I offer my humble obeisance to you Rev. Sri. Sri. Om Swamiji. Divine Mother Bless you with good health, love and peace abundant 🙏
“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, and behind her story is her mother’s story because hers is where yours begins”~ Mitch Albom
It gives me immense satisfaction to share the story of a Grand woman, my Grandmother , who bathed each day with the intention to only serve and remain fully human. I learnt a lot from her.
The Story of My Mother’s Mother….
She could not bear kids, a child who could take the lineage forward. Born in the early 1916’s , those days it was considered inauspicious and a curse if a woman could not bear a child. Slotted as childless she was restricted by the so called human norms, abstained from functions with the fear that her blessing would cast the same spell on the other women . Imagine the plight of the childless woman embracing and living each moment with humiliation and fear to face the world for no fault of hers. Yes, this was what my Maa (my maternal grandmother) had to face .
They were five sisters, and love and care for each other was immense. So much so that when the younger sister had her second baby ( a daughter) she gave the biggest joy to the elder sister by placing her little one in her arms and honouring her elder sister to experience Motherhood for life.
The child was none other than my precious Mother who was raised by her Masi (maternal Aunt) and now her true Mother. We all addressed her as Maa. Bauji (my grandfather) and Maa raised their precious daughter i.e. my Mother in the most grandest way and my mom was truly lucky to have them both as adorable parents. Bauji took special care of Maa and kept her like a Queen and equally spoilt his precious daughter ( my dear Mom)with whatever she wanted to pursue as she grew up.
Maa and Bauji were very large hearted Souls full of compassion and empathy. They would render help to their younger siblings and many a times even taking care and looking after their children too . They were equally caring and helping towards their friends and strangers in need. For in serving they found solidarity and immense peace.
Time and years flew by….my Mom was now married and well settled and after three years, she and my Pa moved with us from Ferozepore to Calcutta (now Kolkata). But almost every year we would travel to our grandparents during school vacations and spend good time.
The earliest memories of my visit to Granny’s town…
December holidays ( late 1960’s) , I was about 6 years of age and travelled from Calcutta to Ferozepore with my Mother and siblings to visit our Grandmother. We reached the town by almost past midnight as the train got delayed for few hours. The freezing cold winters of Punjab, were enough to chill our sleepy minds. My cousin Uncle had arrived with his friend to pick us up. The railway station did appear eerie. Finally we were made to sit on a hired tonga ( a light carriage or curricle drawn by one horse) as Ferozepore had rickshaw pullers or Tongas waiting outside the railway station in those days. The foggy dense night seemed to have quietened the atmosphere and it felt that even the poor horses were kept wide awake forcibly by their owners.
All through the route to Granny’s place my sleepy self was constantly disturbed by the trotting sound of the horse shoes and the tinkling bells draped around its neck . In about half an hour we reached the lane of Maa’s house, and suddenly a creaking sound of unbolting of the huge wooden door was heard which opened up even before we could knock on it. As I pen this down, I can so well relate and visualise that in those days, heart beats were faster in receiving conveyed messages of loved ones than mobiles. Telepathy was naturally inbuilt with emotions of deep care and concern for each other. For people had time to think for each other patiently.
But then it’s either a Mother or her Mother (granny) who could be that wonderful in understanding. As we entered the house we noticed that Maa had placed her cot on the inside of the room close to the massive wooden door, and kept wide awake just to be aware of the outside sounds.
The usual warmth of hugs made each one’s eyes well . Maa was simply overjoyed. It was almost 1 a.m. and while we made ourselves comfortable she quietly went outside in the open kitchen, covering her head with her white dupatta ( traditional long white stole), ignited the semi lit mud chula ( cooking stove made of mud and that is lit by adding coal, wood pieces and cow dung cakes ) with a smoking pipe and very meticulously heated the lentils and vege, and quickly made chapattis, and served all of us lovingly in traditional brass thalis (plates).
My Mom kept helping her in serving . I was in total admiration of these two beautiful Royal ladies of my life. Mother as always graceful and my Granny oozed so much patience and gratitude while serving food to all of us. After dinner Maa sat next to us kids kissing and cuddling us. I loved to cover my face with her cotton dupatta to get its warm whiff. That particular smell always filled me with a certain amount of joy. But then I suppose there is something unusually special in our Grannies , that is indescribable in words , something grander than anything in this world, isn’t it!
A strong woman’s Journey….
Why haggle over adversity was her take ….
Almost in her mid sixties, staying all alone in that old bricked house for years, as sadly Bauji ( grandpa) had passed away when she was barely in her 50’s. She preferred being on her own inspite of many hurdles, a journey which she knew better than anyone. In all difficulties, be it her health or isolation she never let anyone know her innermost feelings. She always maintained a calm demeanour and at all times she loved to delight in serving her family.
The sad part of Maa’s life started after Bauji passed away, he left her with this massive house but barely much to survive on, because he had suffered huge losses in his business, and suffered from a stroke that left him paralytic and could not survive for long( as little kids we were never made aware of what the elders went through). Maa who lived royally all her life served and cared for many, was totally broken from inside. For her survival she rented half of her house and started to live on the rental money. But her simplicity was targeted by many who took advantage of her innocency. People posing as good friends would enter her home and steal things, so much so even the rented portion of her house was craftily taken away from her by her tenants and she could do nothing. She fought her own battles without taking much help from outside.
Mom would always be worried for her and insisted her to stay with us and used to take her to Calcutta often but after staying for couple of months Maa always preferred going back to Ferozepore to her own house for it carried fondest memories of her dear husband.
The tests of time had now started to show up, but she allowed and accepted it as His Grace….
Towards 1980 she started to now show signs of getting physically and mentally very weak. I still remember, those were the days when letters were beautifully hand written and the only means of distant expression . My mother used to always write letters to her to enquire about her health. Sadly Maa was not literate enough to write so with some kind soul’s help in the neighbourhood, she would narrate and get a letter written and post it . My mother used to cry unconsolably whenever she would read Maa’s letter. Both mother and daughter had this deep loving bond and care for each other.
1983..Passing of her only child broke her completely…..
Sadly as luck would have it, amidst all the worldly chaos and her health problems Maa had to witness the biggest loss of her life of losing her only child, her only hope, her very purpose i.e. my dear Mother in a car accident. Maa was never again the same person. Each time she would break down and demand , why God did not take her life. She deteriorated both physically and mentally. It seemed she was preparing well for her own death now. She would hold on to me and started to see my Mom in me and somehow she would manage to visit me at Haridwar every year on Guru Purnima .
Maa’s visits to my place each year, spending time with my kids was always endearing ….
Her stay with me would be for few weeks and I used to feel elated to serve this Grand Lady to the best of my ability. I would keep feeding her at short intervals so much so that she would hold my hand and kiss it, “Don’t spoil me, I have to go back home and will miss you and your hand made food”, she would get very emotional, as she always felt that I was working too hard. Strange, she never saw and realised how hard she worked in life, without any support .
She truly deserved every bit of the seva and pampering . I grew up watching this beautiful lady take care of all. From massaging my hair with home made butter, to being fed by her hands that smelt of pure ghee, waking up at odd hours to cook something even if we slightly uttered that we were hungry. End no of moments witnessed for years, how she showered her love so unconditionally. Many times I could sense her deep non complaining feelings through her dark stained nails, knuckles that bore the burns of cooking on the mud choolha but she silently and smilingly covered her tiredness and pain for so many years. She always felt it was a Divine privilege to serve all.
During free hours I used to lie down in her lap fiddling with her hair and keep smelling her white cotton dupatta, a whiff that remained the same even after so many years. I guess love has this very sacred smell to it.
I would patiently listen to her decade old stories. She would rejoice in the flow of her flash back memories, reflecting to her young days when she got married , to how she dressed royally, her arms laden with heavy gold bangles, to the traditional favourite jumkas (ear rings) and the mang tikka and Punjabi nath( nose ring), all that she loved decking herself with. She missed Bauji and the good old times. I kept pestering her to stay with us as she was really getting old and weak but alas! she was firm in staying in her own house .
The last conversation ….
Maa left after a couple of months stay with me. After few days I got a phone call from her neighbor’s that she was seriously taken ill. At times she would hallucinate and see my Mother and Bauji. The stress and neglecting her self had taken a toll on her health. Her younger sister who was in the same town started to now stay with her to take care of her. She could barely walk. I used to call at her neighbours to enquire about her health and this one time Maa somehow managed to speak to me. She sounded weak, “I can’t visit you anymore chindi ( child in Punjabi) I know my time is coming, and soon I would be with your Bauji”. She Blessed me and my little kids enough, . “ You are a brave child my daughter has given birth to, I Bless you with an abundant life. And let me tell you, I miss your hand made food especially the mango shake and delicious home made ice cream you made for me everyday, you spoilt me like a child” and we both cried inconsolably.
The final farewell of the beautiful Soul…1995🙏
Hardly another week and I got the news of her passing away from her sisters. I left the very next day for Ferozepore . Oh how I detested dead bodies… not again and again. … The moment I reached her home, I found it very difficult to step in , for it felt something very precious piece of my self was now missing forever. After my dear parents death probably she was the most strongest person who unknowingly kept me going. Every year after my parents demise she would visit me as if supporting and strengthening me to keep moving on. Today she laid on the floor, calm and composed after fulfilling so many responsibilities in her life. Divine also graced and fulfilled her biggest wish and she took her final breath in her Royal space, isn’t it!
Her weak frail body that silently worked hard in all circumstances, with a never say die spirit , had finally found ultimate peace. Her sunken eyes that waited long missing Bauji and shed quiet tears for years for him and loosing her daughter had finally closed the doors to all the agonies forever.
Her lips though still , yet felt and seemed eager to speak some silent words of her story for the last time to me … I shiveringly touched her face , and felt her words…. “ My Chindi I am happy you came, I can now go in peace”…I felt her cuddling me…
“Farewell Royal Soul” 🙏 I miss you ! An epitome of beauty, strength and unconditional love my Maa, I still feel your smile and warmth in my heart… I certainly have created a smile similar to yours by your blessings but certainly it won’t be as beautiful as your’s. The everlasting feel and whiff of your white dupatta remains with me at all times…It inspires me to remain grounded.
My Royal Grandmother Smt. Lajwanti Dhawan , my siblings and me( second from right sitting with my Granfather Shri. Hukumchand Dhawan . This picture of year 1964 with my Grandpa was taken in the wee hours of the day just a day before he passed away. He had a major stroke and was completely bedridden. My dear father held him from behind.
The Bigger picture is, that life would keep placing us at the edge ( like the mighty elephant placed on a thin branch but he accepts that moment , in all awareness of the risk of falling and hurting, but still in all faith prefers to experience the wiff to the brighter side of life as long as he is on it) weigh us down , throw challenges, but at all times we have to pick ourselves from within with strength, resilience , empathy and love and faith in the Supreme. Living Life to the best of our ability lets at times spare moments to listen to the stories of our elders that would cheer and heal their deep silence. It is as good for you as it is for them🙏 So much to learn from them and this big life.
Thank you my OS family for the love and patience in reading about one of the most Gracious Soul of my life, who taught me so much silently. Divine Bless you all with love, joy, good health and many sweet simple moments of sharing life beautifully.
Jai Sri Hari