Friday, September 10, 2010

Tributes to a mother and a wife



My Mother is what does that make me....
Yep...thats got it...OLD!!!

Now this is not about me, it's about her all the way.

As I flash back, I remember many incidents...some funny, some sad, some thrilling, some mundane, and mostly that she was always there....

Most of my memories of my mother is of her diligently working at something or the other, either at the kitchen, or in the garden, or in our rooms. No wonder she could maintain our spacious house single handedly!
I remember our first house, a huge sprawling one, with an even bigger garden. That's probably why she developed a passion for plants, perforce having to tend to such a big garden, the natural nurturer in her took over!

I remember the wallop my sister and I got when we got wet in the rain one afternoon!! Now I have to constantly remind myself that, when my son insists on running into the rain....

I remember how my mother took one look at my brother and the hanging arm, broken while imitating spiderman (or was that superman?), quickly pushed it back into place..yes very much like she had some training from Puttur (a place famous for repairing broken bones in Tamilnadu!!) and slinging it neatly with a towel. The doctor was so impressed, he simply had to x-ray and place the plaster!

I remember her encounters with snakes, the way she handled them would put the Korava community to shame! ( Probably teach Greg Martin a lesson or two!). The curry leaf plant harbours green tree snakes ( harmless apparently) and if you are not careful you could pluck it along with a whole branch of leaves too. Which she did.
Luckily she spotted it as it was trying to slither its way out and into our dining room, while I sat frozen in time, with my second born on my lap, about 2 feet away from all this action. She held on for dear life...yes she actually was holding the snake....superwoman....and finally managed to push it into a polythene bag!
What still stands out for me is that at this point is that the only male available (why do we look for a male?!!...dont ask me why... its a conditioning!) was our dhobi (ironwallah ), who happened to be at the door. He actually refused to hold the bag with the snake, and it took my mother and me quite a bit of convincing to make him take the bag and discard its content in some far off place!!

I remember the many, many meals she has cooked, and still keeps cooking for us based solely on our desire to eat it, or our preference. Every time I am amazed at this, this enthusiasm to feed us never wanes!!

I remember the many talks and chats we have had, much to my father's jealousy!! As I donned different roles, the relationship with her too gained different shades. Sometimes the empathy was rewarding, sometimes the criticism was irritating. Yet her presence and her opinion, which I take for granted many times, always has a bearing on my actions. As I try to balance the values given to me by her with my own individual identity.

Motherhood is never understood until one lives through it. Perspective, time and maturity are great educators.

I remember...that motherhood is how I will always remember my mother.

Happy Healthy Life Mom!
Happy Birthday!

By Sowmya Srinivasan

MY MOTHER (speech delivered at Prabha`s book launch)

I have been given the task of speaking about my mother this evening. It feels strange to talk to an audience about someone whose presence I’ve taken for granted, all my life! Where can I start?
Well like all good stories….once upon a time…….. there was a girl who was the youngest, in a family of four kids. She lost her dad when she was just 21 days old. My grandmother, who was barely educated and just in her 20’s took the decision of leaving her in laws and raising her 4 kids on her own.
Looking back, from the perspective of my own secure and happy child hood, it must have been difficult for my grandmother, bringing up 4 kids on my grandfather’s meager pension, moving from one rented house to the other, in Chennai and still trying to give her kids a decent life and education.
But I’ve only heard happy accounts of her young life from my mother. Of long walks to school and college, and happy times on the terrace of a house in Kutcheri road, making fun of neighbour’s kids and studying with her siblings. She studied mathematics in college, and I always make fun of my mother, that all her kolams are influenced by that – they are always made up of circles, squares and triangles! And at the back of my mind, I’ve always felt that her mathematics background had something to do with her rigid adherence to rules, time tables and routines.
Well to continue… my mother married my father RV Rajan, a high profile executive of an ad agency…well settled with a car and house in Delhi. Though she must have been the envy of all the young married and unmarried women , It must have been a difficult transition to make. Having to settle in a strange city, not knowing the language and facing all the challenges that my dad threw at her from time to time. I’ve heard the account of how my father wanted my mother to cook for 25 people in the first month of their marriage. And she had never stepped in to the kitchen before her wedding! But my mother rose to the challenge with the one tool that she uses time and again to overcome any problem – Hard work! She woke up at 5 and started cutting the onions , worked through the day with her meenakshiammal cook book and managed to serve dinner on time- no mean achievement for a novice!
My Parents moved to Chennai, where my sister, my brother and I were born.I remember our first house, a huge sprawling one in Shastri Nagar, with an even bigger garden. My dad was always travelling, so my mother was left with 3 kids alone in the huge house. At nights it would get pitch dark outside. But I don’t remember my mother being scared, or agitated. I think she took refuge in cleaning every corner of the house – to keep her mind occupied!
In the busy – ness of raising a family, looking after In laws and innumerable guests, she must have felt stressed and unappreciated. This forced her to write a long letter to my dad about all that she was feeling. And my dad – the typical advertising man that he was , decided to go and publish the letter ! Of course with my mother’s permission . (I must say at this point that my dad doesn’t have a sense of personal space and privacy… that’s something else that my mother has had to put up with all these years!)
But that letter was the beginning of her vocation as a writer. She wrote many articles and short stories in Tamil based on real life incidents, which were published in magazines. She won the first prize for a story that she wrote about an unusual wedding incident. This was published in Mangayar Malar. She wrote about her travels , to the US and other countries,too.
Like all mother and daughter relationships, ours too has gone through a variety of stages. From blind trust to tantrums, to irritation at her constant criticism to an acceptance of her views and values.During my difficult teenage years, when our relationship was going through a rough patch, she wrote a letter to a daughter, expressing her anguish (which got published in Mangayar Malar). Though I could barely read Tamil then, I remember being moved to tears by what she had written. I must say that I’ve done my bit to encourage my mother’s literary talent too!
Travel changed my mother. I noticed after the first trip to US how my mother had mellowed and was more confident of herself. Joining the Inner wheel club of Madras south transformed her from a typical quiet, workaholic, house- wife, in to a confident woman who could speak , unprepared, at public functions. I remember her initial months as inner wheel president, where she would write her speeches with my father’s help and practice over and over again. She would not compromise on house work , even when she had to go out to attend meetings and functions. I think we learnt a lot about hardwork, diligence and perseverance from her, in those days.
One important thing I learnt from my mother was not to foist my opinion on my kids. Whatever her personal views about a person or an issue, she would allow us to come to our own conclusions. She never stooped down to telling us – don’t talk to so and so. It was always our decision.
I have learnt to appreciate her more, after I became a mother myself.
People say that memories are made of innumerable mental images- I have many mental images of my mother,
- whacking us for not finishing our dinner, or getting our clothes dirty
- holding my brother’s broken arm and calmly fixing it in a sling
- getting up even after a bout of severe migraine , to complete her house work.
-Working on her neat clean golu and her geometric Kolums!
- accompanying us to dance class day in and out
-teaching us to sing and singing for us when we danced.
- walking out of her room, all dressed up, to accompany my father to a party
- going after centipedes and scorpions, and snakes with a broomstick, even when grown men were shivering with fright!
-Sitting up late in the night to read a book or write her stories(With no full stops and commas, invariably my dad had to make sense of them!)
- listening patiently to all our woes in school and college, and coming up with sensible advice
- walking to the blind school in the hot sun – so that she could be a scribe
-The silent anguish at seeing her brother waste away with cancer
-Patiently Learning Origami from us so she could teach the kids admitted in the cancer institute
-Of sitting up with our new born babies late into the night – so we could get some rest .
-Eagerly looking at our faces for appreciation, every time she cooked for us!
-Rehearsing her Invocation song again and again…..
So many memories……
With her large friends circle, her innumerable c lub activities, her Pattu class, her writing… my mother has come a long way from the quiet, diffident house wife she was.This would not have happened , if not for my father’s constant support and encouragement too.
And today I feel very proud that her book is to be released in the presenc e of her 90 year old mother,all her friends and well wishers.
Amma, this is your day. Enjoy the limelight. You more than deserve it!

Kavita Srinivas

Prabha – My better half

The other day my daughter mentioned to her grand mother that she is going to be 90 next year! My mother-in-law refused to believe that she is 90. She thinks she is not more than 80. We had to show her passport to convince her about her date of birth!

Her daughter, my wife Prabha has entered her 60th year. Others can’t believe that she is that old and that she is a veteran grand mother of four loving grand children! God has been kind in keeping her young looking which I think is in her genes.! (Her 60plus elder brother who is settled in USA was looking like a college student until a few years ago.)

We have been married for 38 years now. During this period I have grown old gracefully(!) and look my age. But Prabha continues to look like she is in her mid forties or early 50s.She is now concerned about some grey hairs making their rightful appearance in her mane.

While we have no problems (I think) with the mismatch in our looks, while moving in familiar crowds, I think Prabha has a problem when we are seen together in new environments and among new friends. People who don’t know us but see us together sometimes ask Prabha whether I am her father. I am sure that this puts her in an embarrassing situation. But when I am confronted with the question whether Prabha is my daughter, I proudly tell them with a twinkle in my eyes “No, she is my second wife.”

Well this article is not only to complement Prabha on her looks but also record for posterity, the other positive aspects of my wife of 38 years! While my daughters have written about Prabha as a mother I thought I will contribute my bit about Prabha as a wife.

It is true that in the initial years of our marrird life I was shocked to find that she did not fit into my social circles because of her problem in communicating in English. I have described in detail her trials and tribulations on this score in my autobiography and how she came out of it through sheer determination and hard work. While I have played a role in bringing her out of her shell, the credit for her current social status with an identity of her own, must entirely go to her! Because as they say, “One can take a horse to the water…”

Prabha has done an excellent job of converting her challenges into an opportunity and has been more than successful at it.

Though a reluctant starter, Prabha is a fast learner. Once she gets on to something she will put her heart and soul into the job. Whether cooking meals for a small family of 5 or for a party of 40 people, or maintaining her garden with hundreds of plants with love and care, attending music classes and learning new songs, or handling any assignment given to her by the neighbourhood Ladies club or the Inner Wheel, she has proved to be a very dependable and dedicated worker. Her passion for doing things perfectly has earned her a lot of admirers.

Prabha is a fearless and brave person. No bad news, no calamity or even a simple accident affect her composure. She is very bold and has been a nemesis for any crawling or slithering creatures that dare enter our home. The murderous look in her eyes and the speed with she acts with a broom stick in her hands is some thing you have to see to believe on such occasions. ( While the men( !) in the house run for cover)

She is also not a sentimental person judging by her reactions to several situations that I have seen .

Prabha is an intellectual of sorts! Not many people have had the opportunity to see her wax eloquent on Hindu religion, mythology, Tamil literature, carnatic music etc. Her memory and knowledge on these subjects is phenomenal,(though she will forget simple things I tell her to remember and accuse me that I never told her anything on the subject)

Prabha has been a good wife, a caring mother, a dutiful daughter-in-law and affectionate grand mother. Prabha is multi talented. Apart from her writing and singing activities I find her to be also a good story teller. Given an opportunity she can also act. She exhibits a child like enthusiasm for a lot of things. When our travel takes us to historical places, she would like to know details about everything on display. You can find her religiously reading all the explanatory boards on display, much to my irritation as I have no patience for such things!

Unlike many women I know, she is not a gossip monger and can get along with anyone because of the simplicity and transparency in her dealings. Most certainly she is not a cunning person but can be too naive sometimes!

On the negative side I will say that the obsession she has for maintaining the fairly big house we have, spic and span, sometimes drives every one, especially me, go crazy.

Anyone or anything that intrudes her daily routine creates tension in her. While it is an excellent quality to be focused, sometime it creates explosive situations between us. But considering the overall good that her hard work does to the household, I most often swallow my pride and get on. I suppose that is a part of the adjustment that is expected of a spouse in a married life.

I would like to conclude this piece with a confession. If I have led a very fulfilling life and have a sense of accomplishement, realizing most of my dreams. I must acknowledge the major role played by Prabha in my life. Thank you Prabha for everything. And pardon me if I have disappointed you on some scores!