Devotion in Human Form (Ode to my Mother)

The trouble with people who are your life

Is that when they leave, they take your life with them…

 

My earliest memories and latest memories of her are almost the same for how can the reflection of pure love change with time? The bond with the mother is unlike any other for no other human being can love you in the same way, with that authority from biology itself, as a mother. And when she has been one that never left your side, that never failed to call you no matter the time, to wish you a safe flight when you were oceans away, that spent intense hours and days praying for whatever was important to you, that made you more important in her mind, than her own self, then you feel it must have been the Great Mother herself in form that Graced you beyond all imaginings.

There are some things that cannot be taught but only transmitted or imbibed in intangible ways. The mother is the house of these samskaras that are passed down through her way of being and ways of doing things. That’s why the mother is called the first and most important guru. With unconditional love as her guiding light, she moulds your ways, allows her sincerity and sensitivity to rub off on you, and if you’re lucky, performs the most difficult and important function of orienting your mind inwards and away from the superficiality and frivolity of the world.

*~

Her intellectual and analytical abilities were one of the best I have seen and education and academics was a huge passion for her, something she passed down to me. Being a teacher before marriage, her empathy and rapport with children was extraordinary and legendary. When it came to the three of us, she abandoned all other pursuits and single-mindedly devoted herself. She was a fully hands-on mother in this age of working mothers and from our tiffin boxes to text books to our wardrobes, her presence was over all of it. We don’t know what great karmas we must’ve done to deserve such unbounded love and devotion. They really don’t make them like that anymore…The day she passed away was Varalakshmi Vrat, observed by women for the wellbeing of their children and family. It is symbolic of her pure hearted devotion that it seemed that she observed this day in perhaps the highest way.

 

Too many memories soaked in sweetness pass through the mind. I write this because she taught me to write. Spent hours with us in bookshops and libraries and many hours thereafter, reading to us with such passion and engagement that we couldn’t help being pulled in. One of the most magical memories would be her reading our lessons to us for our examinations. She would be up at 4 or 5 am, making us tea, then gently but persistently trying to get us awake and to make it easy for us, she would read out our lessons. She brought such aliveness and depth to the old world Hindi stories of Premchand and Mahadevi Verma that I recall sitting with a cup of hot tea on a rainy exam-day morning and being close to tears at the plight of the poor schoolboy or lonely woman she narrated about with such compelling emotion and earnestness in her voice…If we excelled at any work, it wasn’t because she “motivated us” or nagged, but because we saw what excellence was, shining in her eyes as she touched that universal vein in us that every human recognises as wonder and inspiration.

 

Later in life, I awakened to the devotion she instilled in us through her example and in teaching us how to read and respond to life. This too is something that cannot really be taught in the traditional way (for teaching, coming from contrivance, stifles innocence which is such a key aspect in any transmission) but is a rare and precious gift that can only somehow be transferred through a kind of osmosis of the Being. Her selflessness, quiet strength and faith in God, effortless right thinking and action was not a product of learned spirituality but a life lived without any wants other than the wellbeing of her family, the fulfillment of her Dharma.

The more I learn about life, the more I see that integrity is that secret elusive and fundamental thing that can only be passed down as a kind of strain but it is what holds together one’s life on the thread of Dharma. For that too, her life has been the most invaluable gift and blessing.

And as none of her actions held anything other than blessings for us, in her passing is her invitation to find her in her reality beyond name and form.

The Tamil Alvar poet-saint Nammalvar describes in his work Tiruvaymoli in a poetic way how a great soul after leaving the body is greeted by the welcoming skies and clouds that shower rain. On the evening of her passing, the skies were filled with the show of rain, thunder and lightening, putting on, it seemed, such a welcome.

As her presence changes to her absence, the Great Mother’s leela on this stage of life with us leaves us with infinite gratitude for choosing us in her play as the most devoted mother and vibrant lady I have ever met.

Om Shanti

 

for mom—

Where is God?

Not in high-sounding words

Or how much the world praises you

But in the dishes silently washed

Her long waiting for you at the bus stop

When never a complaint replaced the anticipation to see you in her mind

Singing lullabies, wishing with all her heart that you slept well

Forgetting all about herself in love…

That’s where God is

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

 

The UpAdhyAya (teacher of the Vedas) is superior to even ten AchAryAs (ordinary instructor). The father is equal to ten Upadhyayas. The mother is equal to ten fathers or even the whole earth. There is no senior equal to the mother. Verily, she transcends all in respect of the reverence due to her. It is for this reason that people regard the mother to deserve so much reverence.

 

– Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva), Book 13, Section 105

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One Comment

  1. Rajiv Sangar

    We were all aware of Shobha’s excellence as a mother, wife, daughter, student and sister. Her excellence as teacher has been a revelation to us all. An extremely modest person she never spoke about the love her students had for her. She lives not only in our hearts but in the hearts of her students too!!🙏🙏
    A brilliant and most loving write up by Shruti.. a gifted daughter of a great mother.

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