Deboshree Bhattacharjee reminisces about growing up with her mother in the next story for our ‘Lessons From Ma‘ writing theme.
Deboshree, in her own words: Stories delight me and I tell them often. They lurk everywhere, around us and in hidden crannies. I like to look for them and then set them going. When I am not doing that, I am reading and reviewing books, travelling and studying media.
I grew up in a competitive neighbourhood. You know, where every other person you meet in the marketplace is mum to a Class Tenth topper. In the households that did not have such a claim to fame, there were toddlers who went to violin classes. So, basically, if you wanted to shine the brightest, you had to ferret out a USP.
In those days, I was a very shy nut to crack. My report cards said: “A very bright kid but doesn’t mix much.” We would have ‘counsellors’ pouring in by the dozen. “My son goes running in the park every evening. He even does a bit of cycling.” “You could send her to dancing classes. My little one is a star there.” Mum would listen to everyone and supplement the discussion with glasses of cool sherbet. After we had the house to ourselves again, we would sit down and work at my school project.
I would draw animals and she would be by design-advisor. I learnt that elephants are usually grey. But, I would think, their ear might as well have an off-white patch. While I never became much of a dancer or runner, mum made sure I became a thinker.
Oh, we worked on the shyness too. Mum and I would ride horses in Mussoorie and whisper into their ears; “What did he tell you?” “He asked me when we would be back!” There lived in our home a mini-menagerie: chubby cats and playful kittens, visiting-birds in the front garden, street dogs who stopped by for a meal. I would spend my holidays talking to them and pestering Mum to arrange for some extra ‘holiday-milk’. Mum would be my badminton-playmate, my captive audience for a dance on some filmy song. When I would get down the school bus, she would be grinning from ear to ear. I would smile at her in awe. She looked like orange juice, a red hair-band and Enid Blyton, all at once.
To this day, mum is my mirror. She cannot stop beaming when someone talks about their kid stealing the thunder in a college fest. Dad and I can but shake our heads when she arranges for a shawl and a greeting card for the elderly lady who just had a birthday. When I feel proud of something I just did, I think of her and feel a hundred times happier. Likewise, when I am down and out, I know how she is the one person who will not tire of my sobbing. She has all the patience in the world when it comes to correcting a wrongdoing, celebrating a cause or being nice to someone who looks like they need a smile. It is another story that her store of patience runs out when someone drops a bag of garbage right in front of our gate.
“Oh, they all grow up,” said an aunt of mine, many moons ago. Mum and I, devouring candy at the roadside stall, had brought that on. Well, all I know is, no matter how many years pass me by, the lessons I have learnt from mum will never be put to dust. There is a lot I need to know about life and living, about being human and humane. When it comes to mum, I will forever be her little baby; cradled in her arms, safe from the big, bad world.
And she, in her lovely chiffon salwar and a book in hand, will forever be mum.
*Photo credit: sirwiseowl (Used uner the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Congrats Deboshree! You win a copy of Chicken Soup For The Indian Mother’s Soul and Bringing Up Vasu from Westland Books.
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