Today is my mother’s birthday. 22 June. Its important to her, so its important to me. I am especially close to my mum. She had me when she was 22, and to her, I was more than a child: I was her best friend. She married my father and came to Botswana when she was 19, plucked from her parents and brought to a foreign land, a mere teenager, living with a man and his parents, whom she had barely met, (it was an arranged marriage, you see). But she held on, as she always has.
So it was only natural that my arrival sparked something more than maternal love. She loved to read, and passed on that love to me. Together we would sit at Exclusive Books for hours on end, reading and browsing. Sometimes she wouldn’t have enough money to buy a book for me and for her. I still remember her scrunching her face up and rereading the blurb, before defiantly telling me that it wasn’t as good as she thought, so she’s keeping it back. I was young, I didn’t know it was because she was short. I believed her. In fact, never did I realise that in my childhood, there were several occasions where money was tight. Both my parents were exceptional in keeping me in the dark about the finances. I always thought we were fine.
I was never bored. Even if I didn’t want to play with my toys or read a book, my mother, always encouraged me to use my imagination. I was rarely allowed to watch TV, we didn’t even have DSTV until I turned 6. My first gaming console was the PlayStation Portable (PSP), and I got that when I was 10. She cultivated my creativity, as she cultivated her roses and orchids. She has a green thumb, and loves nature, I suppose she bred that in me too. I am a very close copy of my mum. We both love the rain, and the smell it brings. We love to read, to write, to learn. My mother is an absolutely remarkable woman. I dare say the most remarkable.
For 7 years, I enjoyed her all to my self. She was mine, and I, hers. We forged a bond closer than the generic maternal ties. She was, and still is my best friend. When I was 7, my brother was born. I had asked Santa for a brother the previous Christmas, and I guess he delivered. Although throughout her pregnancy, my mother hoped and prayed for a girl. Most evenings, we would sit in the prayer room (we’re Hindu remember?) and pray: in unison for the health and well-being of the child, and then in contrast, for the gender.
August 29 2003, my brother opened his eyes for the first time, in the outside world. I was ecstatic! Finally another companion! I knew what this entailed though, I’d have to share Amma, (Amma is what most people that come from my part of Kerala, call their mothers. I’ve called her Amma and different variations of it, all my life.) But I was prepared. We made a good team, my mum and I. When we travelled, changing the nappy was a 2-minute process for us. I’d have everything ready by the time she took it off, I disposed of it while she cleaned and re-diapered him. We were slick.
For the first 9 or so years, she spent most of her attention on him, naturally, he was small, and in between, he had a terrible illness (I’ll talk about that some other time) and so it was understandable. Our family’s plans basically revolved around Sanku (my brother) until then.
In 2012, my mother started feeling an excruciating pain in her lower back. She could barely move. This was the same woman who made sure she spent at least an hour amongst her plants. (At one point, she had over 500 roses, I swear, it was awesome, and I use that in it’s original meaning) Random people that were walking down our street would stop and gape an our garden. Now, she was bedridden. In July, we took her to India for further treatment. She stayed there with my brother until December, we enrolled him in a school there because he was so dependent on my mum, my dad and I couldn’t manage.
During those 6 months, I learned to fend for myself and my dad. We grew closer and I learned to grow up and break out of my immaturity. (I’m still quite immature, just at the right times and places) I missed her terribly. When she came back, she wasn’t the same. Her movements were restricted and strain would cause pain. And yet she did everything and more that she did at full health. And then at night she cried and suffered alone. She was advised to begin pain management medication, which had horrible side effects initially, causing drowsiness and more. And yet, she persevered. My mother is a phenomenal woman.
She cooks the tastiest food I have put in my mouth, and she always radiates positivity. I love my mother. When I leave, I don’t know what I’ll do. She knows me down to the last atom. When something is wrong, she can sense it. If I’m hiding something, she knows. She’s simply sensational. Unique. She intilled my love for art. And I hope to one day paint the way she does. She pushes my and forces me to be the best at what I do. She consistently tells me that she doesn’t care about what I become in life or how much money I make, as long as I become a good human being, kind, fair and honest. She wants me to be happy. Never has there been an interference or pressure from her, or my father for that matter, in terms of my academic decisions, except when they nagged me to go study the subjects that I picked.
On her birthday, I felt like honouring her and remembering all the amazing memories I’ve enjoyed with her. And I thought I should share a sliver of it with you. To show that she is truly remarkable. She knew I’d follow journalism before I did. And she encouraged all the habits that led me to it. So happy birthday Amma:
My mother, my friend, my confidant
The solution for all my problems,
The doctor for all my wounds,
The soldier for all my battles,
My first love, and my special woman,
The one woman who holds a place higher than all others
Forever and always, creator of life, bringer of joy,
My mother, my life.