother Joanna

My mother was very strict while raising us, but she was friendly and loving, too. And she always did things with us. I remember her making little holiday timetables for my sister and me, where she would mark out time for different activities like reading, studying, going out and exercising. She pushed me to do a lot in life. And I think the reason why I do things the way I do them is because of her.

She grew up in Vasai, a Mumbai suburb. Her parents were farmers. She studied in Marathi till the 10th standard and went to Austria after her 12th to study nursing. She stayed there for 10 years. She has an affinity for languages, so she picked up German very quickly. I did not inherit that. She met my father when my grandmother was ill, and she was taking care of her in the hospital. My grandmother liked her a lot and thought she would be ideal for her son. So my grandmother was instrumental in them coming together.

My father is 83 and retired. But I remember loving his cooking while growing up. My mom had a fixed number of dishes she would cook, but when my dad cooked, he would always go to a recipe book. So, the taste was always different. Sometimes I would tease my mother, telling her that when she went out, dad made us the best food. They had a very classical and old-fashioned marriage. But they were equal in every way, and my mother was never submissive to him. They both had a strong voice, and my father helped my mother with all the household chores. He did the grocery shopping and she did the cooking. If there was no help, they would clean the home together. So it was a very equal relationship.

My mother has influenced me in many ways. I remember one afternoon, when I might have been in the 7th or 8th grade, I was studying, sitting half in light and half in shadow, and she was talking to me. And she told me, whatever you do in life, just see that you respect yourself. It never made sense to me then. What is she talking about, I asked myself. But somewhere that stuck with me. Today, if I’m not comfortable with something, I say it.

Now that I’m a mother myself, I look at how I am raising my children. I think I am far more liberal with them than my mother was with me and my sister. I talk to them about everything, whether they like to listen or not. But in other ways, I am exactly like my mother. Sometimes I say something and then think, ‘Oh God, that’s my mother coming out of my mouth’.

She has always been supportive of everything I have done. Initially, she never understood what I was doing because it was so different from what the rest of my family were doing. I think it took her time to realise that doing interviews could be a career, too. Until that happened―and she realised that I was settled and doing well―she was worried.

Today, the roles have reversed. She has grown older and is losing her memory, so I am the one taking care of her. There is a lot of her in me. I’m also forgiving. I like to keep myself busy. I don’t hold grudges. If I can, I will help anyone who asks for my help. I get all that from her.

―As told to Anjuly Mathai at the 17th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival