It was a cold January morning a few years back when Ma crossed the threshold of life and embarked on an unknown journey never to return. For the last some days memories of her love, courage, selfless service, simplicity and high integrity came flooding, submerging my being with the thoughts of her.
Marriage to the youngest son of a large joint family at the tender age of sixteen was no cake walk for her. With an absentee husband-he was serving in the army-who was not allowed to take her along- she suffered ill treatment at the hands of her in- laws. But Ma weathered it all stoically for the sake of her two children.
I was four years when my father took premature retirement. By that time we had shifted to the city. We had hardly settled when he purchased a farm in Uttar Pradesh and went on to live there. Once again Ma was left alone with five of us under her wings. I recall how single-handedly and courageously she managed the household, us children and our education. She had such strength of character that I don’t remember any occasion when she had brooded or felt irritated for being encumbered with so many duties. Father used to join us in between the sowing and harvesting season with a lot many goodies though.
In the early sixties father sold his farm and we moved to Chandigarh. Once more Ma’s determination and grit was put to test when our house was being built and she bore the brunt of resettling for a short period in a cramped accommodation in a part of the adjoining house.
Herself a great cook for whom making pickles and sweets and many fancy dishes was second nature, she wanted to teach me her culinary skills. She always impressed upon me the need to learn household chores along with my studies. She saw to it that I learnt everything and in the process gifted to me a life long asset which is a tribute to her foresight from a grateful daughter.
Ma was an extremely giving person. After all of us were married and left home, she would celebrate our birthdays by cooking something special and visiting the Gurudwara to offer prayers and Prasad. On our every visit to her she would always keep ready a dish of my choice, some money in the envelope and dress material to gift me at the time of our departure. She would reproach me if ever I took something for her. “Don’t you know I have enough of everything?” The word ‘lack’ did not exist in her dictionary.
She felt deeply lonely after my father’s demise but her resilience and indomitable spirit won and she declined to stay with any of her children. To compromise on her dignity and freedom was never an option for her. God had been kind to her and she remained physically agile and mentally alert till almost the last days of her life. Her commune with her Maker was through her love of nature. Watering and tending to her potted plants and sprawling rose bushes was her pastime and her passion which she never missed. She knew parts of Gurbani by heart and would recite it at a fixed schedule in the mornings and evenings. She was a prolific story teller also and when we were young she used to narrate to us incidents from Mahabharta and life histories of Sikh Gurus.
Ma would watch TV for news and her favourite serials and would express her opinion on them with the conviction and confidence of a well read critic. She was proud of me and loved me immensely but did not hesitate to remind me when I was taking her around my newly built house that it was a blessing of Waheguru and I should always thank Him. She was absolutely sans hubris but would not stand lies, hypocrisy, rapacity and stayed truthful under all circumstances.
She would dreamily talk about her own death without even a hint of regret or remorse. The call from above did come one day and she passed away after a brief illness. Ma has merged with the Almighty but her sweet presence seems to be pervading the atmosphere around me perpetually, blessing me, inspiring me and exhorting me never to lose heart and carry on.
“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
― George Washington
This beautifully sums up my feelings for Ma!
Friends, welcome here as always!