The other mother

Amma and I are not alike by any stretch of imagination but she is not the one to criticise.

Mother’s Day is a yearly celebration of all things mom – mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds. It is a day to show appreciation and love for our mothers. And for those of us who have lost our biological mother, it is a painful reminder of the void left in our hearts and a reminder that life is ephemeral. However, lucky for me, life gave me a second mother. I am referring to my mother-in-law, ‘amma’ as I call her. She is a simple, humble and caring person with a child-like heart of gold that doesn’t speak ill of anybody.

Mention the word mother-in-law and it conjures up all the evil images and portrayals from the endless collection of Indian movies and TV sitcoms. After coming to the United States, I learnt that the stereotypical portrayal are not limited just to the eastern culture; it is equally prevalent in the western nations as well. Mother-in-law jokes abound in this world. But, luckily, my mother-in-law is nothing like the stereotypical ones portrayed in all cultures. I must have drawn the mother-in-law jackpot!

Accepting, welcoming and loving a daughter-in-law is not easy even when you have chosen the girl for your son yourself, let alone when they have chosen each other on their own! Amma and I are not alike by any stretch of imagination and, in fact, we are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. There is the obvious generation gap.

She comes from a conservative family with traditional upbringing. I was brought up in a family where independence, self sufficiency and education were not just encouraged but expected. And all those qualities were further accentuated after spending a couple of years on my own in graduate school in the US.

Put two women together in a kitchen and the differences become apparent within seconds! But it is not easy to find someone who never judges. She is not the one to seize an opportunity to criticise. Her temperament is quite the opposite – to accept and adapt. 

A simple home cooked meal, any Indian dessert (she loves her sweets!), some Indian music to listen to, is all it takes to make her happy. When she travels, she may not have enough saris in her suitcase but will surely have a full stock of devotional and spiritual books.  She prays in the morning, at night and all times in between! 

Having lost her own mother when she was very young, she came up juggling hearth and schooling and worked her way up to become a school teacher. Perhaps, it is all the hardship that she endured and the lessons life imparted along the way that has made her the very empathetic, kind and loving person that she is. She has taught me by example what it takes to be a perfect mother (in-law)! Mother’s Day (May 10 this year) is a perfect day to say Happy Mother’s Day to amma – my other mother! 

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