I could have also written: My Mother – Oh My God!!! Since besides being the living god for me, she actually infuses the deepest sense of wonder and admiration each time I consciously think about what all she has done and continues to do.
I am what I am today and what I will ever be is solely due to my mother. She never told me what to do or how to shape my life or where my dreams must take me. Instead she encouraged me to dream whatever I wished to however big and wild and impossible they may seem, and she believed in my dreams and never stopped me from following them. She never said ‘no’ to whatever I wanted to do, and that’s where she planted the seed of discovery and exploration and adventure in me.
My mother was a young widow, with almost no one on Earth to help her out; neither would she have taken any help even if there were people to do so. She had very odd son. Who broke every rule and norms of the society and dreamt of things that normally people wouldn’t. I have no idea how my mother brought me up or kept our dreams alive since we had an extremely hard and impoverished childhood. There were many days when we didn’t know if we would have the next meal or not. But through everything we stayed together, grounded, and very much aware that life is not easy but it is lot of fun and if we didn’t give up on our dreams and goals we would get there sooner or later. She did all sorts of odd jobs and so did I to make ends meet. We had nothing but we were happy and fun and living as she would tell stories at night of the mythological heroes, of the braveries of Gods and the Kings.
My mother came from a family of writers and musicians and she used to be a Radio artist when my father was alive. She trained into classical music and was an exponent of vocal, Kathak, sitar, tanpura, etc. Alongside she also wrote books, poems, limericks, lyrics and composed songs. She did oil and water colors, amazing textile work of finest craftsmanship. She loved children and trained to become a Montessori certified teacher and used to teach in Mother Teresa’s school. She worked for the old people and also was an active member of our neighborhood temple where she sang the evening prayers for the devotees each evening. She was and is a voracious reader and right from my earliest childhood I remember that books were the predominant occupants of our home. Books were everywhere and she bought them, made us read or read them out to us. Even today she has a voluminous library of books. She knew all the herbs and flowers of nature and the birds and animals and took us into the jungles and taught us to recognize many such species. From her I picked up my love for the outdoors and wildlife. Despite all these for some reason she always suffered from ailments. Even before my dad passed away she had already undergone three major surgeries and it had weakened her constitution considerably. Even so, her enthusiasm and energy and drive to do hundred things simultaneously never waned.
Losing one’s father at a young age, if it has to happen, is not a bad thing. I am thankful that it happened in the sense that it made us completely self-reliant and accept the fact that whatever we wished to do or be in life was totally up to us. We had no backups no safety net below. Mother drove this message home very strongly. We took few years to stabilize. I continued gallivanting across the world hopping from one peak to another and trying every possible ways to get killed. Every acquaintance of my mother told her how could she let her son keep doing such things and not force him to study or go to college. I am not sure what her answers were to them, but to me her stock advice would be, ‘don’t worry just go out and live your life the way you want to’. After some time I too picked up a measly paying job and then mother fell severely ill and had to undergo two more major surgeries, which broke her body significantly. Getting her expensive medicines and adequately nutritious food was a task we struggled with. But her mind remained unvanquished. And then I joined the Navy. With that our financial matters got stabilized to some extent. I told mother to indulge in whatever she fancied as she now started living with me. Wherever my postings took me, she came along.
Her zest for life and to learn and do new things skyrocketed thereafter. She became a homeopath practitioner, started her music lessons again, took up horticulture and became a trained arborist, started teaching children and adults, started her paintings, writing, playing mother to all my friends and course mates. She is a very social and gregarious person and loves entertaining people and stuffing them with delicious food. So while I was mostly away either on work or climbing somewhere, our home would have steady flow of visitors all vying for her attention. Mother advised parents and children and soon she became a councilor. Even other parents of her age group came to her for advice.
Though she followed the strict norms of a Hindu widow for a while, the moment we grew up enough and had means to follow, I strictly forbade her to do any such things. I always get her the brightest clothes possible all befitting the modern trends and all fancy accessories to wear. She has nice array of skirts, jeans, jackets, etc. Her winter wardrobe is of course the finest possible in the world as her collection has some of the biggest and best brands that money can buy. She is fond of scarves and hats and I get her one from wherever I go. Once I went off for an expedition and when I returned home after two months I found my mom’s room full of white paper sheets with puncture marks through all of them. She was busy puncturing another sheet with a funny needle kind of thing. I realized that she has finally become senile and insane as she was just turning 58 then. She shocked me out of my wits when she declared that it was Braille she was writing and she wanted to create a library of entertaining books for the blind. Till then I had known of Braille only vaguely. Till today I can’t figure out how she could have learned and mastered Braille (and from where?) within 2 months so that she was writing books for the blind. She started off by transcribing popular fairy tales and stories then went on to the likes of Thomas Hardy, Sherlock Holmes, Ayn Rand, Somerset Maugham and finally my writings. She even taught other blind people around how to read Braille. She labored day and night for years to get her collection as vivid, varied and entertaining as she could muster, till her cervical spondylitis prevented her from continuous Braille work. Though she still writes in phases, she has now donated her entire collection to a blind school in Kolkata.
She has complied a book of typical Bengali cuisine full of nutrition and health tips along with household tips. She has written many poetry and continues to write them as well as limericks, devotional and romantic songs. She has completed her first full length novel and is now working on the next. Few years ago she surprised me by asking me to find a place for her in Kolkata since she had found a music guru from whom she wished to learn Bengali folk songs. At 65 it’s a strange request and I tried to dissuade her out of it, sighting her ill-health, etc, but to no avail. So she left for a year and half and stayed alone in Kolkata just so she could learn music from one of the last legends of Bengali folk song. Attending classes with students less than half her age and few teenagers too, she was adjudged the best student at the end of the course. When I went to bring her back to Delhi, her teacher specially called me to tell me that in his sixty years of music career he had never met anyone like my mom. After this she decided that she wanted to live by herself, so I got her a place near Delhi and she shifted there lock stock and barrel. Soon enough she had found a music teacher and started her music lessons with renewed gusto. In few months she had become the universal guardian and councilor for the entire society. Grownups come to her to seek advice about their children, the children come to her to learn how to handle the grownups, quarrelling couple seek advice on how to live in harmony, and people even come to her to learn how to invest wisely.
My mother is now over 70 and she has a deep and unshakable faith in God without any ritualistic fervor. She believes and has always taught us that it is an inner thing, communion with God, it is personal and it needn’t be tied to any rituals or external manifestations. She never forced anything, no ideas, no dogmas, no ethics, no rules, nothing. She just did what she thought was right and left us to follow whatever we thought was right and best for ourselves.
She has recently taught herself to take photographs and make collages. Her botanical albums have been lauded by some of our leading botanical organizations. Recently she had a meeting with our national botanical society people where she gave a demonstration of how she has been collecting and preserving her collection. Her collection, courtesy me, has plant specimens from some of the remotest regions in the world.
Her health is frail though she looks much younger than her age as her joy for life makes her face glow. She refuses to say ‘no’ to life and even today can outclass any teenager in a party.
She loves to travel and when she was younger I used to take her to many places. Last year I took her to the Andaman Islands where she lived in some jungle cottages alone with deer and peacocks and then befriended the local Wildlife warden on her own. She can’t take long flights hence I can’t take her anywhere in Europe and she is absolutely petrified of any twisting roads hence my regret that I will never be able to take her into the Himalaya.
Her ideas and ways of life has always been way ahead of her time and I never hesitated to bring my girlfriends home. She accepted each one of them as her own child, even when she knew that they would go out of her son’s life soon.
Never questioning, never doubting, never judging, yet always supporting and backing us up in all our thoughts, ideas and actions, my mother has remained the single most powerful and motivating force of my life. I have never seen God but for me my mother is the incarnation through whom I see my God.
I would wrap up with the three pillars she taught me to set my life with, these are my mother's wisdom:
Never do anything for money or fame (don't follow money, follow your dreams and passion and money will follow you)
Always believe in your dreams (if you don't then no one will)
Always follow your heart (listen to your head for rationality, but always decide with your intuition and conscience and you will never make a wrong decision)
P.S. Some of you might have noticed that this is my 100th post and as a milestone in my blog, I wanted to dedicate it to my mother. If you recall, my 50th post was dedicated to my Uncle Fred. Between these two people I can find almost every reason, every season to be what I am and to become what I would ever be. I know for each one of us, our mother is supreme and I am sure all your mothers are equally wonderful and loving and this post is to all the mothers and to all the children whom they nurtured.