promise to tell the truth and nothing but the whole truth.
In 1936, the whole of India was under the iron grip of British rule. Dogs and Indians were not allowed in most clubs, restaurants, convent schools and other select institutions.
In that setting one brave Indian lady decided to send her daughter to St. Mary’s convent school in Allahabad,India.
Our heroine, A 6 year old girl, landed in an all –British school not knowing a word of English. Adversity, they say is a wonderful teacher and within a week she had learnt and overcome all the racial discrimination.
Her mother was very happy that she had an English speaking daughter, but she was not content to sit on her laurels. It was time to do high school. So the Class 6 student was registered for High school. The little girl passed it and the house was full of congratulatory telegrams.
Our little heroine was now sent to another hostel to achieve another milestone. And in a series of breakthroughs did her graduation. Telegrams started pouring in as did offers of marriage. But none were her academic equal. So, spurning all offers of marriage she joined Aligarh Muslim University to do her post graduation and completed her M.A. in Philosophy of religions.
Around that a young man in the Indian police force was looking for a bride. He had already nixed any ideas of marriage to an uneducated girl. Fate conspired and the two fathers both Khan Bahadur, highly educated themselves and in very senior government posts met and narrated their common problem.
Lo! The marriage was fixed.
In the bridegroom’s village there was uproar. No girl there had ever stepped out of the house, let alone study in a convent and speak the heathen language-English;
‘An educated girl! She will never follow your traditions or obey and respect you. She will tuck her arm into her husband’s arm, swing her braid and purse and go dancing every day.” They told the family.
Our heroine came into this hostile environment; she knew full well that one wrong step and no girl in the 100 mile vicinity would ever be educated. Her success lies in the fact that her sisters-in-laws were enrolled in school and all of them went on to do their masters.
Did I mention that both our hero and heroine were very idealistic? By now the British had left and India was free and being administered for the first time by Indians. These 2 felt a moral obligation to their country to make things better and fight the rampant corruption. Our hero refused to take bribes or give bribes. The result 27 transfers in 32 years of service. But their spirit remained intact. She had perfected the art of packing and he the art of being honest. The family had now been extended by the birth of 4 daughters all of whom they adored. So as not to compromise their education they were sent to live with their maternal grandmother. They were sent to the best school in Lucknow and the parents struggled to make ends meet on a small salary; they sacrificed every personal luxury so that the girls could have the best that life had to offer.
Finally, by 1982 they had settled their daughters and could now relax and enjoy their golden years.
However fate stepped in and our heroine was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and acute osteoporosis. She was not expected to live for long.
Our hero was devastated; his world began and ended with her and he made it his life’s mission to cherish her and keep her wrapped up in cotton wool.
A few years passed with both of them trying to cram in as much as they could. They decided to spend the new year of 1987 with their daughters. On 28th Dec. 1986 they boarded the train at Aligarh for Jamshedpur a 24 hour journey.
Two stations later our hero having made his wife comfortable got up to fetch her some tea. Near the door of the compartment he stopped looked at her with all his love in his eyes and left her forever.
You know, our hero was 6 feet tall and she was very frail.
But ladies and gentlemen she managed to de board him from that compartment with full attention to preserving his dignity in death as in life. She sat with on the cold platform for 6 hours refusing to let him be stuffed into a small vehicle. When a bus was arranged for him she took him home.
‘You’ve got it wrong!’ said everyone who heard. ‘It must be the wife not the husband who has died’. Those who did were scared that she may not survive the shock and strain. But she did! She knew she had to be strong for her children.
She became their fortress; a fortress in which they could take shelter.
She suffered and survived many other traumas, the more serious ones, a spinal fracture, a hip transplant. Whenever everyone gave up hope she recovered stronger though frailer. When after a the removal of her knee cap, no body gave her much hope of ever walking normally, she went through hours of painful therapy to emerge victorious; never wanting to be a burden on anyone or be disabled.
Many years passed like this. In the evening of her life two of her beloved daughters were going through tremendous problems. She prayed to her Allah that he ‘give me any amount of pain and suffering but spare my girls.’
Allah heard her prayer, for she was a pious lady. Within 6 months it was discovered that she had a cancerous condition which was in quite an advanced stage. She was operated upon; something which she took in her stride. Her only plea was that ‘let me die in peace with my dignity intact. Don’t stick tubes and needles in me when the time comes.’
“I have had a wonderful life don’t let this one year be spent in anticipation of my death with everyone looking sad and tragic. Let this last year be spent in a celebration of my life!! She taught us that cowards die many times before their death, the brave die but once.
She made those last 2 years a joyful experience for her family and her daughters.
When the doctor told her that now the last lap had started and she had only six months left, she was with hr daughters as she had wanted. She instructed them to always stay together and never fight amongst themselves and to let her go. In her words ‘ when they raise the bar to put me out to sea, don’t mourn. You have been the best daughters that any one could have and made me very proud.’
In the last month when the pain was excruciating, she would lie in her bed like a wounded gazelle. Her big, beautiful eyes glazed with pain, refusing to moan or cry.” I have asked for this pain from Allah, in return for my daughter’s happiness and now how can I be ungrateful?’
In 2004 on 10th of June she left this world, very quietly, with immense dignity, leaving behind grieving sisters, brothers, children and grandchildren.
In her death she taught me the final lesson.
That Mothers don’t die ,they live in our hearts forever.
Amma, I Miss you