Mom

With Mother’s Day coming up I thought I would take this opportunity to write a few words about my Mom.  And a few words about my Aunts too who have given so much of their affection, time, and love.

Mom:

My Mom was a very confident and powerful woman, with ambitions and aspirations that propelled her in life. I learnt much from my Mom. What I learnt most of all is that love always pays back with more love. I learnt from her to always, always, aspire to be better; to do more with yourself, to not let adversity drag you down, always look at the world in a positive light, and always lend a helping hand. She taught me well.

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My Mom like everybody’s Mom is to them, very special.  What I remember most about my Mom is her loving and giving personality.  Mom never hesitated to lend a hand to anyone and everyone.  Though she was the middle child of a family of 7 siblings, my Mom was the one who her sisters and brothers turned to for help when in need.  My Mom took care of her younger sister’s little 9-month-old son Jonathan while she had to go on tour for the U.S. army in the Gulf War.  My Aunt left Jonathan again in my Mom’s care when he was 12 years old when my aunt got posted in Germany for a few months assignment.

My Mom helped relatives on my Dad’s side of the family as well.  When one of my cousins went through a very tough health crisis at the age of 26, Mom took take care of him for 9 months until he got better.  He is till today grateful for her unwavering care, love, and affection.

I remember a childhood story that my Dad told me about my Mom.  Mom and Dad lived in an apartment complex in Delhi, India after I was born.  Mom had a small veranda with potted plants that she tended to.  She would sweep the veranda every day to keep it clean and dust free.  She noticed that the compound jamadar (caretaker who sweeps homes) was always cold – it gets cold in Delhi in the winter months.  My Mom knits very well, so she made him a sweater and a scarf.  The jamadar started wearing it every day.  In gratitude for her kindness, he started sweeping my Mom’s veranda for her.  The other neighbors noticed this and asked the jamadar to sweep their verandas too, why does my Mom get special treatment they asked of him. To this the jamadar answered, “I am sweeping Madam’s veranda because she saw how cold I was and made a scarf and sweater for me. What have you all done to deserve my extra services?”

These are the loving and caring memories I have of my Mom – always there for her family and others, and always lending a helping hand.

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Mom and I in Delhi

Mom was also the most adventurous, curious, a go-getter, never give up, strive for more, type of person.  She had a Bachelors Degree in Botany.  And then decided to go back to school even after 3 kids to get a Masters degree in Hindi and English.  She eventually became a teacher.  Then she wanted to specialize, so she got a Montessori degree.  She learnt how to fly, yes! Like a pilot’s license.   If she were alive today, she would be taking classes on web design and anything else new and exciting

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Mom with my sisters Banu and Shobha

My Mom loved gardening!  She was a passionate gardener.  If you think I love gardening, my Mom was ten times crazier about it!  I remember she would spend hours and hours in her garden.  She would do all the labor-intensive work herself; like digging, tilling, and weeding. Sometimes she would ask my brother Kiran to do the tilling for her, but the planting she would always do herself. Mom would lose track of time while working in her garden.  I remember times when as kids we would go outside and ask her, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” and she would look up and ask, “What time is it?” It would be almost 7pm!  She would run inside and whip up something fast for dinner.

Because she was Botany major in college, she would even play around with pollinating vegetables and flowers.  She was so crazy about plants that she would “smuggle” plants and seeds into the country.  She would hide them in her purse and hope that security wouldn’t catch her. She succeeded a few times too. Mom loved gardening, that was her passion.

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There are so many fond memories I have of my Mom.  I remember her mailing packages to me every 4 months after I got married.  These packages had all her homemade spice mixes, snacks, and pickles.  My Dad would grumble that she was spending hours cooking all this stuff and making a big mess in the kitchen.  But she ignored him completely, and continued to make and send this package to me for years after I got married.   Sadly the time when she passed away was when she was visiting me in California to see our new home.  And sure enough, one of her two suitcases was packed full of all her homemade spice mixes, snacks, and pickles. That batch of food had never tasted so good!

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Mom, Sri as a baby, and I

Mom made it possible for our family to live a happy and successful life here in America.  She wanted a better life for her three girls and felt India at that time (in the 1970s) didn’t offer many opportunities for women. So with the help of her sister Uma who sponsored us all, we arrived in America in 1978.  By this time my brother Kiran was born and was just 5 months old.

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Mom, Kiran and Sri

My Mom and Dad both worked hard to provide a better life for all of us.  In the early years my Dad worked as a banker during the day and worked at Target in the evenings. For a few years Mom worked as a teacher during the day and at the 7Eleven store working the night shift. Hard work did pay off.  Eventually Mom started a successful daycare and pre-school in Shreveport, Louisiana. This was what she was meant to do.  The kids loved her and the parents adored her!  Mom loved it. She had finally arrived at her calling!

At the age of 58, my Mom died young 17 years ago. During that short-lived life, she made a huge impact on the people and the world around her.  What I learnt from her unexpected demise is that life is a gift.  Live life to the fullest. Enjoy all the little moments.  Make lots of fond memories.  Love and be kind to the people around you, and don’t settle for less; always strive to be a better person.  Look at the world like a salad bar – full of colorful possibilities in all shapes, sizes, and flavors – and all good for you.

Mom, I probably never said this to you enough,  “Thank you for all that you did for us. I love you!”

Mom (Mom-in-law)

Mom (Mom-in-law) like my Mom is a dynamic, forward thinking, outgoing, and loving lady.  There is a reason my Mom and Mom-in-law hit it off!  They were both two peas in a pod – both confident and vivacious women.  Mom-in-law is a traditional feminist at heart who from the day I got married always told me to stand up for myself and to not let my new husband (Hitesh, her son) be the dominant partner in the relationship.  That this was a marriage of equals.  Can you believe it?  These words coming from an Indian Mom with a son? Over the years she has partaken of much wisdom on life and how to be a strong woman.  After my Mom died, I remember she said “I know I can never replace your Mom, but if you can think of me as Mom I am here for you.”  Of course at that time I had no intention of doing that. I was bitter at my Mom’s early passing.  But today, years later, I see how Mom-in-law has slowly filled the gap that my Mom left behind.

I always admired my Mom-in-law’s tenacity and will power to get up and dust herself off and keep moving forward no matter what life threw her way.  Mom-in-law was in a near fatal accident in India 15 years ago.  She was in the hospital in intensive care for over 3 months, we didn’t know if she would make it. But the amazing thing was her positive attitude through it all.  She came out of it weak and with a damaged arm that had been repaired but is almost non functional, yet that didn’t stop her from continuing her vibrant life just the way she lived before.

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What always brings a smile to my face when I think of Mom-in-law is her passion for looking good and put together, specifically her love of saris. She has exquisite taste in saris and she will wear two a day sometimes if she has an event that day to go to.  Even at the age of 80 she takes the time and energy to look good. She will not compromise on wearing her beautiful saris every single day!  I really admire this about her.  When I am with her, lounge pants feel rather sloppy.  When I am with her, I too want to look good and put together.

Mom-in-law is also an amazing cook. She loves to cook. She told me once that if she had the opportunities that women have today, she would have started a catering company or a restaurant.  She would have been very successful too. Her food is delicious. Maybe not as healthy; she likes to use salt, oil, sugar, butter – all the things that we are trying to avoid these days.  She has changed her cooking style to adapt to today’s healthier eating ways. Though she still reminisces of the days when people didn’t worry so much about all these healthy habits 🙂

She doesn’t realize it but she makes my day when she looks so happy to see me when we Facetime with her on the weekend.  She always looks thrilled to talk to me; to know that I can make another person smile like that, that just warms my heart.  I do admire her, respect her, and love her positive attitude to life. Thank you Mom-in-law for always being so kind to me.

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Mom (Mom-in-law) and Sri

Thanga Mami

My Aunty Thanga will always have a special place in my heart.  Thanga Mami did the most motherly of all acts – came to San Jose and helped me when I had my twin girls Anjali and Rani.  My Mom had passed away 2 years earlier, so when I was expecting twins, Hitesh and I were in a bind as to whom to reach out to for help.  My Mom was not here, and my Mom-in-law recently had her major accident making it impossible for her to travel to come and help us.  So in desperation we reached out to my aunty Thanga Mami in Houston who was retired at that time and doing consulting work.  She was a huge fan of my Mom; they became very close in the years before my Mom passed away.  She agreed to come and help us.  Thanga Mami reminded me that she was doing this as a favor to my Mom.  I was fine with that, it didn’t matter to me why she was doing it, I just needed her help. She said she needed a few weeks to get things in order back home before she could come, and she arrived 6 weeks after the twins were born.

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Thanga Mami came into our lives like a Mama hurricane. She took over the house.  She ordered Hitesh and Dad around to go get groceries, to take care of Sri, to get some specialty items for her to make sweets and snacks, told them when she needed the car so she could go out, and she took over the kitchen.  Hitesh and Dad were okay with all of it.  She cooked non- stop; breakfast, lunch, dinner. We loved it! We could focus on taking care of the babies now and not worry about anything else. She would make special dishes that she said were good for new Moms, she would tell us old wives remedies for colic and other baby illnesses.

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Thanga Mami was full of life and positive energy. She would share stories of her and my Mom’s early days when they were newly married and living in the same town.  She told us how they helped each other after they had kids and shared many nostalgic stories of their younger lives.  She filled the house with love and happiness; it was like having Mom here to help us.

The 3 weeks that she helped us flew by too fast.  She was ready to go home. She decided that instead of flying back home to Texas she would go on road trip back home.  She asked her son Nando to accompany her, and Mother and son decided to go together via Las Vegas and Grand Canyon all the way back to Texas. I asked Thanga Mami why she wasn’t flying back home. To which she answered, “I’m saving my return ticket to come back next year so I can see these babies again.”  I was so thrilled to hear that I would see her again!  I was happy now for her fun road trip ahead. But Thanga Mami never made it back to Texas.  She passed away on that road trip in a car accident. I will never forget the day we got that phone call.

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Thanga Mami did the most Motherly of all gestures. Come and help me when I needed her the most – after giving birth to babies.  I will always be grateful for her kindness, her love, and affection.  I hope her sons (Shaunth, Nando, Prem, & Pradeep) know that their Mom, Thanga Mami will always have a very special place in my heart!

Masi & Nishma

The babies arrived 6 weeks early! They were tiny – only 2 1/2 – 3 lbs.  Our doctor told us our job was to feed them every 30 minutes for the next few weeks so they could put on some pounds.  Hitesh and I barely got any sleep, all we thought about was feeding the babies; food for our family and ourselves didn’t even cross our mind. This is when our friend Nishma and Masi (Nishma’s Mother-in-law) came to our rescue.  Like Angels of Mercy, from the time I was in the hospital with the babies, Masi sent homemade food for me.

After we came home, a few of my friends like Devi, Swati, Pallavi, Radhika, Namita, and Amita brought food for the first week.  After this, Masi and Nishma offered to make food for us for 3 more weeks, until my aunty  Thanga Mami came. We couldn’t accept, that was too much for us to ask. But Masi and Nishma insisted. A new Mom needs homemade healthy food they said, we insist on making food for you.

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Every day for 3 weeks Nishma would call us in the evening that dinner was ready.  Masi made special food for me – food that was supposed to be good for new Moms who are breast feeding, and Nishma made dinner for Hitesh, Dad, and Sri.  They did this tirelessly every day for 3 weeks! I remember getting a call one day from Nishma apologizing that she couldn’t make food for Hitesh and Dad, but Masi would still make my dinner.  Seriously? Apologize? For what?  She had already done so much, why was she apologizing!

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Hitesh, my Dad, and I to this day remember Nishma and Masi’s kindness.  How does one thank such wonderful people?  Like a Mom and a sister, Masi and Nishma came to my rescue when I needed them the most. For this I am forever grateful!

My Aunty Uma

Uma Chithi (chithi means younger aunty in Tamil) has come into my life in full force in the last couple of years.  With her phone calls to check up on my family, my life, and me I feel like my Mom is checking up on me.  Uma Chithi always remembers my Mom in her conversations, and shares so many nostalgic stories of their younger days when they were all young and married with little kids and met often as families.

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Her stories are always uplifting and positive of bygone days when extended families lived close by, making it easier to be with each other and build life long bonds.  Uma Chithi keeps my Mom’s memories alive with all her wonderful stories.

Anjana Aunty:

Anjana Aunty is my Mom’s best friend!  They first met in Houston in 1980 and became the best of friends.  Both women are strong, confident women who wanted to conquer the world, do things with their lives, make things happen, and they weren’t going to let anything stop them.  Anjana Aunty saw how much my Mom enjoyed being a Montessori teacher and asked Mom for advice on how she could do the same.  With my Mom’s help, Anjana Aunty got a Montessori degree.  Eventually, both of them had to move away from Houston.  Mom and Dad moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and Anjana Aunty moved to Atlanta, Georgia.  But that didn’t deter them from seeing each other often. My Mom would make road trips up to Atlanta to see Anjana Aunty and vice versa.

Anjana Aunty started a successful Montessori School in Atlanta.  She is doing very well in this profession, and her kids and parents adore her!  Just like my Mom!  Mom would be very proud of Anjana Aunty!  Anjana Aunty was devastated when she heard of our Mom’s passing.  She was in shock and would call me sometimes and say, “I can’t believe she is gone Dolly. I just can’t believe it. I really loved your Mom a lot.”

For over 15 years now since my Mom’s passing Anjana Aunty has been calling all of us – me, my sisters Shobha and Banu, my brother Kiran, and my Dad to check up on us.  She will call a few times every year whether we call her back or not.  She doesn’t give up, she will consistently call us.  Sometimes when she got me live on the phone, we reminisced about my Mom.  Anjana Aunty loves sharing stories about my Mom.

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Then last year Anjana Aunty called and said she was going to be in the Bay Area and wanted to meet up.  Bay Area is huge so we weren’t sure if this would be possible.  As coincidence would have it, she was visiting Santa Clara University where Sri goes to college!  I told Anjana Aunty to come over to my home and she stopped by with her husband and granddaughter.  We spent a wonderful afternoon sharing happy memories of my Mom.  What an amazing friend my Mom found in Anjana Aunty, that she still keeps in touch with her best friend’s (my Mom) kids to keep her memory alive.  Love you Anjana Aunty for all that you are and more!

Happy Mother’s Day!

32 thoughts on “Mom”

  1. Kalpana – this post tops everything you have written so far in your various posts. It is full of sincere emotions, admiration, love, and gratitude for all the wonderful women in your life. You have been blessed with many, many amazing women. Sounds like your mother (and mother-in-law) was especially a truly remarkable woman. Happy (early) Mother’s Day to you. You are a fabulous role model to not only your daughter’s, but to all of us.

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    1. Thank you Roli for all your very kind words. I am indeed very fortunate to have so many wonderful women in my life – you are one of them! Wish you a fabulous Mother’s Day!

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  2. Kalpana writes so beautifully. Her post was so loving, honest and full of tender moments. I truly believe she could write a novel. Elyse

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  3. Absolutely loved your story, especially pictures! Your mom was a beautiful person inside and out and you look like her so much! Thank you for sharing, it was very touching! Iya Browne

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  4. Happy Mother’s Day Kalpana!
    I must have cried (after reading this article) for good 10min but felt good after. During that time,I thought of my Mom and am really looking forward to seeing my parents this summer. I vaguely remember cooking meals for you but your Dad always reminds me and I’m glad I was able to help out. For that I have to thank my Mom for instilling these values in us. This article made me think about my Mom and how blessed I am to have her in my life, only to realize that many of these blessings can be traced right back to her. I am so grateful for her presence cause I know she is always there for guidance and advice. It makes me feel secure in my job as a parent. We are all blessed to have such wonderful parents that we can look up to and role models for generations to come. There is no way to thank our MOMS for all they’ve done for us, but will try to thank them by living a life that we know will make them proud of us.
    Nishma

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  5. Hi Dolly ,
    I just got back from south Hong Kong and received the best gift some one can give for not only mothers day but for life.
    Still today I miss her and you all. Many times I recall all my memories when we spent at Mr nick’s school. Where kiran was in my class. We used to joke. And just laugh And have fun, I can go on and on. It was a great loss that can never be forgotten, you all are very special to me and your lovely two girls. Love to see Hitesh in future. I loved my friend. Can not be replaced with any one, I still have some of our pictures. I will be at Lagoona on mothers day with Pikloo till 24th hope to see you if I can come. Would love to see Anjali and Rani. Please
    make a trip to Atlanta and bring Hitesh.
    Happy Mother’s Day to you, enjoy your lovely kids.
    Love Anjana auntie

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  6. Feelings beyond words! Dolly, you are a wonderful daughter and Mom too. You and your sisters and brother also contributed to Raji’s success in life, Dolly. I recall the days you were working even while in school to help the family when we were settling down in our early days of our American life.
    A moving write-up beyond again words to describe.
    Happy and wonderful Mother’s Day and your endeavour to emulate Raji!
    Be an example for others to follow …. Bhagwan Lord Krishna’s advice to Arjuna Chapter 3-21 Bhagvad Gita, (all readers of tthis blog)

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  7. Dear Kalpana, thanks for sharing such poignant thoughts and feelings with us. An honor and a gift. I loved how inclusive you were starting with your mom and including others who had been and continue to be nurturing. Your memory is remarkable and it’s clear you have a heart of gratitude. You are blessed and you in return you are blessing to many of us. I am thankful for our friendship. Happy Mother’s Day. Much love. Stella

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  8. The best blog I have ever read. Beautifully written, full of heart and authentic. A true reflection of the author.

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  9. Well written Dolly — straight from the heart. Ganesh always used to tell me that I had a few traits like his Raji Mami. He was extremely fond of her & Indeed grateful for taking good care of him . She was in a way instrumental in bringing us closer — she encouraged him to court me & asked him to give me a perfume that she bought in London( I still have it ). Every time she came to chennai & stayed with us – I got to learn from her to love life . We used to chat till late in the night & loved watching Hindi movies on TV. Her smile just radiated love. To sum up I would say she was bold &. beautiful. Love you Raji Mami . Incidentally the boy leaning on the left side of your dad is Ganesh. love Usha Ganesh

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    1. She loved Ganesh like her own son. And Mom was a big fan of you Usha. She saw a lot of herself in you. I remember how both of you would wear sleveless blouse with your saris in Chennai which was taboo back then 30 years ago, but the two of you defied custom and wore the sleeveless blouse anyway. I remember I admired that about both Mom and you – you were so defiant and thwarted silly customs that made no sense, I can see why both of you got along so well. 🙂

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    1. I haven’t thought this much about my Mom in a long time too. Even I cried a lot today, especially after reading everyone’s comments. Like you said it’s good to cry again.

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  10. Your post on your Mom and aunts was so well written and heart warming to read. What a great tribute to your lovely Mom! Very inspirational and beautiful and tears were rolling down as I read the
    article. We can clearly see the values instilled by your Mom in you and you in turn are a wonderful
    Mom for your beautiful girls! I’m so very lucky to have a friend like you for life.
    🌹💐 Devi

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    1. Devi, reading all my friends and familiy’s comments on this post about my Mom makes me emotional. I didn’t shed a tear when I wrote this story, but somehow reading all the comments that came through brings tears to my eyes. Devi, you are an amazing Mom and Grandma, your kids and grandkids adore you! And you are a loving and caring friend, I thank you for that!
      Happy Mother’s Day! love, Kalpana

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  11. Dolly – What a beautiful & timely post! Thank you in particular for your kind words about Pradeep’s mom. It would have been a joy for the kids & I to have known her. Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you have a lovely day!! Rushmi

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  12. Kalpana Sheth – this is by far the best blog post you have written . Raji was always selfless and believe it or not my dad loved her persona ( Cheerful and ever smiling). She came to our house to ask for my hand in marriage for her brother , my dad said ” Just by looking at this sister , i know the family is very cultured. ” When my dad visited Raji in London , she cooked a delicious feast for him and even sent that beautiful Green Stone Necklace for me . ( sorry . i still have not sent it to Sree – i will ) . What dad admired most about Raji was her tenacity to succeed even while in London , she specialized in Montessori training and also worked a job . I recall how she made all the Montessori Materials ( like wooden Blocks) etc with her own bare hands .Like my mom, she loved to knit and sow – she was very energetic and her fingers did the talking – sowing , knitting , cooking , gardening etc etc …. Mostly , she was genuinely fond of all her siblings with no ulterior motive . My hubby thought the world of her and always told me how she was kindness personified in his last days . No wonder , raji’s Good Karma is protecting her children and you guys are all reaping the good seeds she planted . At times , Raji was abrasive but even that the underlying motive was only Love , pure unconditional love . My regret is in her zest to do so much , she neglected that ” carotid” artery surgery … Deepika learned so much from her just by observing and dhruva ‘s favorite is Raji athai . Funny thing , she never applied make up and still looked so charming because of her heartwarming smile and perfect figure . Also , when your dad’s mom used to visit her in Delhi , she used to take bath early morning in Delhi’s Cold Winter and observe all the practices expected from an Ideal daughter in law . Both your mom and dad are exceptional and Raji inspired and motivated your dad too – She was adventurous and he was rock solid , no risk taker . Tears are rolling down as i am writing this ……. Shashi thinks of raji as her own mom, not a big sister … i think of her as my own big sister …… thanks ….. Love, Vinatha Mami

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  13. Like always you know how to make one feel special! Wonderful tribute to all the poweful women in your life! Heartwarming and uplifting. I am sure Sri Rani and Anjali are proud to have a model mom like you!
    Fortunate to be a friend!
    Thanks for sharing these memories!
    Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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  14. You have a beautiful life full of loving family and friends. You are very blessed. I feel lucky to be part of your life and I aspire to be as good and as kind as you are. :-). Xoxo.

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    1. Van, I am truly blessed to have a loving family and a wonderful group of amazing friends – of which you are most definitely one of them! Thank you for your kind words. love, Kalpana

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    2. Happy Mother’s Day Van! I know what you have been doing to help your son recover from his injury, it is truly amazing how much of yourself you have given to help in his recovery, your sons are fortunate to have you and Ting as their parents!

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  15. What a wonderful tribute to your mom, your aunties, and to your friends, Kalpana! Your stories are all so sweet and poignant – such a delight to read! Thank you for sharing your stories – they’re all so heartwarming, inspiring, and uplifting! You, yourself, are a model mom; that, I can attest! Happy Mother’s Day, my dear friend!!!💝💐

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    1. Happy Mother’s Day Rose! I wasnt sure if I should post this story, I thought folks may not enjoy reading it, but I am so happy to see that the post is well received. As always thank you for all your comments and positive feedback. Much appreciated! Love, Kalpana

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