When Maya Sarabhai Was Ahead of Time!

A repertoire of the most different roles. Ratna Pathak Shah has always wowed us with her performances. She has played it all.

The naive woman who wants to explore her own sexuality. The voice of a female puppet. An uber-cool single mother. A mother who is struggling to accept her son’s sexuality. A woman who helps a rickshawala in the times of Corona. And well, just about anything. In fact, she has done it well, like no other! However, there is one role that has always stuck up from her repository of goals.

Maya Sarabhai is her beloved role. The sophisticated, elite South Bombay mother.  She may be a bit classist but has always been there to support her family. As a matter of fact, you would be surprised to know. The role that she plays so convincingly. Shah vouches that she rather associates with Monisha in real life! 

However, on Ratna Pathak Shah’s birthday today. We recall 4 times, the iconic Maya Sarabhai was way ahead of our times!

Maya has been a supporter of arts!

At a young age, where we all were struggling to find our calling. The uber-cool Maya Sarabhai was the goals for all of us. A mother who supported her son. And appreciated his interest to go into the arts. It was a wonder, however, that she appreciated the kind of poetry Roshesh wrote. But as a matter of fact, we are grateful that she was understanding! We all sought inspiration from her!

Maya Sarabhai

Maya Sarabhai was an agony aunt for everyone..

Just like a lot of South Bombay housewives. Maya Sarabhai was very actively engaged in social work. She held and visited art exhibitions, poetry readings. She protested in front of the Mayor. But at the same time, she was available to everyone. Maya has been an agony aunt to almost everyone on the show. Be it her daughter-in-law who was having intimacy problems with her husband. (And we have to give it to Maya. She helped her son and daughter-in-law out!) Or it could be deciding a divorce for her friends. Or just simply solving Indu and Sahil’s fight. Maya’s advice has helped everyone out. Though, she did tend to gossip about it! But we will give her that!

Maya knew how to take her right.. And give an earful!

The true beauty of the show has been. The carefully worded nok-jhok among the family members. They plotted pranks and placed bets. They even bitched about each other. But it was always transparent. Maya may badmouth Monisha’s unhelpfulness. Or even sometimes hope for her death. But in the end, she did love her family to death. She would stand up for them. Most importantly, Maya knew when to stand up for herself. She may have been a housewife who cooked and cleaned. There was never a time when she would let anyone walk over her. Even if it was an upper-middle class Simple Kilawala! In fact, one of the best times would certainly be when she answered rightly for Indu’s ‘masculinity’. “Main phone nahi uthaunga, main mard hun…” “Tumhe apne handicap sweekarlena chahiye!” It was all about the laughter! 

Maya Sarabhai

Maya may be a classist. Maybe a snob. But Maya always relented to her children’s love. And loved really well!

May it be Monisha. Or Jasmine from the second season. Maya accepted her sons’ odd choices in ladies. And their love for them! I mean. She agreed to go to Matkadar Baba’s samadhi. ‘A monstrously middle-class wish!’ Maya loved her children equally. In fact, it is a big task to handle ‘The Technical Times of India’ as a son-in-law indeed! As a matter of fact, she always took care of Madhusudhan Bhai. Their deaf brother-in-law. They all may eat Maya’s head figuratively. But Maya loved them all in her own way!

The fact of it all is. We are all glad that Ratna Pathak Shah was Maya Sarabhai! And we are all glad that they both exist! On her birthday, we wish Ratna Pathak a wonderful year ahead. And we hope that we get to see more of her brilliant art! And well, we would love to know what happened to the Sarabhai’s in the third season! Till then, I will revisit the old episodes. And as a matter of fact, even you should! 

Lastly, we all hope to see more of her, everywhere! She is a joy indeed!

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