Monday, September 19, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Ritu


I am undertaking this exercise where I have to write "A letter to a parent or grandparent who had an impact on my life".

To me, the big question is - Can I write a letter to you maa without flooding the keyboard with tears (and short circuiting the ageing machine to an untimely death)? Can I express in "words" what you mean to me when "actions" also seem insufficient? Can I make you feel as special and wanted and loved and cared for and adored as you have made me feel ALL my life? Can I serve you the way you have, through the appendectomy at 15, the two child births....countless fevers and other illnesses, with patience, and love and so much warmth (that when I have to be a care-giver I can't match up to your warmth as hard as I try maa)? Can I ask for your forgiveness for saying unkind words as a rebellious teenager? Can I EVER emulate your patience with kids, yours or mine, the way you can 'explain' things without losing your cool or judging? Can I EVER love you enough in this lifetime, when I have spent 20 years fighting with you?

Sometimes when a friend loses a parent, I imagine - our home desolate, dark, sad and incomplete without you. And I can hear myself say, "If I lose maa, I will have no reason to go home to Cochin. There will be NOTHING there for me."

And that is how it has been. Home is home because of you - you, as you stand on the porch watching as the car approaches, smiling, tearing up, arms wide open as we jump into your arms, hug you, happy to be "home"... Home is lying on your sprawling king size bed, discussing politics, or watching trashy serials as you shred characters apart... Home is where the food is to-die-for, where your soft arms are cushions we lounge on... Home is where you love us, unconditionally and pamper us till we are ready to die off it... Home is where we laugh..A LOT....

Laughter. I've had SO much of it in my life, all because of you maa. And I am NOT the only one in this world who will vouch for your whacky, crazy, spur-of-the-moment comments and resulting in humour that has all of us in splits any time of the night or day. Even my kids always say, "Naani makes us laugh..."

I am recounting 3 notes I took down when Abhir was born in 2003 when you tried to keep 3 year old Oorja engaged so she would leave me alone for a few hours a day to rest and recuperate:

Oorja relating a story to Naani:

O: "One day there is a big jungle and one tiger"
N: "Nooooo. No tiger. Mujhe tiger se dar lagta hai (Im scared of tigers)"
O: "Ok ok naani. And in jungle there is a big sher, with sharp teeth"
N: "Nooooo. No big teeth. Please."
O: "Ok ok. No big teeth. Is having small sharp teeth."
N: "Nooooo. No sharp teeth please. Mujhe dar lagta hai... Having bhaunta (dull) teeth"
O: "Ok naani. Having bhaunta teeth and is very angry"
N: "Noooooo...not angry...."
O (in frustration): "Arre naani, story sunane do na...(Let me relate the story)"

Oorja - "Main Abhir ki sister hoon" conversation

O: "Main sister hoon...(I am a sister...)"
N: "Woh hospital waali? (Like the one in hospitals?)"
O: "Nahin.. sister... S I S T E R..."
N: "Sister, meri tabiyat kharab hai (Sister I am unwell)..."
O: "Achcha... (Ok)"
N: "Toh dawayi do na - aap toh sister ho... (So give me medicines; you're a Sister)"...
O: "Main Abhir ki sister hoon... (I'm Abhir's sister).."
N: "Accha? Lekin sister toh hospital main hoti hai...Please mujhe dawai do na.... (Really? But sisters are usually in hospitals.. Please give me a medicine.."
O: "Offho naani. Aap samjhti nahin ho... (Oh naani, why don't you understand?)..."

Oorja starts playing doctor-doctor with Naani after the above conversation (Oorja is nurse and Naani is the doctor)

Nurse: "Doctor.."
Doctor: "Call the first patient..."
Nurse: "Ok ... N E X T ... Naani Goyal..."
Patient doesn't turn up..
Doctor: "Where is the patient?"
Nurse: "Woh aa rahi hai.. susoo karne gayi hai... (She's coming. Has gone to pee..)"

Maa, the time I spent recuperating at home with you were the most memorable. Your love is all encompassing and even the children love you and always look forward to meeting you. Your calm way of handling them is something I still need to learn...

What I also need to learn is your funda of "no expectations" from your children. You have told me that you don not expect any child including your two sons to look after you and Papa in your old age. "I want all of you to be happy. If you have to go live in another city and make a life, so be it. If we cannot live together, so be it... Just be happy..." In the classic marwari family set up your words would be considered blasphemy... But that is who you are. You are loving, kind and ever-giving and in this life you don't want to be the cause of our unhappiness.

This rule in your life has also made you pamper us till we could take it no more. I recall vacations I have taken in Cochin, when I, the nocturnal college returnee or the newly wed I-am-missing-mom's-food-coz-I-just-realised-I-hate-cooking, would sleep at weird hours, ensconced in a heavily draped room, wake up suddenly, walk out of the room to be welcomed by a bright sunny day and the clock showing 2pm. Rubbing my eyes, I would ask you why you didn't wake me up and you'd simply smile and say, "You've come home to rest and relax. Just enjoy...and oh! Lunch is ready...." You wouldn't let me cook or help you in the kitchen reiterating that I would have to do it at my 'home' anyways...

I also love all your little quirks - the way you have a pair of reading glasses in each room of the house, including the kitchen; the way you check your mobile phone after 2 days and return my 'missed' call asking me hassled, "Beta, you called?" while I reply, "Yes maa, two days back..." and you insist, "Par mere phone main toh abhi dikhayi diya... (But my phone just showed me your calls!).."; the way you meticulously buy, wash, sun dry and then roast groceries (even jeera and coriander seeds!!!); the way you grind all the masalas at home and insist we use them too; the way you plan menus for our visits in advance (Vishal ko baby corn fritters pasand hain, Harishji ko padoke.....); the way you run around completing the chores of the day on your tiny feet and 4ft 10 inch petite frame....; the way you will buy ANYTHING (useless sets of knives, handkerchiefs, plastic boxes, utensils, books etc...) from a door-to-door salesgirl/woman just because you empathise with them ("bechari, saara din dhoop main ghoomne ke baad, ghar jaake bachchon ko bhi dekhegi, khaana banyegi...." Poor thing, after roaming the city in the sun she will have to go home and look after the kids and cook food etc...)

Your empathy for working women is endearing and the manner in which you support your daughter-in-law's career choice is commendable too (again, in the light of the marwari set up)...

This letter would be incomplete if I were to not mention the fortitude with which you have handled life's setbacks. Your hope, your zest for daily living is an inspiration. You never, through the past almost 18 years, lost your sense of humour however tough the situation may have been. Hats off to you maa!

When I think of you, just like that, in the middle of the day, I feel blessed. I have the urge to take the next flight and land up to bask in your love...

Your actions and words have impacted me in so many countless ways.... I've learned compassion, patience (although I try, I cannot be as good as you), the ability to smile in adversity, the ability to serve selflessly, the ability to fight for my rights, love unconditionally and so much much more than I can write here. I am who I am, for a large part, because of you. I love you.


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