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My Mother-like Manni

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 posts from readers and friends on one of the most special women in their lives. 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. This time we read about Kaushalya Narendran's ode to her mother-like sister-in-law.

When I first read your post about a motherly figure, the only person who instantly came to my mind is my Manni/Bhabhi/Sister-in-law, Revathy Vaidyanathan. I was only 15 when I first met her but little did I know she would become one of my best friends in the future. When my brother and Revathy Manni (that is how I address her) tied the knot, I was 20 and absolutely thrilled. After their marriage she moved to the United States with my brother and has been there ever since.

Like any other relationship we had to put in some effort to get to know each other not only because it was important to my brother and parents but also because we ourselves wanted to understand each other. But we had to put in very little effort in building the relationship because in the first few meetings of coffee and movies, we hit it off! We realized how our upbringing was very similar and how similar our principles and ambitions were.

There is one memory which is etched in my mind and one incident that led to snowballing my affection and respect for her. Closer to my graduation I wanted to visit an education counselor to seek some advice regarding my future plans and she agreed to accompany me. We sat down and the counselor noted down some basic details and then she asked how Revathy manni was related to me and she instantly, without thinking even for a moment, said “I am her sister”. She used the word sister and not sister-in-law. I felt ashamed because I knew I would have said she was my sister-in-law and I cringed. This incident brought me a lot closer to her than I can put in words. There was a quantum leap in the respect and affection I had for her. It said volumes about how she looked and felt about me.

Revathy is a great human being, intelligent, caring and has brilliant sense of humour and a pleasant countenance. She has a proclivity for going out of the way to help someone even when she is not asked for help. And what surprises even more is that she never expects anything in return. Manni is a trained Carnatic singer and the entire family would stop what they are doing to listen to her sing. But what I admire about her is how unflappable and soft spoken she is. It’s surprising to see someone can talk so softly! She is also the most unpretentious person I have known.

I got married a year and a half back and like most couples, I went through a rough patch. When I finally decided to share my problems with her, although she sympathized with me, she didn’t give me the wrong advice or the easy way out. She encouraged me to be strong and face the storm exactly like my parents advised. Although it was hard for me to take it then, I realized she said that in good faith and out of genuine love for me. My brother (Kaushik) and manni have a two year old son – Aashutosh Kaushik and I had visited them for my nephew’s first birthday. You know how women feel ecstatic about going to their mom's after marriage? That's how I feel about visiting my anna and manni. They pamper me. We would take walks together in the evening and during one of these walks she told me I was like a child to them and that I would always be their first child. That always came from my brother but these words coming from manni meant the world to me.

This quality of never expecting anything in return is a very maternal in nature and reminds me of my mother and grandmother. Manni and I meet probably once a year for a few days when she comes down to India and otherwise talk over the phone not more than once a week. But our relationship is not just about phone calls or coffee/movie dates. Even if we meet after a year or two, we still giggle away to glory at something not even remotely funny. That’s us. She takes a very important place in my life and there is not a single decision in my life I haven't run by her.

I believe I speak for Revathy manni as well when I say that the credit of this strong bond we share also goes to our families. Like any other family whenever there have been minor frictions, my brother and parents made sure I was never involved and never came complaining to me. They were mature enough to deal with these issues while ensuring my relationship with Revathy manni did not get affected. They made sure that trivial misunderstandings didn’t cloud my impression and judgment about her. That played a huge role in strengthening our bond. I sincerely thank my parents for nurturing and encouraging me to have a good bond with Revathy manni. At the same time, her family as well has never interfered with our relationship and they have always been happy about the bond we share.

I truly, genuinely love her and she means a lot to me. I pray for her happiness and for our bond to only strengthen in the years to come.

Kaushalya is a Business Economics Graduate and Finance Professional. A true blue Mumbaikar, she is married to a Chennai boy and is currently learning Chinese and Salsa. Stay tuned to the Times of Amma on Facebook and Instagram for more stories on inspiring mothers and mother-figures.And don't forget to reach out to us here, if you would like to do a guest post for us.

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