Portrait of A Mother
When we three brothers were about to take the delicious crispy snacks fetched from a shop one evening my mother had appeared suddenly and snatching a morsel of the food began to taste the same. After a few minutes she declared “now you may take it” Such was our mother having qualms about our foods anywhere. Without becoming sure about its purity she would never allow us or even our father to touch lest a trace of poison should cause any harm to us.
Making up deficiencies in an exemplary way
She was an ordinary homemaker looking after us with extreme care. My father
was a very learned man and although her educational qualification paled into insignificance in comparison she shone in other respects to compensate for her deficiencies to provide him a perfect match which made the couple enviable. She was not a beauty queen but with extraordinary charm and kindness she was adored darling of the local womenfolk. Her day would start at dawn sharp. After taking bath she would begin to pray for the well being of everybody. Then she would start to cook and supervise our studies simultaneously. She would never beat us least of all throw verbal abuses but her stern glance would make us cower. Her generosity and liberal nature would drive her to cater for the covey of nephews added to her three minor sons with little annoyance giving everyone personal attention, nevertheless. She would accompany my father, principal of a local college, to see ailing students or even to the burning ghat returning late into the nights when we would be in deep slumber and aroused by her typical sweet calls. We would go to sleep listening to her lullabies or moral stories in later years and would wake up by her inimitable musical calls followed by careful splashing of water on our faces. As our annual examinations in those days were held in wintry December my mother would invariably prepare tea and snacks much before the Sun appeared above the horizon keeping the dishes on our tables and giving us company attentively.
One of the most interesting stories involving her was my school friend how after doing some mischief and running away from his house would take refuge in our house as his aunt was the only Saviour for him.Once during such a day out to escape punishment from his father, my father’s colleague and a renowned English professor whom we called uncle, he could realize that his father was on the scent of his tricks and before my mother could provide him necessary shelter uncle had appeared infuriated at the sight of such extreme indulgence. When he was at the point of bursting out in anger my mother came out along with my friend and retorted “ look, if you cannot control him let him reside with me and I shall show you what he is worth”. My uncle was totally mesmerized by her firm stand and charming personality. He mellowed and stopped chiding and my friend in turn suddenly changed himself totally to ensure that his Saviour’s words were kept and his father was given due respect by becoming an engineer of repute.
Proving her mettle
With such qualities my mother soon became an ideal house wife of our town. But though she tried her best to protect us from all evils she could not shield my father and became a widow very early. Such a tragic incident plunged her initially into helplessness and distress. But taking the arduous task of establishing her sons in her stride she then became a complete courageous woman and began to accomplish the jobs she had never dreamt even. Spurning the offer from the local well wishers to help financially she showed her mettle to bring up the kids independently with a firm resolution and merit scholarships won by her sons helped her in her endeavour. She was found to brush up her knowledge in Bengali, Maths and English to assist them in their studies and her hold over Sanskrit was such that she could draw admiration for her son by her unique teaching process. That I can weave a few sentences in simple English is due to her who initiated us to an English newspaper and various books at a very early age.
We have seen her putting on only few ordinary sarees during such an ordeal and she steadfastly adhered to the rituals and practices of the widows then declining comforts and healthy diets. Such a sacrifice and meaningless self mortification took a heavy toll on her. And as soon as we completed our studies and began to enter service life she had already contracted a number of ailments . There is an adage that those whom the gods love die young. She passed away in her sleep at the age of only 47 years without giving us the scope to attend in the same manner she did throughout her life.
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© 2013 ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE