5. Tribute to a ISSUE 135(3.4)/5. Tribute to...Tribute to a Mother Puloma Shah M ... Her dream of giving the best education to her ... delightful garden, which is a visual
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Post on 27-Mar-2018
No.13519Tribute to a Mother Puloma Shah PERSONAL ACCOUNTMy cousin, Surabhi, wants toage gracefully like her. Mysister-in-law, Anjani,considers her to be the role model tofollow. For my friend, Manju, she isan example of courage and dignity,one she wants to emulate. Anybodywho meets her, adores her andrespects her. She is an inspiration tothe people around her. For me, she isan extraordinary woman with anindomitable spirit and an amazinggrace. She is my mother, Sharada, alsoknown as Kumudini.My mothers family are Desaisfrom South Gujarat. Her father,Vasanji, and mother, Parvati, had threesons, and their life was joyful. Mymother, the only daughter, was theyoungest child. In 1918, a terribleAsian flu swept the country. Threemonths after giving birth to Sharada,tragedy struck and Parvati fell victim.Devastated, Vasanji was left to takecare of four children all on his own.Fortunately, help came from Parvatissister, Amba, who volunteered tobring up baby Sharada. After Vasanjidecided to remarry, Sharada, at ageone-andhalf years, was broughtback home. Although her fatheradored her, life with the newstepmother was not easy. When shewas hardly nine years of age, tragedystruck again, and she lost her dearfather as well. A few years later,Sharadas eldest brother and his wifedecided to take her along with themto Larkana, Sindh, where her brotherwas working as an engineer. It wasfrom her brother that Sharada learnedthe basics of the English language.Unfortunately, her formal educationwas disrupted so many times that shemanaged to study only until theseventh grade.At age fourteen, Sharada wasmarried to Amritlal. Her name waschanged to Kumudini upon marriage.Twenty-six years of age at the time,Amritlal was 12 years older thanSharada. Whereas he was a serious,quiet, and aloof young man, Sharadawas lively and vivacious. No twopeople could be as different as weremy parents in their temperaments andoutlooks on life. Tall and fair withlong, luxurious hair, Sharada wasalways cheerful and enthusiastic. Shealso had an amazing capacity to work,but her mother-in-law was neversatisfied, being a difficult woman toplease in general. For a young girlwithout parents who longed for loveand affection, her mother-in-lawsattitude was painful for Sharada. Moreso, as Amritlal never took his wifesside against his mother. Amritlalsserious temperament scared Sharada,and, given the age difference, shecould hardly communicate with him.Therefore, she always felt distant fromhim.Educated in politics and historyand a voracious reader, Amritlal wasa scholarly person with an incredibleknowledge of Sanskrit and palmistry.Although he wanted to be a journalist,he, instead, went to Indonesia to learnabout sugar technology. Upon hisreturn, he became the chief chemistat a sugar factory. Although he earneda handsome salary, he was not happyas his temperament just did not suitthe factory environment. He repea-tedly changed jobs. He would oftenresign suddenly, without havingthought through the financialconsequences of his actions, forcingSharada to live with her in-laws untilAmritlal could find another job. Jobs,however, were not easy to come by.In the meantime, their savings wouldbe consumed. Amritlal changed jobsso often that his actions proved to beeconomically ruinous for the family.Many times, Sharada had to stay withher mother-in-law in Valsad, where shewas not welcome, for months on end.Even as she worked tirelessly doinghousehold chores, her work was neverSharada (Kumudini) with her daughter Puloma and grand- daughter Rima.20 MANUSHIappreciated. Her self-respect was hurtwhen neighbours would muttertaunting remarks about her repeatedreturns to Valsad. For Sharada theexperience was painful, and it was notthe kind of life she wanted. To makematters worse, Amritlal never talkedabout the issue, and his silencebothered her. Amritlal himself wasvery frustrated and did not know whatto do.Sharada was always short ofmoney, which made life very difficultas she had to raise two school-agechildren. She was 34 years old andmy brother and I were nine andthirteen years old, respectively, whenshe made the decision to becomeeconomically independent. Thequestion was, however, how couldshe attempt this when she did nothave more than a rudimentaryeducation? Also, she was in a peculiarsituation, as she had married into oneof the most well known families in thecommunity and, that, too, to a highly-educated husband. Would it beproper for her to work outside of thehome? It was the most agonising andtormenting period of her life. Her dreamof giving the best education to herchildren was crumbling right in frontof her eyes and, along with it, theirfuture. Deciding that she would haveto take charge of her own destiny, sheresolved that she would neverdepend on anybody but herself, forno condition was more despicablethan dependence.We were in Vadodara visiting mymaternal uncle and his family when,hearing of my mothers plight and herdesire to be independent, my auntbrought up the topic of a one-yearMontessori teachers training coursefor which reading and writing inGujarati were the only required skills.Mother had those skills, and she wassharp and intelligent. A self-taughtperson, she loved children. She joinedthe course, completed it with flyingcolours. She topped the class. Thatwas the beginning of a new life forher.With that qualification in hand,my mother decided to settle inVadodara. She told father about herplans to start a nursery school inVadodara and to concentrate on thechildrens education. My father wasvery upset, and her mother-in-lawwas shocked. Rao Sahebs daughter-in-law will run a nursery school to earnmoney? That would bring shame tothe family, she said to mother. Mymother, however, had made up hermind.Soon, she rented a smallapartment with two rooms and aher an opportunity to discoverherself, to realise her potential.Although the school did not bringloads of money, it was enough, andour life was comfortable as father sentus money whenever he could. Motherused her money-managing skills, herorganising abilities and competenceto run both the school and our home.Whenever father came home, hewould be impressed with the waymother conducted the school and thehouse.Mother worked tirelessly all thoseyears trying to save money inwhichever way possible. Since thehouse doubled as the school, she notonly had to finish all of the householdchores before the school opened forthe day, but she also had to tend tomy brother and me when we fell ill. Itwas an extremely tough life, but shewas always upbeat and optimistic. Ido not ever remember her complainingor grumbling about problems. Talkof solutions and not problems, sheconstantly reminded us.Her children were her drivingforce. Having never experienced amothers love, my mother became anextremely protective and anxiousmother whose only mission in life wasto provide the best education for hertwo children, and she pursued thisgoal with single-minded devotion andzeal. She pushed us to excel in ourstudies and encouraged us toparticipate in extracurricular activities.She always urged us to persist whenwe faltered, saying, Education andeconomic independence are the twomost important factors in life for awoman.I broke my mothers heart when Ileft medical college after one year. Itsimply did not interest me. Motherwas very keen to see her daughterbecome a medical doctor. So, when Ialmost refused to go to Delhi evenafter being selected for a Ph. D.programme in Delhis prestigiouskitchen, and we moved in. To savemoney on rent, she decided to start anursery school in the very apartmentin which we lived. The nursery schoolopened without fanfare, but, withinthe very first week she had enrolledtwenty children. The word spread,and, in a years time, the school wason a firm footing. That was the turningpoint in mothers life. Thereafter, shenever looked back.The thrill of economicindependence gave her tremendousconfidence. With her radiantpersonality, she endeared herself topeople in the neighbourhood. WhenI recall those days, I remember howimpressive she looked while talkingto parents. Running the school gaveKumudini in younger days.No.13521agriculture research institute shescolded me, For me, your M.Sc. isnot enough. Go and get your Ph.D.She almost ordered me to go to Delhi.Today, I am grateful to her for hertough stand.Mother had always nurtured thedream of having a place she couldcall her own. Timely help came fromour neighbours, who urged us tobuy a plot next to theirs in a newresidential complex in Vadodara.Mother immediately agreed, fillingout the necessary documents andpaying the initial instalment. She didnot even consult father. She and mybrother oversaw the entireconstruction; a beautiful homeawaited my father when he came backon his break.My brother completed hisengineering degree and was keen tocontinue studies in the U.S. With alot of trepidation, he mentioned it tomy parents. Father said he had verylittle savings, but mother surprisedus when she took out all of her hard-earned savings. When even that wasnot enough, without a secondthought, she sold off all of the silveritems which she had painstakinglycollected over the years and askedmy brother to proceed to the U.S. forhis studies.After the completion of hisstudies in USA, my brother startedworking, and soon after that, heurged mother to close down theschool. When she refused becauseshe wanted her economicindependence to remain intact, hereminded her of the promise that hehad made to her, when she had givenaway all her savings. He told her, itis time for me to take care of myparents. Finally, after fifteen yearsof hard work, mother very reluctantlyclosed down her school.When I look back, I often wonderhow difficult it must have been formy fiercely independent mother tospend those early years in fear,obedience, and submission!Some time later, my brother gotmarried and settled down in Chicagoand I moved to New York with myhusband. My parents moved to theirnew house. It was time to relax andenjoy ourselves. During that time, avery interesting incident happenedwhen mother battled against themunicipal corporation single-handedly to stop an obstructiveconstruction next to their house. Itwas her fearlessness, grit anddetermination that left everybody inawe.Father, although away quiteoften, played his role in his own way,drawing rangoli. Her wonderfulcollection of over two hundredpopular Gujarati songs, bhajans andgarbas, written in 1937 in herexquisite handwriting, is a referencebook for me today!At home, her typical day startsat 6 AM. As gardening is one of herpassions, she spends two hoursevery morning tending to her owndelightful garden, which is a visualtreat for every visitor. Then it is timefor her to do the daily crosswordpuzzle and go through thenewspaper. Since she becameeconomically independent, she hasbeen following market trends andsuccessfully investing money in thestock market. When my fatherpassed away, she asked myhusband, an extremely business-savvy executive in a Wall Streetinvestment house, to look into herportfolio for suggestions. He wasstunned when he saw hermeticulously planned, safety-oriented, and diversified investmentportfolio! I never thought a womanwho had so little education could beso good at money management at theripe old age of 75!, he remarked.Mothers evenings are spent visitingfriends and neighbours, young andold, chatting, laughing and joking,listening to their problems, andhelping them find direction andpurpose in life. Her zest for life andher priceless sense of humour keepher happy and in good health.Today, her greatest satisfaction andpride lie in her three grandchildren,who are doing well in their respectivefields.It was a very special day for thefamily when five years back,recognising her remarkable courageand spirit, the Desai Community ofVadodara felicitated my mother byhonouring her with the Woman ofSubstance Award. but it was our mother who mouldedus, counselled us, guided us andmade us what we are today. Nineyears ago, my father passed awaywhen my mother was 75 years old.Refusing to follow archaic customs,she continued to wear a bindidespite living in a conservative,middle-class colony. Today, at theage of 84, she lives alone. As always,she manages everything by herself,whether there is a problem with thewater pump, water faucet, or lightbulb. Her house is simple,meticulously organised, andtastefully done, reflecting her flair forbeauty and art. She excelled ineverything she did, whether it wasknitting, sewing, embroidery, orTending her own garden.
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