Mothers Month Special : My Amma's Indomitable Spirit
It did not kill her spirit and she still greeted everyone with her sensational smile. Inside, she was slowly building the courage to go under the laser... once again.
Amma, as I call her, a likeable, sociable, home-making genius. I am sure my father would have been head over heels, when he first saw this eighteen year old beauty, a few days before their wedding. He would never concede to this however. She even had an offer to act in movies, but my grandmother would have none of it. Amma grew up in conservative Chennai and studied in a popular girl’s school. The likes of Latha Rajnikanth was a schoolmate, so liberal thinking was not uncommon to her. Her father, today ninety-two, saw that she loved stitching and got her a manual Singer sewing machine in the Seventies. This was her first prized skill that she would use many years later.
She was married at the age of eighteen, never knew who the man she was marrying, apart from his name and that he was an engineer. The day she met him, she worried if he was shorter than her. So when my father was about to leave, she got her sister to mark his height on the grill next to the house entrance. He was a good 2 inches taller than her. Presumably, being eighteen, she eventually filled up another inch in that gap post marriage.
Her first tryst with life outside their home was in Bokaro, an industrial city North of India, where my father was working. Being vegetarian all her life, my father friends tried tricking her into eating chicken gravy, claiming it to be potato curry. Few bites in and she threw up. A keen sense of taste, the second prized talent, that would come handy in the future.
They moved to Bangalore a few years later and although my father encouraged her, she chose not to pursue her education. I guess I get that trait from her… studying is just boring! Four years into their married life, I came along. A roly-poly bundle of joy. Five years later, my sister was born, another roly-poly bundle of joy. The family was thrilled at the arrival of a girl child, most of all Amma. It was as if she had waited for this moment all her life. She started stitching fabulous and stunning dresses for my sister. They were the envy of every little girl in our vicinity. Amma started making dresses for babies that she would supply to a store. She had found her passion, or at least one of her passions. The other one was cooking. Cooking for her son. Man! The dishes she made! She never ate meat or egg, but she cooked them and it was unbelievably tasty. This was followed by cookies, cakes, sweets and my favourite, Chikki. Yes, the humble roasted groundnut in jaggery, Amma’s chikki was unique and full of love. She participated and won at cookery contests and I would applaud the loudest from the crowds.
There were times when my father travelled for work or would work long hours at office. My sister would always be in her world of books and studies. We would spend hours in the kitchen where Amma used to make dishes for me. We used to stay up late and watch movies after movies, she was a total movie buff, guess I got that from her too. We probably watched Maine Pyar Kiya and Kamal Hassan’s Apporva Sahotharangal, god knows how many times. When we heard noises outside at night, I would slowly go to the window to check, trying to be the man of the house. My only respite was that Amma was two steps behind. My sister was a total academic, scoring nothing less than ninety nice percent; While I scraped through academics, my forte was everything else. When parents spoke highly of their kids, Amma would always nod in appreciation, but never showed off our successes in public. For years I used to think it was my lack of academic prowess, only later did I realize, it was a lesson in humility.
When TV serials invaded Indian homes, she watched them on end and sadly, I couldn’t stand them and moved on. I moved out from my home to join University. I saw a restless woman trying to hold back her tears as she bid goodbye. As kids, we lived in the quarters of a company that was a hundred percent export oriented. So feisty was the export attitude, that almost every household had one child who lives abroad. Both of us too now live outside India and far away from her. Sometimes I wonder if she ever thinks it was wrong to encourage us to pursue NRI dreams. She witnessed both her kids graduate as engineers. Saw her daughter break records in academic scores in India and abroad. Welcomed a son-in-law and daughter-in-law like her own. Graduated to a double grandmother with the birth of two grandsons and travelled the world after my father’s retirement. She witnessed the death of her mother and brother in quick succession, yet she remained strong and forever the sweet person, until three years ago. She lost her eyesight to a botched cataract surgery. I could hear the pain she was going through on the phone, she wanted me by her side. I cried that night.
Amma went into a cocoon, stopped going out much, the woman who maintained a spotless home and cooked amazing dishes, now had helps doing it for her. The sewing machine was catching dust. I could see she did not like it and the feeling of helplessness was eating her up. But it did not kill her spirit and she still greeted everyone with her sensational smile. Inside, she was slowly building the courage to go under the laser once again. Earlier this year we went through the surgery, this time I was by her side. A few hours later she came out of the OT and the evident glow in her face indicated she could see clearly again! Vision was restored in one eye and that was enough to bring her back to herself. As a first order of duty, she fired the cook and was back to being Amma! ~
This piece is brought to you by M. Vinod, who is also Times Of Amma's first male writer. Thank you Vinod for stepping up and volunteering your thoughts on your Amma.
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