My mother passed away in Pune early on the morning of Thursday, February 14th, 2013, at around 4 AM. Following the traditional Hindu calender, the (Sanskrit) “tithee” at that time still was (Sanskrit) “chaturthee,” and accordingly, the last rites were performed till yesterday. She had a relatively fuller life, living up to 77 years of age.
While she had had both arthritis and diabetes for quite some time—for more than two decades—recently, about 1.5 years ago, she had also suffered from a heart attack. At that time, she was stabilized with drugs, but in view of her overall health, even angioplasty was ruled out. Her last illness also mainly involved the cardiac condition. Even if she had to endure chronic pain because of her arthritis for a long, long time, and even if she experienced difficulty breathing over the last couple of days, judging from the final expressions she left on her face, her final moments obviously were very peaceful, even serene.
As it so happens in the Indian society, one is so immediately surrounded by so many relatives, friends and well-wishers that one doesn’t have the time (or even the mental energy) to think of anything except for the (Sanskrit) “kriyaa-karma/antya-sanskaar” and answering all their queries. Suddenly, there are people who visit you only infrequently, and the home no longer seems the familiar place you are used to. In a way, this circumstance could perhaps be all for good, because if one can’t have that privacy to think about the person, there also isn’t any possibility for one to get into that seemingly endless loop of experiencing the loss. In a certain sense, the fact of her death has still not become fully real to me. Not except for a few moments, over all these days.
In my first draft, I had written this much. However, on the second thoughts, I think a word is perhaps due here about what sort of a person she was.
I think that in many, many ways, she was a typical housewife of a typical Marathi middle-class educated family of her times.
She had formal education only up to the Matriculation, but she had a very alert, active kind of a mind. She also was very intelligent. I have heard her classmates (and other people who knew her from her childhood) talking about her always standing first in the school without putting in any serious effort at all. (About two weeks for all the subjects combined for the annual examination, according to what she once told me—and then regretted telling me that fact, because she knew it would only give me the excuse to skip my studies. … Though she was raised in a small town (a taluka place), one of the classmates who would stand second to her during their school-time, later on became a successful post-graduate surgeon; others were engineers, accountants, lawyers, etc.) Going purely by one’s own judgement, all stories about her intelligence were completely believable… So, she was intelligent.
And, she was fairly well-read, though almost all her reading was limited to Marathi.
She also never failed on her (Sanskrit) “kartavya” in respect of any one from our extended family, friends, acquaintences—and the way she did it always was with some feelings, not dryly. She just had this knack to know just what to do, when, and how.
She cheerfully managed our several transfers (my 10th standard school was my 6th school), the two homes we had to maintain for a long time (as an irrigation engineer building dams, my father had to stay in remote jungle/rural areas where they had no high-schools, and so, our family had to stay in a separate home in a small town nearby), and many, many other responsibilities, rather well. Recently a friend of mine happened to go for a picnic/sight-seeing to a place where my father had helped build a dam. By the time my father was posted there, we (my siblings and me) were already in college, and so, mother could stay with father. It was already more than three decades since my mother had last been to that place. Yet, a person who knew my parents at that time, immediately had spontaneous words of praise for both of them. …
I guess different people would remember different things about her, but if you ask me, I would pick out these things: her active mind, her intelligence, her ability to deliver on whatever role that was expected of her, her ability to maintain and nurture relations, her ability to maintain composure across a spectrum of circumstances and in fact to find joy in little things, her ability to endure those pains of arthritis with a certain calmness and acceptance, sometimes even serenity. I would single out these things.
Yet, on the day she passed away, the one thing—perhaps the only thing about her—to strike me was this: the thought that the one person I knew who wouldn’t have ever wasted a single moment on uttering a single unnecessary word, the only person who would have instead silently but swiftly sprung into action, any time, ever, to defend me, to defend my thoughts, my decisions, is gone, forever. That was the thought. And, I think what I felt at that moment was: being vulnerable. It has never been an experience very common to me. But it was there. I felt vulnerable not because of a discovery of a shortcoming, or of a lack of strength, but because of a discovery of a loss of something far greater—that unique love and tenderness that only a mother can give her child; the absence, now and for my entire future life, of that one irreplaceable person.
* * *
Since then, I think I have already learnt to deal with it, and the process will continue. It’s been a loss, and it’s been, personally, an event of a big change. I think I will go about it at my own pace.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I have also not been on the ‘net a lot over the past couple of weeks (since I wrote my last post). I could barely find the time to check emails or so, that’s all.
However, I think I have begun being more comfortable being away from the Internet.
In any case, I don’t think that currently I have much to blog about.
So, expect me to be away from blogging and commenting a lot in the near future, say for a couple of weeks or so.
Even later on, I think I won’t have many new ideas to write about, here. In fact, it’s high time for me to move the numerous comments I have already made at various fora/blogs (e.g. numerous threads in various LinkedIn groups as also several personal blogs maintained by others), and convert them into my personal blog posts. I think once I resume blogging more regularly, I am more likely to do that, than writing something new here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A Couple of Songs My Mother Liked:
Let me end this post by including a couple of songs my mother liked, though not me! …
When it came to songs, movies, actors and things like that, our respective tastes differed so much that they invariably seemed absolutely ridiculous to the other. In fact, it was always something of a surprise to find something—anything—at all in common! I mean, she was someone who actually liked Meena Kumari, Raj Kapoor, and Rajendra Kumar—and many, many others like them! And, she never ever grasped in her entire life-time how any one could possibly appreciate RD Burman’s rendition of “mehboobaa” for a song (not a nursery rhyme). Given our respective tastes, I was always stupefied whenever I discovered that there could at all be something common to us, esp. concerning Hindi movies, songs, actors, etc. For instance, the fact that we both liked Balraj Sahni. These were exceptions, never a rule.
… But, anyway, coming back to the songs she liked: Here are a couple of songs which she liked a lot. One is a Hindi song, and the other, a Marathi one. Among the two, I found the Hindi song to be absolutely average. And, purely by happen-stance, I have never actually heard the Marathi song in original (not even once in all these 50 years of my life! (Yes, there apparently are songs like that, too!)). The only times I have heard this Marathi song were through her humming at home. It was her daily practice to lit up the (Marathi) “niraanjan” and offer (Marathi) “udabatti” to God at evening time [(Marathi) "teenhi saanj"]. I am not quite sure about the later years, but at least when I was a school-going kid, she would be found almost absent-mindedly humming this particular Marathi song, almost daily. Only the (Hindi) “mukhaDaa” of it, not the (Hindi) “antaraa.”
… Anyway, here are the songs without any further ado.
(Hindi) “mausam hai aashiqaanaa”Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Lyrics: Not sure which one: Kamal Amrohi, Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, though for this song, Kaifi Azmi would be more surprising a lyricist than the other two.
Music: Not sure which one: Ghulam Mohammed/Naushad/Ibrahim. To me, they all sound the same!
[I think for this Hindi song, what she really liked was the voice (the rendering), the basic tune itself, and also the visual aspects of the song in the movie, in that order. I don't think she was very particular about the lyrics part of it. And, she wasn't particular about the idea of treating a song as a separate object of evaluation apart from its visual/cinema context. She wasn't much of a critic, and I thank God for it!]
(Marathi) “haat joDate, padar pasarate”
Singer: Meena Mangeshkar (?)
Music: Aanandghan (?)
[Not at all sure about the credits. Just googled them up. (In fact, until now, I didn't even know if this was just a traditional song (of devotion) passed on via oral traditions at home/school, or it was at all recorded. During her lifetime, I never knew that a record of this song at all existed---somehow, it didn't even occur to me to check it out on the Google.)]
Ok. So, bye for some time now. (I am also going to postpone for quite some time the task of editing/revising my previous post (the one related to Modi and all).)