Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My editorial in Intelligent Pune weekly tabloid on Oct 2, 21010

Headline:  Awesomeness of being a mother

Otherwise I took my mother for granted – it’s only when I lost her last week that I realised the awesomeness of having a mother and being one. When her frail body lost the strength of her otherwise formidable voice, I knew she would soon become a distant dream, a thought quite acceptable to me then as a natural course of life. It’s only when her mortal remains were mechanically and rudely shunted into the glowing fire of the electric crematorium to be perished instantly, that the immortality of motherhood hit me hard.

If the first speck of your life is nurtured in a mother’s womb, the first lessons of life and living too are encompassed in her hands and heart. One of my first reminisces is of her coming during break time to St Joseph’s School, Belgaum, when I was in the primary section. Everyday, it was the same tiffin – `shikran poli’ (banana kheer with chapati) which became breaksfast until the last days of my school life. Simple, nutritious meals were her forte and ingredients in the perfect proportion, her passion. ```Eating out’’ was abhorrent in her dictionary and indulgence in the wrong kind of food and at wrong times was simply unacceptable. Cooking excess food was humiliating waste of money and she had amazing measurements like `one potato person,’ ``one fist of rice (uncooked) per person’’ and so on if you were cooking for parties. She was intolerant to worms infesting foodgrains and her annual stock was appropriately sun-bathed and proudly packed into air-tight tins. Her milk never ran over; never did her rice ever over or under-cook.  Such relentless vigilance in the kitchen could make you feel she was unnecessarily obsessed but for her any laxity in this department was misappropriation of the domestic budget

She was a perfect example of a mother ``not being a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.’’ This she showed by her practical nature – emotional decisions meant weakness so a sensible approach in any situation was her catchphrase for us. She hated conflicts at home and preferred ``keeping quiet’’ in times of any familial outbursts. She believed in `live and let live’ policy. Her voice was loud but she wasn’t – an amazing parody really. Once in Belgaum – I must have been about four years old, I saw the servant’s daughter stealing ``our’’ mango so I ran into the outhouse and got it back, feeling triumphant. Instead, my mother reprimanded me for having ``illegally’’ entered her house and said I should have taken the matter to her first and she would have decided what to do.

Her obsession with fitness was remarkable.  She followed an exercise regimen and never tolerated over-weight just because we have become mothers. The moment she saw a slight paunch, she would remind me it is time to go to the gym and control my diet (meaning not eating out). Health programmes on the television and radio were her hot favourites – she never missed them. She constantly lectured on the gravity of having blood pressure and diabetes, which all came along with a bad lifestyle she would tell us over and over again. She was very particular about her annual medical check-ups which were ``normal’’ and that would be her sense of victory against lifestyle diseases. Her hemoglobin never dropped below 14 which she was very proud of.

According to her, love should never be blind, it should be open-eyed. Marital bliss can never be the natural consequence of falling in love or adorning the mangalsutra – it always took a lifetime to keep it intact. I remember she had advised me ``when your mother-in-law says something you do not like, put me in her place and see if you still feel as bad.’’ That really worked like magic many times – I realised it was the `in-law’ tag that often led to prejudice. She was so un-womanlike when it came to gossip. Once, as a teenager I was gossiping with a friend in the verandah of our bungalow in Berhampur. After my friend left, she scolded me for talking about others – what good is it going to do to you and it will always boomerang. I still might have gossiped but that constant fear of not to do so would always lurk.

Two years back, I took her for granted when I shifted to her house for 40 days along with my daughter who was expecting a baby. I decided in a moment that it was a great idea to be under her guidance, after delivery. Her extraordinary meals proved to be such a health boon that when her gynecologist saw my daughter for a post-natal checkup, she said she must thank her grandmother for her increased hemoglobin level. She will be sorely missed next month when her second baby will come to life.

It was six months back that my mother showed the first signs of having to compromise with her fiery independence. She shifted to mybrother’s house, where she was extremely happy. Last month though she was diagnosed of having liver cirrhosis. She was unable to digest the simplest of food, not even a crocin tablet. She told us she was on her last journey and she did not want any doctors or medicines now and that she should be left alone. Then on she merely existed for the sake of existing. God took her away quite promptly I should say, leaving behind a trail of conscientious living through four of her offsprings. Whether they live up to it or not is another story – but her role of a gardener was of prime quality.

Vinita Deshmukh
Intelligent Pune