When we grew up, our parents didn’t spend too much time with us. Ours was a large family at that time with my father’s two brothers staying with us. One of them was married and had a daughter. Our neighbourhood was closely knit and we had a lot of friends on our street and those in front and behind us. There was no dearth of company – young or old for us and we never missed the emotional proximity with our parents. Father was a strict disciplinarian and he was the provider for the family. Mother was the housewife along with grandmother – we used to call her maami. That made for three women in the household. We used to be frequented by an aunt and another uncle with their families – once about every six or so months. I remember, when my aunt – my father’s sister – came to visit us from central India, it was quite a visit. They had three daughters and a son. My grandmother’s sister used to stay with them and they would make our home the central place for their visit.
Mother was liked by everyone. She was proud of me and my brother, but she wasn’t the type to spend the entire day with us except when it was an outing. She was satisfied with the fact that we both were taking care of ourselves with all our outdoor activities and school. The other times she took us with her was when we went to see a movie or visit a relative. We had visited her hometown of Shimoga in Karnataka a couple of times at least and it would be quite a visit. Everyone in her hometown she knew loved her and she was pretty popular. The relatives from maternal and paternal side were all very affectionate and some of the nicest people I have known. They would all make sure me and brother were well taken care of. The maternal relatives still hold a special place in my heart and reminds me often what and how good people are. Once she was married, mother’s creative outlet sort of took a hit. She had passed SSLC in first class and that was a distinction for a girl at that time – 1940s. But her parents didn’t want her to continue schooling afraid that an educated girl couldn’t be married off easily.
Once in Bangalore and past two sons, she found an outlet in writing. She had written a small drama in Kannada and submitted it to one of the popular Kannada monthlies called Tushara. It won some sort of price and was even enacted on radio by a popular artist and his troupe called AS Murthy. She also wrote and published three novels in Kannada. I recall her mentioning that she received a letter from a stranger who had written that reading her novel made him stop committing suicide. My grandmother’s sister-in-law was a very famous novelist in Kannada having written numerous novels. Two of her novels were made into movies and both won National awards. She had highly recommended my mother’s writing and even written a foreground to her novels. Her encouragement kept her writing going, but alas due to family pressures, she had stopped writing at the end of the 70s.
Once my younger brother was born in the late 70s, mother’s social life took a hit until the late 90s. I had come to America in 1994 and after that my contact with her was telephone every two weeks and any festive occasion. I would see her when we visited home an average of every three years. During the late 90s and after maami took a back-seat in the household, she had picked up singing devotional songs as a hobby and in a matter of years she had become a popular teacher. She would travel a lot locally and within state to give performances at temples and other religious settings. The members of the singing group would always be willing to take mother to any place. Many in the group were better off and knowing the limitations of mother’s mobility (she didn’t have a car nor was she endowed with financial bliss to be independent), support was very generous. Mother also was a part of a laughter club. They would meet every week in the park close to home and she seemed to enjoy it.
Her social life created some sort of tension within the household, but father became very supportive of her after his retirement. In the meantime mother had managed to pass a certification exam in Hindi and had started learning Sanskrit. Her singing efforts got her many recognition from several religious leaders but these were all not seen as accomplishment within the household. It was something to keep her busy. In a way, we have never really understood her why she was what she was and why she wanted to do what she did. If you look back amidst all the pressures of domestic household work and pressures, she accomplished a lot when seen with the right set of eyes.
During my last visit to Bangalore – June 2013, she had been hospitalized on a few occasions before and hence my visit – she had turned pretty weak and pale. I and everyone who knows her know that mother was beautiful and a lively person. But what I saw was totally different and heart breaking. After my visit, her health had improved dramatically. While she was bed-ridden when I saw her, she had gotten to a stage where she was walking around and even planning to restart her singing sessions. I had mentioned to a couple of friends here that it had to be a miracle. Today morning I received a phone call from my brother that she has been hospitalized again and again now that the outlook doesn’t look very positive. From what I hear, it is really dire this time. I hope God gives her peace and keeps her from suffering.