As we all celebrated Mother’s Day earlier and Father’s Day today, I couldn’t but thank my mother for being the strongest of the sails to steer me and my sister through the roughest of the storms. She has been technically the Mother, but stepped up to be our Father as well!
Twenty five years ago, in January, I had celebrated my last single digit birthday. May 01, 1989: few days into my summer vacation and I was excited to spend that month with my entire family. You see, dad’s job kept him away from us for more than three fourths of a month…and he told me he took the entire month off from work! But we all know that “Man Proposes; God Disposes”, right?
05/05/1989. That day. That dreaded day. I woke up at around 7am with what sounded like the loudest thud; with my father collapsing on the bed near my feet. I was stunned and had no idea what was going on. I think I slowly started to grasp the reality when I saw my mother and my uncle panic to keep him alive. When the doctor-slash-family-friend uttered the words “purchase ice”, I had no clue what those words meant.
About ten minutes after, my uncle took me to the post office to send telegrams to the extended family. I vividly remember my uncle’s handwriting on the telegram forms that said “Bhavani passed away; please start immediately”. I stared blankly at that sentence as he wrote it over and over again, for about 25-30 times. I still had no idea what was going on. But the way we were born and raised to not question the adults, I couldn’t dare to ask. I was hoping someone would explain something to me!
About an hour later, we got back home. And what I saw there, brought me to the harsh reality with a shocking jolt! Only then I fully understood what the heck was going on. My father’s lifeless body was carefully perched atop two large ice blocks. My mother was sitting near his feet; shocked and speechless. My sister sat next to mom, holding her tightly and trying to contain her emotions. But I didn’t know how to react. I was too scared. That’s when I realized I could become truly speechless even though I wanted to say something…or at least, shed a tear.
As hours passed by, my father’s cricket-team of a family (they were 11 siblings) slowly trickled in. He was the 8th of the 11 kids. My youngest uncle fainted when he saw my dad lay there, lifeless. My oldest aunt, who had raised my dad as her own son, fell over my father’s body and cried for well about an hour. My oldest uncle hugged his little brother’s body and cried like a baby. To see their sibling start the “race” at a mere 42 years of age, was too shocking for everyone to comprehend. The next day, they “prepared” him to take the cremation grounds. I realized then–I would never see him. Ever. Those would become the few glances I’d get that would be my lifelong memories of him that I’d have to live with. And that’s when I cried. Uncontrollably.
Through all this chaos, the one person I looked up to, before letting out any of my emotion, was my mother. She stood there as a rock. She focused on what needed to be done, while letting out an occasional tear or two. Whenever I saw her and whenever she spoke to us, all I could feel was the sense of determination; determination to raise her two new-teen and pre-teen daughters.
And for the next twenty five years, she stayed strong for me and my sister. She never let us feel that void left by dad. She went out of the way to make sure that we never said “we could’ve had xyz if dad were alive” or “we could’ve done xyz if dad were alive”…and so on. If you are even closely aware of how hard it is to raise girls in India, especially by a single mom, you will know why I am so proud of my mother and why I respect her the way I do. To give up everything when she was only 35 and to raise two girls, working hard for every single rupee she had to earn, to go to that extra mile to make us both engineers, to get us married in a grand fashion…and so much more that she did–this life is not enough for me to count every single thing that she did for us.
If my sister and I are here today, we owe it to our mother.
We couldn’t have asked for a better mother, father, friend, guide, teacher–all wrapped in one form, her–who could easily step into any role as and when we needed her. Ma, we love you. Happy Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Friendship Day, Teachers’ Day…and many more, to you, Ma.