For children, it’s always their moms who are their real heroes, from the time of their birth. It’s nobody else but moms, forever protective and possessive, who love unconditionally, and even fight to provide a safe and healthy atmosphere in and outside the home, for their kids to grow up.
I have seen it all in my Ma since my early childhood. Have a vivid memory of Mummy running the household with a very limited income from my Papa, more than 40 years ago. But she did it very efficiently in making my baby brother and my life comfortable, despite daily struggles.
Especially when Papa, who worked at a Steel plant back then, had met with a terrible accident in 1979. But Ma did not lose her composure while looking after everybody at home. I was six years old then and my brother was just a one-year-old toddler.
As long as Papa stayed in the hospital and even till his recovery at home, Ma would do the errands at home. I would babysit my brother along with Papa, while Ma would go to the market, bank, and electricity office to pay the bills. Even after receiving help from her neighbors and relatives, she had to battle it out every day for a smooth life.
Life’s battles are not fought on some battlefield, with guns and grenades, but in our day-to-day life dilemmas, throwing new challenges each day, as long as we live. And these circumstances can be equally tiring and strenuous, taking away all our energy by the end of the day.
Another instance when Ma stood up for me, was when she refused a marriage proposal initiated by our relative, just after my higher secondary school exams. As she was in favor of me finishing my college education first. Certainly, I’ll always look up to my Ma as a warrior.
Like every Indian girl, I too grew up watching my Ma in her quintessential nine yards saree, the most elegant unstitched fabric of all the attire. And the versatility of her sarees, more so the memories attached to them will be cherished by me for life, even though she is no longer alive.
My first ever and the oldest memory about my Ma is with her saree only. I could very faintly remember her fanning me with her saree’s pallu, in the hot summer weather. I was a toddler then and she was pacifying me to sleep. Seeing her smile on her lovely face and with the cool breeze of her pallu, I happily slept in her lap. This account was told by my Papa also.
According to Ma, when I had turned one year old and had just started walking without support, I used to take rapid steps and then quickly hold her saree’s pallu, even before her hands. Such was the warmth and assurance of Ma’s pallu.
Later in my growing up period, when I was 3-4 years old, I could remember now that I have smelt all sorts of aromas emanating from Ma’s pallu. That way I could smell cooked veggies, achaar, and the rice, from her humble saree pallu, which she used for holding the heavy and hot utensils.
In a rush, I used to wipe out my mouth and face with her pallu only, instead of the towels. At times I’d wipe out my tears also when scolded by Papa during my studies at home, and also hide my blushing face before the guests.
Ma used to spread out papads and baris on her old sarees on the terrace. She had also stitched soft diapers, kathris, and pillows for my younger brother when he was born. I was about 5 and a half years old then. Such was the multi-purpose use of her used and old cotton sarees.
At around 6-7 years of my age, I did observe Ma getting dressed up for special occasions like festivals, family functions, or simple family outings like going out to the park or watching movies in a theater.
She would wear the finest of the sarees from her precious collection and become the cynosure of the people around her. She mostly had kosas, cotton handlooms, and silks in the collection. I used to dream of wearing one of those beautiful sarees.
Several times I had asked Ma when would I get a chance to wear them. To which she very patiently and with a smile used to reply that only once I grow up. I hated that reply, feeling that life was so unfair.
Luckily for me, I got a chance to wear one of her sarees for the first time, only in 1985 when I was 13 years old, studying in class seven. For a month, I along with other students had been practicing in the school after the classes got over, for the upcoming annual school function back then.
About a dozen of us had been practicing for a Sanskrit dance drama called “Abhigyan Shakuntalam“, based on the love story between a sage’s daughter Shakuntala and the king Dushyant.
A week before the function, we girls, the lead character, and her three friends were told by our dance teacher to wear a plain white or cream-colored saree with red borders, along with a white-colored blouse.
Ma had one such saree. It was a light cream-colored and red-bordered pure silk saree. During our ten years stay in Bengal, she had bought it from Kolkata and often wore that saree during the Durga Puja.
Well, in the dance drama I played the part of one of Shakuntala’s friends. On the d-day, the teacher had decked us up, from the costume to the makeup. She had beautifully draped me and the other girls with the saree around our bodies, from the chest to a little below the knees.
We had adorned flowers in place of jewels, from head to the ankles. We surely had made a very pretty picture of ourselves. The dance drama was a big hit among the audience.
I still remember that back then I was super excited to not just be a part of the play, but also to have found a chance to wear one of Ma’s treasured sarees. Even Ma was very proud of me, as I had made the best use of her saree.