One day I came home and sat on the sofa. My eyes were low and my lips were sealed. I hadn’t taken off my bag from my shoulders. Mom knew something was wrong. She came and sat next to me.
“What happened Yumi?” (Mom calls me Yumi affectionately)
“There is a fancy dress competition in school tomorrow. Teacher told me to participate.” I was in second standard, a quiet child and very scared of my teacher.
Mom smiled and picked me up. she put me on her lap and patted my head gently. Then she planted a light kiss on my head. “Don’t worry, Yumi. Mummy is there.”
And that is how it has always been. Whenever something happens I just know. Mummy is there. My sunshine, my savior, my Santa Claus, my expert on every topic in the world, my mummy.
When I have had pimples, she is there with her magic dermatological wand to turn me into Miss Universe, when I am hungry she cooks the most delightful food on the planet, when I am depressed she has hilarious stories from her childhood. She knows answers to every question, solutions to ever problem and ways to every maze.
On the occasion of this mother’s day, when Godrej Expert Rich Crème, most widely trusted expert when it comes to hair colour, is offering us a platform to celebrate our first true experts, our mothers, and I can never let this opportunity go. So here are some beautiful memories I found in my childhood handbag that I want to spill all over this blog, share with my readers and relive through this blog…
“There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well.”
― Nicholas Sparks, A Walk to Remember
Chapter One: Mommy goes gardening
Let’s start from where I started. I came home and shared my woes with mommy dearest. You can imagine a puny second standard kid petrified of her teacher and lost as to what she can do about this strange fancy dress competition she is supposed to participate in, and that too within a day. Mom of course picked me up and bundled me into her lap like her little princess that I was. Then she said miraculously served my favorite thing in the entire world with lunch – mango shake! By the time I finished eating her delicious fried ladies finger and gulping down her even more delicious mango shake, half of my anxiety had already dissipated. Then she asked me to get a short nap as I must be tired from school. So I promptly went and wrapped myself in my favorite blanket.
When I woke up two hours later, I went looking for mom immediately. She was nowhere to be found. I looked in the kitchen if she is busy preparing her evening chai but she was not there. I looked in the living room to see if she is watching her favorite TV show, but she was not there. I looked in her bedroom if she is getting a short nap as well, since she must be so tired with all the house work she does right from 6 AM in the morning, but she was not there too. By now my heart was beating fast and I was already scared. Sometimes the things that we most took for granted are the ones that we most deeply need and miss.
Finally I found her in the balcony. There she was in the middle of her plants, flower pots, leaves, gardening tools and watering cans. I thought she may have felt like gardening in the afternoon, though she normally does it on weekend mornings, so I went and sat next to her. But no, she was not doing that. When I went closer I realized something much different was happening. She had a torn white vest in her hands which she was rubbing in the flower pot sand. By now the sand had brushed most of the vest and it had become soiled and smelly. Other than some scrapes here and there, she had pulled out an arm of the vest too.
She suddenly saw me and smiled. She called me close to her and gave me a little kiss. I was so confused that I did not know what to say. I kept looking. When it seemed like she was done, she said, “Now you are ready for any competition.”
I did not understand still.
“Look at this.” She held up the vest.
What was I supposed to make of it? This was some torn vest and she was holding it for me like it was mine. How was I to react? What was it anyway? It looked like it belonged to some beggar. And then it hit me!
“Is this for my fancy dress completion tomorrow?”
“Yes!” She was so excited.
“I will be a beggar for the fancy dress?”
And so I was. I dressed like a little beggar for the completion and actually ended up winning the third prize much to the delight of my excited mother in the front row. As I saw her beaming at me, I was so thankful that I got her as my crazy savior and nobody else because nobody could be what she was for me – which was ‘everything’.
“As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.”
― Kristin Hannah, Summer Island
Chapter Two: I heart parties
I was in eleventh standard which was the time we want to be cool, we want to be part of the hep gang, we want to do things which other cool people around us do. Most people around me were partying. Though I had no idea about parties or what happens in them, but I was tired of hearing about them from people in school. Each time they would go for parties and then spend the next entire day making less cool people like me jealous. So one day I decided that even I wanted to go to a party.
I went home and told me mom that I will be going to the next available party in school or outside. I knew that my dad would never agree so I had to tell her anything that I wanted. I’m not sure what she exactly thought of my weird declaration but most likely she wanted me to do it if that’s what it took to satisfy one strange teenage curiosity. She nodded her head.
“Okay if that’s what you want.”
“What do you mean?”
“Means you won’t ask my anything else?”
“No, if you want to go to a party then you should go there and see what’s it like, at least once.”
Something in my head told me that my mom was really cool, cooler than all those people in school that I was trying to be like, really the coolest person I will ever know, but I kept that voice quiet because I wanted to grab this chance at any cost.
The next day in school, I secretly asked my friends if they had heard about any upcoming party. There was nothing. I continued asking like that almost every day. Then the week after, a girl who used to sit in front of my in class told me that she had heard about a birthday party being organized at a farmhouse by this really cool girl in our class (let’s call her X). So X was the richest girl, not only in our class, but pretty much in our entire school. Her dad owned a series of companies, ventures and businesses. She came to school every day in different card driven by drivers in uniform. She had thousands of rupees in her wallet all the time, she wore only the fanciest watches and went to the Caribbean or the Bahamas each year for her annual holiday.
X’s birthday parties were legendary and to get an invitation to them was like a dream. Whoever got invited to them talked about the party for days afterwards. They would normally be in her bungalow or a fancy resort / hotel. This year she had planned it in her farmhouse on the outskirts of the city. While her best friends had already been informed and invited, speculations had started as to who will get invited next. I stated praying desperately.
The next day she happened to sit next to me in the chemistry laboratory for the practical class. Each of us were supposed to carry our own beakers because we broke so many belonging to the school that they stopped buying them. On this day, X had forgotten to carry her beaker packet. Before she could go to her best friend, who was also her biggest sidekick, I asked her, “Hey, do you want one? I have spare beakers today.”
“Really?” She said.
“Yes sure, why not?” I tried to look pleasing and friendly.
“Thanks. That’s sweet of you.” She took one.
I knew I had cracked the ice and now only good things will happen. As expected, she came to me at the end of school and said, “Hey, it is my birthday next Saturday. It will be great if you come over for the party.”
“I would love to!” I jumped immediately.
“Great, see you then.”
I came home and told my mom that the invitation had been duly received and her job began now. Expert that my mom is at every thing, she told a long winded story about a school project that needed me to be away on Saturday, because there was no way he would have agreed to the truth. The following Saturday I packed my best clothes in a duffle bag, a large gift that mummy had bought for X and left home in a big car sent by her to pick all the guests. Since I could not dress in extravagant clothes and go for the school project, I would have to dress up in her bathroom itself, but this was a price I was willing to pay as long as I got to PARTY!
“You count the hours you could have spent with your mother, it's a lifetime in itself.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day
Chapter Two: Mom has the power!
In this third and final story, mom proved yet again, beautifully and subtly, how she is an expert in every aspect my life. I traveled to Chennai for my first job. This was my first time not only away from home, but away from my city and everything I was familiar and comfortable with. I had got this job soon after finishing college and those days it was not very easy to get one. So I did not want to let go of this one. Other than that, I also had these illusions that I wanted to be exposed to the big bad world out there having always lived a sheltered and closeted life.
So I convinced my parents and left home one fine day. Obviously since it was my first big tip ever, the would not let me go like that so they came along for a week, in which time they helped me find a nice room to stay in, helped me open a bank account, figure transport to office in case there was no bus and made friends with some other people who had come with their kids so that I could get friends indirectly!
The job was alright. It was not very difficult but not very interesting either. A lot of my misconceptions about the greatness of corporate life were shattered right here. The dazzle of a first salary was very much there and each time I got money at the end of the month I would keep staring at my bank statement for a long time to believe it. When I got my second salary, I bought and couriered gifts for everybody back home, including a bright orange kanjivaram sari for my mother. When I saved my first fifty thousand rupees in the bank, I remember feeling really emotional. When I saved another ten over the previous fifty, I booked my first flight ticket ever to go back home to see my parents. But other than the financial independence there wasn’t much that I looked forward to.
In addition to this, I had started having troubles with my boss. Somehow he thought I was a spilt rich brat who thought too much of herself. Being a big city and decently privileged life before, it showed in my way of conducting myself and he took it as a way of showing off. Slowly he started holding that against me and in fact judging my performance in that light too. When time came for my first appraisal, he gave me caustic feedback saying things like, ‘This is not a joke. This is not your home where servants will serve you things and you better learn to adapt before you get left behind in the rat race by other people who are much more capable and hardworking than you are.’
I had never compromised on my work and was quite shocked at this feedback. I had been noticing his attitude towards me for a while but never took it so seriously to think that this is how he perceived me. That night, I just could not take it anymore and I just broke down. My mother used to call me every day around 9 PM, by when both of us would have finished dinner. That day I had not eaten anything but had just been crying in bed since I returned from office. When she called me, I quickly wiped my tears and said hi in a cheerful tone. I thought I had fooled her.
But obviously we don’t know how deeply our mothers know us. Across many many many kilometers, sitting far away, not being able to see my face to face and from a voice that I tried hard to make sound as cheerful, my mother guessed my mood immediately.
“Were you crying?” She said.
I was stunned but I knew there was no point lying to her. She knew everything. She was the expert on my life. “Yes.”
“Having a difficult time at work?”
“Yes.” I took a long breath and told her everything.
She did not say anything at the time. She just told me to get a good meal and good night’s sleep. The next evening when I came back from office, my mother was sitting there waiting for me. As if my heart knew this will happen deep down, the floods started again. I hugged her and kept crying for almost fifteen minutes. Then she took me inside. We sat together and had a cup of tea in silence. But by the end of the tea, I knew now I had nothing to worry about. My savior, my expert, my mother was here.
The next day was Friday. When I was leaving for work, she said, “I want you to call your manager and his family home for dinner on Saturday evening.”
I was shocked again. “But why?”
“Because I think we should invite them to have a meal with us.”
While one side of my mind was repelled by the idea of having that horrible guy home, I was also worried about something else: “But what if he thinks I am doing this to butter him up.”
“We will see about that later. You invite him AND his family.”
“Okay.” Years of faith in my mother told me that she knew things which I could never understand so I just left them like that.
I did what she had asked. I invited my manager with his family for the next day’s dinner. He looked a little surprised and distant at first but then willingly accepted. The next day when they all came home for dinner, I saw how they appreciated the effort my mother had put in to prepare a beautiful dinner for them. They felt like they were a part of our family when they experienced my mother’s hospitality. When they saw that I was from a normal family and not a spoilt rotten child, my manager seemed to give me an affirmative nod too. There was so much happening around me that I just could not register everything together!
When they left I helped my mother clean and then as she did the last bit of kitchen work, I just sat there and looked at her. I had thought that she intended to impress them with fancy food and things like that. She had done none of that. She had prepared homely food and given them a warm welcome. She had treated them like dear ones and opened her heart in the most genuine and honest way. And they had understood it truly. They had warmed up to us and felt comfortable.
That’s how my mother is. She is true, honest and warm. Now you tell me how do I now call her an expert, my very own expert? :)
Don’t poets know it, Better than others? God can’t be always everywhere: and, so, Invented Mothers.
Sir Edwin Arnold
(ps. This is a picture of my mother - she is so camera shy that I hardly have anything clear - such a pity! nonetheless, I had this one and wanted to put it up on my blog since this post is an ode to her! So this is her, dressed as a tea-picker during our last travel!)
(pps. I made mom read this blog and she had lovely big tears in her eyes. she forced me to add here that I am a wonderful daughter, and it is because of a wonderful daughter that she is able to make a wonderful mother :) )
(ppps. Thanks Indi and Godrej Expert Rich Crème for creating a platform to salute the true #MYFIRSTEXPERT, mothers! When I was reading up about Godrej Expert Rich Crème, I learned that they truly are experts when it comes to hair, just like mothers. Check them out for more!)