Honestly, I was the worst child ever. How my Mom put up with me when I was growing up is beyond my understanding. If I had been her, I would have disowned me in a heartbeat.
It is no exaggeration when I say that I was brash, demanding and outright obnoxious. Without considering how I will be leaving my Mom to face the fire-breathing dragons of our Land (my Dad and Uncle in righteous anger) for my adventures, I would happily hop off to play cricket and kabadi with the boys on the street. Knowing very well that playing board games or putting kolam/rangoli might have fetched my Mom some brownie points for good child-rearing over summer vacation, I had thoughtlessly opted to borrow (or steal, if you want to be technical about it) my Uncle's 2 wheeler to take a joy ride around the neighborhood. One time, I overheard my Dad's sister giving helpful pointers to my Mom as to what she could do to make me better. J
That's not all. When I felt the first pangs of hunger, I needed food right that second. I mean, right that ticking second. The fact that I woke up hungry most days and went through the day in a constant state of hunger is a whole different matter. And, it is not like I would eat anything my Mom cooked. No way! The Meena's 'approved' list of dishes was, yes, pathetic but definitely non-negotiable. Naturally everything I liked had a direct or indirect connection to potatoes therefore making them 'oh no' items for all the adults in the family.
My mother would wake up at 4 am most days and claim her Kitchen kingdom with the enthusiasm of a 5 star hotel chef on his first day of work. When people talk of multi-tasking, I snicker. Discreetly of course because hey, I know it is wrong. My mother was the true mistress of multi-tasking. A quick peep in the Kitchen window would show her starting her day at the stove by putting water and milk pot side by side for the morning coffee ritual. From then on, it was a whirlwind of action getting breakfast and lunch boxes ready for my Uncle and my Dad who would step out of the house by 7 am.
When I say lunch boxes, it is the nothing like the totally pitiful ones that I pack for my daughter to school here. No sandwiches and yogurt cups then. Sambar rice, yogurt rice, one healthy veg, one koottu or keerai (palak), papads all packed nicely in 2 steel carriers by 7 AM. A well-played first innings indeed. After a short 2 minute tea break, the second innings would begin with my sisters and I creating a tornado in the house to leave for school at 8 am. Off she would go to whip up a spicy tomato rice for me, onion sambar and a plantain roast for my elder sister, rasam and a beans curry for my younger sister. As we rush out of the house without so much as a 'thank you amma', she would wave us off with a smile and enter the Kitchen for the last and final innings of the morning. It is now time to cook 'pathiya' food for my aunt who was bed ridden with a painful rheumatic arthritis.
You may think, sure a lot of mothers those days cooked and cared like this for their families. You would be right but what makes my mom special to me is that after almost 5 hours of cooking, she would find the time to sit by my aunt's bed side and talk to her about the morning activities and ask for her advice about next day's menu and simply keep her company. Who does that, you tell me. God must have had a bad 'Math' day when he put a dozen people's quota of goodness into my mother alone.
My mother lived her life as an example to us. What little I have learned about helping others, I learned watching her. There was an old man in our neighborhood when I was growing up. We had nicknamed him 'Tuesday begger' as he always came to our door on Tuesday mornings alone. He had principles too, you know. He would beg only once a week in each neighborhood. Politicians should have his scruples. He would come in the morning before we would leave for school. In all that morning madness, she would take a plantain leaf, place it on a plate, serve hot rice with sambar, vegetable, a glass of buttermilk, one banana and feed him. She would wait for him to finish his meal and pour cool water for him to wash his hands and send him off his way with a one rupee coin. Who does that, I ask again.
Today, my mother is just weeks shy of 80 and is recovering from a knee surgery. She is the most loving, generous and compassionate person that I know and I consider myself blessed to be her daughter.
Happy Mother's Day Amma! I hope to be at least half as good a mom to my kids as you were to all of us. Thank you for putting up with all my nonsense all these years. J