No need to allot an exclusive day to remember my mother. My life is her ‘bikshai’, gift, and if I forget her I am not worth to be called a human.
There are two other women, whom I revere on par with my mother thought I didn’t grow in their womb or did I extract milk from their bodies, for survival. One was my Periammai, mother’s eldest sister, who stayed with us just to help my mother in raising us , almost forgetting her own family. Two instances surge from the distant past when I think of that great woman. One was her only visit to Hyderabad when I was in ‘Panchavadi’, our bachelor quarters , when she looked after my co-habitats too as her own children. They and and our neighbors loved her so much that there was a big gathering at the Secunderabad Railway station when she returned to her son’s place. Every eye was moist with the pang of separation of a short black woman, her body and chest covered with a single saffron cloth, but heart jam-packed with love and consideration for everyone, whom they had known only for the past two months and there was no chance of meeting her again. She did not speak their language. But still she left an indelible impression in their mind. The second memory is about her coming to the Madras Railway station carrying a big mud pot full of boiled and cooled ‘chukku vellam’ for my onward journey with family in the peak summer to Hyderabad, as we could not break our journey at Madras.
The next woman, whom me and my siblings and our children consider as our own mother is a Malayalee woman, of unknown family, of unknown caste but who was with our family for more than five decades. Paaru Amma was picked by up my father from the Valyar forests, where she was collecting firewood. Appa, initially employed her to look after our cattle shed, and her unalloyed service, integrity and affection lifted her as a kitchen assistant and aaya for the children. Always seen with a snow-white single cloth wrapped below her waist and equally bright but shorter cloth above that , she was always pleasing.Speaking only Malyalam., she could take the children to school, do shopping and interact with my friends and servants who knew only English or Telugu. I took her for my wedding to TVM and then from their to Hyderabad, where she was an anchor for my family and those of my siblings She was the
de facto mother in law for my wife, as my mother stayed mostly in Kerala. No wonder on my shashitiabdhapoorthy, sixtieth birthday , my wife took the lead in touching her feet along with me to take her blessings, as my mother could not be present.
Paru Amma could not attend the wedding of my sons that took place last year. But I took my last son and his wife to her house in Pallavur. She was sick. TThe ever bright dark hairs on her head had turned grey. Her sharp eyes had lost their sheen . Face had shrunk and lips had become dry. But her memory was good. ‘Appu anna’ she said looking at me, trying to smile . ‘Srikanth’, she said looking at my son who introduced his wife. Paru Amma was happy. She could meet the latest bride to our family. She enquired about the welfare of every one in the family. She hugged us all lifting her skinny hand, perhaps her last hug for us. I looked at those hands and remembered her chasing our children, with a food-plate in her hand, coxing and cajoling them to eat.
If my stories outlive me, Paru Amma too will, as the leading character of my’ Appachi story.