In Memory of Amma

On 25th March, I lost the one person in the world who thought I was perfect. She belonged to a generation that lived for their children, seeing no faults, prepared to sacrifice everything so that their progeny could have everything that they denied themselves. My mother did not have a refrigerator, ever. Her proudest possessions were a mixie and an oven. When we got an LPG connection in the early 70s, it was nirvana – because until then, cooking was on a smelly kerosene stove or the thick black dust of charcoal stoves. But just because she thought I was perfect, she never let up on being strict or relaxing study time. Success, in her eyes, was getting a permanent government job and somehow, I think she was deeply disappointed that I got into advertising. First of all, she did not think it was a real job – like engineering, teaching, banking or medicine. She couldn’t explain what I was up to, to any of our relations. She never got it – how something like this was a job was beyond her comprehension. She equated advertising to posters being stuck on walls.  I gave up on trying to explain what I did because I could see her thinking – he makes people buy more soap?

She was never very social. Her contacts were limited to a set of friends that she made early in her marriage and she concentrated on making a whole lot of goodies depending on the season – fries in summer, preserves from fresh fruits and she slaved over cakes – there were no ready made mixtures then and even finely powdered sugar was not easily available. The cakes were the regular ‘sponge’ or tea cakes but to us, they were periodic delights we took for granted. She would never let anyone who came home depart without having a meal because she loved feeding people – and in an idiosyncratic twist, she hated my eating at anyone else’s place. I remember being invited to a friend’s birthday party – and being forced to have a full lunch at home before going there!

She had very fierce views on the economy – why should prices rise at all? She wrote long impassioned letters to politicians when she came across things in the newspaper that angered her. There was a time when she wrote a letter to me every day – and we would joke that the local post office kept itself open just for her! It contained the same trivia of life and it reached a point where I could tell what was in the letters by skimming over a few sentences. In some way, I think it was therapeutic like a one-way conversation to keep life going. There was always the deep regret that she had never worked in an office even as she never spent an idle minute at home. She felt inadequate because of her lack of social skills. I spent the last 2 weeks thinking about her and was surprised at how many things are still fresh in memory. She spent the last few months of her life with us and I will always be grateful that I had the opportunity of being there for her when she needed me most – because she was always there when I did. Thank you, Amma. Love, always