“From my mother, I learnt piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.“
Reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, his words about his mother resonated the most with me. If he had ever tried writing about my mother, the words would have remained exactly the same.
Like any other person about their mum, I too think that my mother is the greatest and most special woman. But when the praise for my mother pours in from elsewhere, from non-family members, then I need to write about her. Not one person in my life who’s also been in contact with my mum has shied away from mentioning the greatness and generosity of her. I find it difficult to cope with their adulation of her.
Today was one such day too.
On this mothers’ exclusive day, I learnt through a social media post about a young friend, Radha, who had lost her father some years ago, lost her mother in January. My heart sank. Thinking about her loss, and also knowing how we are slowly losing people. We grew up with these kids. We were like a big family of 18-20 different families that got separated due to moving, relocating, marrying and other such life’s reasons. But, to be separated by death is the hardest. Unlike others, who use social media as a tool to celebrate life or grieve death or illness, Radha chose to grieve in private. There was nothing I could instantly think of than to speak with her. It was her mother’s day too, and the first without her mum around.
Our conversation was all about reminiscing the good young days, of our recklessness, carefree late-night conversations, sneaking out, dance, music, movies we rented, games we played, windows we broke, scoldings we got, girls and boys. The call was about crying and laughing in equal measure. She told me that my phone call was the best mother’s day gift for her. It makes it the best mother’s day gift for me too, to make someone smile.
She talked about my mum, ‘Asha auntie’, as she called her. “The industrious, tenacious, brave, resilient and very clean person, auntie Asha.” She remembered, to my surprise, the smallest characteristics and quirks of my mum, like the gentle flicking of her hair locks or habitual moving of that one lock of hair away from her face with the back of her hand while working, the cocking of her head from side to side, her squeeky and sparkly clean home, her contagious laughter and continous preparation of food in the kitchen to welcome everyone, the introduction of the playground-sized gadda in the room where the whole world must have jumped on at least once, like it were a bouncy castle, and many other precedents set. Radha disclosed using the example of my mum in her own home too.
Now, this had to be the best mother’s day gift for my mum. Not only did her kids think she was great, so did the kids’ friends, and their friends and relatives, and the friends and relatives of my dad, and our new families, and the grandkids. Within months of getting married and moving to Pilani from Bombay, my mum had gained the praise and respect of the townfolk. She had learnt a new language to communicate with the new people in her life.
This is my mother, Asha. She grew up with the name Shakuntala (meaning ‘bird’), but dad decided to call her Asha, which means ‘hope’. My dad suffixed the name with Devi, meaning ‘goddess’. He believes that she has kept the house (read family) afloat, preserving hope, sanity and peace among chaos, exactly like Lord Krishna holding Mount Govardhan to protect his people from rain. She has endured pain and suffering with a smile. She has met triumphs and distasters without compromising on her character. She has always been truthful to herself and to others, even if the honesty led to her pain. She knew not what ego meant, for she believed that ego and love can never flourish together. She was approchable and unassuming, instilling courage in us, not fear. She made the effort to reach out to people. If people were wise, they would accept. Fools, she would be better without.
My mum is the strongest woman I have ever known. Mentally powerful and physically ready. She gave us freedom, she watched, but never pried, never imposed, never lied, never relied, kept our secrets, always helped. She is unafraid to ask anything, because she is unafraid to face the truth, and is willing to help. She thinks of today, not what tomorrow holds. If she cannot alleviate someone’s suffering today, what kind of mind’s peace can tomorrow bring, is her thought. She looked upto no one as she is content. A proud person that she is, she would, without thinking twice, give away everything that money can buy, but is very possessive about her soul.
The most secure memories of my life are the ones of returning home from school and finding my mum in the kitchen, getting our food ready. We never had to seek permission to bring friends over for meals. There was always a promise of abundance, without a frown. This was almost a daily routine. She was ALWAYS available for us. There were no worries in life.
My mum is the most successful woman. She wanted to be a good mother, lover, wife, friend, daughter, teacher, sister, daughter-in-law, aunt, sister-in-law and so on, and she made a huge success of all that and more. People say that girls turn out like their mothers, and I see that we both have. Only, my sister is a better person than I am. So like my mum. I don’t know if my life would have ever been what it is had it not been for these two beautiful women. A friend of my sister, who’s pretty successful in her own right, recently asked me if Sheetal was willing to adopt her. Other people have expressed desire to be adopted by my mother. I am proud to be the biological daughter of the woman who, through her entire life, remained a fierce fighter, and advocate of truth, and still continues to be so. She can never be defeated because her strength comes from her character that no one can conquer.
My regret is I can’t be near my mum whenever I want. Lucky are those who can be near their mums. Unlucky are those who squander that opportunity.
But I am my mum’s girl. I am trying to be for my children what she is to us. It makes my every day when my girls want to do everything right by me. I am proud to be like my mum, even if slightly, as even a slight trait from her magnanimous nature will make me stand out.
Unfortunate are those mothers whose children don’t want to be anything like them. The selfish and self-serving mums who only know how to take advantage of their children’s weakness or kindness, to want to look great at their expense. These mothers are like their own mothers who left the disturbing legacy. Such mothers spend their entire lives in unrepentant connivance, dishonesty, deception, gossip, snooping around and bitching – all the essential traits of uncharitable, mercenary, unscrupulous, self-absorbed individuals. Traits that destroy and divide families by doing irreparable damage. Such mums exist too, sadly. They are the control freaks. Shortsighted, they cannot see the long-term implications of their lies and actions. They remain so oblivious and disconnected that they cannot see or feel the pain and suffering they’ve caused their children, one from which some children never recover. Their children don’t aspire to be like them, but are too weak to break free from the trap their mothers have laid out for them, until they assume the same personalities as their mothers. On the rare occasions, the most independent minded, the ones with their own brains, will free themselves from the trap. The rest of them will never have any life, will resent the independent minded, and will propagate this behaviour through their future generations and there goes the cycle “like mothers like their offsprings”.
Pavlov, obviously, proposed his theory based on human interactions and observations.
I want to be like my mum. She is my hero. She means so much to me that I cannot envision a world without her. I’m continuously learning from her.
Jehangir, despite his reticence, and completely out of the blue, one evening, expressed to my mum, “you’re very nice, madame.” My mum started laughing, appreciatively. Jehangir’s compliment meant a lot to me as he never flattered anyone. My friend, Siddhartha, said that she was the most down-to-earth woman he had ever met, that she had everything she wanted, but it never came in the way of how she treated people. She has always treated all alike. Yet another friend in London once said to me, “your mom is a ‘real mummy’, my mom is just a mom.” This friend had not even met my mother, but derived the conclusion only by listening to my telephone conversations with my mum, because she had never had such a warm conversation with her own mother, she said, let alone repeatedly.
That sums it all.
Happy Mother’s Day, mummy! You are so good that I often forget it is my day too.
….. Sapna Dhandh-Sharma