I grew up as second of four sisters. In India, in those times, having a son was a mark of heart bursting pride and people were always feeling sympathetic towards us. A typical conversation would start with, “how many brothers and sisters do you have?”, “We are four sisters,”I would reply and the aunty would go “Awwwww no brothers? Your poor mom.” Yes, that’s how audacious and appalling some aunties could be! However, my mom never considered herself as poor mom, she never bemoaned that this was a misfortune or a shortcoming. Infact, she told us that she would have been happy with just two kids and it never mattered to her one bit that she did not have a son, my dad was the one who wanted a boy!
Sometimes, I envy my mom because she got to marry my dad who I think with his sharply chiselled features, over six feet height and lively demeanor was the most handsome man on this planet. They were total opposites, my mom calm and introverted, my dad social and very dynamic, get a few drinks in him and he would be the life of the party, you would only hear his booming voice recounting tales of his army days and everybody would be listening to him. Unfortunately, my dad passed away when he was only 51 and as much as we missed his loving presence we knew that if in his place our mom had passed away he would not have been as strong, he would be completely shattered and he would not have been able to care for us by himself like my mom did.
My mom is a strong independent woman who worked as a teacher, drove a fiat confidently in the crazy Indian traffic, looked after her kids and did not take bullshit from anybody. She was and is liberal, unorthodox, honest, patient and hardworking. She raised four teenage girls by herself at a time when single moms were rare, there was no support group of similar moms or any kind of single moms club. She was earning the bacon, shopping for it and cooking it to feed us. I am always amazed at how good she is with money, saving it, investing it, growing it through smart choices so her daughters could have a good education and a good lifestyle. My mother is very straightforward, she will give you her honest opinion, political correctness be damned! She is also very proud and never takes financial help from anybody, not even her kids who would love to help. She likes to give but not to receive.
Her childhood was pretty amazing. She grew up in the small picturesque town of Haveli Kharagpur in the state of Bihar in India. The town was named after its Rajput ruler from long ago who was called Kharag Singh. He had five daughters who killed themselves by jumping off a mountain into the waterfall and they did this to escape the abuse of the Muslim ruler who overpowered and overthrew their dad, Kharag Singh. The waterfall was called panchkumari (5 sisters) waterfall and it fell into a gorgeous lake which joined into a river. My mom, along with her six siblings and many cousins spent their childhood climbing these mountains, taking a dip in the hot mineral water springs in the forest and admiring the beauty of nature, picking flowers and chasing goats . She did not go to school as there were no schools for girls (My son Arjun commented- "wow what a good life- no school")but my grandfather and other teachers taught her at home. She took the high school exam, went to college and got her B.ed. and M.ed. and became the principal of the first girls school in her town called Panchkumari Vidyalaya for girls. I think it is so remarkable that she persevered with her studies as her being financially independent and having a job was so important for our well being later in her life.
I will always be mad at God for being so unfair and testing her strength again by taking away my older sister Shweta at the age of 25. The death of her beautiful, strong, vibrant and charismatic daughter broke her down and shook her to her core. She still picked up the pieces and is involved and present in the lives of the rest of her daughters and her beautiful grandchildren. Recently, I enjoyed listening to her singing lullabies to put my four month old nephew to sleep. My mom is a great singer and sometimes feels sad that she could not pursue classical music as a career.She is also a wonderful chef and her chilli chicken is to die for. She always pampers us with our favorite food and I get mad at my husband for liking food which is time-taking to make like bharva karela which she will make for him, she does have the patience to empty out the karela (bittergourd), boil it, make the stuffing, stuff it and then fry it- all for her precious son in law!
We all love her very much, she is our source of inspiration, of guidance, she is our hero.She used to say that our dad spoilt his daughters but I think she spoilt us more specially after he was gone so we never felt that we lacked anything. I would like to end by quoting the words of a song “yeh to sach hai ki bhagwan hain, hain magar phir bhi anjaan hain, dharti pe roop ma baap ka, us vidhaata ki pehchaan hai” (briefly translated the lyrics mean that god exists on earth in the form of our parents.)
Happy Mother’s Day mom today and every day.
Happy Mother’s Day mom today and every day.