Mother's Day memories: The gift from my mother
DR. M.P. RAVINDRA NATHAN, Guest columnistIf there was a Mother's Day contest, my mother would be a top candidate to win. Not because she was rich enough to shower her children with gifts or because she was highly educated and hence mentored us to become high achievers.
Published: May 8, 2011
Published: May 8, 2011
In fact, she was born and brought up in a lower middle-class family and her father had to get by on a small income.
Although a good student, she couldn't go to middle school because at that time in my village in India, it was not customary for girls to attend anything above elementary or middle school.
And they were needed to help out in the kitchen to feed the large extended family and take care of the house.
She told me that when her father, in collusion with her uncle, announced she would not be going to school anymore even when she was tops in her elementary school, she was heartbroken and cried for three days in a row. She was angry and resentful but finally was resigned to her fate.
I grew up constantly listening to my mother's mantra: "You need to study hard to reach anywhere in life. Were I allowed to complete high school, I would now be a primary school teacher drawing a decent salary."
I understood her pain at the lost opportunity. Sometimes I used to get a little annoyed since after-school studies cut into my play time. She would let me play only for an hour or so with the neighborhood kids and soon I could hear her calling: "That is enough.
Come back. Go and take a dip in the pond (although not a well-maintained modern swimming pool, we jumped into our backyard pond for relief from the heat).
Do your prayers and finish your homework. Your father will be home soon to check on your studies."
And she was right. Often father would ask to see my workbook and check on my homework.
One of the enduring memories I have is the patience she exhibited, even when we were difficult and at times disobedient. She never really shouted at us but would patiently explain the reason behind her suggestions. Her ultimate weapon was, "Wait until your father gets home!" We knew what that meant, since my father was a strict disciplinarian.
Mother taught us that you can impart good discipline to your children while being gentle and patient.
Today's young parents definitely need to take a cue from her teachings. I am horrified whenever I hear the gruesome stories of rampant child abuse.
We had to depend on our father's small job for all the family needs. When I look back, I am always amazed at how my mother could manage all the household expenses on such a small budget. Frugality may well have been her middle name. She always found ways to put food on the table.
She was utterly unselfish, always a silent sufferer, feeding her husband and children first, content with the leftovers - a true sacrifice that women couldn't even think of in this age.
I remember her constant reminder: "Don't waste any food; it is precious." When I see the surfeit of food being thrown away everywhere in the U.S., I am appalled and saddened, thinking of the deprived masses of the world.
A major problem we had to contend with was our half-built house, which took a long time for completion. Before all the doors were installed, my father and mother would take turns to guard us while we slept at night. Wild dogs and cats would be scouring the neighborhood in search of food, especially at night.
And the roof often leaked during monsoon season. Sometimes we had to place pots and pans to collect the water dripping from above. If this happened at night, we were forced to shift our sleeping mats. The day our father was able to find enough money to fix the leaks in the roof, our family of nine breathed a collective sigh of relief.
My mother had no special needs or expectations for herself from life. She never craved for fortune, fancy clothes or jewelry like other women. But she prayed for her children to have everything, and that is why she encouraged us to get the highest education possible.
Being a very God-fearing person, she inculcated spirituality in us right from the cradle. What she taught has helped me to get ahead in life.
I remember my dear mother fondly every day, not just on Mother's Day, for all she had done for me and my family. Thanks, Amma, for making me a better person, a good father and now a grandfather, for teaching me the most valuable lessons in life.
Dr. M.P. Ravindra Nathan lives in Brooksville.