How I disappointed my real life hero - My mother (a birthday tribute)
Parents are true life heroes for most children but I think mine are special (of course). I know I talk about my dad a lot (he and I had a special bond) but my mom (though we clashed over a lot of things especially in the latter years) taught me some very real-life skills. No its not cooking (though she was spectacular at it), or sewing (she made all our clothes as children) or any of that domesticated stuff. If she were alive today (her birthday), she would have been celebrating her 88th birthday. In lots of ways, she was quite ordinary; a traditional Indian housewife who's life revolved around her husband and children, keeping house, etc. But she grew up in a household of very strong women and as the youngest of her sisters, she was allowed to do her own thing. What was extraordinary was some of the values she passed on to us (children) - especially me.
She let me be independent though I think she hoped I would embrace her traditions rather than the maverick customs of my father and his family. Yet when little kids were learning cycling and scraping their knees (I did those too) we were taught to play gin, bridge and rummy because they (both my parents) were card players and there were card sessions in our house in Jamshedpur every weekend that began on a Friday night and finished late on Sunday. She smoked and had the odd gin and sherry (not very Indian, Ma) and was a superb ballroom dancer. She was a classically trained Indian dancer and really wanted me to be too but realised (quite soon) that I did not have the interest or the dedication for it. Her first disappointment. Or possibly it was the dolls. Because I never played with them - rather pulled them apart to see what made them work. I did pick up the ballroom dancing though standing on my dad's feet, under her supervision and guidance.
She despaired of me ever going to the kitchen to learn how to cook but made sure I learnt to tell the difference between ordinary and sublime food. We learnt to eat and try everything.
She did however make it a point to make sure I could do simple stuff around the house like change a light bulb, change the fuse in the electric box, use the hammer and nails so I would "never have to rely on a man for the odd job".
She had some radical views but treated everyone that was kind to us - the same. NO MATTER WHO OR WHERE THEY CAME FROM. No one who came to our house at meal times left hungry. She was generous to a fault.
She was brave. I remember as kids in Jamshedpur, there was a race riot (Hindus and Muslims) in the 60s. Our next door neighbours were Muslim. My mum hid the entire family in our living room (till my dad who was in charge of transport at TELCO arranged for them to be picked up) and stood (chainsmoking) vigil in the verandah in plain view of the rioters armed with a Khukri (a Nepalese knive). No one came to our door though a few suspected there were Muslims in our house. She stood her ground for what she believed in.
Ma, I never told you enough times how much I loved you when you were alive but you have given me the strength to become the woman I am today. Forever in my heart.