My Musings on Amma

The armed plastic chair near the backyard in our present house is the place where my mother used to sit and read magazines.She used to tell,' காத்து என்னமா பிச்சுண்டு போறது kaathu ennamaa pichundu porathu (what a nice breeze!) Now that chair will never have the opportunity to take Amma in its hands. Even now, I feel that Amma has gone to one of my brothers' place and will come here anytime. walkingShe liked our Ayanawaram house (Railway Quarters) a lot as there was a lot of space and company for her. There she used to go for 3 rounds of walk in the front with the help of one of the servants or me.Initially, she used to talk with my mother-in-law,who was her own mami.As she was bed-ridden,my mother used to sit by her side and talk about their days in Soolangurichi village.I have heard their conversations many times and wondered at their enthusiasm to talk the same topic again and again. I think it gave them the energy to sustain the old age.

Amma was a nature-lover.She was very fond of gardening (Rukkakka and myself have inherited this quality of hers to some extent). In fact her wish was to have a house with garden-area. That is why she was disappointed when Appa was allotted a first-floor flat. But later she liked the flat which was very airy and well-lit and also had two balconies where she used to keep flower pots. She used to sow the seeds of mango,jack,lemon and many more and give the saplings to others who have garden area. In fact one of the main reasons for her liking our Ayanawaram house was that it had many trees and flower plants.

Even when her health was not good, she liked to work. She used to make garlands with the loose flowers that I bought.She kept herself busy in the mornings helping me clean the greens and coriander leaves: shelling the peas and then she used to read a lot of slokas. For Krishna jayamnthi, she helped me make 'vella seedai' by rolling the batter in round shapes. When I made maida chips a few months back, she wanted to roll the flour. But when I said she might not be able to exert adequate pressure, she helped me in frying the chips even when it took 45 minutes. She would not spare a single Tamil magazine. Newspaper reading was her priority and she was well aware of the Tamilnadu politics. Whenever she saw Santhanam Anna's Photo in the paper,her face used to glow with pride when she would show it to our peon and out-house people.

As I had earlier mentioned in one of my articles,she was a very good host. When we were in Kanchipuram, my father's cousins and their families used to visit us often as they were attending the uthsavam in Varadaraja perumal koil.In those days when there was no fridge or even gas,she used to feed them full meals in just an hour's time.She was very fond of her brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law (They were Appa's cousins as he was the only son to his parents).When my parents were in Cheyyar,which was 3 kms from Kazhiyur,appa's cousins used to come to Cheyyar for schooling and Amma used to make chinna vengaya sambar and vengaya pakoda for them as their parents were very orthodox and wouldn't make onion dishes at home.Ananthazhwar Chithiya narrated this incident when mother was in the hospital.

She was very kind to the drivers,peons and the maid-servants.Santhanam Anna's old peon Shekar was there with a big garland for Amma and tears in his eyes on the day of cremation.Anna's old driver was also there.When my husband's driver came to see her in the hospital,she enquired about his mother's health who was operated recently and he was very much moved by this.She always tipped them liberally whenever she went out.She always called them with respect,using Neenga,instead of nee. She treated Gopal and Mahesh well and no wonder Gopal took leave on 6th December to attend her cremation.She lavishly praised their cooking.

She was a strict disciplinarian and used to allot duties for everybody in our house so that the housework went smoothly.So we were all trained in all departments of household works.Even now I remember how Vanajakka used to tell others after her visit to Pollachi (where my father was posted for 4 years), 'jayamkka aathil Santhanam coffee powder araithu koduththathan coffee.Pushpa thayir kadanjathan mooru'.

Amma's love for Tamil storybooks was unbelievable.When my brother Narasimhan was working in Vivekananda college, she was getting many translated novels(Bengali-Sarathchandrar and Tagore mainly and Marati-Khandekar) which she enjoyed very much and then discussed them with my brother.In our house all of us have the reading habit which might have come from our mother.She was a good writer in the sense that she wrote about her 50 days' tour in India and Nepal in her diary. She used to look after us very well during our exam days.In those days there was no fridge.So she used to wake us at 4 or 4-30 and gave us hot milkless Horlicks.In the night also she made tea and kept in the flask for us to keep us awake.She was a very good host.My friends used to come to our house for group-study and she made nice tiffin for them.Rukkakka told me the same thing about how her friends enjoyed Amma's hospitality.

Her love for her grandchildren was amazing.She was not partial to any one.She uniformly showered her affection to all.When Deepu and Sriram passed away in the accident she became shattered and everytime I visited Madras, she used to quote many incidents regarding both of them and cry.The children were equally fond of their grandma which we could see during her death.She very much wanted Shobha to have a child and she didn't live to see the child though she was happy that Shobha was on the family way.She used to play chess,carom,sozhi and cards with her grandchildren.She was interested in sports like cricket and tennis and used to watch them on T.V.The children used to tease her for keeping old eatables in the fridge.She never got angry and took it with a smile.She was equally proud of her daughters-in-law and sons-in-law and would say,'ellarum nanna amanjathu Bhagavan kripaidhan'. She was very much shattered when my Athimber(Varadachari) passed away.She used to cry daily remembering how Athimber used to visit them often and help them in paying tax and all.She used to praise my husband also lavishly.

She loved carnatic music and was very happy when we bought the satilite radio three years ago which has a 24 hour carnatic music channel.She was very happy that she could hear it in Anna's house also when he bought it later.She used to hear with a lot of enthusiasm, the music based B.B.C audio programme,'Paattonru ketten' பாட்டொன்று கேட்டேன் which my husband had recorded from the Net while writing his second book. .She loved to watch all music-based programmes like Raagamalika,Rajageetham,Sapthaswarangal.Thulladha manamum thullum and Sokkude manam. When she was in her 40s and 50s she used to go for music concerts and discourses by Thoopal Lakshminarasimhan, Anantarama Dikshitar and Balakrishna sastrigal.I had accompanied her a few times.

She was very pious.When Raghu had a major operation, she prayed to Mangadu Amman for his speedy recovery and for 6 fridays she went to the temple (which was very far from our house) in the morning after finishing the cooking,did her prarthana and came home at 3 pm to have her food.Till then she wouldn't take anything. Every Saturday we go to Satya varadaraja Perumal temple near our house and do Archana and Amma used to give Rs. 10/-. We performed archana in her and Hema's name also. This time I felt very bad to leave out her name. Last month just before leaving my house she gave Rs. 50/- and asked me to deposit in the hundi of the temple on Saturdays. It is amazing that the money lasted till the last Saturday before her death. On 27th November which was the last family function she attended, she came to know that Kalyani, my sister-in-law was going to Sabarimalai. In the hospital, she remembered it and asked me to give Rs. 50/- to her for deposit in the Hundi of Lord Ayyappan. When I gave the money to my sister-in-law last week, tears came in our eyes.

Amma was very inquisitive to know whatever happened around her, even a phone call would make her ask'yaaru?'.Even in the hospital on 2nd dec, she was asking me about the nail-polish that I had put on in my hand,about who bought it and all.I was wearing a different watch on that day as the one I used to wear had stopped.She asked me about that also and told me that it was nice.I was very happy when she relished the soup that I had taken and finished the whole flask saying'romba nanna irukku'.At that time I had a feeling that she would be all right within a week's time.

MailShe used to look forward to Harish's weekend visits as we would play 'mail',a cardgame that she immensely enjoyed. We've discovered new variations to the game. It is normally played with five players, but we now have 'mail' for even seven players. It has become a family game for us and when Raghu left back for Australia in April 2006, he told Amma,'Play a lot of mail, but do not score a lot of 100 points.' We got a video taken of it in the Ayanawaram house by Mahesh, which has been posted in 'youtube' by my husband and can be viewed by clicking the link below
My mother playing Mail with me, my husband-Parthasarathy, son-Harish and daughter-Aarthi

I am very happy that we left Mumbai and came to Cheenai and could spend some time with amma that made her happy.

Amma very much wanted to attend Harish's wedding.But her health was very bad and she couldn't come. But on the day of the marriage,we took Harish and Archana to the hospital and got her blessings. She was such a good soul that all functions, sumangali prarthanai and Kaarthigai went off well for the newlyweds. My sister Hema very much wanted to keep Amma with her for sometime and that was the main reason for her shifting to Pushpakka's house.That was also Amma's ardent desire. But both their desires remained unfulfilled! I know how much Hema was feeling for this.

Amma's death is irrepairable.But I am sure that her good soul will lead us in the right path and keep all of us healthy.

Amritha Parthasarathy
December 2006