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When a young woman has to raise her family of four children in the hinterlands, her courage and self-confidence come to the rescue, in this charming, real-life story of a mother.
I stepped out of the hot, humid bathroom after pouring a whole bucket of cool water on myself during my evening bath. As I stood in front of the mirror, suddenly the reflection seemed so unlike me, yet so familiar.
I stared at the image in the mirror. Never in my life had I thought that I resembled my mother, but today, I looked so like her.
Memories came flooding, of her coming out of the bathroom on summer evenings, dripping little water droplets from her hair while walking to her room. The smell of her soap and talcum powder wafted around me and I smiled at the reflection in the mirror.
I felt at peace and nodded at my acceptance of the full circle of life.
I grew up with the usual rebellious streak of a teenager, always grumpy with my mother. She was responsible and I blamed her for anything bad that happened in my life.
My mother – the barely literate village girl who shone bright with her grit and determination. A big red bindi adorning her big forehead, she looks very much like the late Sushma Swaraj (remember the friendly ex-foreign minister of India?)
The author’s mother as a young woman, standing
We siblings identified her with the big poster of the lioness in her bedroom, which we gaped at since our early childhood. She has the same fierce and independent nature. There are so many stories of her that are worth telling. But her children, the four of us have been the first-hand witnesses to her badassness.
She raised us single-handedly in the wild, wild hinterland of 80s Bihar, the land of daring robberies in the day and chain snatchers roaming the street at any time. When we settled in our first home in the town, it was a tiny house in the midst of a still under-development residential colony. Vast empty plots surrounded it, the remnants of farmlands converted to the city’s ever-spreading suburbs. As our father was in the police service, he was posted in still more remote parts of the state and visited us as and when his duties at work permitted.
The mother lioness had a weapon of her choice to boost confidence in these unique circumstances. Her Dunali – the quintessential rifle stayed with her, getting an annual cleaning and ceremonial firing on Diwali. On rare occasions, mother also flung it with aplomb at miscreants loitering around, firing in the air sometimes to scare them away. It was enough to spread the word and we spent a few fairly uneventful early years. The robbers stayed two lanes away and although we kept hearing stories of them creating a nuisance in the area, they dared not enter our lane.
Physically, she is not your superwoman persona. I have inherited her thin frame and modest height of 5 feet some inches. She stands straight with full confidence though, and that explains why it is said that courage stems in the heart.
I remember and miss her hug today. I realise that I love this super confident, charming and gutsy mom, whose struggles and personality I could appreciate only when I wore her shoes of motherhood.
And I wish to tell her all this when we meet, because she will not read this piece, this simple mother of mine.
All images provided by the author
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