It was in Balmain that my uncle and mother met again. He must must have been preparing to go to India and was a disciple in Sydney, now bearing the name Achurya Das. I have a photo of him holding me, his head shaved, the paint on his forehead, in the characteristic Krishna robes.

My mother tells the story of him returning from the temple. He carries in his hand dust, gathered carefully from the shoes of Prabhupada himself. She bent in for a closer look, and sneezed into it.

On another occasion he was waded out into a deep pond to gather a lily flower or lotus which he somehow does not touch with his hands, he returns to show it to her, a perfect flower, unaffected by man. She had a good poke around with her finger.

I would imagine that while Achurya Das had finally found the guru for whom he had been seeking, my mother was still without substitute for the Catholicism of her youth. Worse, her scepticism for religions other than Christianity appears to have been normal for a woman of her generation – deep despite the pretension to open-mindedness the Hippies represented. But for this I can hardly blame her, the her then hardly differs from many attitudes towards mysticism prevalent in my own contemporary society. In that regard, she was merely ahead of the game, yet again.

The most interesting upshot of her being in Sydney in 1970, apart from the obvious want to be near her older brother, was of course, me. Australia was then as it is now, more socially advanced than New Zealand. In particular, it accommodated young women in ‘the family way’ with a tolerance New Zealand did not. And so it was that my mother, like generations of young women before her, found herself there on the edge of that great desert, making the choice. Because while unwed pregnancy, and residence with our nearest neighbour until the shameful act is less evident, is a fine old tradition – safe and clinical termination of unwanted children was very new.

It often confuses liberal friends when I profess to being anti-abortion, but pro-choice, because the two are often characterised as mutually exclusive. But, trying to imagine the feelings of a young woman, largely alone in an unforgiving and partially alien city, finding herself with the choice to terminate my life, or not, the larger political argument is trivial. How would I consider her to have made any choice but the correct one? And so I often think of the potential lives destroyed by termination when reflecting upon my own, and reflect upon the manner in which my birth permanently and irrevocably altered the trajectory of my mother’s life, and I see there an act of great love, selflessness.

For not only did she decide not to end me, she further chose to keep me from a pre-arranged adoption favoured by the authorities of the day. And so while my uncle may have immersed himself in the mysticism of the exotic East, my mother surrendered herself to a fate much more complex, a path more difficult, that a great many women decline.

F,FLP

Advertisements