Happy birthday Amma!
Amma – a word that has many variations, tones, and inflections. Every experience has a pitch, every emotion has a tone and whenever I call, she is always there! Amma as I call her; my mom, my mother, the lady who has always been my strength for as long as I can remember. I can very well call her the “Iron Lady” of our house.
My earliest memory of my mom is probably when I must’ve been 3-4 years old. This is like a picture stuck in the photo album of my memories. I always remember her cooking for many people and spending most of her time in the kitchen. So my memory also comes from there. I remember lying on her lap, while she sat on the floor rolling rotis for the family. I was a very clingy kid and could always be seen hanging on to her arms or sari. And that’s how I grew up…literally on her!
My mom has done so much for my brother and me growing up that we can’t even imagine what direction our life might have taken, if not for her smartness and determination. Although she herself never went to college, she was very clear that my brother and I should get every opportunity possible to succeed in life. She read books, listened to news, spoke to people and armed herself with knowledge, just to make sure we stayed ahead of everyone else. I remember learning from her as much as I did from school. The foundation laid during my growing up years was all because of her perseverance.
Academics were not as important to her as character building. She believed in all around development. Besides school work, I also had to be good in dance, music, sports, art, needle work, tailoring, fashion, cooking, etc and etc. You name it and she made time for me to learn it all. I remember sitting on the verandah outside our house as she taught me how to sing devotional songs and slokas. The biggest gift she gave me was the ability to learn, a curiosity to discover and today nothing seems challenging…anything is possible. She was always busy with housework but somehow she made time for us. The evenings were spent playing games, telling stories or singing songs. She was my best friend growing up.
As I moved into higher grades, my friendship with her grew. There was nothing I couldn’t talk to her about. Given the time period and society we came from, she was a very broad-minded and forward thinking person. She was way ahead of her peers in her thoughts and ideas. She seemed to be from my generation. While some of my friends had to lie or hide things from their parents, we were always having open discussions about boys or girls in our school. She never objected to me wearing shorts or skirts or tanks like other parents but then in the same breath she also taught me that every outfit has a time and a place. So for example when there were guests or grandparents visiting our house, she didn’t have to remind me to get into my conservative outfits. I was also comfortable enough to brings boys from my class home, she would in fact encourage me to bring them home instead of hanging out outside home and would make tea and pakodas for them! In retrospect, I feel it was a very smart move on her part because this way, I was always within eyesight and she was constantly aware of who I was with. She gave us enough freedom to create our own identity but at the same time, she also managed to keep a tight rein on us at all times. The trick was that we never felt too restricted and I still don’t know how she managed it.
One of the things I am very thankful for was for the amount of trust she placed in us. We could do no wrong. Period. It was this trust in us probably that made sure that we never crossed those invisible lines. Don’t get me wrong, that we never made any mistakes. We did… the kind that we learn from, not the kind that could never be undone. We got royally beaten too for those mistakes but each spanking was a lesson learned. One of the episodes I remember to this day is my Engineering trip. My dad was away on projects to some forsaken remote place and he was able to visit us only for a few days every few months. So running the house was on my mom’s shoulders. During my third year of engineering all students were planning a south India trip. Of course I was excited and wanted to go but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t send me. Anyways, I wanted to try, so I went ahead armed with my friends, behind me and my most whiny voice I could come up with. It took a few days of cajoling but she agreed!! She actually did! This was about a 4 nights-5 day trip and I kept getting nightmares that she would find some major reason why I shouldn’t go and make me cancel the trip. Well the trip date came and off I went without a hitch. She was all smiles letting me go and all smiles when I got back too. I am still amazed that a conservative lady, let her 20 yr old daughter go on a five-day trip with her friends. I did mention it was a co-ed trip right? It was the most memorable trip and again a place where many memories were created.
It was the blind trust she had on us I guess that made sure we never broke it. There were many opportunities during college especially, wherein I could have strayed; many a temptations but her invisible presence held me back everywhere. She was at times like a hawk watching my every move and the moves of anyone who tried to move close to me. At times she was a tigress, protecting me from all danger, at times a teacher and mostly a friend. I remember an episode, which ended in a stinging slap but taught me how to put boundaries around me. I was in college at that time and my neighbor had come home to talk to me. My mom was in the kitchen doing work. He came to ask me something, my back was to the wall and he had stepped close to talk to me. I was uncomfortable but I just stood there talking to him. Minutes later he left and out came my mom from the kitchen and before I knew what was happening, I got slapped right across my cheek! She yelled at me for allowing him to get into my personal space while talking to me. She told me that I have to stand up for myself and not allow anyone into my personal space if I don’t like it. That was the last time I let someone get into my space without my permission. There are many such memorable lessons that impacted me and made me who I am today.
And then the time came for me to leave everyone behind and move on with my married life. I carried with me all of her advice, her teachings and her experiences. I went on to have kids of my own and tried to instill the same values in them that my mom instilled in me. I gave them the freedom to flourish and yet put that invisible fence around them, which they would not try to cross. I am very proud of my kids today and I’m happy that I was able to achieve some part of what I wanted to do as a mom myself.
So today on her birthday, I want to tell her how special she is and how amazing she is.
Without her, I would not be who I am today.