On my last vacation, I spent three days in my old neighbourhood for my nephew’s upanayanam. In the course of this period, I met many of my old neighbours, family friends – the people I grew up around. Almost everyone had something to say about Amma – yes, 27 years after her passing.
One old maami told me, “Oh, you wear an oval bindi like your mother.” It was not that I wore them knowingly… I wear them because I like them and it was a happy coincidence that Amma wore them too. Another said: “I remember how your mother came as a young bride all the way from Nagpur. The surroundings would have been so alien to her. But she was very adjusting and forever smiling.” When I went to a home to invite the family for the function, the lady pinched my cheeks and tears started flowing… She kept asking, “Are you happy? So nice to see you. Your mother would have been so proud.” Two of our next-door neighbour’s daughters Usha akka and Seetha akka (now in their 50s) came all the way to see us. They pinched our cheeks and again cried tears of joy and remembered Amma all over again. One of my friends, after years, remembers her finishing a piece of knitting for her while we were in school.
As years pass by, I string these memories together … for it’s been a long, long time since Amma left us. The memory of hot piping idlis and kesari for our Delhi thatha (my mother’s uncle), the aroma of the vazhthakuzhambu and vengayam sambhar with a potato podimas combo, thalagam on Thiruvatharai, eravalli kuzhambu, sevai and mor kuzhambu. It’s not the only the food… it was also the joy of getting me a red and black pattu pavadai and our neighbour Janaki maami (her namesake) clicking black & white photographs, the long letters she used to make me write to Babloo thatha (my maternal grandfather) in Nagpur, her listening to Shasti kavacham and Narayaneeyam in the mornings (even when bedridden), her joy at having periamma and family over from Sindri…and I’m sure there are many more.
As time goes by, these memories may fade. But her abundant love is what we carry in our hearts. Amma, yesterday, I heard one of your favourite songs, Etrinen Maavilakku (I lit the maavilakku – this is a ritual where wick lamps are lit in jaggery-rice flour paste) and cried.
Some memories light up our lives and then we realise there is so much we miss… Miss you Amma! But your love will live on!
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