Thursday, March 24, 2011

A tribute to my Mother -in -Law

After a brief illness, my mother-in-law( Rajam Narasimhan), passed away in her sleep due to a massive cardiac arrest on 14th March 2011 at the ripe age of 89. She was a remarkable person whom I have always admired for her “zest-for-life”!

She was a a woman who was widowed at the age of 28 with four children ranging from a 20 day old baby girl (my wife Prabha), a 7 year old daughter and two sons aged 2 and 5 in between. She showed a lot of guts, when she decided to bring up her children on her own breaking away from problematic relatives.. Though she had the financial support from the Management of the company where her husband was a very senior Manager. She had to face all the problems that confronted her from time to time as a single parent. This she did with fortitude and courage performing the dual role of the father and mother. All the children grew up to be responsible children with her elder son passing the CA exams with distinction and a silver medal.

She believed in self help! If she had to approach a person or an organization to sort out a problem she would not seek outsiders` help. She would be there literally taking the `bull by the horns’ and solving the problem.

Never one to indulge in self-pity, she celebrated life in her own ways. When she was young, seeing Tamil movies in her neighborhood cinema hall was her biggest stress buster. Listening to music and playing on the veena, in which she was proficient, also helped her to relax. Though she had never been to a school, she could read the popular Tamil weeklies. She loved gifts and never said no to anything offered to her. She was equally fond of giving away cash gifts to any one who came to see her-especially her children and grand children.

She was adept at using gadgets. Three years ago she insisted on getting a mobile and learnt how to use it with ease. Her mobile became her lifeline to the world. Though it was not unusual for her frequent calls to her favorite granddaughter in Chennai landing on my mobile and she would wonder how I am on the line when she pressed the number of her granddaughter!!

Even until a week before she got admitted to the hospital she was expressing her desire for things. She asked her son, an NRI who called on her recently, “Have you got the ‘x’ brand soap from America for me? And what about the gold chain you promised me the last time?!”

She was quite fastidious about many things; like keeping herself and her surroundings spic and span; having a matching blouse to go with colour of her saree. Not for her the indifference or `resignation to fate attitude’ that you witness in many old people.

Apart from watching her favourite serials on the idiot box, you will find her ears plugged to a portable music system any time you visit her in the ‘senior citizen home’ where she was staying for the last six years.

She never complained or cried out of self-pity for having been admitted to a senior citizen home. Her children, particularly her NRI son, had taken the decision knowing his mother to be fiercely independent, who would prefer to live her life on her own terms as long as she was fit. Even if she felt a tinge of sadness, she rarely expressed it.

After leading a turbulent life for 89 years, first in a joint family, later as a single parent bringing up her four children and still later as a mother looking after the family of her second son who died at the age of 44 (when she was 73), she decided to make the best of her new found freedom in the senior citizens home.

She would get up early, wash her own clothes, dust and clean the room (she was never satisfied with the job done by the maid servant appointed by the Home), have a bath, dress up neatly, offer a prayer, and then go around visiting other inmates in the Home. Like her , many of the inmates were well to do NRI parents who had chosen to live in the Home to get away from the day to day problems of running their households.

After lunch and rest, she would have another bath, comb her hair and dab her face with a generous quantity of talcum powder and again go on calling her friends in the home for a gossip session. Every evening between 5 pm and 6pm she would be glued to the TV to watch her favorite granddaughter, a VJ who compeered a musical show on a popular music channel.

While she was a proud old lady with eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren, she was forever worried about the fact that her three granddaughters through her two sons were not yet married. She would appeal to everyone who visited her to find suitable bridegrooms for her granddaughters.

Unlike many old people of her age who are forever complaining about their health or cursing their fate for some reason or the other, you would always find my mother-in-law cheerful, smiling, enthusiastically participating in group activities and generally enjoying herself. It is this positive attitude that kept her going throughout her life!

From the time she was admitted to the Home it was my responsibility to keep in regular touch with her, and generally looking after her needs. Since I was the only guy in the family who was opposed to her being placed in the Senior Citizens Home, I used to suffer from a guilty conscience! In the early days, I used to bring her home for a week, every month, to make her feel wanted! After a couple of months she complained to my driver, “I don’t know why my son-in-law brings me here every month, I am quite comfortable and enjoying my stay at the Home where I have made a lot of friends”` She was, obviously enjoying her independence and did not want to intrude on our freedom. Yet I ensured that she was with us on all important occasions, such as family functions and festivals!

Her sudden demise, without creating any turmoil or trouble to her near and dear ones, especially when her NRI son was also in Chennai on a visit with his wife,( so that he could perform all the rituals), showed that even in her death she got what she wanted!

During the last six years a greater bond had developed between us and her death has created a big vacuum in my life. Yet I am sure that her blessings are always there, taking care of me and my family in the years to come!


  1. Interesting ! Good example of self confidence !

  2. Dear Rajan, You have putforward all the best about your mother in law--My mother ,in your jolly & casual way.You have included each & small gesture of my mother,&it shows how much reverence &love you have for her.Really a noble tribute&especially pointed out the core of her character-That are self confidence& bravery. Regards Jaya.