We considered her an expert at booby-traps. She’d arrange things such that, if you moved one item, a whole pile might come crashing down. Ever since she passed away, I suspect she now resides in me as I’ve become that kind of expert these days. Fact is she was adventurous as you can see from this photo.
The bond with my first expert began long before I was born. She was so eager for me to manifest and be guided by her that she cherished a song from Navrang in the late months of pregnancy when a mother-to-be gets really impatient for the surprise gift to be unwrapped.
And, when I finally popped out, she made much of me, tending to me with all the keen care of a mentor. I was massaged and cuddled and, even before I acquired language, I was aware of how much I meant to her.
This expert had all the fervour of a connoisseur of diamonds. For her, I was Sunday’s child, dhanishta nakshatram who could turn all things to gold, I was her doll, I never peed or shat without warning and, so, was always a clean baby-thus my expert systematically brainwashed me.
All through infancy, my expert provided me with all the warmth of her love. Until I got married, I always slept tightly embracing my expert.
My expert was also my bodyguard. On a nightly basis, she protected me from ghosts and geckos. When I had to pay the toilet a late-night visit, my amma was there to walk sleepily with me, thus warding off bogeyman and his hordes. At the toilet, she had to go in first to ensure that no gecko was lurking anywhere. And, should there have been one, she would manfully drive it far away from me.
From my expert I found out a lot about beauty, inner and outer. Alas, she was living the life of an ascetic when I grew into womanhood but it is from her old photos that I came to know that she was an expert in the use of cosmetics. Though I let my hair grey now even as she did, were she still here today, I'd have taken her to a salon on Mother's Day and coloured our hair just for kicks.
While grey is good, and it's not do or dye, I'd love to have seen my expert's long hair gleam with magic. Perhaps I'll work up the courage to do it alone-for her.
When I was a teenager, we once had to walk to a clinic close to midnight, as my father was hospitalised there. On the way, a man got off his cycle and blocked our path. My expert proved her worth as she instantly recognised danger and pushed me behind her and surged forward with her slipper in hand. I suspect that man was an exhibitionist for he whimpered and promptly rode away into the night.
Teenage heartbreaks were always unquestioningly soothed by the expert who knew the greatest truth: just hug, just wipe away tears, just be there…All my secrets were safe with her-she knew me inside out.
Thanks to my expert, I topped all exams, from school final to my BSc. And I realised her worth only when I did not top after parting from her.
What was the secret? My expert would listen to me mug up my lessons, however tired she was. Often, she was so exhausted by all the household chores that she would fall asleep while listening to me read aloud. I would then scold her and she would apologise and assure me she was paying full attention.
No film was worth watching without my expert. We saw many Hindi, Tamil and English films together and my expert never failed to bring a greater enjoyment to the experience. Again, we had another “our song”, listening to which we both got lumps in our throat.
It is from my expert that I learned to cook, to clean, to study, to be a wife and mother, a friend, and all the many essential roles of life. From how to wear a sari to how to care for a pet, my expert was there to take me through all the steps.
All this light stuff apart, my expert taught me all that has helped me survive, all that has made me who I am, all the strengths needed to face life.
And, as is the way with the best of experts, she did it via example. The example of selfless service, of the ability to listen without judging, of offering, instantly and without reservation, a pair of cuddling arms.
My expert taught me all that is needed to practise Dasya Bhava.
Maa, tujhe Salaam!