A Tribute to My Mother for Mother's Day
Updated: Jun 7, 2021
I am not a mother, perhaps by some divine design. While in the early days it bothered me, I have moved on, and am now quite attuned to the idea. Because of my profession, I sort of know what it’s like to have 5 and 6-year-olds wipe their noses with abandon on my skirt, teenagers throw tantrums, and then tell me how much they hate me only to tell me that they love my class an hour later, and have had troubled girls tell me that they messed up and have no clue about what to do about a pregnancy. Real moms will probably tell me that’s just the tip of the iceberg of being a mom, and it most probably is. But this post is not about what I am not. It’s a tribute to a woman who was not perfect but who was and still is, one helluva mom, and is the best that my siblings and I could have got.
It couldn’t have been easy to raise two daughters and a disabled son with very little help. Kuala Lumpur in those days did not cater to a boy who was physically disabled but intellectually bright and normal. There were no schools for him and so he was home all day, schooled by her and my dad. If she was depressed and angry some days, who could blame her? It couldn’t have been easy to wake up every day to the fact that there was no help or hope for her child.
Then there were two daughters growing up wide-eyed and curious in a multicultural society. One of them, not my sister, by the way, was constantly questioning, rebellious, and struggling against what appeared to be rules that were too strict and outdated. No dresses with straps, no pretending to go for walks in the evening just to wave to the cute fella who lived on the next street, and no outings which stretched beyond 6pm with friends. These rules seem draconian now. They did to me even then. But in retrospect, I can see that they were coming from a combination of her own nurture coupled with a deep desire to protect the two children that were healthy in the best way she could. I can still recall the fury with which she marched up to a neighbor’s home and let the residents have a piece of her mind because their Dobermans had threatened me.
She wasn’t always about strict rules. Raising kids in a multicultural society was not just about ensuring that they grow up valuing their Indianness. It was also about making them feel that they were not missing out. As always, we were vegetarian but that didn’t stop my mom, and her mom actually, from experimenting and trying to recreate dishes that we didn’t typically eat at home because they were non-vegetarian. The forerunners of fusion cooking in my home were definitely my grandmother, my mom, and my Chitti. Sometimes the results were disastrous and even hilarious, but they certainly helped make our growing up years happy and fulfilled.
I still remember sitting in front of the charcoal stove expectantly waiting for the chocolate cake that was baking. We didn’t have an oven so a charcoal stove was the best alternative. The result was a scrumptious, gooey fudge that had all the appearance of a cake. Cake baking day was one of the most exciting events in those simple days. My mom and grandmother were not just pioneers of fusion cooking in my home. They were also into healthy cooking even then. When it became evident that frying was unhealthy, they would try to recreate typically fried delicacies in healthier ways. The steamed curry puffs that my grandma dished up didn’t taste great but they were more than well-intentioned.
Lots of memories, lots of lessons, and definitely lots of inherited traits. Whenever I demand justice and insist on the right thing, and don’t take nonsense from anyone, my husband smilingly says that it’s my mother in me. And, I think it’s the same with my sister. Yes, it is, and I am proud of that trait. Just like I am proud of my ability to whip up a decent meal in a hurry and sing a song, again skills that I inherited from my mother. I’m not a mom. But I know what it takes to be one helluva of a mom, from her.