My mom turns 81 today! I have not met her for two years but we Zoom regularly. Last year, we had mega plans to celebrate her 80th birthday but all was cancelled. This year, I am not able to fly down as Mumbai is currently under lockdown. This is my tribute to the woman who shaped my thinking and gave me wings to fly. You all are my spiritual family, so please send her love and blessings today. I hope Swamiji reads this post and sends his blessings. I would be nothing without her. Thank you, all.
My earliest memory of my mother is her sitting on a small dented wooden chair in our tiny kitchen at 4:00am, hunched over a faded black platform, writing! It was the only decent time she could find during the day that was already filled with mundane routine, household chores and raising two headstrong daughters.
She never once complained or cribbed. It became part of her DNA. Day in and day out for fifty years she kept writing. Seasons changed, my sister and I moved out, my father got sick and passed away, but she kept writing. It was her anchor in the madness called life. Words kept her going through some dark times. And when she finally emerged, she had more stories to tell.
Everyone knows my mother as this prolific writer who has shattered so many glass ceilings that there are none left to shatter anymore. However, only I know that her best is yet to come. Her writing is like an old Italian bottle of red wine; the older it gets the more valuable it becomes.
With each passing day she is emerging like a phoenix, not from the ashes albeit, but from her own limitations and shadows; more uninhibited and freer. She has stories hidden in her dreams, in the fold of her arms, on the edge of her reading glasses, and in the crease of her cotton sarees. She sees words where none exists. She finds links where nothing is missing. That is the beauty of her writing. It’s out there and yet undiscovered by the rest of us.
A big part of who I am today is shaped by her. She realized early on that I had an affinity for all things books. She carefully nurtured my mind knowing well enough that I could potentially be a third-generation writer in the family that was already known for mammoth talents.
I saw my first foreign film with her when I was nine years old and went to many literary conferences during my childhood. I saw everything up, close and personal. That is why I can say with utmost certainty that she is one of the greatest writers of all times. My only regret is that she is not translated enough into English. Being a regional writer, she is not seen in the same league as other commercial or Western writers. But then you never compare a polished diamond to stones!
Many people ask me, what makes her so successful as a writer? How has she has survived as a writer for decades and yet be is so relevant? The answer is simple. She is like water — fluid and flexible. She absorbs the changing times and seasons and lets them flow through her pen. Everyone can relate to her characters because they exist; anyone can read her books because they matter. She was relevant then and she is relevant now.
We are best of friends who have travelled many countries together. I remember when we went to Beijing in the 90s, China was still a closed country. Getting decent vegetarian food was turning out to be quite a challenge. She ate rice and ketchup the entire trip with the enthusiasm of eating her favourite ice cream.
Her motto in life is simple — experiences matter! She collects unique experiences like a child collecting pebbles on the beach. If there is anything different to be done or seen or tasted; she is always on board. No need to ask her. Just count her in. That is her key to being relevant even today.
You can discuss world politics, foreign films, Murakami books, Italian pasta, Chinese silk and the rising price of onions with her on any given day and I bet she will be more knowledgeable than all of us put together. Being a voracious reader, our home in Mumbai is a mini library with no more space to house books. And yet when she visits me in Dubai, all she wants to do is buy more books.
There is nothing more to add in her praise. There are no more awards left for her to win. There is nothing I can say will shine more light on her. She is who she is, and I am just grateful that I got to walk in her shadows.
Her aim now is to keep the Gujarati language alive. Write more. Read more. Travel more. Experience more. With each passing year, her hunger for life is getting bigger.
There are writers that write books. There are writers that narrate books. And then there are those who become books!
Happy Birthday, Ma! Keep Shining!