Amma

My cell phone buzzes softly.

It is the 5.30 pm alarm, the one I have set as a reminder to call Amma.

I’m at work reviewing the work done that day and simultaneously making a list of tasks to be completed the next day. I still have about 30 minutes of work left before I can really call it a day and head home.

But first I call Amma.

Hi Amma, did you have a good nap? I ask when she answers the phone.

Are you going to be late today? she asks, completely ignoring my question as she always does.

Maybe by half-an-hour or so. Do I need to stop by the market before coming home?

Have you forgotten what I told you in the morning? It is Friday tomorrow, so I need bananas, coconut and flowers.

I know I have to bring them, Amma. What I meant was do we need anything else?

Well, maybe half a litre of milk? It is always good to have some extra milk.

Okay, Amma. Anything else?

No, I can’t think of anything else. Maybe some vegetables or you could even buy them tomorrow. It’s up to you.

I’ll buy them today itself, Amma, so that I can come home straight from work.

As you wish. Did you eat your lunch on time?

Yes, I did.

And the apple?

I was about to say yes when I noticed the said apple sitting on my desk, uneaten and looking back at me mockingly.

Er… no, but I’ll eat it now before I come home, I promise.

How can you forget to eat the apple? If you don’t forget to take fruit from home, you forget to eat it. Would you forget to eat bhel puri or sev puri or any form of chaat?

Sorry, Amma. I won’t forget again. I promise.

That’s what you always say.

Sorry, Amma. Is there anything else you require?

No, nothing. No wait, maybe salt and you might as well bring til oil.

I sigh in exasperation. Amma, why can’t you just write out a list of things needed and give it to me when I leave for work in the morning. It will be easier for both of us.

It doesn’t make any difference whether I give you the list over the phone or as a written list — you will forget to buy something without fail. If you are so forgetful at this age, what will you be like when you reach my age?

Oops. Time for a change of topic.

Were there any calls or visitors, Amma?

The new watchman came around with a society circular and told me to call my daughter-in-law to sign it.

We burst out laughing. My mother and I don’t look anything like each other — in colouring, features, built, hair — and few people can believe or realise that we are related. Most people, when they see us together, think that we are mother-in-law and daughter-in-law !

And there were 3 courier packages for you. Three ! What do you think I am? Please hire someone just to receive your courier delivery.

Amma, you’re the best. I’ll bring special dark chocolate for you.

Stop flattering me and get back to finishing work for the day. Otherwise you be late coming home.

Bye, Amma.


My cell phone buzzes softly.

It is the 5.30 pm alarm, the one I have set as a reminder to call Amma.

I’m at work reviewing the work done that day and simultaneously making a list of tasks to be completed the next day. I still have about 30 minutes of work left before I can really call it day and head home.

I pick up the phone and my thumb moves towards the call button. I hesitate briefly and then open the clock settings and delete the alarm.

I don’t need the alarm anymore as Amma passed away a month ago.

Amma was the emotional anchor of our family and my brothers and I wouldn’t be what we are today without her unwavering encouragement and support. She was also our fiercest critic and if she thought any of us were wrong, never hesitated to say it and pull us up for it.

Unlike my Appa, who was ecstatic when I was born, Amma was quite unhappy for she had never wanted a daughter. Of course, she changed her opinion later and I have lost count of the number of times Amma apologised to me for ever having thought like that.

God gave me a daughter like you only to make me realise just how wrong my thoughts and attitude towards daughters was. I’m so ashamed of myself. What would I have done without you?

Amma celebrated every little achievement of mine and was very proud of this blog. Of course, it is another story that she thought the sun arose from my blog ! She encouraged me to travel and to consider every opportunity that came my way.

There will come a time when you will not be able to travel or do things you love because I may be ailing and in need of your care and support. Till that time, travel, travel all that you can. Come back and tell me the stories. Do things that you love.

And such a day did come in September 2017, when Amma needed all the care and support that her children could provide. She hated every moment of it, and till her last day tried to be as independent and as sassy as always. She did not even let up on scolding us till the very end !

It has been a month of life without Amma, a loss that has still not sunk in. There are times when I feel that she has gone to Pune to be with my oldest brother, but then I face the reality of her absence when there is no answer to my 5.30 pm phone calls. I’m slowly getting used the changes that this Amma-sized hole in my life has brought in — from minor ones like getting the courier packages delivered to my workplace to the earth shattering reality of an empty house when I come home from work, and everything in between.

Life goes on. Life will go on. But it will be one without Amma.

Amma, My Mother, Parent, Padma Ganapathi
This photograph is very, very special to me. Amma hated being photographed and would invariably scowl or remain expressionless or cover her face if forced to pose. So I was surprised when she agreed to pose for my new DSLR.

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23 thoughts on “Amma

  1. A tight warm hug for you Sudha. I guess it will never be the same again. I love the positivity of your mother which you brought out in this post. I guess we are always small children to be scolded and reminded by our Amma.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that conversation you had with your Amma. I love the way it twists to gloating about her abilities at her age and that little sweet umbrage on the couriers. It is the way relationships work — not through loud “I love yous” but in sweet nothings and those special ritual calls that hold us together. And I love love that pic, Sudha. She looks so naughty and like a child.I am happy you have sweet memories to cherish her by. Wherever she is, I guess she is guffawing on how similar you both actually are.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Bhavana. One thing my mother was quite emphatic about was that none of her three children was like her, so I don’t think there is any guffawing happening wherever she is. But, as my niece says, she will be having her fill of Sun TV serials without any of us passing comments at her ! 😀

      I love that picture of her too – it is my favourite one of her and I’m happy and proud that I was the one who captured that frame.

      Like

  3. That is so touching. Sounds like she was a wonderful character and you’ll miss her hugely. The photo is magnificent; she clearly had lots of secrets from her expression !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is a support system for those who grieve loss. It is called life. When Mom died, life was taken away from me. This in spite of our bitterlove-wickedhate relationship over many decades. She was not only the reason for my being, but the place I turned to first – in joy, sorrow, success or failure. That part of life was gone. Life didn’t stop. Nothing stopped. After a while, it was as if neither her existence nor her absence mattered to anyone. It takes a while to see none of this is true. Nothing goes, everything matters. Our significance lies in our being able to accept our insignificance. Much love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Subhorup. Every word of what you wrote resonates with me now. I can say this now four months after Amma’s passing away; I don’t think I would have agreed with you when I wrote this post.

      Thank you once again.

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  5. Sudha, I am so very sorry to hear this. My condolences to you. I know such a loss is not something one gets over. I hope only that with time the pain diminishes. Thinking of you at this time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and wishes, Nima. You’re right when you say that one never gets over a loss of this kind. However, one does eventually learn to cope and learn to live without their presence.

      Like

  6. Once again, Sudha, please accept my deepest condolences for your loss. Yes, life will go on, but it will always be a life without Amma, as you say. I pray for a lot of love, warmth, goodness, peace and strength for you to help you through this difficult period.

    This is a beautifully written post, and I could visualise every bit of it. I’m deeply touched, especially so because I just lost my grandmother and am still coming to terms with the loss. Your mother sounds like a wonderful, wonderful person! May her soul rest in peace!

    Liked by 1 person

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