Sixty years ago in the month of July, I lost my mother. She died of breast cancer and was cremated on the banks of the Hooghly in what was then called Calcutta where my father was posted then. She was just 42 and I was 15 years and a half.
Every child loves his/her mother and sees all virtues in her. The loss of one’s mother is a very personal and private l matter and unless you are wanting to seek attention or sympathy from others you should not advertise it , especially so when it is a 60 –year- old event.
I seek neither sympathy nor attention. Yet I felt an inner urge to share it with those who, I thought, genuinely felt for me in this world of fake emotions and false love.
My mother was the first woman graduate of our family and the first woman to do an out-of-home job. She taught in a school in Jaipur after her marriage in the year 1944. To us today these are very minor achievements but in the context of the social environment of pre-Independence India when women would hardly come out of their homes and will hide their faces in veils even at home, it was nothing less than revolutionary. Her going out for a job was frowned upon by other ladies in the family and in the neighborhood.
Her stepping out for a job was even more remarkable as she hailed from Mainpuri, a backward district of central-west U.P. which did not have electricity and piped water till the mid-1950s. It did not have even a middle school for girls at that time.
Inspired by her father, an advocate and Arya Samaj leader, and her step-mother, my mother developed a modern outlook on life. She shunned all senseless religious practices and rituals and rejected superstitions. There was no TV or radio the and newspapers will hardly reach small districts. Yet she kept herself well informed about what was happening on the national scene and very much wished to join the Gandhian movement. As was natural for middle-class families then her wish was not granted by her parents. However, her emotional attachment to the national freedom struggle gave her a broad and open outlook on life and an attitude of sacrifice and service before self which was quite different from the self-centered approach of an average housewife attached to worldly possessions. She largely shaped my mental makeup as a child.
To people motivated by Gandhian thought in the Hindi-speaking North, English was a symbol of slavery and Hindi a vehicle of revolutionary thought. My mother’s love of Hindi was not the love for a language but for the spirit of nationalism. She did some certificate courses in Hindi and became a small-time poet and through this gave expression to her suppressed feelings and emotions. After her death so early our house became a disorganized home and a register containing poems written by her was lost. This has remained a lasting regret with me throughout my life.