Anumita pays tribute to her mother and mother-in-law, whom she calls Ma, and two mother figures on the occasion of Mother’s Day. She also tells about the person who started Mother’s Day and how, later, she spent every ounce of her energy to undo it, sad with its commercialisation. Read about these splendid women, as Special Feature on Mother’s Day, exclusively in Different Truths.
God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers. ~ Rudyard Kipling
Being a mother, of two young gentlemen, has often made me think about motherhood as a special avatar of mine. My Ma is both an intelligent and very practical woman. She had a very smart way of handling both me and my sister. From her, I learned that being a mother you need to change at every stage of life. Motherhood is a combination of various talents. Every mother is a teacher, nurse, friend, chauffeur, cleaning lady, confidant, companion, guru and has many more designations in her bio.
Other than my wonderful Ma there are few other women who have mothered me. They have taught and guided me in crucial parts of my life. I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
During my stay in Mumbai, before my marriage, I worked in a professional teaching college, Davar’s College. They had a branch in Vashi, Navi Mumbai. One of my co-workers was Paramjit Kaur. She was older than me, was married and had a little girl. I have lost contact with her now. The last time I heard, she had moved to Bangalore.
She had a unique way of guiding me. She never said anything directly but often mentioned things in the passing. Especially, since I was newly married and trying hard to fit into my in-law’s house. She never criticised nor made it an issue when I would complain.
Her strength was invisible but was so strong that it came through as a protective force. The biggest thing I learned from her was to make the best of every situation. She would softly mention that the world is not going to be to my liking always. But, I could find something in it, and mold to your favor. All her wisdom came when she would be either eating lunch with us or while she would be doing crochet in the late evenings when the class was done. Paramjit, I miss you but remember you often. One day we will meet again and I could thank you, in person, for being a huge inspiration in my life.
I had an arranged marriage. It was a very common phenomenon during my time. My new family consisted of my parent-in-laws, sister-in-law and my husband. During my engagement period, I became friends with my then-to-be mother-in-law. She is a very genteel woman. We often chatted on the phone. In fact, I talked to her more than I did with my fiancé. Then the whole wedding program happened. It was a huge affair.
Once things settled down, I tried to strike a balance between my household duties and my work. This was tricky, as being new bride I had some things to understand about the people and the customs of the house. I would accompany my mother-in-law for shopping to Chembur, as we lived in Anushaktinagar. She would treat me to either Chinese or dosa. One day during some conversation, she brought about the topic of further studies. I tried to be coy and said that I have not thought of further studies yet, and was not sure what her son and my husband would say about it. What she told me then I will never forget. She smiled and said that at the end of the day, husband, kids, family, home and job does not matter. What matters is what you did for yourself. If you did nothing, you have not fed your soul.
I looked at her as if she was talking German. I could not fathom a mother-in-law advising her new daughter-in-law to do something for herself. She continued munching on her dosa and firmly instructed me to find a way to start my master’s degree. In a few months’ time, I got enrolled in the distant education for my masters in history from Bombay University. While I worked full time, I also finished the first year. I had almost dropped the second year.
I had quit my job and was looking for a new one when I got to know I was pregnant. My mother-in-law stepped in and directed me to quit working for some time and enjoy my pregnancy. And meanwhile, finish my second year of the Masters. I wrote my final exams in the month of May when I was seven months pregnant. She rode with me to the center every day. She carried food, water, and coconut water and sat outside in the heat till I finished each paper. On the last day, she took me out to eat, celebrating my success. Today, I can proudly say I have a Masters in History because of my mother-in-law. My mother of a special kind.
During my last visit to India, she was very ill. The house did not feel like home. He spirit was missing. I am proud to be your daughter-in-law, Ma.
After I had my first child, my husband had a job offer in Nairobi, Kenya. He left and I stayed back with my son at his parent’s place. In a few months’ time, we joined him. Nairobi is a beautiful place. This was my first time living on my own and managing the house and my child. The universe was kind on me. My next-door neighbor at the apartment were the Savanals. A couple and their two daughters. Pratima Savanal became my didi (elder sister). Her patient and soft personality taught me how to run a house. She and Bhaisab were both excellent cooks. I often ate my lunch at her place. Her daughters dotted on my kid. He waited for them to return from school and then my son was almost living in their house. Soon my son called didi as “Amma”. I had found a mothering sister away from home. She had a divinity in her.
Once when my husband was out of town, I had a severe bout of illness. My body had gone weak and sleep had eluded me. She took upon herself to perform prayers and nurse me back to health. I did not understand the Holistic Healing she did on me at that time. She lives in Pune now with her husband. She is a woman who does not have a single bad bone. Her inspiration has lead me to understand my inner strength. Thank you didi for being with me and teaching me the finer things of life.
Although Mother’s Day is celebrated with great gusto in modern days, its origin is traced back to the ancient Greek and Romans. They honored the mother Goddesses Rhea and Cybele.
Anna Jarvis worked hard to celebrate Mother’s Day to honour the sacrifices made by mothers for their families. Initially, the celebrations were done in churches and soon this spread to other states. Anna wrote letters to the government to proclaim it as a national celebration. She used the white carnation flower as a symbol and created pins engraved with the symbol to spread the message. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation stating that the second Sunday of May to be declared as Mother’s Day.
As soon as the day found a place in the American calendar, florist, confectionaries , nd different business started to cash in on the idea of Mother’s Day. Anna did not like this. She felt the dignity and the purpose of this day were being abused. Disgusted by the commercialisation of this day, she started a campaign to take the day off the calendar. She died penniless and heartbroken fighting number of legal battles. The irony of the situation was not only that the maker of the date fought to abolish it; Anna remained unmarried and childless while a major part of her life was about Mother’s Day.
Today, I am a mother of an adult and a teenager. I go through a roller coaster of emotions and struggles each day. I am sure we all do. Mothers are a special breed. I always believe that one does not need to give birth to be a mother. A woman is who nurtures a soul, at any age, is a mother. Just like our mother earth does.
Wishing every woman who had nurtured a life in some way or the other, a very Happy Mother’s Day!
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Photos by the author and the net.
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