In our three-part series ‘Her Blood in My Veins’, three women trace their mothers’ lives, and see a mirror to their own truths. This is part two.
By Meenakshi Alimchandani
We lived in a joint family when I was born, and my relatives brainwashed me into believing that – as the second girl child and dark-complexioned one at that – I was unloved and unnecessary.
When my brother was born a few years later, he was lavished with attention and affection especially from our grandmother, the matriarch, and my belief in my own superfluity was cemented.
So I would cling to my mother, my life. As if holding her hand or sari was the only thing keeping me alive. Even if others didn’t care for my presence, I was somehow very sure about my mother’s love for me.
It was not something she said, but it was a given.
Years later, I would learn that my mother, Kamla Wadhwa, was herself a victim of her circumstances. She was not very educated and it was easy for others to boss over her. The eldest daughter-in-law in a family of 10 siblings, the eight-year delay between her wedding and first child meant that she already had to face much social pressure and ostracism.
By the time I was born, our family’s financial situation was precarious. My docile mother had to make do with whatever little she had, wearing hand-me-downs from her relatives, and taking permission for every little expense.
My childhood was marred with low confidence and lack of motivation. After my education, though, I had a burning desire to be a ‘working woman’ and delay marriage. And I found support in an unexpected source: Kamla.
My relatives chided her: “You’ll let your daughter go out to work? She’ll get out of hand. She’ll run away with someone.” But my mother had faith in me. The love in her eyes gave me the courage to set off on my career.
Over the next decade, I grew by leaps and bounds in my workplace, married and had a son. Life was full and busy. In 2009, facing various workplace challenges, I began looking out for a new job. At the same time, my mother fell seriously ill. After two or three days in a nearby hospital’s ICU, her condition became worse. The doctor advised us to take her to a bigger hospital.
There, tests revealed her kidneys were 90 percent damaged and her lungs severely infected. She needed dialysis before they could operate. On the first day of her dialysis, she said to my father: “You’ve brought me to my death bed…” After that day, she stopped talking much. She did, however, insist on calling all her close family members to visit her – as if she wanted to bid them all goodbye. But after they left, she would lie back in silence.
One day, she asked me about my job search. I told her I was still looking. She put her hand on my head and said, “You will get something very soon.” I cannot forget the smile on her face as she said it: beatific and pain-free. I felt like I had been blessed by a divine presence then.
The doctors once again asked us to shift her to a third hospital with an in-house dialysis facility. The moment my mother entered the building, she sighed with contentment: “Now I will be fine,” she told us with a weak smile. I finally went home, relieved.
The same afternoon, she passed away. She was just 57.
I was shattered with grief; my confidante was gone. But she had left me with a heartful of gifts: courage to face loss, resilience to bounce back after pain and suffering, and the will to keep moving forward.
I got a new job a few months later, and have grown even further in my career since then. It is a given. It is the blessing she gave me.
This is the second in the three-part ‘Her Blood in My Veins’ series published in the June issue of eShe magazine.