My Mom Story: Woman of Steel

Among many stories that we’ve received as part of our Mothers Day contest, a common thread that runs is of mothers displaying inimitable courage and zeal.

We share with you the stories of these Women of Steel.

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By Anne Helena Devasahayam 

“What? You could only manage a second prize?!”

If a mother asks her daughter this question, she would be termed pushy, ambitious and competitive. A serious threat to her daughter’s self-worth. “You should be proud that your daughter won second place among so many participants. Why don’t you praise her and encourage her instead?”

Not mine. My mother would just look at those people with scorn and say, “You have no clue how gifted she is. She did not put in enough effort. That’s why she didn’t win!” And I’ll get a scorching glare that says “See how embarrassing this is… you better bring home the prize next time.”

My mother was 25 years old when I was born, her first child, the apple of her eyes and the entire khandhaan-the first grandchild! She had a difficult childbirth, the baby was born a week later than the due date, she passed out when she had to push, the really chubby infant was pulled out with a pair of forceps, turned blue and had to be incubated with her tiny little right arm in a strap for a week but so what, she was fast turning into a local prodigy, started to speak when she was 6 months old and walk during her 11th month.

Life took an ugly turn when her bright healthy five-year-old daughter started tripping and falling at the age of five, and slowly lost control of all basic functions. After running from pillar to post, she was diagnosed with Atlanto Axial Instability, a rare syndrome that affects the nervous system, slowly leading to a weakness of muscles and bones. The first two vertebra in the spine just below the medula  obloganta had dislocated, nobody knew how, probably the forceps was the culprit the doctors said. She’ll end up a vegetable if we don’t fix her up proper and fine they cried.

A long struggle ensue, three life threatening surgeries, rehab, home schooling, managing two other children, an absentee husband, school and college admissions, deep financial losses, acceptance, and adapting to a differently-abled unfriendly system.

A particular image stands out in my mind – that of my mother, patiently sitting on the playground the whole day, waiting for the school bell to ring, just outside my classroom window, heavily pregnant with her third child, unmindful of the merciless sun. Such was her iron will, her grit, her dedication, her unconditional love.

Today, I’m considered an achiever of sorts in my small circle, highly confident, very articulate and fashionable, having an active social life, an MBA from a premier Institution, a rewarding career, a wonderful husband and a fulfilling life surrounded by a lovely group of friends and family.

Still, it ain’t good enough for my Amma.  “Why don’t you write a book or start a business or do your Ph.D?”  ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ – and it’s rubbed on to me too, become my mantra for life.

When my husband shares his happiness at getting promoted with me, I tell him “That’s awesome, you deserve it but you do know that you are capable of much more, don’t you?”

Help, my monster mommy mode is getting switched on!! Eeeeeks…!

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By Bhavani Kartik

She is a woman. A real “woman”.  A woman of steel. You may have seen many women but she is special. Her energy is so effervescent that you would be completely engulfed by it.

She looks truly traditional, gracefully draped in a colourful saree. Most often she wears colours like orange, purple, maroon, and green. Today she wears a red one with a yellow border. The border has a traditional temple design of dancing statues woven all over it. Her skin is a radiant yellow and it is difficult to say if she makes the saree beautiful or the saree is lending its beauty to her. Her forehead has a bright red “Bindi”, a vermillion mark.

Her silvery long hair is braided in to a plait. Her ears are small, sensitive and she wears a simple earring that delicately adorns her ear. Everything about her is simple and yet she is exquisite. She walks with grace and humility and the pleasant jingle of her anklets add a bounce to her walk. It almost feels like a dance. As she walks past me, she brings her long slender hands to her head and carefully strings freshly threaded jasmine flowers to her hair. The air is filled with this fragrance.

She turns on the radio and tunes it to her favourite channel. “Ragas of the Day”. As she hears the rendition of the classical piece of music, she hums along. She pulls the “pallu” of her saree and tucks it to her pleats in the saree. She is ready for a day of action. A day brimming with things to do. One more day of offering to all of the family she loves and lives for.

Bhavani Karthik

Her hands and feet are busy all day long, cooking, cleaning, gardening attending to everyone’s needs. As the day turns in to noon, the home is flooded with warm sunlight. She sits down on her favourite chair, her companion of years, when she wants to rest her tired feet. As the chair rocks gently by the bay window, the breeze and the warmth of the room make the perfect lullaby. She closes her eyes and her long eyelashes wrap in her the memories of the morning. The calmness and stillness in her face exude bliss. The bliss of being there for her family one more day. Strands of her silvery hair fall carelessly across her face, stroking her cheeks lightly in the breeze. The lines on her face have a million stories to say, stories of giving, stories of sacrifice…stories of a mother.

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By Devika Loomba

Most people if not all would agree that their mother’s are special – the anchor in their lives, the backbone of the family, the one person who is always and unconditionally there for them. But I think as a woman, a daughter and a mother myself to a beautiful 1 year old, I understand the finer nuances of being a woman and a mother – and my mother is definitely a supermom!

Throughout my childhood I had a strong sense of her presence in our lives. An ace multi-tasker,  she effortlessly ran the home and pursued her career simultaneously, while still providing my sister and me with a sense of security and always being there for us – be it to drop and pick us up from school, take us for extra-curricular activities or just make special meals for us and organize special birthday parties with creative games that she would do herself! Her 24 hours were like 48 in terms of how much she packed in; and all of it for the family and most importantly for us! In the middle of it all she still managed her career with determination and a sense of independence that both my sister and I have hopefully imbibed from her. She always encouraged us to not let go of opportunities and to think beyond the immediate goals to recognize where we were heading and to work toward getting there! Yet she led by example to emphasize the importance of family and taking time out to work on family relationships. As a result both my sister and I are close to our extended family, have families of our own and careers that we are passionate about.

I have had the added advantage of living close to my parents even after I got married. This has of course meant that I have had my mother’s support even while bringing up my little baby. From being with me in the labour room, to selflessly looking after my son at every stage of his growth, she has reminded me of what a bottomless well of love and care a mother is. It is this support that has enabled me to get back to work and it is this love and care that has often led my son to call her ‘Mama’ instead of ‘Nani’.

Only a daughter, especially one who herself is a mother, can truly appreciate what a mother does for her children and her family and what a multifaceted woman she really is – my only hope is that I have communicated this to her as many times as I have thought about it – Mom, you are truly a superwoman!

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By Mahua Ghose

We lived in Durgapur, an industrial town in West Bengal, in the 1960s. In 1966, at the beginning of the Naxalite movement in Bengal, the labour unions in the factories across Durgapur, were becoming more and more aggressive. Once every two months, my father, along with his senior colleagues, would be “gheraod”  in office and not allowed to leave for home for 2-6 days.

During one such 5-6 days of gherao, the phone system was disconnected in all the homes (these were the company houses in the Township) on Day 2, and from then onwards, not only could the ladies talk to one another, there was also no access to information of the status of the gherao.

The houses had large compound and were far apart. In most of the houses, it was the lady of the house and school going young children. At our home, there was my mother (in her early 30s, my five year old younger sister and me, at a ripe age of 11)

On Day 4, the door bell rang and when the maid opened the door, the two men who had come, asked for my mother.

As I watched on, my mother came to the door and the men handed her a widow’s weed (white coloured thaan).  My mother looked at it with no change of expression on her face, asked them if they had any other business with her (that wiped the smirk off their face, as they were expecting her to get hysterical) and then nodded towards the gate to indicate that they may leave. Before they could go out of the compound, my mother told the maid loudly enough for them to hear that she wanted soft white cloth for polishing the brass items at home and it had arrived for her use.

At the age of 11 I did not understand the implication of what was happening, but later on my mother did say that she was not too sure if my father was alive or not, when these guys handed her the thaan.

Bravery comes in many forms and this dealing with a situation which could well be a message of doom, firmly and with no emotions, requires a huge amount of courage. There were other ladies in the township who received the same treatment from the rabid section of the labour union, and with no exception, all the women had dealt with the situation the same way, though they had no forewarning whatsoever.

Following that day, the “gherao” continued for another 36 hours, after which the men came home. There was no display of panic, no desperate attempt to find out the status of their husbands at the office by the ladies, till they came home. This is extreme courage under huge pressure. After that day, the unionised workers, never meddled with the wives of the managers

On a much later date, in 1976, my mother, who was then 46 years old, had undergone a complicated kidney transplantation in Bombay. She was kept in sterilised quarters in the hospital and we were allowed to only talk to her over the intercom

Seven days after her surgery, my father suffered a massive heart attack and was hospitalised.  The nephrologists in my mother’s hospital advised us to not inform her of my father’s illness, as they feared of it’s impact on her weak heart

I spinned stories about urgent travel abroad by my father to explain his absence in my mother’s hospital. My mother heard me out and never did she question me

Three weeks later, the doctors, as a team, sat down with her to break the news of my father’s illness. I was asked to wait outside the room. After a short while, they came out of the room, laughing. The doctors told me that they had seriously under-estimated my mother’s strength of mind. Apparently, when they explained the reason for Baba’s absence, she smiled and said, “Thank God. I am so happy that you have told me the truth. I had assumed that he was dead”

Unfortunately, my brave mother, died soon after (within two months). This was almost a decade before treatment for nephritis was perfected.

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By Mridula Dang

 I write this as a tribute to the lovely one who got me to this world…My Maa…Suprabha that’s her given name!

Each one has a mother unique but mine has a story which has inspired many…

Walking away with nothing but a newspaper clipping in hand from Lahore, now in Pakistan, my mother with her family stepped into the princely state of Nabha!

She was all of seventeen years. Brilliant one had the newspaper clipping of her matriculation result based on which she studied later to be selected in the prestigious college Lady Hardinge, Delhi to study Medicine!

After her house job at Hailey Mandi she opted to serve the nation by joining the Indian Air force as a Flight Lieutenant. She was one of the first to join the Forces way back in 1958!

With a skip in her step delighted to adorn the Uniform, my mother moved on to tie the knot with fellow Air force officer and then were born to them two baby girls, my sister and I. Happy story has a tryst with destiny!

On 19th august 1963 we lost our father, My Maa left with two little ones and a life ahead beyond, all at the age of 33.

She treaded bravely steadfast teaching us one lesson and that we live by “Live with dignity and respect” , education is the only jewel and the crown that makes you stand tall!

We studied well. My sister a lawyer chose academics as profession and I am an engineer with masters in Finance.

Life has come a long way since 1963. My Maa now a grandmother teaches lessons many, most of all to be happy with self. She says wake up each day to see your face in the mirror and smile for you’re are the bravest of all!

I close here for there are volumes I could write on my mother.

I wish to grow in years as she has, now at 84 she lives by herself majestically and with grace unbound, independent and steadfast. “Suprabha” like her name is the Good Morning greeting for me each day.

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By Rachita Mittal

Its crazy how a woman’s life has to be full of sacrifices she makes so that it can look like a life well lived.

My mom is no different! I have not spent a lot of my growing-up years with her because of education, career but whatever little I know and have seen of her, it is incredible.

She got married to my father at an age of 15 years and has thereafter faced it all. Not only did she raise 3 of us as kids but also kids of elder siblings of my father who were away chasing their career dreams. She had to obviously also put with not very accommodating in-laws (like most other women) Going through all this at such a tender age, she succumbed to severe OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder)

Nobody in smaller towns understood or acknowledged mental ailments and therefore she was left with no treatment. She kept battling the ailment by herself. My mother was not educated but she made sure all of us went to school. I was sent to hostel so that I could get better education than what was available in town. I hated her for doing that but now I can’t thank her enough.

Rachita Mittal

My mother made me independent, hard working and humane. She still says – being a woman is not being born weak. I am motivated by her optimism, zeal, sensitivity and compassion.

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By Raj Kumari Upadhyay

Today I pay tribute to that woman who at the age of twelve was uprooted from her birthplace, accepted a large family of twelve people as her own, washing ,cooking and taking care of all with a never ending smile. The last to go to bed and the first to wake up –she accepted this life as all Indian girls do after marriage fulfilling the seven vows. Married into a highly educated family  she had no degree to boast of –but her determination ,will-power and above all her sincerity combined with her intelligence and the ability to perceive situations made her take all challenges in her stride. She was not pretty and in contrast my father was an Adonis with women clamouring for his attention but he remained faithful to her because of her inner beauty and the fact that she took good care of his family –parents and eight brothers and sisters.

Like Florence Nightingale she served all in the family who fell ill with infectious diseases, herself never falling prey to any disease-maybe even God did  not wish rest for her. Today she is a great grand mom and has two maids at her beck and call (courtesy her youngest son) and she is even a mom to them.

Yes, at times she feels lonely but her zest for life is still there-that spark, that will power (inspite of dialysis thrice a week) speaks for itself.

I am grateful to you for all my lessons of life but I wish I could have half of your patience and the willpower to not crumble under pressure, to face the world with a smile even in the most testing of times and to believe that God will make everything fall in place.

Hats off to you  Mom. I know you can’t read this but I feel privileged to have you as my Mom.

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

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By Yumna Hari Singh

My mom joined the police in the face of family displeasure and organisational disdain.

When I was little, Mama used to come and visit me every weekend in Bangalore where I stayed with my grandparents.

One morning, when I was about a year and a half old, as she was saying goodbye to me, I told her I wanted to go with her.

She asked me if I was sure, and that I would need to play by myself when she was working. I said yes, and right then at 3 in the morning, she packed all of my things up and took me with her.

I used to play behind her desk dressed in a khakhi coloured pant and shirt, while all the grown-ups around me went about their business in similar clothes.

There are thousands of stories of tears and misunderstandings, of her letting me follow my dreams that carried me to far-flung parts of the globe, of her work-related danger threatening family, of parental concerns regarding my marriage and my career and my dreams.

My sister and I are grown up now, and through it all, I have always known that my mother carried me with her, while she soared over barriers in all parts of her life.

Yumna

[The photograph is taken at her penultimate parade before her retirement as India’s first woman Director General of Police. It’s a picture of Mama and me.]

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