Now republished as Amma
The day a child is born , so is a mother… Being the eldest child, this is doubly true, I guess, for my mother, who I call Amma. A mother is your first teacher, your first refuge, your eternal panacea for all troubles whether you are a one year ‘old’ infant or a 50 year ‘young’ woman. There exists an extra special bond between daughters and mothers which intensifies the day the daughter becomes a mother. An obstetrician by profession, I have lost count of the number of times I have witnessed the miracle of birth yet the novelty never wears thin.
My mother, a “simple homemaker” by definition, was and is easily one of the earliest and strongest influences of my life,as she inspired, coaxed and at times, literally dinned into us, her 3 daughters, the singular importance of being independent and self-reliant in the truest sense of the word. That we were “girls” never dimmed that determination even the slightest. I remember once on hearing that she had 3 daughters, a lady at a local club get together remarked ” Oh I am so sorry!” Pat came my mothers reply… “Why? I am not!! In fact I am proud! ” She would go on to instill in us the courage to follow our dreams, never believe that there was anything that we could not do because we were ” girls”. The fact that we belong to a matriarchal society may also have helped. The fact that we spent our childhood in Idyllic Goa also did. Gladly supported by my father, we were allowed tremendous freedom of choice and were vested with the power to choose from a very young age. This manifested in me at a very early age when I refused to repeat a class because I was too young to be promoted to the next despite having topped that class.( Class I )
Breathtakingly beautiful, Amma was a head turner in her youth. She was an intelligent sincere and good student but her formal education was cut short by her fathers untimely demise, when she was barely 14 yrs. Not a person to let obstacles become obstacles to her dreams, she resorted to home tuition and self-study to become proficient in Hindi soon after her studies. Married at a young age to my father, she retained her spark and individuality even while she toiled tirelessly for the family and provided an emotional anchor to my father all through their marriage. She managed our farm in the village and her managerial skills on display prompted one of my friends to remark that she was ideal Corporate honcho material!! An avid reader and a staunch movie buff, she enjoyed whatever life had to offer at each point in her life.
The care and support continued through my early years as a mother as I , by then a young doctor in the armed forces, struggled to balance a demanding career, marriage and kids. When I had to make a choice of a subject for PG, she supported me in the best way possible by spending valuable time with me and my children. Her immense strength and love was evident when she came to my duty station the day the last rites of my father was completed and yet never disclosed to me the fact that my father was no more as I was going through a complicated pregnancy. She even went to the extent of wearing the Taali ( a mangal sutra/mark of a married woman) till I was finally told the truth on the 15th postnatal day. Hats off to her especially as my father’s death at 61 was a sudden unexpected and devastating event for my mother who was barely 52 then. I sometimes wonder whether I would be ever be able to do that.
It has not always been hunky dory. Being strong-willed and independent women, we have our differences of opinion, disagreements and discussions, but the underlying bond has only grown stronger and stronger over the years. To date we still talk for hours on end… sometimes over the phone, sometimes in person. She is an integral part of my life even today and I like to think that I am a part of hers too.
She turned 75 last week and as per her wishes we celebrated it in Guruvayoor a temple town of Kerala. My sisters and my entire family made it a point to be there and it was a joyful occasion indeed. We sisters had initially made a plan of celebrating it as an event attended by close family and friends but finally gave in to her wishes.
A word about Guruvayoor. One of the most famous temples of Kerala where Lord Krishna is the deity, this temple has been part of several milestones in my life. It was here that my Annaprasam (or Chorrunnu as it is called in Malayalam ) was done .. it was here that I got married .. it was this deity that I prayed to when I had to appear for my MD exams within days of my daughters birth and it was here that my children had their Chorrunnu too.
Located about 30 km away from Thrissur, legend has it that Lord Krishna had advised his disciple to carry his idol and find a suitable place for it after Mathura was washed away. He along with Brihaspati found this spot and it is said that Lord Shiva himself welcomed the idol and worshiped it too.
So that has been the highlight of this week for me….. and it made me go down memory lane.
“The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children!” – Elaine Heffner
Amma has indeed taught me the art of living and more… thank you Amma, for just being you … A blessing…..