Amma

In My Meditation Today: Your highest wisdom and deepest truth reside in the deep stillness within you. Always. If you feel unworthy, or question your path, all that has happened is that your connection to that wisdom is broken or blocked. Sit still. Go into that deep still place within. In that silence, you will hear your voice, your true voice. As I have become more familiar with that silence within, I have discovered hidden treasures. The most precious of them all – an ability to reconnect with the spirit of my Mom.

I have been planning this blog for months. I thought knew what I wanted to write in it. But, I struggled with it. I loved the way I was able to write about my Grandma. It felt like an apt tribute. It feels different with Mom. I wanted it to be as beautiful and powerful, but it just was not flowing.

Not surprising I guess because this is about my Amma. She was my closest friend and only true confidant for the 19 years that she was with me. Every conversation I had with a friend, she knew about. Every verse that moved me in English class, she would hear about. Each new version of every dream I had, she would be asked to weigh in on. And then …in eight minutes.. the eight minutes that it took the plane that she was in to take off and crash into the seas surrounding Bombay, she was gone.

My Mom, Dad and Grandma. Picture taken at my brother's wedding barely a month before she died on Dec 31st 1977
My Mom, Dad, and Grandma. This picture was taken at my brother’s wedding barely a month before she died on Dec 31st, 1977

So, each time I began to write this post, it would veer off into stories about how I missed her; what I wished I had said, or not said; questions that I wanted to ask her but never had; triumphs I wanted to share with her, etc. When I finally realized that the problem was that I was making the post about me and my loss instead of her and her life, I gained a little traction.

So, here finally is my attempt to tell you about her.

My Mom is the reason that I am the mother I am today. She was honest. Honest about her fears, about what she was sure of and what she did not know. She spoke to me like an adult all the way through which is quite remarkable considering that I was barely technically an adult when she died.

She nurtured the unwavering spirit of independence in me; I know it frightened her at times and made her uncomfortable, but she never let that crush my spirit.

The deep, unshakeable belief that I have, that you cannot break a child’s spirit, that you cannot twist them to fit into a mold that you want – that comes from her.

She also taught me through example why having a profession and interests besides your immediate and extended family, is an essential part of becoming a whole woman. One who expresses all of herself. She showed me that it was ok for a woman to have a profession not because she needed it but because she wanted it.

She even taught me that at times it was ok to feel angry and mean and say it out aloud, “ I know you think I should behave differently,” she said to the bossy, judgmental teenager that I was, “ But this is how I feel, and I am not perfect.”

Now, let me tell you about her encounter with a money-lender…

It was late afternoon & she & I were alone in an apartment in a suburb of Bombay. The doorbell rang. When I opened the door, there was a short, squat fair-skinned old man and next to him was a humongous bouncer. “ I am Sidhwa,” the old guy said to mom, as he sat himself down on the couch, “ Your husband has borrowed a lot of money from me. Do you see this bouncer here? If he does not give me the money back in a month, this guy is going to take care of business.”

Mom & I were sitting next to each other on a futon that was low on the floor. I was about 15 at the time. My heart was beating fast and loud; my hands balled into fists, and eyes wide, I looked at my Mom.
She patted my hand, as she said softly,

“ Yes Mr. Sidhwa, my husband owes you money. Yes, he has not paid it back as he promised and that is wrong. But people fall upon hard times and sometimes have to borrow money and cannot pay it back as promised. That is where he is right now. As soon as he has the money, I know that he will pay you back every penny he owes you. But hear me well Mr. Sidhwa, if you touch a hair on his head or harm him physically in anyway because he owes you money, I guarantee you that you will not see a penny of the money that you are owed. I will see to that.”

To say Mr. Sidhwa was nonplussed is to put it mildly. He was used to seeing wives burst into tears, fall at his feet, beg and plead with him to spare their husband. Not quite sure what to do he said,

“ Well, I will come and tell everyone in your school that your husband owes money.”
“ Go Ahead,” said mom,” They know about it already.”
Flustered now, “ I will go and tell everyone in your son’s college” he screamed,
“ That is also ok,” she said.
“Well, you think you are very clever Madam! I am going to go and talk to your husband!” he said as he & his bouncer stormed out of the apartment.

Yes – that was my Mom; her Durga, grounded, fierce, undaunted and confident in full display. Small wonder then, that given my lineage, with my grandma and my mom, my Durga, grounded, fierce, undaunted and confident has been known to show up occasionally  🙂

Yes – Amma was with me physically only for the first 19 years of my life, and I have missed her oh so much for years. However, truth be told, she never really left. It was just that I never quite knew how to connect with her. My grief and shock had broken the connection to that deep silence within. As I learn to listen in that silence, I realize that she has been there. Always.

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