Recently a friend commented that he has renewed respect for his mother after singlehandedly cooking and taking care of his sick family members. He wondered how his mother did all this alone every single day. I don’t remember my mother in that role at all. She stayed far away from the kitchen. She declared loudly that she does not like to cook and only cooks when there is an absolute need. In 70’s Kolkata, that declaration was completely antithetical to the image of an ideal woman and a mother. Did she care though? Nope.
Instead of being a bringer of food, she nourished me with books. She ensured I was fed of course, but she also always made sure I had plenty of books to read. I used to get sick every month with some kind of fever as a child. Although I felt unwell, I did not mind the fever too much because every time I got sick, Ma bought new books to perk me up. They were not classics or anything deep, thought provoking or educational. They were Amar Chitra Kathas or comics of my favorite super heroes but I still remember the joy I felt in my fever ravaged mind as I saw the packet of books in her hands.
My favorite memory of Ma is us sharing the same pillow reading our respective books in summer afternoons during summer vacation.
Once school’s session ended and we got a few days off till next grade, she insisted I read a story book during the time assigned for homework just to stay in the habit of sitting down to work. I loved that ‘work.’ Interestingly, I got a job where reading is actually part of my work.
I remember her reading poems of Rabindranath Tagore to me starting with Shishu and then moving on to Sanchoyita. She guided me into the treasure trove of Bengali literature as she was a voracious consumer of all those treasures.
I remember her teaching me kindness.
I remember regurgitating all my school stories as a little girl while I ate my after school snack and she listening patiently.
My favorite thing about her is her laugh. She has this rumbling, all encompassing laughter which starts in her face and travels through her whole body and being.
She is very gullible. She believes easily and then laughs if she realizes she fell for some trick or pranks by her grand kids.
My Ma is not the one who worked all day to make me food or clean the house or arrange my table. She did work all the time to be my cheerleader, my fellow bibliophile, my confidante, my teacher, sometimes my counselor and also a strict disciplinarian.
She is fighting Covid in a hospital in Kolkata along with my father. I am very far away and can not be with either of them.
If you are reading this blog, do send some healing wishes to the universe for these people that you do not know but who could benefit from good, positive energy.
Happy mother’s day.