A warm and lovely morning to my os.me family. It has been some time since I shared something with you. Today, on Women’s Day, I want to share the story of my mother. I wrote this article 10 years ago when I lived in Pune. I was recovering from self-inflicted depression caused by questioning the nature of existence. My parents came over to take care of me. The story of my depression and recovery is for another day. I hope you enjoy this article, today.
Did you ever wonder how well you know some of the people who love you the most? This post is dedicated to my mother, who I just realised has many other facets to her personality. The idea for this post germinated a few months ago, when I saw my mother sleeping on a rocking chair. She had come to Pune to help me recover from an illness and was taking an afternoon siesta.
While watching a cricket match on TV, I suddenly glanced upon her face. It was a face I had seen a million times while growing up. But somehow I saw something different that day. I saw a good-looking, middle-aged woman with a full face, and some creases that had developed over the years. I saw strands of white hair nestled between their black brethren symbols of the passing years. I saw where I had inherited my nose from and I also saw a proud and determined chin of the woman who had shaped my life in more ways than one.
I suddenly realised that this was the first time I was seeing Kamala Iyer and not my mother. I was seeing a woman who had been raised along with her brothers and sisters in a small village in South India. She had married my father and moved to Delhi, which was a completely different world. She learned to speak Hindi, haggled with vegetable vendors, prepare wonderful food, and most importantly to play the perfect mother.
Before today, every time I saw her, I had only looked at my mother. She was the woman who cooked my meals, did my laundry, loved me with all her heart, scolded me occasionally, and most importantly, served as a constant rock of support in the ever-changing world. Suddenly it struck me that there was more to her life than just being my mother.
During all my years of growing up, discovering myself, and finding my own path in life, I had never realised that my mother would have done all of those things, too. It also dawned upon me that she had probably sacrificed a lot in her life to ensure that all of us were able to pursue our dreams. I was pondering over these things when she suddenly woke up and got busy preparing coffee and dinner. The thought about my mother also being an individual in her own rights stayed with me and I knew that one day I would definitely be writing about it.
What strengthened my resolve to write about this realisation was when I observed my mother at my sister’s wedding in our native village, Srirangam. My mother’s side of the family is scattered across Delhi, Chennai, and Texas. All her siblings had gathered at their birthplace after years and I knew my mother was very excited about this.
We had been given strict instructions to not disturb her during the first few days because she would be busy alternating between visiting the temple and catching up with family. When I reached Srirangam, I was surprised to see her in a very different avatar.
If you want to draw an abstract art form representing my mother, it would have to be a tornado. The winds would swirl to form my mother’s face and she would generally have a slight frown as she contemplated the next pending task in her never-ending list.
However, the woman I saw in Srirangam was smiling and she looked as if she had drunk the elixir of life. She told me the night we arrived that she would be going to the nearby river to take a bath and would like it if all of us accompanied her. It meant getting up at 6:30am, but then how often would I get to bathe in a river in Pune? Hence, the next morning at 7:00am, we were at the river banks ready to take a dip and even swim, if you could do so in three-feet deep water.
When I first saw the river, I was hugely surprised. What happened to the free-flowing mass of water that reached up to my neck 15 years ago? The river now was passing by gently and even at its deepest point reached up to my knees. Seeing my mom and her siblings jump and prance around in the water gave me a feeling that they were in the holy Ganges instead of a small stream that I was seeing.
It was then that I started viewing the entire scene from my mother’s eyes. This river was the place she had frequented every weekend for the 25 years that she had lived here. The temple, their ancestral house, the river, and the roads were more than just memories. They were a beautiful and irreplaceable part of her life. Life moves at a pace that is naggingly slow and staggeringly fast at the same time. I suddenly saw and understood what all this meant to my mother and how it had all shaped her to be the person she is today.
We live in times where we are connected to everyone we care about and don’t understand what it would have meant to live away from family when the only means of connection used to be a trunk call or an inland letter. I saw how my mother was different from her siblings. While they stuck together in a group chatting with each other and occasionally looking out for their kids, I saw my mother swimming adventurously and attempting a breaststroke that she probably picked up when she was a kid. She would go some distance, then look back at her siblings, and vigorously swim back towards them. She had a wide smile on her face and when she noticed me looking at her, she just splashed some water at me and started swimming again.
Finally, I saw her for the person she really was; a woman who accepted everything that came her way with dignity and tried her best to ensure that her family was happy. When we look at the people we love, we take them for granted, and instead of seeing them, we just see a self-constructed image.
I always assumed that it was natural for my mother to cook for me, wash my clothes, comfort me, take care of me, and also give me my space. Hence, I never really respected her enough for all the sacrifices she has made, the nights she spent worrying about me, and the rounds she took in the temple praying for me. I was unable to see all this because all I saw was my mother and all mothers were meant to do all these things.
The moment this image of my mother was shattered, I was able to see the woman behind it. I knew I had to write this down because sometimes it’s hard to summarise a thousand words in ‘I LOVE YOU MOM.’
So the next time you all see your parents just see them for what they really are; ordinary human beings no less than superheroes for loving and raising brats like us.
PS: Much of life has changed in these ten years. My sister whose wedding we attended has a five-year-old with Down’s syndrome. The kid had a heart surgery and cancer and has powered them to embrace life with gusto. I moved to Hyderabad and my parents move into our society so we live really close to each other. I have an eight-year-old.
Sometimes the past seems so close by that you can stretch your fingers and wrap the tendrils of time around your fingers. However, just try doing that and you realise how much has happened in that time. Thank you dear OS.me family for all your warmth and kindness. We have some wonderful women (devis) who form the backbone, collar bone, hip bone, and every other bone worth having. You are also the heart, the blood, the liver, the kidney, and the brain. So many of you have opened up and poured out your emotions, your love, and your troubles.
Thank you for your presence on the platform and in the world because it makes the world a much more amazing place. Truth be told, I am a little jealous of all your bhav and surrender and the ease with which it comes to us. I find it so hard and you go from zero to a hundred in one shot. Thank you for being a constant source of warmth, love, and nurturing. Jai Sri Hari.