Today is her birthday. Actually no-one in the family exactly knows what the date is. My sister in-law suggests it was on 10th, while father-in-law insists it is on 2nd. When she was admitted for knee replacement surgery earlier this year, the patient tag stated 2.06.1940. I’m celebrating birthday of a woman who one year back became my mother-in-law, just a month before i’ve lost my mom in Kyiv. Nothing less than a gift and a blessing maintaining balance of life.
I met her for the first time during two-day Pune visit in July 2011. Last stop on my 20-days India tour, The Queen of Deccan was raining cats-and-dogs. After attending 7.30 am meditation at Sahaj Marg Nanded ashram, my husband-to-be had invited me and my friend for breakfast at home, where he stayed with parents, sister and her children. Streets were flooded with muddy rainfall waters mingled with stones from the hills. We stopped by the local halwai to pick up crunchy samosas along with red hot-n-sweet sauce and salted burnt green chilli pods.
Small aged woman with eye-catching red bindi on forehead and salt-and-pepper thin braid, opened the door, smiling kindly. Her natural plumpness was masterly hidden under mustard yellow tailored salwar kameez with single tone viscose dupatta.
Softly directing to dark-brown sofa with fabric finish next to simple wooden cabinet, she waddled into the open kitchen. Our savoury breakfast was meticulously packed in old newspaper and secured with good piece of yarn. She lingered at dining table slowly distributing freshly deep fried samosas into large metal thalis. We ate in white-tiled living room with faint side-lit walls which looked gloomy on that cloudy day. I would learn a year later that in monsoon all days are like that.
She was gingerly asking in hindi how i liked India so far. Sudhir juggled questions and answers in hindi-english-hindi bouncing off him from opposite sides of the room.
Mother-in-law was the first to welcome, when we crossed the threshold of the same home 4 years later after fast-paced court marriage ceremony. Nothing has changed except that old sofa was swapped to same, new one. Like that day, she was there to open the door, holding pujan thali in one hand and smearing our foreheads with vermillion-rice paste tilakas, with the other.
Ever since she is the one who cuddles and dotes on me every time we drop in for dinner after office. My hindi and her english improve slowly, but whatever little i know is good enough to understand if i should make chai, get her medicine or take out atta from the fridge.
When she entered home, week after knee replacement operation she said in english: “Your mother is a brave girl!” Everyone laughed, disguising the pride deep inside that at her age she actually did it. Daily we see her recovering, observing with pleasure how her penguin walk transforms into straight confident steps, now without a stick.
I didn’t know her name till recently we filed papers in hospital. In indian household everyone calls each other by position in the family, rather than by name. So i never knew how to call her except mom, or mummy ji, as my husband lovingly says. Her name is Kanta. I wish her a very happy birthday and daily sheer joy of walking confidently on her own.