No, don’t be surprised with the title – my dad didn’t marry three women. But all three women who are mothers to me are related to him. 🙂
My mother is the youngest daughter in her family and was not “trained” like her older sisters to take care of young babies and the kitchen etc. Dad taught her how to cook but he also didn’t know how to take care of babies… so when I arrived, mom panicked because she was sure she will drown me while giving me a bath or drop me if she held me up. But help was readily available in the form of her sisters-in-law, my two athai’s – Radha and Kannamma, came over to Dehu Road on rotation and took care of me. If I am alive today, a big ‘thank you’ is due to my “athais” because they ensured I was bathed, clothed, not dropped and lullabies were sung to make me sleep well as a baby. Another big ‘thank you’ is due to Varandani aunty, our next door neighbour who took over from my aunts to safely bring me up. My mother did play a huge role in my upbringing, but she outsourced the tricky stuff like bathing a new born etc to more competent people and I suspect she did it also because she doesn’t like the mess babies make :).
So I had a really good time as a baby, like most babies do. I am also closest to Radha and Kannamma athai. Radha athai even worked with me in our entrepreneurial venture and just seeing her everyday was a huge morale booster. She was heartbroken when we went bankrupt and she prayed everyday for the tide to turn in our favour. She was amongst the few people who knew first hand the debts we had and the huge uphill road that we had to climb. She also has the Ammanoor family’s grit and determination to persevere so she kept encouraging us.
Kannamma athai is my dad’s youngest sister and I have so many memories of her singing and reciting prayers on the swing at home in Ammanoor. She has tremendous spunk and again the ability to manage under any circumstances. Once she got married though, I didn’t stay in touch with her as regularly as with Radha Athai because she was in Kanchipuram and we were in Chennai and then in Delhi for so many years. It didn’t change anything between us though because she also prayed just as fervently for us to recover from our financial loss. Thats why I titled this blog as three mothers, because for all three of them, I am their first born child.
This picture was taken exactly a year back on the 8th of Jan, 2016 in Kanchipuram. We had gone to visit Kannamma athai. The one sitting next to mom is Radha Athai and the one standing next to me is Kannamma athai. When she saw me with my salt n pepper really short hair, she was in tears because it reminded her of my dad, her brother. When I asked her if she liked it, she instantly said – “yes, like Kiran Bedi” :).
What a life these two aunts of mine have had – they are an inspiration to any woman! Radha athai managed to work right through while bringing up two children and managing her in-laws who stayed with her. She has dealt with floods, very little money, getting burnt accidentally and coping with several demands at the same time. Mind you, all this without pulling a long face – she will keep smiling, joking and pulling anybody’s leg that she could pull. When dad passed away, Keshav, her son’s wedding was on and as soon as the marriage was done, she came to Bangalore all by herself without even a mobile phone in her hand. She wrote down the address and walked down from the Cantonment station while Vasu Chitappa (her younger brother) and I were frantically speaking on the phone trying to figure out where she was :). I told chitappa, she must be walking down and I went out to the road. There she was without a shred of fear or worry, walking down to our place. What an amazing woman….
Kannamma athai brought up three beautiful girls in an ultra orthodox setting and has brought them up to be strong and independent, at the same time, flexible enough to adjust within any environment. She has had several health issues, but she continues to do her work and doesn’t miss a single step.
Pavithra (Radha athai’s daughter) and I were chatting once and Pavithra was complaining about how athai doesn’t listen to anything she says – that athai keeps cleaning up in the kitchen, or making some snacks or doing some work or the other without sitting still. Well, I told Pavithra, I am dealing with the exact same issues with my mother … see the thread, all three of my mothers are “cannot-sit-still” kind of people and we their daughters can never get them to listen to us !! Mothers !!
Today is Radha athai’s birthday and I will call her later in the evening to wish her … she is with Keshav in the US and am sure is making something delicious to eat. Oh I forgot to mention, Radha athai learnt how to make “appams” just because I like them so much and her “inji koyambu” (ginger sambar) is out of this world.
A special post for three very special women in my life. May they have a healthy and long life and just let them listen to their daughters once in a while :), right Pavithra?