Your Mother…My Mother…the universal Ma…Salud

There was a cartoon circulating on the recently concluded Mothers’ Day : a bevy of assistants: a cook, a nurse, a friend, a maid, a butler, a doctor, a teacher, a driver, a clown, a priest, and even a fortune teller are all in the background and the mother is told by her child : ” Mom, I appointed all these people for a day, to give you rest on Mothers’ Day”.

Humor reflecting reality. All of us know that Mothers are the original multi-skilled managers without whom a lot more than our lives would come crashing down. They make the world go a-round and without them, nothing seems right nor happens right. So is it not a travesty of justice that still we wait for a Mothers’ Day to remember and pay our obeisance to them.

I remember a quote which has been around since I was a child : God could not be everywhere, and so he made Moms. They truly bring a touch of heaven to our humdrum lives; a magic for our souls and true awakening of happiness and joy in all that they touch. Even a bleeding bruise suddenly feels better with her kiss.

The only day that your mother was happy when you cried, was the day you were born. After hearing that first cry of the newborn, her life gets totally centered around the hopes and aspirations, the joys and tribulations, the achievements and struggles of her child. We all have experienced the sheer joy on the face of our mother, when she is able to do the smallest thing for us: whether it is stitching a button “just now” as you want to wear just that dress today or making your favorite dish and observing your expression, as you eat. Somehow she feels fulfilled and happy when you eat and enjoy.

My Aai was no different. Like ALL mothers in the world, she was uniquely endowed and by far was THE BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD to me. It is not because I was the only son, my 3 sisters also got the same love and care. Why my sisters, anyone and everyone who came to our house was touched by her magic. Even after 40+ years, my school friends from Cuttack remember her pink coloured, coconut burfis which they always say were unique in their taste. Of course they would be , as the chief ingredient was her love. No occasion in the family would ever be complete without her trademark burfi ki thali emblazoned with “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary messages. While my wife and my sisters continue the tradition of Burfi ki thali for occasions, frankly we eat the burfi today mechanically while in our memory and heart we still savour the taste of my mother’s burfi.

Her constant endeavour was to give me piping hot food. So even when I came back from school at 3 pm, she would go into the kitchen and make hot rotis for me. I would sit at the table with a book in my hand eating distractedly; and getting scolded by my grandmother, for making the hot rotis and subji grow cold. But my Aai waited till I finished the roti in my plate, to serve me another hot one off the griddle. There were many times when the family sat for dinner together there would be multiple versions of the same dish : with garlic for me; without garlic for my father; green chilli tadka for one sister; embellished with tirphala (an unique konkani condiment: giving a pungent smell to the curry) for my sister; while there was curry without onion paste as the guest, who had come that day, did not relish onions!! So the same curry was served in 4/5 different ways to accommodate individual choices: ensuring complete delight. We grew up thinking such variations were normal. With Aai it was always different strokes for different folks.

Aai came from a very well to do family: her Father was the Superintendent of Agency in the then Imperial Bank ( precursor to the erstwhile State Bank of India). In the early 30s they had a car and a driver in their house. From big bungalows to a small village in Sawantwadi, after her love marriage with my father, must have been a huge change. Suddenly from multiple servants in house, she had to fetch water from a well and become the eldest daughter in law in a large Hindu Konkani family. Emboldened by her love, she took it all in stride and she became a mother to all my father’s siblings, the youngest one being just 1 year old!! She endeared herself to not only to the family, but also the villagers who came to see the new bride.

My father took on a sales job in New India insurance and so started travelling 20 days of the month. Even when he took my mother away from Sawantwadi ( where at least there was a large joint family backup) my mother was equally at home in the 14+ cities and houses my father took her to in his career. She learnt to stay alone without any family support. Rather she took some of my father’s younger siblings to stay with her and be brought up in her house. Our nuclear family moved all across India : Hyderabad, Agra, Pune and then Cuttack : 4 corners of India and at times in between. In all this we were taught resilience and adjustment by Aai. Making friends where ever we went and keeping those friends and contacts for a lifetime.

Like all mothers, she had a penchant for fulfilling her child’s every wish. My younger sister would suddenly demand chicken for lunch, and chicken she would get. At times she wanted a new dress for the evening birthday party, and a new dress would appear. There was no custard powder at home one day and my sister insisted on jelly with custard. My mother solution was staring with cornflour and milk and preparing custard herself rater than saying we will have it the next day as the Weikfield packet was not there. All of which led to the famous christening of my mother by my sister : “Panda Aai jaadugaar” ( Mother is a magician)

After retirement my father settled down in Pune. In the building where they lived “Aji” was loved by all, as now they became the beneficiaries of the laddoos and chivda which we had outgrown. The swing in her balcony ensured a steady stream of young children to her house. And then the parents coming to take the children away would be treated to snacks and hot tea. Evening was with the Laughter club and walking friends and other oldies around the colony, and so on on and on the round robin went. Whenever we visited Pune, in my daughter Rashmi’s honor there would be an icecream party thrown for all kids in the building. In short, we never saw an empty house.

At the age of 80 she was still living life fullest. Burning both sides of the candle, she would laugh at me as I do not dance at birthday parties when she would readily start swaying to hindi music with her grand daughters. Unfortunately at 81 she was diagnosed with cancer of the intestines. But now she convinced her oncologist that she has had a happy life and seen not only grand children settled but also great grandchildren growing up. She actually counselled all of her children : don’t cry for me, i have no more desires and have seen it all. I am dying a very satisfied woman, having lived my life in full.

Even in her death she gave us a teaching : She told me : “no rituals, no poojas, no 12th day feeding of bramhins. Even our relatives are all well fed. Rather spend that money to give a donation for women’s education so that it serves a deserving cause!!! ”

What a woman! What a mother!! No surprise then that her partner for 60 years ( my father) died in 6 weeks after my mother died, and he had no medical problems at all !! He just lost his will to live after his lover, his life partner, his wife of 60 years was no more. Lucky him I say. I wonder why we are still living now??

Those of you who are fortunate to have your mothers around you : love them with all your mite. Leave no regrets for future, no I should have; I could have; I would have. Do it now. Loving your Mother is the best thing you could do with your life. Today. And tomorrow.

I am now left with only this to say:
Jab kagaz pe likha maine Ma tera naam
Kalam adab se bol uthi, ho gaye charo dham!!

Aai tuzi aathvan yete : vikas