Sita Mohanlal Gawdi: Mummy Maa
Updated: May 2, 2020
So I am born in Gaya, Bihar. My dad grew up in a small village in Mohammadpur Patti. He completed his engineering from BIT Sindri, met mom at my uncle and aunt's wedding, yes theirs was a Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, kind of a love story. My nana moved around quite a bit since he was a General Physician with the Bihar government. However early into mom's college days, they had pretty much settled in Gaya. Now although dad never did quite throw dana at other kudiyans, he sure was a tad bit deewana for mom. The match was perfect, my aunt and uncle happy and my Nana Nani relieved that their last child had finally settled down in life.
Two years after the marriage, comes a nanhi pari in mom and dad's life (this is the point where I am being narcissist :) ). Actually, my mom shudders at the memory of the nights, I have put her through as a newborn baby. So I was no nanhi pari for sure! By the time I was born, mom and dad had moved to Mumbai and settled in Navi Mumbai. The year was 1982, fast forward it is 2007, I have met my knight in shining armour and the date for the wedding fixed, 4th September.
It is now time to meet his family. Since my husband and I grew up together, we went to the same school, had common friends, I had already known him for 9 years before we got married. I had a good idea about his side of the family, members, names, temperaments etc. My husband would spend hours over the phone talking to me about all of them. As a teenager, I had always wanted a Sooraj Barjatya kind of family and somewhere destiny was very kind to me and that is what I got.
Twelve beautiful years later, it is more mine than his. Touchwood! They say you are a reflection of your parents. So every quality, every trait and every behaviour can be traced back to your elders.
She was the one person, who I had thought would have a lot of reservations, accepting me. She was two generations older, born and raised in a conservative era in Kandahar,Afghanistan, married off at an early age and a mum to 6 children by the time she was 38. I was mentally prepared for complete disregard and indifference from her. In retrospect I think, with all of my modern upbringing, having travelled, been to places, varied experiences and career, I was the one being judgemental and prejudiced. Mummy maa, my mother in law's, mother in law and hence my grandma in law, welcomed me with open arms, the sweetest smile and a warm heart.
Mummy maa was barely 40years old when she lost Dadaji to a cardiac arrest. It was the first wedding in the family and quite a pompous affair. The ceremonies had lasted for over 20 days and the last of the guests had just left. Mummy maa was still busy winding up the house, putting things in place and settling into the humdrum of the routine, when destiny ruffled her dreams and left her unsettled in a lurch. One moment he was there and the next no more.
All alone in Mumbai with 6 children and a newlywed daughter in law, must have been so arduous for her. There were so many responsibilities to fulfil and so many constraints societal, financial and emotional. Mummy Maa was one strong lady, the iron woman of her times. She spent the next two decades picking up the pieces of her life and holding the baton for her children. She had the love and support of her children. I can't even fathom the trauma her children must have gone through, having lost their father at such an early age. Years later, in my own grief, I can feel the magnitude of their pain and shock.
I met Mummy maa when she was 72 years of age. We spent some good times with each other, brief but memorable. She was also a disciplinarian and very particular about how we conducted ourselves, for instance, she would be quick to reprimand us if we behaved casually with the elders of the family. She taught us to be respectful and dutiful. To be honest, there was a time, I was very scared of her. She would often come unannounced, her visits spontaneous. On those evenings when I would take my eldest one, who was barely 6 months old then to the garden, I would literally run back home if I knew she had arrived. This was the kind of respect Mummy maa commanded.
I remember the times when she would come over to stay with us. Some days I would take her to my mom's place for lunch. She quite enjoyed the unmonitored lunches, where she was free to eat the besan laddoos mom made for her, without anyone reminding her of her sugar levels. The best part of her visit to my mom was the conversation my Nani and she would have. They would start off with being cordial, exchanging pleasantries, then move on to discuss health issues, vociferously debate who was having it tougher and then completely ignore each other for the rest of the visit. My mom playing the moderator always. Years later, when Nani and Mummy maa had gotten very very old, they had lost the will to debate and discuss. In those days when Mummy maa visited mom's, Nani and she would be talking tangentially. For instance, Nani would say something like "It's been 10 days" and mummy maa would finish the sentence with "Sab Bhagwan ki marzi hai." :) The conversations never leading to anything. Their wrinkled hands and shrivelled eyes, the million lines on their faces marking the trials and tribulations of their life. The ups and downs, the joys and sorrows they had so graciously embraced with their heads always high.
Over the years Mummy maa grew old and tired. Her structure, diminutive and shrunken. She also suffered from Alzheimer's towards the very end. As she lay on her bed, she almost had her entire family by her side, holding her hands. Her breath slowing by the minute, her entire life flashing before her eyes. She was leaving us graciously, rising over her mortal remains, she must have been so proud to see all of us around her by the bedside. On 2nd May 2017, Mummy Maa breathed her last.
Her words forever etched in my memory.
"सुख नाले वने, ते सुख नाले आवे"
(Go happily, come happily)
We all miss you.
Our Queen Algebra (Queen Elizabeth for her:))