Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lessons my mother learned me - Parts 1-5

Part 1

Our mothers … and our fathers, are the most beautiful persons in the world to us. They are the kindest and the warmest. They may not be the wisest or the most intelligent, but they are the most caring. We children are the only ones that matter to them. Our parents think about us all the time and feel for us like no one else. And our mothers are with us … all the time.

I imagine a part of the brain of our mothers is permanently switched on to us children. We may be at school or college; at work, travelling; in another part of the world; accessible by phone; remote and out of reach. But we are held in the fondness of the hearts, cling close in the warmth of the hugs, fondled dear in the minds – of our mothers. We are the most beautiful persons in the world to our mothers … and our fathers.


Forty years after her death, my mother is the most beautiful person in my life. Saturday, the second of May this year, will mark her 40th death anniversary. Many of you who responded to my piece, “Along the line, at railway gate No. 58”, expressed an interest to know something more about my mother, since I had mentioned that she was known as the “Lata Mangeshkar of the Konkani stage”. Most of my relatives, whose parents knew my mother well, would also be happy to read about her, since they too knew her as children.

I was 18 years old and had just finished the second year of my B.Sc. in Chemistry at St Xavier’s College, when she left us on 2 May 1969. We were staying in a first floor flat at the Officers Quarters, along the railway line at Dadar (East), Mumbai. She had not been well for some time, and used to regularly visit a family doctor friend on the sixth floor. That day too, she walked out of our home in front of us like on any other day, telling us sitting there in the front living room that she was going to meet Dr Shrivastava.

A little while later, somebody screamed to tell us that she was lying on the ground below our balcony. It was an accident; she had vertigo, what is called “falling” sickness, I have it too, she must have gone in to the balcony and fallen.


After reading this account in Part 1 of my series of memoirs on my blog, "Against the Tide", my brother Vincent (Vincy), who was seven years old at that time, wrote to me, "I do not recall that Dr. Srivastava was ever in Dadar quarters at the time we were there (but I could be mistaken). But he was at the Mazagaon flats on the 6th floor above us when we were on the 2nd floor. And during the little while we were staying at Mr. Veerabhadriah's home on the 6th floor, and being Dr. Srivastava's neighbour.

But the new bit Vincy narrates is: "I recall being the last person to accompany her. We first went to the 3rd or 4th floor on the side above the Jadhavs, because she wanted to call a doctor. The public phone was not working, so she said there is a public phone on the 6th floor our side. So we took the lift up. When we got off at the sixth floor, I said I would wait for her to finish the call.

"Naka puta, thun sakael vos khel, awoun maagir yetan" was what she told me (Not needed, son, you go down and play, I will come later). I was eager to play and so came down by lift. But I did not go to the ground floor. I came back home. It was about 9:15-9:30 in the morning."

My sister Flavia (Flavy) says, "You (Vincy) are right. Mum had gone to the 3rd floor first to telephone her dentist - to the house of a Bengali family, who had guests in the house so it was noisy. So they suggested to Mum to go to the 6th floor to another Bengali family, the Sarkars. The rest of the events are unknown to us.

"One thing is clear. Mum had vertigo and it was bad. I recall she could not even climb a stool to take off cobwebs; she used to say she feels like someone is pushing her off the stool. These events are 40 years old and so there could be some confusion in names, etc."

How do I see her, after these 40 years?

The most beautiful and kindest person in my life had left us.

When I look back after these 40 years, how do I see her? I see her in a kimono dress, sitting by a lighted window with the soft light falling across her face in profile. A book or magazine is in her hands and she is reading, head bent and often glancing around to keep an eye on us, her children.

At other times, she is in the kitchen cooking, softly humming to herself some Konkani “cantara” (songs). But mostly she is reading, and sometimes, writing letters.

From stories of her childhood told to us by her and our relatives, Mary Therese D’Cruz, the eldest daughter of Pauline and Joseph D’Cruz, resident of Urva, Mangalore, in South Kanara district of present-day Karnataka went to Lady Hill School and St. Agnes College in Mangalore. Born on 6 October 1925, Mary had two brothers, Pius and the late John (who died of typhoid at the age of 14).

My grand-father was a “writer” in a coffee plantation and my grand-mother took care of the house. They were not poor; not well off. I recall my mother’s resourcefulness at getting by with whatever we had; not cribbing, whining or moaning; and making do.

My father, who was proud of the fact that she was more educated than he was, would tell an anecdote about her, which happened when we were staying at Mazagaon Terrace. She had some Anglo-Indian friends, one of whom was particularly arrogant and proud that she was well-off.

One day, my father says, she "caught" our mother coming back from the market, lugging a bag full of vegetables. She asked my mother, "Do you buy vegetables from the market yourself?" implying that my mother could not afford a servant. My mother replied, "Yes, I work for my husband and children. Whom do you work for?"

English is a "foreign" language

My mother passed out from St Agnes College, Mangalore, with History and English. So you can see where my passion for the two subjects comes from. She not only “learned me lessons” in English, but also about the history of English literature. But for all her excellence at English, to her it was always (and is today for me) a “foreign” language.

Her one and only passion in life was Konkani – the language, the songs, the literature, the culture. She knew English well and spoke it fluently; we had been put in English medium schools for my father was a “transferable” railwayman. But she noticed, during 1956-63 when we were at Amla, Jabalpur, Nagpur, Solapur and Manmad, all railways towns on the Central Railway section, that we children tended or tried to speak in Hindi or Marathi or English at home.

I remember her swift response with gratitude and reverence today. It was strong, fierce and clear: she told us she would reply to us, if and only if we spoke to her in Konkani. Otherwise, she pretended she was deaf and had not heard us at all. We had no choice but to speak at home in Konkani. Our father too was happy with this rule, for he too was a lover of languages, not only Konkani but as many languages as you could learn.

When she referred to English she called it “porkiyo”, which meant “foreign”. When she referred to other languages like Hindi or Marathi, the languages spoken around us during those days, she called them “thanchi bhas” which meant “their language” and she motioned with her hands pushing away from her.

Only Konkani to her was “amchi bhas” which means “our language” and then she held her hands close to her heart. To her, the world was simple and divided into two parts, “them” and “us”. Us is Konkani.


Parts 2 & 3

Many of you, and even some relatives, were taken aback by the exclusive and fierce passion with which, according to my description in Part-1 of this memoir, my mother loved and lived the Konkani language.

A few words of background about my mother tongue may put her love for Konkani into perspective for you. Konkani used to be one of the “persecuted” languages. The Portuguese, who ruled Goa ruthlessly for nearly five centuries, proscribed and banned Konkani; they hounded the Konkani-speaking peoples mercilessly.

Soon the sweet and mellifluous language with its song-song intonations and gentle lexicon (recall the great dance and song from the Raj Kapoor film “Bobby”) was driven into hiding, degraded into being uttered by maid-servants, cooks, farmers, labourers and lowly, humble menial folk.

A few wise and learned Gaud Saraswat Brahmins, both Christian and Hindu, who were aware of Konkani’s ancient linguistic heritage, nursed the language in the private secrecy of their personal homes.

Severe persecution (Goans were skinned and flayed alive) and conversions also forced the Konkani-speaking peoples to flee and migrate on a mass scale. This is the beginning of the Konkani Diaspora; still going on, though for entirely different reasons now.

With her sensitive heart, perceptive mind and vast reading, my mother inherited this Konkani legacy and was determined to preserve Konkani, even if it was only in her own family and home.

Our family, the D’cruzes and the Pintos, knows that my mother’s ancestors, mostly with the Rodrigues surname, moved away from the taluka of Pernem, in Bardez, northern Goa, and found refuge and asylum in Mangalore more than two hundred years ago.

The Goan origins on my father’s side are unclear, though there are various unconfirmed hearsays that trace the Pinto line to the region of Cuncoliem, in Salcette, southern Goa.

The Konkani-speaking peoples, scattered throughout the world, were overjoyed when Goa was liberated from the cruel Portuguese colonialists in 1961. Goa became a state in 1987. After a long struggle, Konkani was declared the official language of Goa.

The sweet sing-song Konkani ‘bhas’ could now raise her shy head and walk, freed from official persecution; and out of the suppressive shadow of its sister languages, the dominant and arrogant Marathi, as well as the tolerant and protective Kannada, and come into her own.


This background of persecution, dear reader, is necessary to appreciate why my mother, a teacher who spoke fluent English and an ardent student of history, barred us her children from speaking English at home. She knew that only under her own care, supervision, protection and vigilance; within the four walls of her own home where she reigned supreme with the consent of our father; completely out of reach and insulated from the cruel persecution of the State and the other dominant languages, her own tongue could be nurtured and survive – among her children.

During 1956-63, the lovely and quiet years I spent as a little boy in the railway towns of Jabalpur, Amla, Nagpur, Solapur and Manmad, my mother was able to imbibe in me love for and intimacy with Konkani. She is gone forty years, snatched from us. But ‘her’ Konkani voice abides with me like a holy picture, which even Death cannot steal like a thief in daylight.

I speak Konkani comfortably and with ease even today, because of her diligent ‘home schooling’ till I was 18 years old, and the occasional practice during langourous visits to our relatives in Mangalore. My mother was not, nor can I be, a fanatic supporter of Konkani, come what may.

Like her and my father, I am aware of the innate weaknesses, even among those who claim to be her protectors, for sometimes even ‘the fence may eat the crop’. But I can defend ‘amchi bhas’ from those who seek to confine and arrest her as a dialect of Marathi; or others who look down upon her, because she does not have one unique script.

How come then, you may ask, we studied in English medium schools? Sheer expediency. There were no Konkani medium schools in Mangalore, so my father and mother studied in Kannada medium schools, only later going to English medium colleges, my mother to St Agnes and my father to St Aloysius, both in Mangalore.

My father was working in the Signals & Telecommunication (S & T) Department of the Central Railways. So we were put in English medium schools, initially railway schools and then Jesuit or Convent schools, so that we did not ‘suffer’ when my father got transferred, which could be anywhere and without prior intimation, to a region where the medium of instruction in schools was Marathi or Hindi.

Later, when I got married to Kalpana, a Pune girl whose mother tongue is Marathi, it was natural for me that our daughter Pallavi, like my wife, studied in a Marathi medium school, with ‘semi-English’ for the science subjects. The school is called His Highness Chintamanrao Patwardhan (HHCP) High School for Girls, better known as ‘Huzurpaga’ (‘paga’, a stable, for the horses of ‘huzur’, his highness) located on Laxmi Road, Pune.


Besides an abiding love for Konkani, my mother’s affair with that ancient language (with so many words of its corpus taken directly from Sanskrit) also learned me another lesson: the strong and mighty should protect the weak and meek. Throughout my career as a working journalist and a working editor, I have single-mindedly, openly and proudly championed minority issues. Let me take one example.

Encouraged and supported by my veteran seniors – S.D Wagh, Nalini Gera, Harry David, Taher Shaikh and Y.V. Krishnamurthy – as well as my warm colleagues – Vijay Lele, D. Sanjay, Ashok Gopal, Gouri Agtey-Athale, Usha Somayaji, Huned Contractor, Babu Kalyanpur and Mohan Sinha – in the thriving (till the late 90s) but now defunct Maharashtra Herald, I used to write, edit and rewrite stories as part of our ‘community’ beat, revealing the non-Maharashtrian, non-Marathi-speaking face of Pune.

Since 1983, we unearthed the Malayalis, Kannadigas, Tulus, Telugus, Tamils of south India in the bylanes of Rasta and Somwar Peth; the Bengalis and Oriyas in Khadki; the Gujaratis and Rajasthanis spread across the old city peths; the Hindi-speaking uttar bharatiya ‘biradari’ of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; the Punjabis and Sindhis (to whom the Sangtanis and Geras belong).

On this journey of discovering Pune, the spirit of my mother accompanied me, urging me to record the cultural silhouettes of the migrant communities, dig up their early history, their joys and sorrows as various communities arrived, struck roots and settled down … in a foreign land.

Aided by my mother’s love for Konkani culture, I could gain insights into the stirring motivations and driving forces that gave birth to and sustained the various community organisations, associations and clubs, which enrich the ancient city of Pune, providing an opportunity for the majority of Marathi-speaking people an opportunity to learn that India is, in reality, a throbbing and pulsating “unity in diversity”.

I soon realised that, try as they might and would, no religious fanatic or language chauvinist or opportunist manipulator, intoxicated by political ambition and poisoned by the resurgent ideology of a mythical golden past, could dare threaten the strong bonds laid down deep and watered daily by the lively communities, who rightfully and justly may call Pune – their very own.


Yes, my mother loved Konkani ‘exclusively’ when she sensed concrete threats to her existence. But she also loved all the other languages of India and the world ‘inclusively’, when she tasted their sweet literature.

I repeat what I wrote in Part-1 of this memoir. “I see my mother in a kimono dress, sitting by a lighted window with the soft light falling across her face in profile. A book or magazine is in her hands and she is reading, head bent and often glancing around to keep an eye on us, her children. At other times, she is in the kitchen cooking, softly humming to herself some Konkani “cantara” (songs). But mostly she is reading, and sometimes, writing letters.”

So she recognised that her eldest son was, like her, also a passionate lover of the written and printed word and introduced me to the world of the universal imagination.

From among the hundreds of writers, I cite a few:
Russian: Dostevesky, Chekhov, Tolstoy and Pushkin;
Hindi: Munshi Premchand, Bhishma Sahni, Amrita Pritam;
French: Balzac, Maupassant, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Voltaire;
Bengali: Rabindranath Tagore;
Americans: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost and Walt Whitman;
Malayali: Vaikom Mohammed Bashir;
. . . and hundreds of other obsessed creatures like herself, story-tellers and weavers of books.

If you scrutinise this partial list, you may spot the defiance and rebellion in the names, their secular and universal feeling for all humans, the longing for peace and compassion for the poor and suffering.

These authors and their writings remain my companions, long after my mother passed away suddenly 40 years ago; but not before placing me gently into their safe laps and clasping their hands.


Part 4

Small is beautiful, and some of the smaller lessons I learned from my mother I remember today as vividly as her love for Konkani.

For example, her lessons in cooking. My mother learned me all the basics of cooking - making rice, dal, and vegetables. And I can clean, cut and cook meat and fish. But I do not like chicken. My mother, however, took a lot of trouble in learning me patiently the intricacies of spices and grinding masalas on the traditional stone used in Mangalorean cooking.

I recall sitting with her as she measured out the spices for various dishes and I was her obedient helper for grinding masalas, cutting vegetables, salads and fruits. She used to say, "Tuka aun randap shikaitan. Tuzhem kajar zalya uprant, muzhea sunek, muzho udas yeje." (I will teach you to cook. After you get married, my daughter-in-law must remember me.)

I think she was a traditional wife, accepting a woman's duty to cook for the family and the home. But, secretly, I know she hoped for another world in the future, where women would be equal to men and work shoulder to shoulder. And for that brave new "Amrita Pritam" world, she wanted to prepare her eldest son, by learning him how to cook.

Unfortunately, by the time I got married in 1982, my mother had been gone 13 years. But I tell my wife that if I can cook, it is because of my mother. I cannot claim to be a good cook, though I can cook well enough to live without having to depend on others. However, cooking is not something I would do for a living.


How do I miss her lessons, let me count the ways?

As a little boy, I remember we had just entered a new house in Nagpur. It was pitch dark and the railway khalasis, who unpacked the luggage and the boxes went away leaving us three children alone with our mother. I must have been five years old. And one of my memories is carrying a kerosene lantern at the head of a line, with my brother and sister behind me with my mother at the end. And I can hear her comforting voice behind me, "Bhein naka, Babu, aun thuzhea patlyan asan." (Do not be afraid, Babu, I am behind you.")

She is not with me today. But I do not fear the dark. For she is always behind me, taking care of the unknown.

She always called me "Babu" at home. As I grew up, I used to feel ashamed when she called me "Babu" in front of my friends. For I felt I had grown up and was too big to be called "Babu". My teachers used to call me "Joe" in school and college. But she did not mend her fond ways.

Today as I reflect on her habit of calling me "Babu", I prefer to believe it was a pet name for her eldest son, a honeymoon child, born within nine months of her marriage on 22 May 1950. Calculate the days, I was born on 5 March 1951.

Do not be afraid.


One more story, my grandmother "Manjya" told me when I grew older and I will be done with this fourth part of my serial memoir. "Manjya" (why did we call our mother's mother by that name?), told me that once when I was a little baby in my mother's arms and she was expecting her second child, she had been waiting at a bus-stop.

Suddenly, she was overcome by a fainting spell. My mother handed me over to a stranger saying, "Aka sambhal." (Take care of him.) And fainted.

Even today, when I see a pregnant woman carrying a baby, I recall my mother at that bus-stop and see myself being carried by my mother. Maybe such a story stirs in me compassion for the weak and helpless. Maybe it is such a story that inspires me to trust complete strangers. For didn't my mother entrust me to the care of a stranger that day? Is that where our values are born?

Trust people, even strangers. Help the weak.

How I miss the lessons my mother learned me?


Part 5

Words and songs. Words I have loved; my mother learned me to say and write them. Songs I have loved; my mother learned me to sing and hum them.

I used to hear from my uncle, the late Pius D’Cruz of Malad, Mumbai, that my mother Mary Therese D’Cruz, was a great Konkani playback singer. He said, in her heydays, she was called the “Lata Mangeshkar of the Konkani stage”.

Born on 6 October 1925 and educated in Mangalore, she came to Bombay with her brother and started to teach English in Hume High School, run by the American Marathi Mission at Byculla. My uncle finally got a job in Life Insurance Corporation. He too acted on the Konkani stage.

As a child, I had seen my mother’s song-book, from which she used to sing us songs. It was a plain ruled exercise book, the kind children use in school, and Mummy had written out the songs in her beautiful cursive hand-writing.

I wrote to my family, if any of them had seen her song-book. My sister Flavia has replied, “I have her song book and I have preserved it well. It would be of antique value now, I think. Some entries go back to 1940!” That means my mother started her song-book when she was 15 years old. As and when I lay my hands on a photo-copy of the song-book, I shall reproduce some of the songs.


Here I have copied out the anthem of St Agnes College, Mangalore, where she studied and whose motto is “God is our Strength” to give you an idea of the values, which my mother held dear. She was brought up by the Apostolic Carmel (A.C) nuns, who were one of the deep and pervasive influences on her gentle yet strong character:

“God is our strength, let us commit
Our lives into His hands this day;
Trusting in Him to compass it
That we may find the perfect way.

“Fearless of foes, we cast aside
The days of ease we loved of yore;
And stand to the shock of battle-tide
Despite all trials hard and sore.

“God is our strength, why fear the foe?
His love like armour doth enfold
Our weak and wayward nature so,
That vanquished lies the tempter bold.

“Behold His arm of valour strong,
We'll cling to it in stormy fray,
Nor fear we any harm or wrong,
God is our strength, now and for aye.”

When I read the words of this anthem (I do not recall my mother singing it at home to us), I can hear the lyrical resonances of the Romantic English poets like Keats, Shelley, Byron, and Wordsworth, whom I have loved all my life.


But I do remember another song that I hum to myself even today when I am down and out. My mother taught it to me. The song soothes and comforts me like a lullaby that puts a child to sleep. I can feel the caress of her soft hands and the smell of the “Afghan Snow” she used on her face and the Mysore Sandalwood soap on her body, as I sing it forlornly to myself.

The song she taught me is actually a Welsh song, “The Ash Grove”. I have taken it from the Net for your reading pleasure, though I can distinctly recall that the words my mother used to sing to us were different:

“Down yonder green valley where streamlets meander
When twilight is fading I pensively rove.
Or at the bright noontide in solitude wander
Amid the dark shades of the lonely ash grove.

“Twas there while the blackbird was cheerfully singing
I first met that dear one, the joy of my heart.
Around us for gladness the bluebells were ringing
Ah! then little thought I, how soon we should part.

“Still glows the bright sunshine o’er valley and mountain,
Still warbles the blackbird its note from the tree;
Still trembles the moonbeam on streamlet and fountain,
But what are the beauties of Nature to me?

“With sorrow, deep sorrow, my bosom is laden,
All day I go wandering in search of my love!
Ye echoes! oh tell me, where is the sweet maiden?
She sleeps ‘neath the green turf down by the Ash Grove.”

I have also discovered on 10 June 2009 some recordings on YouTube, which give a feel for the folk beauty of this Welsh song. The first is from the film "Pride and Prejudice", based on the classic novel by Jane Austen. The song Ash Grove starts at 1:02. These are the words I fondly recall my mother singing to us. Second, John Kovac plucks the song on harp, the music coming through so clearly for those who want to pick up the notes. Rosa Wol, soprano, also sings Ash Grove. You can feel the lingering beauty of the folk song by a classical singer. And then Nana Mouskouri presents her own husky version.


If I recall these words and hum the tune to myself, I also remember the beautiful Hindi film songs she used to sing. Later, much later, when she was no more, my father gave me some audio-cassettes from his personal collection. Among them was his favourite song: “Tu mera chand, main teri chandni” from Dillagi (1949). The singers are Suraiyya and Shyam. Lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni and music composed by Naushad.

“Tu meraa chaand main teri chaandni.
Main teraa raag tu meri raagini.
Tu meraa chaand main teri chaandni.
Main teraa raag tu meri raagini.

Ho, nahin dil ka lagaanaa koyi dillagi, koyi dillagi,
Nahin dil ka lagaanaa koyi dillagi, koyi dillagi.

“Saath hi jeenaa saath hi marnaa,
Ulfat ki hai reet, haan, ulfat ki hai reet.
Saath hi jeenaa saath hi marnaa,
Ulfat ki hai reet, haan, ulfat ki hai reet.

Pyaar ki murli hardam gaaye teri lagan ke geet.
Pyaar ki murli hardam gaaye teri lagan ke geet.

Main teraa raag tu meri raagini.
Tu meraa chaand main teri chaandni.
Main teraa raag tu meri raagini.

“Bhool na jaanaa rut ye suhaani,
Ye din aur ye raat, haan, ye din aur ye raat.
Bhool na jaanaa rut ye suhaani,
Ye din aur ye raat, haan, ye din aur ye raat.

Jab tak chamke chaand sitaare, dekho chhoote na saath.
Jab tak chamke chaand sitaare, dekho chhoote na saath.

Tu meraa chaand main teri chaandni.
Main teraa raag tu meri raagini.
Ho, nahin dil ka lagaanaa koyi dillagi, koyi dillagi.”

Theirs was a love marriage of the 1950s, consumated along the railway line. And I can recall my mother singing this haunting 1949 number, at my father's request. She died on 2 May 1969, just 20 days before their nineteenth wedding anniversary. Tears used to roll down his eyes, as he thought about her, listening to this black and white melody. He out-lived her by 32 years and passed away in Pune on 26 March 2001.

One day, while I was browsing I chanced upon the Scottish folk-song "Roaming in the Gloaming" by Sir Harry Lauder, a 12-inch, 4-minute recording from the 1930s. I recall my mother singing the chorus lines. By and by, the tune would come to me, whenever I used to feel down and needed to get up and walk again. Click here.

I have already described how she learned me to cook. And she also learned me how to control and modulate my voice. She trained me to exercise my lungs and control my breathing so that I could “throw” my voice, while speaking and singing. I use this technique today when I give lectures, though the latest microphone and loudspeaker technology has conspired to make speakers and singers lazy, just as computers and the Internet have made journalists slothful.


Gauri Gharpure has requested me, “Can we see a picture of the great lady?” In response to her query, I quote my sister’s letter again, “I have a not-so-clear picture of Mummy. Dad used to say she had an aversion for photos. Seems when you and Leslie were small (before I was born), on one happy day they were sitting and admiring both of you. Mum said, ‘We must take a family picture.’ The very next day it seems both of you came down with a bad cold and fever, which eventually led to whooping cough. Soon, she had a pair of sick babies to care for the next three months! So that’s the reason why she had this aversion for taking pictures.”

My father also told me that he used to carry a beautiful photograph of our Mummy, which she had given him in the days before they got married. He kept her photo, which showed her in pigtails, in his wallet safely in the back-pocket of his trousers. One day, his purse was picked as he was getting on to a BEST bus. And gone was the picture of our beloved mother in pigtails!

Eventually, because of the manner in which he lost her picture to a pick-pocket, my father stopped stitching back-pockets for his trousers! Even today, I do not carry a wallet, preferring instead to carry my money in re-used plastic pouches that are made to pack milk.

Because of our mother’s aversion for having her or our photographs taken, we do not have her picture. My sister has a not-so-clear picture. So Gauri, you can see the blurred picture of my mother (see the margin at the top of my blog), now that my sister has sent me the scanned picture on 27 May.

But what do I care that I do not possess a clear photograph of the mother I love? She is engraved in the deepest recesses of my heart and mind; she abides in the secret nooks and crannies of my memory; she sings her songs and hums to me as I drift off into sleep and move awake; she is imprinted in my mind’s eye; she stands fearless before me today, walks with me, her hand on my shoulder; undiminished and unvanquished by the passage of forty years.


Much after I wrote this post, I chanced upon this 9 November 2008 poem,
Kya tum samjhogi ma? (Will you understand, mother?) by Smriti Mudgal, one of my SIMC students, who has already written two beautiful pieces earlier for my blog on Mumbai and a tribute to her school-teacher, the late Chitra ma'am. Smriti has a blog "Ambaree" in Hindi which I could not read till today, 4 June 2009, due to the Devanagari font. But I share the universal feelings Smriti expresses, and I am sure, that my mother though gone 40 years now would have understood.

This is the fifth and final part, concluding the series of memoirs on my mother. I await your comments and suggestions, since I intend to publish a small printed book in her memory.