With plenty of ‘wonder women’ in my life, whom I admire, it’s a challenge for me to pick one and write about that person. I can write a book on all of them, that I look up to, from whom I have learned a lot. Young and old, family, friends and colleagues. I choose one special person who’s the epitome of strength to me. That’s my mother, named Neela from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, India, married at the age of twelve. Since the day of her marriage she wore the nine yards saree, traditional attire of a married woman from deep Tamil Nadu, almost a century ago, continued even when my parents migrated to Bombay, a cosmopolitan city after the second world war, later to America in the 1980s. We all love our mothers, we all have a special place in our hearts for our mother.

My mother lost her husband at 45, with five children ranging from age 10-20 years to raise all by herself! Having studied only up to eighth grade in a local language from a village, she decided to settle down in Bombay, today’s ‘amchi Mumbai’ and made her home where my father passed away. She faced life’s challenges with a strong will, principles, dream and a vision for her children. When I think of my mother, tenacity and determination comes to my mind.  She followed her dream, her principles and with a single pointed focus fulfilled her commitment in raising her children remarkably well. She was a wise woman, used her words very sparingly and when she did, they made a positive impact on the listener whoever it was!

She reinforced self-confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance along with the knowledge of financial independence in all her children.

She strongly felt that all children are brilliant and could be in their best, not just in academics but in values as well, with parental guidance. She believed in women’s education and sent her daughters to get college degrees in the sixties, which was a rare thought in her family circles those days and her sons have doctoral degree and not to mention today, all her grandchildren are highly qualified.

A woman of objectivity, patience, courage, diplomacy, persistence, adaptability and hard work was my mother. She never whined, complained, blamed the situations in her life, nor did she ever speak ill of others. Every word she uttered were gems but not everyone understood. I learnt many things from her. I’ll mention just five here. She was the epitome of power, shakti. She deserves to be on a golden pedestal.

  • Everything has a place, everything in its place. This idea not only saves space in our homes, cuts down your expenses but saves plenty of time, which is more in demand today in every family. It doesn’t make sense to spend hours looking for things when you could spend those precious additional hours and minutes with your spouse, children and parents. Buy your needs not wants so you have more cash on hand than stuff in your home.
  • Expect the difference, accept the differences and move on. People are different for a reason, so that, there’s a sense of sharing, recognition, appreciation, collaboration and learning from each other. She’d often say if all our five fingers are in the same shape and size, you can’t even hold a cup! This difference gives flexibility and to work together. She inculcated this thought that no two people are the same, due to their life experiences, upbringing, situation, individual family way of life. Differences are normal, but personal conflicts should not escalate so your neighbors knew about it. Always use soft voices, listen more, show empathy to each one that your encounter, make every connection a positive memorable one. She walked the talk.
  • Everyone has a pot that’s always full but it’s up to you to either refill it by sharing with others or hold on to it for yourself. If you choose to hold on without sharing, you’ll continue to have a pot full of water, but with algae, fungus and mold as an example. Sharing is just not merely material objects but thoughts, ideas, and knowledge. Sharing in her dictionary meant, help wherever there’s a need, whenever possible, in whatever way you can within your limitation.
  • You can never reach the summit with a heavy baggage on your back. She and I lived together for three years towards her end when I was very busy at work, but I made it a point to spend three hours every Friday evening. She shared her experiences, her early marriage, inability to study beyond middle school, early marriage, her challenges in relationships with her in laws in the large family, financial obligations, child rearing, fears, worries, reflections & guilt. She reminded me that these are common to all individuals, may not be the same experiences and emphasized to expect, accept and not to carry them with you but to forgive, forget, live in the present. This will help us spiritually and give us contentment & peace to transition out of this planet in a smooth fashion. That event is inevitable to all who are born, as we all have a date of expiry and we need to live life to fullest happiness not drag through with heavy baggage. ‘Mind controls the body, keep it light, for easy transition’, she said. One night she went to bed and did not wake up!
  • Next generation should always be better than your generation in every possible way. ‘Raise your children, the way you want them to raise, not as I (grandparent) want to raise’ were her words. Every generation is changing in many ways and every parent needs to be adaptable to changes and when a child is born, a parent is also born. Early on she used coal to cook, then kerosene, followed by gas from the government, later gas from a cylinder to the hot plate and microwave. She has seen it all. As the society, environment, norms change, every generation must evolve with it and parents know best. Backsliding is easier and faster because that’s the comfort zone but that’s not progress. Golden words from a wise woman applicable to all!

As I get older and watch my children run their show, these words from my mother keep ringing in my ears! These are evergreen! Do you agree?


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