This occasional post will be on everything under the sun except food and cuisine…. It is my thoughts on life, living, politics and people.
I wrote this post back in 2004. We don’t know how a simple human being can impact us until we miss them.
It was a clear California morning, I sat down with my cup of tea, wondering if my mom would have liked this house. For the past several years, mom was a part of every major decision we had made. She would have said, “It’s very spacious, its like our Patambi (ancestral) house, I like it”. She would never say anything negative to your face. Being with her, I had learnt to read between the lines at a very early age.
Like the word “spacious” meant a few things “do you really need this big space, you will have to clean it, its more work you”.
During my teenage years in India, I discovered her dream, during our daily walk to the market, “I would have been a writer”, she said, in her faint soft voice. We discussed authors, politics, and of course all my questions that began with a “WHY”?? These walks were therapeutic. We debated, argued and discussed general knowledge, family history, movies, while carrying bags of fresh vegetables and groceries. I learnt that her favorite flower was the rose, she really enjoyed playing chess, Humphrey Bogart was the second most handsome man after my dad, and even back then, her views on life were too liberal for her society to handle. She was a minimalist, in words and in her personal needs. I got to know her over many months and years of daily walks.
We were polar opposites. She was the epitome of silence, I was the chatterbox, constantly questioning her and she would always have answers She would say, “I want you to be different from me, I do not want you to be tied down by our society’s strings. I want you to be free and speak your mind.”
She was subtle and simple, I was brash and blunt. She was extremely organized and clean and I lived for the moment. But we did share a few things in common, our love for reading, cooking, nature and our stubbornness.
My brother and I received her at the San Francisco airport on September 23rd 1996.She had traveled alone from India , stepped on to an airplane for the very first time. I was impressed at how very quickly mom adapted to life in America. The clean roads made her smile. She felt Americans have the biggest of hearts and yet couldn’t grasp why they would settle for blandest of foods. Her favorite hang out was the Farmer’s Market. She loved Julia Roberts. She religiously watched Oprah and General Hospital. Once hearing a neighbor complain about the bank she said, “He just needs to step out of this country, he will appreciate this system so much more”.
In March 2004, mom came back from her India vacation, seeing all the places she wanted to see and meeting every relative she wanted to meet and hinting to them that it was her last trip back. Ten days after she got back to California, she had a stroke. During one of our many ER visits, she said, “ I have my one way ticket here, all I need to do is wait for my train and I hope it is much sooner than later”. Mom never feared death. In fact she welcomed it. She said, “once you have become a burden to your loved ones and a burden to society, its not worth the time left, society needs to help people like me, who have had a good run, and are ready to retire life with a happy face”
So began her good bye notes, “ I ask you and your brother to forgive me for the rough childhood you had. Take the boys to see the Taj Mahal this summer. Take care of yourself, only then you can take care of everyone else; take care of your in-laws; I am happy and ready to move on”.
My son asked me who was the strongest person I knew, I said “your thathi (grandma)”. And he asked, “Are you sure?” Sometimes you see a giant’s strength in a petite small human being.
Oh boy!! Grief really does suck. How do I grieve the loss of the person who was my connection to this world ?? How do I hold on to every little detail of my life with her and not fear that I will lose all of them? Why is this pain so personal? Why does it feel so uneasy to tell my new neighbor, my parents are no more? Why does my eyes swell up with tears just watching a lady with her mom and child? I will never have even one day, where she would quietly sneak in my breakfast in the morning saying, “ why don’t you quickly eat this, before the boys show up” or “did you see that rose bloom today” or “ Praba, always try to find the good in people and most of the time, you will only see that good side”. How will I hold on to her voice, her tones and her music?
One morning, my son who was home with fever, suddenly turned to me and said, “ I wrote this letter to Thathi (grandma) this morning, I miss her a lot, I am sure she will read this”. It was so easy , for him to convey his thoughts.
My relationship with mom was honest and simple. It had no expectations, no bondages and it was extremely freeing. I guess that’s why it is harder to let go. I have learnt to accept this state of mind. It is a journey, that all of us, who have loved so deeply will have to endure. As time goes by, I will go about my life, with the same spirit and energy as ever, but with her memories framed to my heart and her voice recorded in my soul.
Happy Mother’s Day!