Thursday, March 27, 2014

Women Who Influenced/Moulded Me - III

Muthu Maami, we call her! She came home yesterday to see the new house! She is 88 years old now. She lives alone though she has got two sons who are well settled.  One is here and one is in outstation.  But she wants to take care of herself.  She has got her own house but split it into 3 portions and lives in a small portion which she says, is easy to manage alone.  She has let out the other portions.  Yes, she is from a well to do family, but like our ancestors, she doesn't spend anything unnecessarily.  Very calculative, but is friendly with her neighbours and help them when needed.  Since she lives in the same house for more than 50 years, everybody knows her.  She lost her husband around 25 years back.  Sons were already married and have got children.  But she insists on living alone.  When they visit her, she cooks for them and feed them well.  The grand children love her and admire her.

She got married when she was 16.  She had an attack of small pox and so, the marriage was a bit late according to those times! She couldn't write the SSLC exam because of the attack of small pox. She lived mostly with her widowed mother and widowed grand mother.  That was the reason she is very rigid about not mingling with outside people, she said.    She herself cooks and never eats outside food.  One meal at about 10 am in the morning...rasam, curry or greens with rice (her menu is mostly the same, she says!).  Until she eats, she doesn't touch anyone, even family grandma also was like that! Does her pooja at home, visits the street corner temple everyday before having her food.  Have one or two dosas or poha at about 3 pm.  Coffee, only in the morning! She takes one fruit at night...her food for the day is over!  Very rarely she gets knee pain nowadays, she says.  No BP or sugar! I think, eating less is the best medicine!

Now, let me tell you, how she came into my life!

After our marriage, we lived in a nice small house but because of severe water problem we had to shift and we came to Maami's house.  Maama also was alive then and they were building upstairs and so we shifted to the small portion first. They were planning to shift upstairs once it was ready.  I was working then.  Within a couple of months I was carrying my first son.  They had a well at home in those days.  I had to pull water from it for was a temporary arrangement.  The taps came later.  Since ours was a family of just two, it was not difficult. After some days,  I started vomiting.  I used to get up early, cook breakfast, lunch, pack for both of us.  Then start eating breakfast...I was so hungry that I used to eat a lot! As soon as I finished eating, I used to have some curd in the plate itself.  No dining table in those days (1976!).  Immediately I used to vomit everything on the plate itself...hearing the sound, Maama and Maami used to come running, make me get up and clean the place within minutes.  They gave me some lemon juice and I was running to my office with my lunch bag.  Maami and Maama were not very young, remember! Our kitchens were next to each other at the backyard. So, it was easy for them to hurry and help me! Husband used to get up late and have coffee, breakfast and take lunch! He was like that, then! Since Maami cleaned my mess, she used to take bath again and continue cooking! Both of them used to fill my bucket with water most of the time, since they didn't feel comfortable watching me pulling water from the well!

I had to walk for 20 mts. to catch the electric train.  Then after getting down, I had to walk for another 20 mts. to my section in our office.  I had friends there.  They used to bring snacks...whatever they made at home and feed me in the office! Some young boys, who were technical assistants, also brought some snacks which their mothers made at home!  My manager was supplying lemon juice from the officer's mess if he noticed that I was feeling sick! Well...let me come back to Maami! I used to come back home at about 5.30 - 6 pm.  Go straight to Maami's portion to get the keys.  Sit there and chat with her for sometime.  She used to give me a cup of coffee with our milk (in those days, a man was giving us cow's milk in the morning as well as in the evening! No fridge then!).  She used to boil it and give me coffee, for which I was very grateful, I remember.  The whole street was pampering me...whatever snack they prepared at home, some portion was set aside for Sandhya (paavam, pillaithaaichchi ponnu! means, poor pregnant girl).  I used to eat all those things and then open my portion of the house and start cooking for the night! Both of them, Maama and Maami,  were very protective about me!  I was working until 8 months' pregnancy was complete and then stayed at home.  As I said earlier, the whole street was taking care of me.  Since we had some problem with my parents, they were not in the picture, then! My sisters in law used to visit us once in a while!

Then the D-day came.  Maami had asked one of her known person, Seetha Maami to come and stay with me and take care of me. We were paying her...she too took care of me like a mother.  Actually, Muthu maami was supervising everything. She came to the hospital with me. Since she was reluctant to touch anybody, she was sitting in a chair, saw the baby and mentally calculated his horoscope and said that 'this baby has brought luck to you and you will be well off, hereafter!' It happened!).  She went home, bought chocolate on the way, it seems and distributed them to the whole street...she had her first grandson! Her real grand children came later! I came back home on the 3rd day.  God, I cannot forget the way she and the Seetha Maami took care of me and the baby.  Both Maamis were very orthodox.  They would help me in the morning, bathe me and the baby and then go out of the room, cook and eat.  Then feed me! We call it 'pillai peththa theettu'.  After delivery, people should not touch both mother and baby for 11 days...they can, after a small 'cleansing ceremony', a pooja at home, which is called, 'punyaajanam'.   One iron pounder (irumbu ulakkai) will be kept near the door to block others coming protect us from outsiders, even husband! He can come in and touch the baby for sometime,  in the mornings, before taking bath but should be clean before entering! Even I feel funny thinking of those days.  But it was like that then, in those days,  in my grandmother's place too! Even after the pooja, I was not allowed to come out, esp. with the baby...nazar lag jaayegi....drushti padum! The baby was very fair and good-looking, so they were more cautious about letting others see the baby.  One plate with red water (turmeric powder and sunnambu - lime, mixed together in water) with a piece of charcoal kept in the middle, was kept at the doorstep for blocking bad vibes!  If some women came and visited, the baby would cry the whole was difficult for me to believe, but it happened! When the baby was 3 months old I started working again.  Maama and the two Maamis took care of the baby.  He was a very healthy baby, thanks to Maama and Maami.  She fed me with all the herbal medicines which normally they gave to a woman who delivered...the baby was given oil bath every alternate day...! My son was very close to Maama! Then we shifted to Bangalore when he was 8 months old. was tough for me to take care of the baby and home, alone in Bangalore!

Muthu maami was and is, a strong lady.  She never bothered about other's comments.  She did what she felt right.  She handles her finances (rent money, FD interests and so many other things) even now.  She asks her son to help if there was some problem! She used to advise me to keep some money aside...'husband need not know about it always! It might be useful someday in an emergency', was her advice! I try my best to follow it!!!

Her day's routine is simple...she wakes up very early, sometimes at 3 or 4 am.  If it was very early, she writes a page of 'ram ram'.  It takes half an hour, it seems.  Then take bath, cook, pooja, temple visit and eat.  She never sleeps in the afternoon.  She has let out for an office in the upstairs.  She receives their posts, couriers etc. 'I am their dispatch clerk', she says.  People keep on coming to her often.  When I was there, one man came and asked for buttermilk with a small cup.  She gave some and then said 'I am going out now.  Keep an eye on the house'.  The man replied 'give me thousand rupees, I will do it'...he said this without smiling! Maami replied, 'Give me two thousand rupees for the buttermilk' and came inside, without smiling! That man went off laughingly...he was the watchman of the flats on the opposite side!

She always had cats and kittens at home.  The names were like Vasu, Achyuta etc.! She feeds  a couple of stray dogs which sleep in her compound everyday! She talks to cats and dogs as if they are humans (like me!).   Never watches serials in TV.  Watches 'bhaagavata saaram' in Tamil in the afternoon, it seems.  Her cat always comes home at that time, watches the serial  and goes out later, she said!  I think this nature keeps her happy and active always. Oh, I remember her making wire bags and sweaters (I was also doing them when I was with her), sell them and offer the money to the temple!

She had some raagi dosa and a fruit at home, yesterday.   I had kept the kitchen very clean before bringing her home...I wanted her to feel comfortable eating at our place.  She had visited us in Bangalore and Hosur but always cooked her own food and fed us too!

I took my son to her place before he went abroad, to get her blessings.  I don't think people like her are there anymore...even I am not so generous like her...but try to help people when needed...learnt from her. I was with her only for around 17-18 months at a crucial phase of my life...but will never forget her, always!

Women who influenced me/moulded me, Part I

Women who influenced me/moulded me, Part II


L KRUPAA said...

Lucky indeed to have some one like her. Most importantly you reminiscence and ever so grateful.

Sandhya said...

L KRUPAA: Yes, I will never forget her! Thank you, Krupaa!

KParthasarathi said...

Such gracious and generous people are hard to come by these days.May be she knew that you had none to help as she alone could being in the same house adjacent to your portion.Good you had not forgotten her and hold her in high esteem even now.She might not have studied much but is very wise and practical.Lucky you were to under her protective care at a crucial time.

Gouri Guha said...

Some people can make a great difference in life. I liked the read and you were lucky to be associated with a person like her. Good that you are still in touch with her...great lady, I admire her after reading your thoughts.

Sandhya said...

K PARTHASARATHY: She is very intelligent and studying upto SSLC in a household which has widows, mainly, is not easy. I have seen her mother also, who was very very orthodox with her shaved head and plain saree. Comparatively Maami was very modern and went out of the house alone, everywhere when I was there.

I have seen her helping another lady with two daughters, whose husband just disappeared from his office. She had helped them a lot. She is basically a soft-hearted lady.

GOURI GUHA: People like her come from nowhere to help us when we need them most. I was lucky to come across her, I feel.

Rama Ananth said...

It was so good to read about these people who went out of the way to help you.
In those days helping people came naturally to many people, which is so much lacking these days. Even my MIL is of her age and prefers to stay alone on her own. She has also been living in her flat in Mumbai for almost 60 years. She has very good neighbors, and she also loves to cook and feed people. She still plays the Veena excellently and also sings, and eating habits are also the same as that Mami. She is always on some fast or other, even at this age she has not given up. She is not orthodox but follows certain rituals.
Really inspiring when we come across such nice and independent people.

Destination Infinity said...

I have never seen (or known) anyone so helpful, in my entire life. Good to know about a great person. Maybe you can help her now in some small way that she might need?

Destination Infinity

SG said...

She is such a gracious and kind hearted angel. Hope she lives for another 88 years.

Usha Basker said...

Very very nice Sandya Kumar mami. People like Muthu Mami are very very rare nowadays. It is very difficult to see such a selfless person at present. U r very lucky to have her friendship. Even I feel that as u age one should age gracefully with maturity. Self contentment and helping nature are very rare now. I really respect that Muthu Maami. Nice that u remember everything and wrote abt her in ur blog. It is one way of respecting Muthu Maami also. Thanks for sharing. Convey my best respects and humble pranams to her if u meet her next time. I feel people of those days are like that only. We only don't try to understand them. Meeting people like Muthu Maami is really boosting ur life.No doubt abt it.

Krishna/കൃഷ്ണ said...

Thanks for sharing...

Proactive Indian said...

Lovely, straight-from-the-heart post!
I have had the good fortune of knowing a few people (women and men) like Muthu Maami: simple living, always willing to help anybody without any expectation, never boasting about all the help they give.
Such people have a strong influence on almost all people who've known them.
Such people can be found these days also, but we don't know about them because 'modern lifestyle' also involves not becoming too close to neighbours.

Renu said...

She is a very inspiring person for both the things her generosity and her spirit to live independently, I totally admire such people and want to live like that..

Sandhya said...

RAMA ANANTH: Many people who know her, wants to be like her, independent without expecting the children to take care of them every minute. She never blames anybody, never finds fault with anybody. It is very difficult for me to be like her, though I want to be!

Your MIL seems to be a great personality, Rama!

DESTINATION INFINITY: She doesn't expect any help from anybody. She has got many friends and neighbours nearby and one son is also lives in a few minute's drive. She is happy if we visited her once in a while and I take her out for shopping which makes her very happy! Our relationship looks as if we didn't live apart for many years in between! My son admires her a lot and she loves him too! Talks a lot to him!

SG: God, she wants to die when she is like this...she doesn't want to get sick and depend on anybody. She is paatti to the whole street, I have noticed.

She told me one incident. Her paatti who was a widow, was cooking one day...she didn't feel good and sat down in the kitchen and called for help. The family called a doctor and he told them that she had a heart attack and she won't live long! It was like that in the old days. She was adamantly not taking any medicine for her heart problem since she didn't wanted to live without any use to others. She didn't take any food or even water...I couldn't believe. But she was like that, it seems. Then after 11 days, she died in her sleep! She was just saying 'ram ram'! Never talked to anybody! Maybe maami is after her. She wants to die like her, without troubling anybody.

USHA BASKER: In those days, barging into another house was common. Nowadays, we don't got to any neighbours' place, without calling them. Yes, we help each other if we are asked for! They never thought that it was called 'nosy' interfering in others' affairs. She was like family and was advising even my husband. We never thought that she was an outsider even before she helped us! I was bringing vegetables when I was coming home from office and it was not thought as 'out of the way' help! Every body was open and friendly...if some gossip was there it was treated as 'veettukku veedu vaasappadi'! Every family has got skeletons in their cup board...(translation!). Our friendship still continues! Even her daughters in law are my friends...esp. one daughter in law! They come to our family functions and we go to theirs! She had come to our gruhapravesh of the old house and poonal too! You might meet her one day!

KRISHNA: Thank you, Krishna!

PROACTIVE INDIAN: Yes, we never open up with our neighbours and they, to us! We are separate islands nowadays. Still, one or two might be an exception! Thank you!

RENU: Whoever comes across her, want to be like her!

Anonymous said...

Such a heart-warming post, Sandhya! Very touching.
How fortunate you were to have the support of this wonderful lady at a time when you really needed it.

Anonymous said...

Such staunch belief and kindness.. its very hard to live by principles at such a very old age.. She is still active and healthy thanks to her generous heart and good deeds.. and to take care of some one without expecting anything in return is like the love of a mother. God bless her!

Shail said...

Such an endearing character :)
Loved reading about her.

sm said...

great that you met such lovely people
very touchy

BK Chowla, said...

It is impossible in present day to find such people in real life.
Over the years,our outlook,our character and our attitude has cahnged

Sandhya said...

MANJU JOGLEKAR: Yes, Manju! We shifted to her house because of the severe water problem at the earlier house! I was lucky to go to her house and after going there, I conceived...she was there to take care of me!

As I wrote in an earlier comment, she helped a lady who had two girl children and her husband just disappeared from his office one day. Maami gave her moral support and made her pick up her life. We went to her place when she came home. She is settled down with her daughter now and was appreciating maami, like I do!

RASAM: She is a great lady with a big heart!

SHAIL MOHAN: Yes, she is!

SM: Thank you, sm!

BK CHOWLA: People don't look eye to eye with their neighbours lest they might ask for some help from them or they might be nosy!

Onkar said...

What a lady! I salute your maami.

Rachna said...

Such a lovely lady. I was touched reading her tale. Are there such people still around?

Avada Kedavra said...

Very nice woman. It is really hard to find such people these days. 88 yrs and she still lives alone! she is inspiring.

ashok said...

great post!

Sandhya said...

ONKAR: Yes, she is a wonderful lady!

RACHNA: There might be, but it is not easy to find them! People are not friendly with their neighbours or anybody, time for anything!

AVADA KEDAVRA: Yes, she is a very strong minded lady.

ASHOK: Thank you, Ashok!

Wini said...

So inspiring, maami! Loved reading about her. :)

Sandhya said...

WINI: Thank you, Ashwini! She is a very strong-minded person. She always had some cats at home. She used to tell stories of them (one or two cats, sometimes with kittens!) about them in high pitched/excited voice. Now, she is feeding two dogs. They always stand outside her door. She feeds milk in the morning and rice in the afternoon. She never allows them inside the house. During the floods she let them stay under the staircase, she said! I feel this type of human beings will always be happy and never mind staying alone! They are happy with themselves.

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