I witnessed this Love Story every day of my life, but at that time, I didn’t know this is what the Love is all about. It was just a part of my life. I didn’t notice anything special about it… all just a routine…
My mother was chosen as my father’s wife by my grandfather. It took only few minutes for my grandfather to choose that twelve year old girl who came to the neighbor’s well to fetch water as his daughter-in-law.
When my father saw her for the first time, she was sitting on the top of a tree. It was the summer vacation for a 7th grader and what better way to spend time on an afternoon in summer!
When the marriage was fixed, mother’s grandmother came to see my mother’s mother. Grandmother held my mother & wept.
“Why don’t you drown her in the river instead of sending her to a mother-in-law like that?” That was my grandmother’s complaint to my mother’s mother.
Whatever the opposition and whoever opposed, that marriage took place. My father had high fever when he was tying the knot. He even fainted & taken to the Hospital immediately after the marriage. He had Pneumonia. He had to spend more than ten days in the Hospital. What a Honeymoon!
My mother delivered 5 times, but had 6 kids. She had twin sons before me. Family planning was unknown at that time. She stopped getting pregnant after her 4th delivery, I think, but then accidentally I was conceived after a 6 years’ break. So I was the 6th kid.
My mother’s mother and father died few years before I was born. So my father & mother had to take care of my mother’s siblings too. Thus, two boys & one girl, from my mother’s side became a part of our family. Our family became a big family. My father took care of everybody, six kids of his own and three from mother’s side.
My father was about 5’8” tall and slender. He was dark in complexion. He had thin lips & long thin nose. I often wondered how my mother fell in love with my father.
He was just an ordinary person in his looks, but he could mesmerize the whole audience once he opened his mouth & started talking…
Comparing to him, mother was very fair and good looking. But according to her the standard beauty of nose, lips, height and everything is as of my father’s. From her opinion I also believed my father’s nose is the way nose should be, long & thin…
When I started seeing English movies during my teenage, I wondered about the noses of the actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor etc. They had short nose, so how could they be pretty? The standard of these English people!
Father tried all kinds of trades to fend for the family. First he was a Teacher, and then moved to a town far away from his native village and he became a salesman. He even tried to run a Jewelry shop.
Every day, a big pot of hot water was there in the bathroom for his bath. In the mornings, even if there were plenty of jobs to attend to in the kitchen, mother used to help him in his bath. It was a daily ritual. Nobody saw anything odd about this, just like the way they slept together. They always slept in the same bed. Sometimes, I sneaked in between them, if I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep, scared of the dark.
After the bath, father would wear the ironed & neatly folded white clothes, already kept on the bed by mother. Then he would lie on his special Recliner. Mother will be ready there with a comb and a little powder in her palm. She combed his hair & put powder on his face. Then she would fold his full length arms of the shirt half way.
I have asked her many times, why she was combing his hair, why couldn’t he do it himself?
“He doesn’t even know to divide/part his hair on the side as I do” mother said.
She would put the shawl around his neck, before he left.
All these rituals were done every day in front of everybody. So nobody found it anything special.
When she made rice, before she served to anybody, she kept the first serving in a plate & kept for my father who came late for his lunch.
Anytime when he came back home, even if mother was fully immersed in some work, even cutting fish, she would clean up quickly and run to the front of the house to welcome him. All of us would follow her. If my father had anything in his hands, my mother would shout,
“Go get the load from his hands. Can’t you see, he is tired and with his health, how can he carry that entire load?”
We would run to him & fight with each other to get the stuff from him.
She had painted him as a person very next to God and treated him like that and made sure all of us also loved & treated him the same way.
She always sat in front of him, when he ate his late Lunch. In between each mouthful, he would be explaining to her where he went, what he saw, whom he met and what he talked about from the time he left that morning till he reached back. It was very interesting to hear his descriptions, so sometimes I would also join them. I was thus convinced what an interesting character he was.
Father was very hot tempered at times. Even if it was not mother’s fault, I never saw her talking back to him. She would be silent all the time, while he was shouting at the top of his voice. All of us, the kids, would hide some where he wouldn’t see us while this commotion was going on.
The most important person in my mother’s life was my father. To her, he was the most handsome and desirable man in this world. He was the smartest guy in the whole world.
She loved him more than anybody or anything. She couldn’t enjoy anything, if father was not around. They were very much in love with each other.
According to my mother, ‘nothing is impossible for him’.
So when he died, she found nothing to hold on. Her kids were second to him. I didn’t know my mother that well before my father’s death. There was nobody to tell us, the kids, about her greatness. But all that time she was there to make us believe what a great guy my father was.
When I lost my father, I felt as if I lost more than half of my attachment to my family.
Because that’s the way my mother made us believe. Then little by little I started to see my mother, in a different way. She had only 7th grade pass. She didn’t know English. But my father was very proficient in English and he taught mother to sign her name in English. In 60’s when pressure cookers appeared in the shops, mother started using them. She had three pressure cookers at the same time. At times, all of them will be on the cooking range one with rice, one with fish or meat and the last with Sambar or Aviyal. Mother’s dreams about me were that I should be able to play any tune I hear on the Piano and should be able to drive a car. I learnt classical music and instrumental music for more than 6 years. But I did never reach the level to play any tune I hear on a Piano. But I learned to drive. Most of the time, when I drive, I remember mother, how happy she should be to see me driving.
Father established a Coir Mats and Mattings Export Business all by himself in early 60’s. I remember him typing with two fingers, the letters for the business at night, when his manager was not around to help him.
Mother had a small patch of Tapioca farm in the yard. When she put fertilizer or harvested the Tapioca, father would join her and then I have heard him explaining his business deals and problems with customers in Amsterdam, Germany, Ireland etc., to mother, somebody who doesn’t know English!
When his friends visited him in some evenings for a tea, in front of her, father would talk very highly about her Tapioca farm, but when she was not around, I have heard him making fun of her to his friends explaining in Rupees, how much she spent for it, how much she earned from it. He praised her at times reciting the verses in the Bible. ‘A wife is like a merchant ship… a wife is like a crown to her husband …’ Even though she showed that she is least interested in these praises the secret smile on her face proved otherwise.
Father made sure to fulfill all her dreams.
‘To have a house in the Town’
‘There should be road to reach the house.’
‘There should be pipe water in the house.’
These were her dreams.
Where we lived for fourteen years, there was no good road to reach the house. There was no pipe water. We had to go about one mile to get pipe water.
During Monsoon, our yard was filled with flood water. Sometimes water came into the rooms even.
Father bought a house and it was exactly the way mother wanted.
Cars came in its Patio. There were pipes for water inside the house.
Mother treated father as her first born and took care of everything as if “your wish is my command”.
I have seen and observed many couples in my life, some very closely than others, but I have never seen the love & understanding my parents had each other, anywhere else. I will never say that they were perfect… but their love-life was amazing and perfect.