I must have been 10 back then. I wanted to eat an apple but had no clue about using a knife. Nevertheless, I put it on my hand and thought of chopping it in one stroke like a karate chop. The apple fell down but the knife did quite a bit of damage to my hand, which started bleeding profusely. While dad sneered at my stupidity, mom quickly gathered her purse and hailed a rickshaw to take me to the doctor. All this while, she had wrapped my bleeding hand in a quick fix bandage. She never scolded me once.
The heart desires a gentle, calming hug when in pain.
She had lovingly prepared homemade ketchup and bottled peas. Hours of painstaking work had gone in. She had warned my brother and I to stay clear of that zone where the glass bottles were carefully arranged in a cupboard. What do you know? We forgot that and played hide and seek in the very same area breaking most of her bottles. That is the first time, I saw her in a Kali Ma avatar. It was as if a volcano had erupted. Oh yes, mother could pack a punch. When she roared, even dad looked scared. She was a parent and could clearly throw her weight around.
That she preferred to use love to teach us did not mean we could take her for granted.
She packed me a suitcase full of homemade pickles and edible stuff she knew I liked when I was leaving for the US. “Oh, you will be hungry!” she said. I rolled my eyes back then. Well she was right! To this day, I hunger for the food she could so effortlessly conjure. She showed me how cooking is not a mere chore; it is seva (service). She showed me how food satisfies more than just the tummy.
Food satiates the soul. It nurtures those we cherish.
She was on her deathbed. Her mouth covered in ulcers so big that she couldn’t talk. But her eyes spoke tearfully. The joy in her eyes to see me was something that will never leave my heart. I could see my wedding albums and other pictures strewn around her. I was newly wed and had flown back from the US. I tightly squeezed her hand. She squeezed back. We stared at each other. I held back tears; she didn’t make any such effort. She was no more in 4 days. She had held on just long enough before letting go.
A mother’s heart dwells in her children.
What do I say about ma that I haven’t said before? A conventional beauty, she was quiet and loving yet strong. She and dad were so different and yet complemented each other perfectly. All that I know about relationships, partnership and marriage I imbibed by watching them. When she was alive, I never told her how much I loved her. Perhaps, she knew. All mothers know. But, I will always regret not saying it to her. I took her presence for granted. She was supposed to be around when I had my first child and then second, when I went through the troughs in my life, when I visited my home with my family. It was hardest to reconcile with her absence in those hard times. Why did she have to go so soon?
The good, the bad, the ugly, we lived everything together as a family. When everyone had deserted us, we siblings with my parents stood by each other, watching each other’s backs. We do even now! Perhaps that is the biggest lesson she taught me — Family is supreme!
Fourteen years since she passed away at the age of 52, I still remember her with love and joy. Perhaps, that is the biggest tribute to the person that she was. To others, she may be just a simple homemaker sitting at home looking after her home and hearth, doing unglamorous things like cooking and crocheting. To my siblings, my father, and me she was the cornerstone of our life and the glue that cemented our love. Her warmth still lights up our hearts and memories and guides us through our darkest times.
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