Monday, September 12, 2011

When a comment became a post .....

IHM wrote a post on how life was for women in India , who lived in the 1920's, 30's, 40's after reading a book about Women in Kerala during the same time period. There were so many interesting comments on her post with people recalling the lives of their own mothers and grandmothers. I wrote a comment too, which actually became as big as a post. :-)

Just reproducing it here....

I realize, that although the society I live in is patriarchal, matriarchs in the family have really lived amazing lives.

Like what do you say about someone born in 1919, the second child and only daughter, amongst 3 children. Her memories of her own mother were a bit hazy, as she passed away in her early childhood, after her younger brother was born. Her father, never married again, wanting to spare his children from "step-ness" . He himself had had a hard childhood, had literally studied under lamps, with great effort and dedication, and consequently risen to a good job with the government in those days. They lived in Indore then, and all his children went to school. The daughter did particularly well, and there is a gold medal in maths from some Ajmer Board, that is greatly prized in the house today. For its non commercial value.

And what do you say about someone who was sent to Pune's Fergusson College by her father to study for her degree ? Lived in what was called the Ladies Residency then. Started missing her father so much, that she once ran away back to Indore, only to have her father bring her right back. And she went on to make some lifelong friends in college, from different parts of the country.

Don't know if it was the opportunity to travel across the country, or what , but she got more than an education when she finished college. By then her father had shifted to Pune and stayed with his married son. Her marriage was fixed in 1941 with the son of a family friend. The background and attitudes towards ladies in that family were much different. Children followed.

And what do you say about what happened when she had a chance to travel abroad ? When her eldest was one year old, her husband had an opportunity to attend a university in Brooklyn. With no suggestions forthcoming from her in laws, her father agreed to take care of her year old son, and encouraged her to accompany her husband , and do a degree there herself. She travelled alone by a plane making several stops (there are photos of her with the pilot next to the plane !) en route to the US to join her husband who was already there, and a few years later returned with an MA in Child development from Columbia University. That was 1948.Another daughter and son were born, and the family with 3 children lived in Pune.

And what do you say about someone who dedicated all her energies to her childrens' education and bringing up, even maintaining a separate household in Pune for the children , when her husband was transferred to places with questionable educational facilities. Everyone was together in the holidays, allowing the children to see many different parts of India, due to their father's job. Once the kids started college, the household reverted to a single household at whichever place her father's posting took them, the last being Mumbai.

And then what do you say about how she brought up her own ? Her daughter was , like her, one of 3 children. She was given almost all the opportunities the sons got, sometimes even more. The daughter played sports, both for her school and college, in the appropriate garb , greatly encouraged by her. She herself always wore sarees, but realized her daughter's life was to be different. And it helped that they lived in a colony, where weekend mornings, someone would string a tennis net across a tennis court marked out in a large gap between two houses, and one could be treated to a sight of middle aged women women in tucked-in sarees, whacking shots across the net. (Eat your heart out, Sharapova).

And what do you say about her, who was so different , in a gutsy way. But was always involved with the extended family in various ways. She was great friends with all her husband's maternal cousins, and there was a constant flow of folks coming to stay, and various traditional functions being held to celebrate something or the other. Someone was always asking her to come along for some medical stuff happening in the family. Her mother-in-law had several sisters, and so many of them came to stay with her , much older to her , just because they liked to visit her. They liked that she drove a car in the crowded roads of Pune, and took them to visit many places.

And so what do you say of someone to whom age was just a physical count, and minds were more important. All her children decided on their own, what they were looking for in prospective partners in life, and she and the father never forced their opinion on any one in this regard, but were always available to listen and give opinions.

And finally, what do you say about someone, who although getting on in age at 83, and afflicted with typical old age maladies, still braved a 23 hour plane trip, all alone, to be present at a grandson's graduation in the US ? As avidly as she attended her her daughter's daughter's swimming races back in India, where she and grandpa loudly cheered. ?

To her education was not a label. You had to show the benefits of it. One of the biggest gifts she gave her daughter was that of strength of mind, the ability to say NO, based on your own convictions, however unpopular they may be, and to handle failure and treat it as a stepping stone, rather than something to make you collapse....

She was ahead of her times , and her life almost spanned the previous century. She passed away suddenly at the turn of the century, after a brief hospitalization, with only her daughter by her bedside.

Her daughter's family had adopted a little girl, and many years later , (when the little girl had grown up), while traveling once in a rickshaw with her own daughter, she said " You know, in your future, if you ever get the feeling that you are alone, there is no one , and so on, this little girl of yours will always be there for you. She is so young now, but she has something special. I see it in her."...

Mothers have a way of being right. I know. She was my mother.


  1. *falls at the feet* and then virtually salutes...this is one super great lady! WOW!

  2. What a wonderful, touching story! Very well written. Your mother had strength of character as well as integrity. I could only wish that were true of me!

  3. amazing story.. and your way of narrating it was perfect. Your mother was an extraordinary lady. Salute her for being so ahead of her times!

  4. What an amazing lady your mom was.
    her story is so different from her contemprories who probably got married at teen age , served the huband and his folks uncomplaining , almost invisibly.But here we have a lady who learnt , travelled independently and was so ahead of her times.
    BTW , rt now I am in Indore (your mom's maher) . plz visit us .

  5. One admirable lady, your mother is! She was exceptionally brave for her generation.

    You have inherited a lot from her, I feel. You are lucky to have a daughter too, who will be close to you like you were with your mother.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. R's Mom I join you in falling at the feet too....

    Gigihawaii Thank you .

    Nisha Thank you..

    Kirti Thank you. I often feel that she was the way she was, because her father did no allow her to be shackled by things, as decreed by society then; and that was done as a part of growing up, and not as a direct challenge to anyone ....

    Sandhya Thank you. But in my mothers time it took a lot of guts to be the way she was. Even today I know folks who frown on that. We comparatively, have things easier. But one must endeavour to do the best by one's children...

  7. Inspiring!New to your blog and enjoying the Goodread it provides..

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