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Mother's Day - Remembering my Aai this Mother's day
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I still remember it very clearly, her content smiling face, when we celebrated my parents’ 50th anniversary. It was a surprise party for them. Aai was soaked in all the love showered on them by all their friends and family.

She had repeatedly told us not to organise a party because my dad doesn't like big celebrations. Another reason for her objection was that my brother was in the UK at that time and wouldn't be there for the party. But I’m so glad that me and my brother decided to go ahead. Little that we know that this would have been the last celebration of any big milestones in her life.

Oh boy, it was a big challenge to keep it a secret from my mother. She knew us so well that she would figure out what's on our mind without even telling her.

I started writing this blog post in 2020. My plan was to dedicate this to her on Mother's Day. Somehow, I couldn't complete it then. Hence, I was planning to complete it by next Mother's Day. But by then, it was too late. She had never been ill. The common cold and flu never affected her, but I think she could not escape the big bad virus which showed no mercy on her. My mum gave a brave fight and my brother did everything he could for her. Unfortunately, we lost her. We miss you Aai, you left us too early.

 

I will always regret not completing this post earlier because sometimes it's difficult to express your feelings to the person you love and she would have loved to read this.

My mum was the most kind hearted, approachable person I have ever known. She would never ever doubt peoples' intention and always offered to help. She has taught us ways to see the good in every person.

 

She was a very lovable Aajji to her grandchildren. They used to love spending time with her. One of the main reasons for that was that, when they were younger, she would do whatever they would like to do. Whether it was playing with Legos, drawing pictures, reading storybook or playing cards, she would always wholeheartedly participate.

On many occasions she came and stayed with us in New Zealand and in London. Especially when the kids were younger, or when I was not well and we needed help. When she was with us, she enjoyed being with us. She might have been bored, and must have definitely missed my dad, brother and his family, her friends, and her social circle back in India, but she never once complained. I knew that I can always could count on her. She was my support system.

 

As Michelle Yeoh said in her Academy Awards’ Acceptance speech "all the moms in the world are really the superheroes and, without them, none of us would be here tonight". So was my mum. She was my superhero. But when your mum is around, you hardly realise that. It's a shame that I never appreciated her enough when she was around. Because it's your mum and so many things she does, you take for granted.

 

Aai was a very beautiful person inside and out. She had a very good taste in sarees or anything for that matter. She never wore make up, not that she needed it. She was always a very well-presented person. May it be just the trip to buy groceries or going for a casual walk, she used to always make an effort to look tidy. The only thing she used to pampered herself with in recent years was going for a pedicure. She used to love applying dark red nail polish on her toes.

 

She always made everyone feel welcome. Whenever someone is visiting, she will always do everything wholeheartedly right from carefully curating the menu considering their likings or whatever gift she would like to give. She will always make an effort so that the person would feel appreciated and welcome.

 

But having said that, there was one thing which I always said to her: that she always used to overthink. She always used to put everyone else before her. She used to be worried about what others would say. She never liked anybody having conflicts or arguments. That was the one thing she should have worked on herself to live a stress-free life.

 

She had a beautiful, melodious voice. Any cultural programme in our housing colony or family get-togethers was incomplete without her singing. She has blessed numerous couples on their wedding day by singing the special song blessing the new couple. It's a ritual in Maharashtrian weddings to called 'Mangal Ashtaka'. Our family has a special song as it was composed by one of my uncles. It has a very beautiful meaning and the tune. Every wedding she was invited to she was requested by the host families to sing 'Mangal Ashtaka'. Me and my brother were not that lucky as traditionally mothers don't sing in their children's weddings.

 

She was a working woman. I have seen her managing the home as well as her job very well. In those days, takeaway food was not an option so she used to cook all the meals. We used to live in the office quarters where my mum used to work. The office and the residence were in the same campus. Before going to office, she would make tea, breakfast and then prepare lunch before going to work. She used to come for lunch. During her half an hour break, she would serve my grandparents and then would have her lunch. In the evening, she would come home and get busy making evening snacks, tea and dinner. This was her routine for years.

 

My grandparents loved staying with us as they knew that they would be looked after with love. When my maternal uncle (her younger brother) was not well, she would visit him almost every day to comfort him till his last breath. She would selflessly give her time to the patients by cooking food for them or sometimes just giving them company by sitting next to their bedside in the hospital. Even my aunt would ask for her company when she was not well. She had that nursing gene in her.

 

Once I started managing my own job and family, I realised how much work and management is involved and was able to properly appreciate her. On top of this, many relatives used to come around unannounced. It was very common practice those days as there were limited ways of communication. So sometimes even guests from outstation would come over in the middle of night and my parents would make the arrangements for them. But, the one thing I vividly remember is that it didn’t matter what time it was, she would always ask the guests if they had had their dinner. Those days, food was not that readily available, especially during late hours, and sometimes not affordable as well. Guests were always made to feel welcome at our place. I learnt that hospitality from her.

 

Being a working mum, she understood the importance of the support system very early in her life. She always treated our house-help with utmost respect. She was always grateful for the support she got from them. Their support was important for her to ensure the smooth running of her day e.g. the household chores and errands. The love and care between them was mutual. They also used to go the extra mile to help her. I remember once we came back from a holiday and returned to our house all cleaned, dusted, with fresh bedsheets. The house-help came the day before and got the house ready for us. She said that she didn't want my mum to do all the work as she would have been tired after the travel. It was such a lovely gesture by her. But of course, the credit goes to my mum for earning this respect.

I have another charismatic mother figure in my life. That's my mother-in-law. They both were best friends and loved spending time with each other. They often would go together on trips, for a meal, or to the movies/theatre. She too misses my mum as she lost her best friend. They had made plans to travel together, visit us together.

 

My mum was a great cook. All my cooking is influenced by her. I follow all her recipes to a T. She used to love eating food as well. She loved trying different cuisines. She had a sweet tooth. Her birthday celebration was incomplete without Malai barfi and jasmine gajra. That was always the fixed gift from my dad. No matter what, he will always make sure that he will get these two things for her.

 

17th March would have been her 75th birthday. I am sure she must have celebrated it in heaven with her parents and other loved ones. She must have made friends there who are impressed with her due to her approachable, kind personality and smiling welcoming face. I hope someone arranged her favourite Malai barfi and jasmine gajra for her special birthday.

This Mother's Day, I have made a humble effort to make her favourite Malai barfi. Today's recipe is dedicated to her. Happy Mother's Day dear Aai. We miss you. Lots of love and hugs xoxo.

Happy Mother's Day to my mum in law as well. As mentioned earlier, she is another influential person with some extraordinary talent. I will write about her some other time.

Till then, wishing all the mums in the world a very happy Mother's Day. Hope you have a lovely day with your loved ones.

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