Mother, a bonding figure in the family
N J Ravi Chander
Twelve years ago, on May 25, my mother, Padmakumari, lost her battle to life after a prolonged period of illnesses, ranging from heart disease, diabetes to high blood pressure. She was only 69 when she breathed her last, with my father M N Jayaraman and brothers, Presanna Kumar and Prem Prakash, by her side.
She had become weak and infirm with a swollen belly, and it was appalling to see a woman of such physical and mental strength reduced to just a shadow of herself. She even stuttered and lost her appetite with my father struggling to feed her a few handfuls.
Just before she left us for her heavenly abode on that fateful evening, she expressed a desire to eat a ripe mango, her favourite fruit. No one ever thought this would be her dying wish, and just taking a small bite of the fruit proved fatal. Profuse sweating followed, and one could see her alerting dad that perhaps her end was near.
Within minutes she faded away and fell motionless in my father’s arms on the sofa. I was still busy at the SBI’s, NAL branch with the Risk Focussed Internal Audit (RFIA) team who had landed in the morning when the wife called up to convey the terrible news. It was hard to accept that my dear mother was no more.
Putting aside everything and taking leave of the auditors and the Branch Manager, I rushed home. There was a mournful air, and a few relatives were already beside her limp body. Just a few days back, a soothsayer had predicted that she would soon depart this world and glad to get away from it all she had thrust a 500-rupee-note in his hand.
The family found her death hard to digest. Until a few years ago, she was the live wire of the family running the household like clockwork. She ran errands, celebrated festivals with panache, won friends and influenced people, brought food to the table, besides, being a motivator and a pillar of strength. She cared for the sick, the old and the impoverished and lightened their burden with food and money.
My fond memories with her date back to the late 60s, and early 70s when we five kids would surround her after dinner in the bedroom, and she would narrate stories she had read from the Ambulimama – the Tamil version of the Chandamama. Married off to my father when still in school, she seldom asked anyone for a favour, managing with the little resources she had. She was a devout Hindu and spared no effort to hop to temples in the neighbourhood, contribute liberally to the chariot festivals and even desired to go on a pilgrimage which sadly did not materialise.
A self-made woman, she remains an inspiration for me to this day on living a simple life. I shudder at the thought now that she strove hard to bring five of us up, making umpteen sacrifices, and preparing us for a rewarding experience later. When a close friend or family member visited us, she ensured they were well fed – often non-vegetarian fare.
She had the knack of rustling up tasty treats in an instant much to everyone’s wonderment. Her culinary skills were the talk of the town, and festivals would see her prepare an assortment of sweets and savouries and distribute them to the neighbours. Unbiased, affectionate towards her family, and detached towards materialism is how I would remember her forever. Today we seldom come across such virtues.
Her last few months were the most harrowing as her health took a turn for the worst and reduced her to a near vegetable state. A great soul is no more amongst us. I hope she finds peace on the other side.
(The author is a retired banker who has taken up writing as a pastime. He writes for the Deccan Herald, The New Indian Express, The Tribune, The Hitavada, The City Tab, The Hans India and Kashmir Vision)