From Ma, With Love is a campaign celebrating recollections of feminist tales and lessons, passed down to us by our mothers, this Mother’s Day. The first edition of this compilation has 16 heartwarming stories. ‘Self Learning’ by Sumitra Amarnath is the eleventh story in this series. You can download the entire publication here.
Too close for objectivity, my mom, perhaps, can be summed up by the dictums she hammered into us, her eight children. At 94, she died, donating her corneas, having lived without hypertension (in all walks of life) and with no diabetes, seeing all her children cross 60 years, with no illnesses or complaints, growing only on her home cooked meals .
Often, we heard her say,” function on your own, swaya buddhi. Will you fall into a well if someone tells you to?”
One general reprimand when we siblings quarrelled: all five fingers on the hand are different, but cannot function, without each other. Also: they belong to the same hand. And, “You are all from the same womb and can settle your fights, among yourselves.”
No one should ride a high horse for being educated, vegetarian or Brahmin. You could be an educated fool, like an uneducated fool. We have all ingested invisible lives, so we cannot brag about being vegetarian. We consume food, which nourishes us, cooked by the so-called impure; we have to see ourselves as equals.
Her wisdom reflected in her championing the cause of children. “If you hit a pumpkin everyday, it will look okay, but will rot within. No child should be verbally or physically abused.” This didn’t stop her from wallopping to us for mischief she considered unpardonable. No wasting or criticising food. Sharing with visitors, guests, beggars and the house help was essential. We shared the milk from our buffaloes with the house helper, who was to be respected, even when she was pulled up for sloppy work.
Above all, she rejected Sanskrit as a language to reach God. Waking up, as a child, to the men of the family reciting the Vedas and slokas, she was staunch in her belief that it was neither the way to propitiate God or to seek his blessings. He did not need reminders or appeals. Her home, her plants, her buffaloes, dogs, neighbours and friends were her company. She laughed out loud watching kids, and berated, without hesitation, what she found foul. She was unapologetic when she was loud.
In the day and age when women were grooming themselves to be quiet and full of drawing room decorum, she lived on terms she framed for herself.
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