The fire is gone… the Firebrand spirit lives on 

We were to return to Gurgaon from Hyderabad on Sunday, June 4th, but our program changed since we had to get the car serviced one more time and had some more people to meet in Hyderabad. We decided to leave on Wed, June 7th. I started to pack on the 6th and realised that for some strange reason, I had no energy to complete the packing. So we decided to leave on June 8th. I completed the packing on the 7th and we had loaded the car on 7th itself. We planned to leave by 5.30 am on the 8th. We even slept early on the 7th so we could wake up early. There wasn’t a drop of rain all night …. and as soon as the alarm went off at 4 a.m on the 8th, the downpour started. We still had a few things that had to be loaded and the rain was coming down thick and fast. Finally we managed to leave at 7.30 am.

Why am I describing our travel woes? Because the elephant in the room all along, in these last few days was my Mom-in-law’s health. My mother asked questions trying to understand why we had to go to Gurgaon at this time …. I told Krishnan that maybe he can do a quick trip to Chennai before we left for Gurgaon…. Even as we started the car at 7.30 I wanted to tell Krishnan that, we should go to Chennai and not to Sagar. None of us said anything and just ploughed ahead towards Gurgaon. As we were nearing Partapur, Nachi, my brother-in-law called to say the doctor who visited her felt she was fading away. We were about 150 kms from Sagar, and we debated about the merits of turning back to Hyderabad or going forward – finally decided to reach Gurgaon the next day and then go to Chennai on Sunday (June 11th).

At about 1.15 am yesterday, Kousalya, my sister-in-law called to say, my mom-in-law had passed away peacefully in her sleep…..We couldn’t sleep a wink and just left at 6.30 am to go to Gurgaon and then took a flight to Chennai today morning.

I met my mother-in-law for the first time on April 24th, 1990 and it was love at first sight… after all she was my soulmate’s mother. The truth is, even if I had just met her somewhere, I would have been drawn to her – she was so full of vitality. She was diminutive but her presence was unmistakable…. she had a quick wit and a disarming smile and even though she was frail, her spirit was forged in steel. She had a fan following, even at the hospital (Shaditya Hospital, Pallavaram) where she was admitted for a couple of weeks. The first time that she spent a couple of weeks in the hospital was in Feb and we were thrilled to see her recovery. She had a month of great health where she cooked all our favourite dishes, went to her favourite store, washed her saris herself and was full of her old vitality. Then the day we were leaving Chennai we dropped her back in Nachi’s place and she was a little unwell, but at 82, each day is different, so we weren’t worried. Then she had her second bout of hospitalisation …. and the recovery was much slower. Krishnan came back from Hyderabad to spend a few days with her. She managed to wish Krishnan on his birthday but clearly she wasn’t recovering fast enough. In the last week or so, she had really become frail because she couldn’t eat anything except drink some fruit juice. Her famed vitality was fading…

Today we returned my mother-in-law to the Earth. So many memories come flooding back, her sharp repartees, her effervescent laughter, the unmistakable fresh smelling clothes and the amazing food. I enjoyed teasing her during these three months and she would return the favour in full measure. My mom-in-law had a great sense of fairness in every transaction – even as she would make something that Krishnan loved, she would make something that I loved too. And what a razor sharp memory she had – we were talking about a friend of ours and she immediately said, “isn’t he the same person who had come for your father’s last rites”. Even I had forgotten but not her!! She reminded me of how I didn’t like mustard seeds and turmeric in the food in the early days of my marriage 🙂 and I would never forget the kiss she gave me as soon as Krishnan tied the “thirumangalyam” (Mangalsutra) around my neck. My mother-in-law wanted to study further and become a lawyer but she had to get married and then family life took over. Am quite sure that if she had indeed gone on to becoming a lawyer she would have also joined politics and we would have had a viable alternative to NaMo. If she had chosen the corporate world, we would have had a Jack Welch predecessor – that’s how good she was. Her notes from every wedding that she conducted in the family show what an outstanding organiser she was, her spunk and courage to face any adversity is legendary and managing on a shoe-string budget was child’s play for her – what else does a CEO need ?

I miss her already but also feel her presence around – am sitting on her bed and writing this and its as if she is lying down and reading her book. She must be already at heaven’s gate and busy meeting her loved ones who have gone before while keeping an eye on all of us :):).

Thank you Amma, for being around, for the unstinting support, for the undying love and most of all – for being YOU. There is no one quite like you and it will be a long time before you come back for another stint. I pinched your cheeks today because I felt like it – you looked like a little girl who was fast asleep and Vishnu and I also tousled your hair, because you won’t let us do it if you were sitting up. Everyone who knew you was here and coincidentally Govind was in Singapore and could come over as well. We all stood around and spoke about you… which you probably heard.

Lots of love and till we meet again at some other cross road to start a new relationship, enjoy being your firebrand self …. that fire which consumed your body is no match for your spirit.

The sky has a new bright star –  The true “Vedavalli”

Krishnan caught his mother while she was eating some mixture – that impish look is because she got caught while doing mischief 🙂
Krishnan and his mom .. on April 29th 2017


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