A Homage to Mother

by Ravi Chitrapu
(Visakhapatnam, India )


This is a tribute to a mother of the last century who performed her duty to her family with perfect dedication, diligence and concern. Like all other moms, hers was a story of indomitable courage, perseverance and indefatigable patience. We pay our tributes to her, and, to all other mothers through this story of hers.


Though born into a traditional and conservative family and married into a similar household, Mother displayed a rare courage and independence, far ahead of her times. Mind you, this was not disobedience but only a fearless way of expressing her feelings and needs – of course, with strong support from two important men in her life – her father and later her husband. How else could you explain the fact that at the age of about 5, she bravely went to her father and demanded that he change her name to Sita (because her friends were making of her rather old fashioned name – Viyyamma). A bemused father relented but called her Janaki rather than Sita because he associated the latter name with ‘hardships’. Nevertheless, in later years, Mrs.Janaki would face many difficulties but come out a winner most of the times.

A similar freedom was given by her indulgent father when they were searching for a groom for her. "Janaki, agree to a proposal only if you like him", he told her. "I may get tired and angry if you refuse but don’t say yes for my sake". Mother believed him and must have seen and declined at least three dozen prospective grooms – some on rather flimsy reasons like the boy sporting ear-rings or he having studied only upto Class X!! It was the irony of fate that she finally married a man whom she never saw – it was only on hearsay that the two got married but they never had any regrets, for over 50 years - though they were poles apart in certain areas.

Married at barely 17, Janaki had to travel alone to Poona where Father was working – somehow Dad couldn’t come to the station to receive her and there she was all alone – a Telugu girl who couldn’t speak any other language and only knew that her husband worked in the Defence Accounts Department. It was a wonder and testimony to her shrewdness, courage and intelligence that she managed to get into a tonga and reach Dad’s office only to be stopped at the gate – luckily some Andhraites were passing by and they sent word to a visibly shocked father who took her home. She quickly learnt to speak Marathi and run a house (soon to have 3 children) on just 45 rupees a month – Father’s salary! Maybe it was this financial necessity that made her (and Father) learn how to spend wisely and frugally, and, practise the 3 ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. And thus it was that Mother became an expert home maker and manager – balancing the single income with the demands of a middle class family, yet, always ensuring that we had good food, clothes and education – not to mention the small luxuries we looked forward to – an occasional movie or a toy. Clothes were re-sized for the next sibling, night-dresses were stitched at home, and, worn out clothes were stuffed and made into a rozai or converted into floor-scrubs. She would save from the little money Dad gave her to run the house and bought small pieces of gold and silver – which would later come in handy for the daughters’ marriages.

She soon became an expert at time management and planning ahead – having to cater to the needs of a working husband and 3 school going students and visiting relatives – cooking rice, daal and sabji – all on a kerosene stove and a ‘boggula kumpati’ (charcoal stove). So efficient was her planning that she never forgot to set the milk in the night to have curds (dahi) ready for the next morning, nor to soak urad dal on a Friday evening so that we could have ‘minapa rotti’ on Saturday night and ‘idlis’ on Sunday morning.

She also learnt to travel alone with the children in tow with her little knowledge of Hindi and Marathi – from Eluru in Andhra to Poona. She would often tell us the few times when she had security problems – about how once she was alone in a bogie and two strangers tried to misbehave and how her prayers were answered when a big group of army jawans boarded at the next station and she could heave a huge sigh of relief.

Mother also tried to learn English from her strict disciplinarian husband – it went on well for some days but somewhere along, she persisted in saying ‘I does not know” and an impatient Dad got annoyed when she wouldn’t correct her grammar; an exasperated Mum gave up. Years later, on a flight to the USA, again alone, she had to change flights and when in a queue, pestered the airport officials in Los Angeles , in her half-broken English, to send her quickly as she was elderly, with arthritis and asthma. She would proudly tell us how she could manage to jump the queue and get into her wheelchair to catch her connecting flight.

Though she was a very devout and religious Hindu Brahmin and harbored her own personal views on caste and practised seemingly queer customs of ‘madi’ (once she bathed, she would not touch anyone, till she finished her prayers) and ‘antu’ (rice/dal based items were to be kept one side of the table and other items such as sabji and milk /curds on the other side), she never imposed them on us. She (and Father) never said anything when her eldest son married a Bihari girl or the grandchildren married a North Indian / non Brahmin. All were welcomed warmly into the family; similar hospitality was extended to the British friend of our elder brother and the Muslim friend of the younger daughter. What’s so great one may ask but considering that she was born in 1928 and studied only upto Class 5, one must acknowledge her broad-mindedness.

Mother was highly instrumental in instilling in all her children values of justice, equality, honesty, compassion and liberty. When she had to let her brothers stay with us for their higher studies at Vizag, she unhesitatingly invited Father’s nephews too into the house, when their family needed some place to stay. She was acutely aware of, and empathetic towards, what she called ‘Noru leni jeevulu’ (living beings without a mouth /voice) – this included, on the one hand, the poverty stricken people who lived at the mercy of the rich, and on the other, the helpless animals, wild and domesticated, often exploited or killed by Man. And so it was that we would end up bringing home stray kittens, giving food to sick and lame dogs and shunning non-veg food.

A staunchly religious woman, she had her own channel of communication with God and strongly felt that He always helped her and her family. I can still recollect the umpteen times she lost something valuable – a gold ring or some cash stashed away somewhere (she had this penchant to store money in the unlikeliest of places) and she would hurriedly make a ‘mokku’ or vow – to visit the nearby Kanakamahalakshmi temple if she found it. Invariably the article would be recovered and she would faithfully trudge along to the Goddess’s temple. A pity though that her health did not cooperate with her in later years as she developed arthritis of her knees and fibrosis of the lungs. Two doctor children unfortunately could not help her medically and her problems got accentuated due to the multiple drugs she was forced to consume. Unfortunately, she became bedridden towards the end of her life and needed help with her daily activities too – something which this strongly independent lady hated her entire life – ‘I should never be dependent on someone else to do things for me’ she would often say but her God willed otherwise. And she passed away, physically and psychologically weakened by a cruel destiny. But her principles, beliefs and values – her ‘way of life’ continue to exist, though perhaps not in similar measure, in all her five children who cherish her memories.

********


Note: On Mother's Day, this article is published as a special tribute to all Mothers.

Comments for A Homage to Mother

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May 11, 2014
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Inspiring
by: Lakshmi

Very Touching and Inspiring.
Thanks for this article.

May 11, 2014
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Inspiring
by: Khurshid

Touching and Inspiring article. Thanks for sharing.

May 11, 2014
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Apt
by: Nuggehallipankaja

What an amazing woman! How I wish I had seen her!
Very well written tribute indeed!

May 11, 2014
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Amazing lady
by: Rajeswari

Fitting tribute to an amazing. Lady .


May 11, 2014
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Hats off to all mothers!!
by: Sai

Great article... very inspiring !
Reminds us all on the importance of leading a virtuous life. Thanks for sharing.

May 11, 2014
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A fine tribute by the worthy children
by: malladi

sir,
a worthy homage to mother. brought me back memories of my mother, her sister whom we called doddamma. now a days we dont have their managerial skills but unfortunately we used to think them misers at that time. thank you very much once again for providing me this link, otherwise i would have missed it

May 11, 2014
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Very emotional
by: Pawan

Thank you for sharing such a personality with us
God Bless

May 11, 2014
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thanks
by: Ravi Chitrapu

Thanks for all the comments to everyone of you individually.
Yes all mothers are like that - that's what makes the story appealing to all of us.
**********

May 12, 2014
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"Mother"
by: Dr Viswamithra

Ravi, Very touching. Now we know why Chalam is Chalam .Keep up ur values, a real tribute to "Mother"

May 12, 2014
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Very Nice
by: Meenakshi Kumar

A well deserved tribute to a mother, and all mothers of yesteryear who tacitly contributed in making our society. The relentless and selfless service they rendered to their families without any expectation is gradually vanishing; personal performance is becoming more important than the family priorities.

May 12, 2014
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Nicely written
by: AVR

A good piece nearly compelling to write a piece of tribute to one's own mother!

May 13, 2014
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Very apt!
by: Chandrasekhar

Very, very good write up. It touches one's heart.

May 13, 2014
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how true
by: chinni

Very well expressed article.The sentiments expressed are true to most of the middle class families, where the mother really bore the brunt of managing the house-finances,children,food,guests,maintenance and what not., rather everything revolved around her. Obviously,the character and principles of the children and probably their children flowed from her personality. These characteristics and these sentiments were beautifully and truly are brought out by Mr Ravi.God bless.

May 15, 2014
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painful but... the best tribute
by: ajay kumar gummalla

thank you sir for reminding all of us about the greatness of a mother. tears started rolling down without my knowledge when i was half way through and when i finished i could not read any more because i was totally down remembering my mother. it took me a lot of time to recover and give my comments. we all love our own mothers but this kind of an expression of a child's love for his mother is really great. a mother deserves the best kind of attention from her children during her later years, which is drastically lacking these days.

May 15, 2014
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Touching
by: Lakshmi.C.V

Sir,
A very touching tribute . Just reminded of how much mothers contribute and sacrifice for the well being of their children. Admire your idea of expressing your feelings s well.
Lakshmi.C.V

May 20, 2014
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Good Tribute to a Great Lady
by: Srinivasa Rao Bhavaraju

Really a very good tribute to a Great Lady.
Incidentally, she is my Chinnamma(Mother's younger sister) also.

May 29, 2014
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Amazing moments captured
by: Kakuli Nag

Your write is the surest example of the legacy she has left in her children in terms of sensitivity, sensibility and acute human observations, little things remembered years after she is gone - Something that instantly connected to all of us here

Jul 02, 2014
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Mom
by: Atchutha

Poignantly written.she was just in front of us.such a wonderful lady.thanq Ravi.

Oct 02, 2014
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thanks everyone
by: Name

Thanks a lot everyone for your nice comments and taking time off to read this piece.
Yes - mothers are always mothers.
I guess it is the topic which drew your attention to read this.
Thanks everyone and god bless.
*************

Jan 29, 2015
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Nice tribute!
by: RajaNand

Tears were flowing, when it brought back memories. Indeed a homage to all mothers!

Nov 13, 2015
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thanks
by: ravi

thanks for the comments.

May 08, 2016
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Amma.......
by: Dr Shanthi

Ravi Venkatachalam your ode to your mother is superlative what else can a mother ask for

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