Welcome to my world of dreams where imagination and reality, fancy and truth, laughter and tears move hand in hand. I will let you have a glimpse at the share of my own sky, sometimes sunshine bright, sometimes with dark cloud and gloomy rain. I am that memory which will remain with you as a serene glow of moonlight. I am that thought which will nurture your soul like a whisper of mountain breeze. I am that dream which will haunt your being like a ferocious gushing brook.
I wanted to write about my mother. Written words are different from those spoken. For spoken words disappear like snow flakes in a bright sun ray. But written ones remain like a painting work on the inner dome of the ceiling of a palace. They bear history and tolerate rushes of thoughts and memories.
As I sit here, far away from her, busy with rituals of daily chores, odd jobs and other paraphernalia, listening to brisk orders, interrupted by mobile phones, I suddenly, almost entirely forget my real situation and easily drift into the past, into my childhood and all I could think is of my Mom.
And when I think of my childhood the only scene that comes to me is how Mom would tuck me in and sit on the edge of my bed smoothing my hair and humming a song from an old Hindi movie – 'nanhi kali sone chali hawa dhire aana'(breeze blow tenderly for my little delicate flower will sleep) – and how even at that young age my eyes would well up with tears at the upsurge of emotion and so much love that I would feel for her.
From the time I was very small I was fascinated with her. Despite my father’s several attempts to engross me it’s been Mom for whom my face would always brighten up. To me Mom has been the most glamorous person in the world. Her milk-white complexion, butter smooth skin, straight Grecian nose, a forehead etched with confidence has always been my source of fascination and secret envy. She would move with the grace of a deer, rustle of her clothes - like a forest breeze to me! I would hate her going to office. I would hide her bags or money-purse so that she stays back. And once she’s gone I would keep holding her sari close to my chest as the soft cotton swish and the smell of her body would make me feel at ease.
My mother is a remarkable woman who could have been a reputed university professor if she hadn't taken up a government job to support her mother at a very early age. She is an ingenious, hyperactive, liberal, a woman-of-substance who can tell each and every episode and section of Ramayana and Mahabharata faultlessly with authentic names of characters that are main, important, supporting ones, not so important and unimportant, bringing it all to life better than any movie or any television soap ever did. She is a voracious reader with a powerful memory and the combination would make her answer every question be it 'kaun banega krorepati' (who would become a millionaire) or Bournvita quiz on television with such an ease that it puts my degrees to shame. Also there is just no crossword puzzle existing in any Bengali newspaper or magazine, old or new, that she has not attempted and could not finish!
She is a voracious reader. As long as her eyes would hold out, she has a book in her hand and while she enjoys RK Narayan and Navanita Deb Sen for their simplicity, ponders over the depth of Tagore and Bibhutibhushan, loves Joy Goswami, Mahasweta Devi, Jibanananda das, Buddhadeva Bose and many others whose names are not known to me, she never has shied away from reading heavier tomes in English. I am not very well conversant with Bengali Literature but if today I have read everything of Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Sharadindu, Leela majumder, Ashapurna Devi then the entire credit just goes to Mom and it is only her who instilled a deep sense of spirituality and the depth of the philosophy of life, with certain values that I still vehemently carry within myself. Till date most of the anecdotes and stories that I share in the class with my management students are those that I gathered from her. Teachings of Paramahangsa Ramakrishna Dev and Swami Vivekananda are in her blood stream and she keeps sharing them with me and my son often. In keeping with her philosophy, she never gives up reading anything she is not comfortable with. She has lived her life with the constant optimism that there will always be new and exciting things in life and one should always look forward to life with childlike enthusiasm. She refuses to criticize things she does not fully appreciate.
My mother had a very severe childhood thanks to my grand father’s gambling habits and spent the best time of her life wondering about how to finish her studies with such meager financial support. What I find remarkable about her personality is what she is ‘not’, despite the rigid orthodoxy and the constant pinching penny atmosphere of her upbringing. Yet she has lived her entire life with a sense of wonder at the world that has never diminished despite the losses of life.
Her greatest strength is the ability to not be rigid about anything, not her beliefs, not tradition or for that matter, her opinions. With her I was brought up in an atmosphere of rich culture and education. The movies that have been appreciated and enjoyed in our house are those of Satyajit Ray, Goutam Ghose, Ritwik Ghatak, Bimal Roy, Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh. And yet she would appreciate a dancing Bollywood flick with equal gusto.
I have just remembered, the other day we were having tea together during my last Kolkata trip, and how she confessed with a sheepish grin that she has always admired actors like Guru dutt and Soumitra Chatterjee lovingly and with a naughty smile and a twinkle in her eyes told me that whenever she sees Movie actor Rahul Bose or TV actor Ronit Roy she just cant stop wishing that she had been young one more time, and how we giggled together as she was hushing me up saying my Dad shouldn’t come to know of this! Mom has read Mills and Boons and Sidney Sheldon just as confidently as she has enjoyed Milton's Paradise Lost or Chaucer's Canterbury Tales from my M.A. syllabus. She always pushed me, encouraged me, scolded me to take the world upfront instead of being mollycoddling or pampering me. I grew up without being cautious of boundaries of rich and poor, castes, of religious differences or even of boundaries of sexes. She has a constant belief in the possibility of progress.
I’d call her highly tolerant and broadminded, but those are insipid expressions that don’t capture the essence of a complex human being like Mom. The best I can do is say that she is vibrant to all possibilities and problems. Another unique way in which she is different from the rest of her generation is her private belief that old is not necessarily gold. She has always needed to have sound logic and reason behind any rituals or customs and this is what she has passed onto me, though I come across as more obstinate, opinionated, a rebel, sans her modesty and grace. I tend to break rules and she never prevents me or discourages yet with her grave wisdom she would always keep me anchored.
I often get up in the middle of the night with tears streaming down, fearing her gone and how lonely I would be without her. But how much ever I refuse to accept a world without her I know that the world is no more permanent than a rising wave in an ocean and life moves on with all its changes just as naturally as leaves fall from the trees. And I learn, whatever are our struggles and triumphs, I would continue to enjoy being her daughter and her being the nexus of my energy always and forever.