In My Eyes

In My Eyes

April 29, 2021

 

Categories : blog

 

“Why did you marry dad? He wasn’t as rich as you were.” I asked my mother. Now that I was a

married woman with three kids, I could ask her that question! I was twenty six and mom was in

her late forties. She looked young for her age. She was slim, tall with delicate features.

“Well, I was only sixteen when I met your father. He was a law graduate. Many young men

from well-to-do families squandered their wealth or did nothing as they were gentlemen of

leisure! I saw a spark of ambition in your dad. I was right.”

Mom came from a wealthy family. Thanks to the East India Company official, Francis Day who

signed a treaty with the local Nayaka ruler and acquired three square kilometers of land on the

beach overlooking the Bay of Bengal. That is how MADRAS in South India was born. Trade

flourished. Mom’s great-grandfather started a Snuff Company and minted money. By 1712

missionaries were allowed to enter Madras. So, many schools and colleges were started. And

Mom’s grandfather graduated from Christian College and started teaching there. Mom’s dad

too was a graduate and took up a job in the Imperial Bank. Mom spent her childhood in palatial

bank houses with butlers, cooks, maid servants, gardeners, and chauffeurs.

I couldn’t contain my curiosity. “Did you leave my brothers and pick me up and leave with dad

with just a suitcase?”

“Yes, your dad was frustrated with government jobs. He wanted to start his practice as a lawyer

in the city. I believed in him and wanted to fully support him. Can you imagine, we moved into a

one-bedroom apartment? It was a struggle.”

Mom had the privilege of attending an exclusive girl’s school. The founder of the school had

combined the best of Western education with Indian fine arts and sensibility, after she returned

from the USA.

“I remember how you forced me to go to the same school just because you also had studied

there. I am glad you did. I had a wonderful education. We were exposed to Science, Western

and Indian Music, drawing and painting, theater and sports. We followed our own curriculum

and syllabi.”

“And I was thrilled when you won the Gold Medal in B. Ed,” added mom.

“And thanks for the gift. I love the Italian coral strand.” I hugged mom.

I remembered when I informed her that I wanted to enroll for the B. Ed course, she told me that

she would train a cook and send him to cook for the family. And she did. She could not leave

dad as he was suffering from asthma.

When my husband came to meet me and ask for my hand in marriage I was hesitant as he was

building border roads along the India- China border. But mom and dad liked him. She believed

he would achieve greater things in life. He was educated, polite, courteous, and his ability to

get along with people was his trump card! Her instinct proved to be correct. He became the

Project Director of the first indigenous missile project in India and went on to win many laurels

in both the army and civilian organizations.

My mother while at school was inspired by a Swiss teacher who taught her painting. She

continued to paint for forty years and held five exhibitions of her paintings. Initially she refused

to sell her paintings saying that she wanted to gift them to her children and grandchildren.

Finally, she gave in to my persuasion and sold her paintings. She gave the proceeds to an orphanage and to a home that took care of mentally ill destitute women. She set an

example to the whole family.

Mom was very talented. She played the Veena, a stringed instrument. She could sing classical

Indian songs called Carnatic music. She encouraged me to learn classical dance. She would erect

a stage in one of the halls with benches and make jewelry with cardboard, silver and gold

paper, sequins and beads. We would invite children from the neighborhood and entertain

them! Later in life when I became the Principal of a school, I staged about 20 plays in the

school. My love for dance, music and theater was nurtured by my mother.

She fought a losing battle with lung cancer. In the last six months of her life, she painted seven

oil paintings. She helped her five children, twelve grandchildren, her kith and kin, the

orphanage and the home for the mentally ill, till the end. She stood by my father through thick

and thin. Her dream was realised when my dad became the Advocate General, a Judge of the

High Court and a Law Minister!

I regard my mother as a role model, a friend, a protector and an angel in the guise of a mother!

In my eyes, mom always knew best…

 

K.NALINI

Serene Urbana