Editor’s note :
As most regular readers of the Times of Amma know, the month of May is when we celebrate our mothers with guest blogs from readers, friends and other mom bloggers on one of the most special women in their lives. Yes, here on this Mom Blog we don't just celebrate 'Mother's Day', we do a whole month of it. This May though, we focus on Mothers of a different kind - this May is about celebrating those who nurtured and nourished us without really being our mothers.
This month we celebrate the Mother Figures in our life.
In this edition, Vani Rane tells us about her Mother-in-Law who is truly a super-hero of sorts.
Who in this world doesn’t think that their mother is perfect and best at everything? All of us do. But if I have to be completely honest there are a few things that one woman in my life does even better than my own Amma. She is my Aai. My Marathi Mom. My Mother-in-Law.
My life like any girl’s had completely changed the moment I got married. My husband and I are professionals in the maniacal television industry, that’s how we met actually. And our lives were consumed by tiring shoots, late night edits and many outdoor schedules. When I was getting married it was my mom who sat me down and said maybe I needed a less hectic 9-to-5 job and must learn cooking (the one household chore I was least interested in) as all this will not suit ‘a married woman’ who has to now look after her husband and mother-in-law (my father-in-law had passed away by then). Of course I already had alarms ringing in my head. I could easily win this argument with my mom but what if my future mother-in-law had the same issues. I have worked hard to reach where I was at that point in my career and there was no way I was going to a backseat just because I was getting married. I mentally prepped myself for having this conversation soon at some point at my new home.
And, then there came a point when all the celebrations and honeymoon period of newly weds was over and it was time to get back to the routine. My first week at the new home, when I was still nervously making up my mind that I have to probably wake up early and decide menu for the day, etc. When I walked into the kitchen, my mother-in-law was already cooking up a storm in the kitchen and had already made breakfast and was now moving on lunch preps.
Embarrassed, I rushed to help her and she says “Would you like coffee or tea?”
I reluctantly say, "coffee".
She says, “Okay you now relax, you have had a hectic week, I’ll make coffee for you and tea for your husband, wake him up and we all can have breakfast together”.
It literally felt like a dream as god knows I’m not a morning person. At the breakfast table I asked her why she didn’t wake me up to help her in the kitchen and she tells me she loves being in the kitchen and feeding people and after 35 years of working in a government job where she had to always rush through cooking, she is now finally retired and she can fulfil her passion for cooking with peace. And she proceeds to tell me that she has found us a cook since she knows how hectic our lives are and she definitely expects me to continue to work the same as before, the least we must do was to not compromise on our food. She knew I wasn’t into daily cooking and she never forced me till today. And it’s been 8 whole years.
So basically a week into my marriage, I not only had a cook and maid sorted out by my mom-in-law, she also sat me down to tell me how being a working woman has made her self dependent, personally and financially and today even after being widowed, she has managed to get her only son married in the way she always dreamt she would.
My Mother-in-law was a bank stenographer at a state government bank her entire life. She probably earned 10% of what we earn today but she built two homes and made many investments her entire life, almost entirely out of her own income and raised a wonderful son who I now call husband. I can hardly match up to her.
Over the years, I discovered a completely different side to her. I had never met a more social and outgoing old lady as her. She stayed alone at her home in Pune while we were settled in Mumbai. Although retired, she had the busiest social calendar. From being part of a bhajan group, to organizing local picnics, community cooking, to a number of birthdays, weddings and other celebrations she was the busiest retired woman around. She has over a 100 friends if not more that too if I count only the friends from her neighbourhood and society in Pune. She would come visit us very reluctantly only on festivals and occasions.
After getting her son married, she had decided that she would take one holiday a year and go to all the places she always wanted to go her entire life. So like a responsible son & daughter-in-law, we decided that we would plan and organise these trips for her. But before we could get to the task, she had already researched and figured out a travel company that organises these trips for senior citizens groups. And before we knew it she was on an international flight!
At the time of taking this picture she was 61. Paragliding on a speed boat in Thailand on her maiden international trip to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. She went with one friend and returned with many.
And this is where I realised the importance of that dreaded word our parents have always told us – Savings.
Today she lives with us in Mumbai and has dedicated herself to taking care of her grandson who is now 3. Needless to say her social life is now limited and so are her holidays but according to her this was what she always wanted, to take care of grandchildren when she is old. She still doesn’t take a single penny from us be it for her own medicines or few and far trips back home to Pune. Her child-like enthusiasm is still alive from adapting to smartphone culture and keeping in touch with her BFF’s over whatsapp or making friends with everyone in our society. She actually knows more people in the apartment complex we live in here in Mumbai than we do.
Amongst many things she taught me here are a few things according to her all women must follow:
• Never be financially dependent on anyone be it your father, brother or even husband.
• Whatever you earn, you must first save before spending a penny.
• Always be thankful to God for every penny you earn and he will make sure you will always have an abundance of riches.
• You must always wear what you are comfortable in. Despite being a traditional Maharashtrian woman who wore sarees her entire life, she has never forced me to wear the mangalsutra everyday or dress in a particular manner. But thanks to my imposition, she has now moved on to wearing kurtas and salwar kameez.
• Never trust your child with anyone, be it your own blood relative. She has not left my child’s side since he was 3 months old. In spite of a full time cook & maid, she has always insisted on making his meals with her own hands and baby duties like cleaning, washing & changing were never left to the maid.
• No matter what kind of a profession you are in, always take time out to pursue things other than work. Believe it or not she is the one who forced me to go to swimming classes (I didn’t know how to swim till much later in life) She insisted I get into the habit of driving our family car as we should never be dependent on men. In this case, she was referring to her own son, of course.
• She herself is a singer and has always encouraged me to take up some course to pursue my passion in singing or dancing. I am yet to take time out for any of those but having such support at home is sometimes all the motivation one needs.
• Always take time out for your partner. With our hectic lives and rearing children the one thing we don’t pay attention to is our spouses. She always tries to ensure that we get our privacy and at least have one meal together on the dining table or sometimes go out together at night while she takes care of the baby & the house. We managed to do a 15 day Europe holiday when my son was just 1.5 yrs old while both our moms took care of the house & child.
• While family is important, friends are life. Her entire life she has made friends with ease and some of her friends & her have now been together for over 4 decades and are still going strong. Naturally she encourages us to do the same. Being a social person myself I host a lot of parties at home or go out with my friends often without having to think twice about what will my mother-in-law think or say. In fact many of my friends often say how fortunate I am to have such a cool MIL!
I could go on and on. However, it is not like everything is hunky dory and we don’t have minor disagreements every now and then. There have been some trying times in our relationship as well. But in the end we always do sort it out and my respect for her has grown manifold since my son was born, as today I can proudly say that even I couldn’t have taken care of my son as well as she does.
I am very fortunate to have such a mother figure in my life who has taught me how to be a complete woman and how you cannot become one if you do not think beyond being just a good wife or a good mother. You need to love yourself first before loving others.
This Mothers Day, I would like everyone to know about my gratitude to this amazing woman without whom I could not imagine my life today.
Vani Rane is a full-time working and house-proud mom or simply put, a time-juggler who wishes there were more than 24 hours in a day. She day-dreams about having the luxury of day-dreaming. You can read more from here and you can follow her stories on Instagram or Facebook by searching for #agastyadiaries.
She has also written for The Times of Amma before.
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