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How I Stood By My Mother During Her Tough Times

My mother was over 40 years when the announcement came that all lecturers needed to complete their doctorate degree to continue to teach.

I was two years old then, happily sitting on my grandma’s lap and smiling at the unknown faces who were keen on pinching my chubby cheeks. After a while, my mom came out of a room and informed my grandma that she got a job, as a botany lecturer in a reputed college. Only later did I come to know of the financial crunch and family issues that had pushed her to take up the job when I was still little.

As I grew up the sight of cockroaches frightened me and this was known to my entire family. What scared me, even more, was the bullying in school. They were my own classmates but I shuddered at their presence. Some silly activities and in the end, I would be in tears. After a while, I informed my mom about this.

“I used to be so scared when I was carrying you. I was even scared to tell others what I was feeling. Finally, I informed your grandfather then who took a lot of effort in bringing out the courage that was just in a deep slumber inside me. So tomorrow when you go to school, just hold your tears, remember me, and don’t consider what they talk about. You will be fine.”

It wasn’t easy to pull through. But I didn’t want to go back to her defeat.

After a while, I asked her, “Ma, aren’t you asking me about those who made me cry?”

“Your two plaits are intact with the black ribbon I tied in the morning. I know you are fine,” she replied.

I did it!

Her smile gave me more confidence. And in the following years, as I fell over situations she never lent her hand.

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She made me find ways to rise again.

She was over 40 years when the announcement came that all lecturers needed to complete their doctorate degree. I was in the tenth grade. It took a year for her to get the necessary approvals along with the right guide. She was all set for her research.

Obstacle 1

Her topic involved more travelling and spending time in the fields. She had to collect algae samples from over twenty districts in south Tamil Nadu. And then processing it later in the lab. Her fear of traveling arose when I was in the twelfth grade. After school, I had everyday tuition for the major subjects, even on weekends. She had constant tabs on my progress. And this time offs felt like a major distraction.

“Ma, I promise I will score well. My exams shouldn’t interfere with your routine. You need to go Ma. I will be fine.”

My confident answer made her go ahead with her schedule. I never wanted to be the reason for her to postpone trips. Though not as the topper, I scored well enough to make her proud.

Obstacle 2

She travelled with three of her batchmates who had enrolled in the same research center. They had to walk through mossy waters and muddy paths. They were stuck with leeches and it was terrible. Something pulled her down. The process was tiresome, and she regretted choosing this difficult topic. Those were the times landlines helped us to stay connected. Every time it would ring, I would rush to pick it up hoping it would be her. Her voice was low and she narrated the happenings.

“Ma, come on, you are a botany lecturer. Catch them in a bottle. Let’s bisect them and see through the microscope. Don’t leave the insects. We shall store them in glass jars using formalin. Why don’t we arrange for an exhibition?”

I sounded like some psycho killer but it made her relax and that’s what I wanted as well. From the next time onwards they were prepared with remedies for insect bites and ways to tackle leeches.

Obstacle 3

After these microscopic organisms were caught and made to rest on petri dishes the next task was to capture their beauty. A microscope with a camera was present in only a few labs. Her research guide helped her to find one. She had to travel 60 km, a place outside the city for capturing them through photographs. After a few months of a back-breaking journey, she presented the photographs to her guide. Unfortunately, he rejected it and explained some norms to be followed.

“Ma, what can you do if those creepy creatures did not pose like a model? Let’s have options. Click them in whatever way possible, some combined, some separately. I am sure your photography skills would reach newer heights now.”

I may have sounded cranky, but she took the struggle again. Again a few more months and then it was approved.

Final Obstacle

A tough battle of five years was coming to an end and she submitted her thesis. Her colleagues submitted theirs after her, but they started receiving their approval letters and were getting prepared for viva voce. Her guide told her to wait but patience was running out.

There was no way I could help speed up the process, in fact, no one could. I felt at that time no words could console her. I was well aware of her secret tears. Every day we were hoping to receive a call from her guide that her approval letter has arrived, but in vain.

She was at a loss for words when friends and relatives kept questioning her for an update. As much as possible I interfered like a nut case and deviated from the topic whenever the discussion arose. That was the least I could do.

After many months passed she received the much-awaited call. Her guide informed her that along with the approval letter she had also received a commendation certificate for her research as it was one of its kind.

Happiness blew us. My grandparents stood proud on seeing her name with the initials ‘DR’. To date, she remarks that it was one of her biggest achievements and I am proud that I too have a place in there.

Image source: YouTube

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