Here I am talking about two important women who had influenced me a lot in my early childhood, before I was 5.
My Mother must have had the influence on everything that I am made of, my character, my attitude towards anything, my habits, my preferences and my choices – yes – practically everything. Right from before I was borne and as I grew up.
Though there were many ladies in the house where I grew up, my father’s sisters and cousin sisters, it was always with my mother I would go whenever we would go far off, basically to my mother’s home, once or twice in a year.
For me, going to my mother’s house was a festive occasion. Preparations would start the previous night and we have to get up very early in the morning because it was a kilometer walk to catch the bus. I would try not to sleep in the night, being afraid that if I wouldn’t wake up in time and others might leave without taking me. Of course, mother would always wake me up at the right time.
Father would come with us but usually would return back the next day leaving us there for almost a month.
Three years back my mother passed away, at the age of 98. Her life had taught me a lot. One of the best lessons I could take from her, was the calm and cool way in which she faced every situation in her life through the joys and sorrows.
Great Grandma was not the mother of my Grandpa. My Grandpa's mother had passed away before I was born and I had never heard her mentioned in conversations.
Great Grandma was the mother of my Grandpa’s cousin brother. She must have been past 80 when I was born and she was almost confined to her room. When I was only about 3 years, I used to have a reluctant nap in the afternoon in her room. The nap was forced on me by elders of the house, because they did not want to me to go alone and play outside. Great Grandma would tell me many stories, mostly of Kings and Queens, princesses and princes, Gods and Devils. As the stories unfolded, she would fall into a slumber but would warn me. ‘You better get some sleep. Don’t go out in the sun. Your skin would become black.’ Sometimes she would say, ‘remember, the ghosts from the big banyan tree will be coming down in the afternoon’.
She would keep telling me stories from epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavatha etc., stories about practically everything you can think of in life, stories about the villainous and virtuous, about bravery and cowardice, about truth and lies etc. etc.
I enjoyed those story sessions very much. I would reciprocate with warmth, and used to recite Vishnu Sahasranamam (verse containing 1000 names of Lord Vishnu) to her every day in the evening, a session which both of us enjoyed very much.
Achu, son of one of our maids, was a good companion during those days and I used to play with him quite a lot. He was the one who gave me basic lessons in swimming secretly, taking me to the family pond, holding me and coaxing me to flap my hands and legs correctly for floating. He used to be a strong kid, had loved me so much that he used to lose to me in games, just for the sake of satisfying my ego.
The day he took me to learn swimming for the first time, he was scolded and beaten up and was banned from seeing me again. The next couple of days, I was so miserable and finally, it was Great Grandma who intervened and allowed me to play with Achu again. Even now I remember what she had said to nobody in particular.
‘Let Kunchu learn all that he wants. He should fall down and get hurt a little, while growing up. Don't be too soft and spoil him.' - Kunchu was the pet name for me and practically everybody in the house called me Kunchu.
I must have been about 4 when Great Grandma passed away.
On this International Women’s Day, I salute the memory of these two women, my Mother and my Great Grandma.