Seven years ago I wrote an article on my mother titled ‘Seventy-Eight Not Out‘. The last three lines of the article were:
“We are not going to be deterred by the steepness of the climbs. We shall gleefully look back after conquering each one. You are seventy-eight not out and you will be not out until the end of the match!”
On the 9th of August, the match ended for her.
She ascended from earthly life to eternal life, bestowed upon her by God Himself. The doctors at Indira Gandhi Medical College Hospital (formerly Snowdon Hospital) Shimla declared the end of her earthly life at about 8:40 AM. That’s because procedurally they have to get an ECG done and get a straight-line before announcing it. However, I, who was closest to her when she went, heard it from her, in her feeble and yet lucid voice, at about 8 AM: “Pitaji, beeji, main aa rahi haan” (Father, mother, I am coming (to you)).
Pitaji and Beeji had named her after the eighth guru of the Sikhs: Guru Har Krishan Ji, sometimes referred to as Guru Hari Krishan ji. Guru ji was born to the seventh Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Har Rai ji and his wife Krishan Devi (Sulakhni). Some of my friends who are closest to me do underestand my love for Lord Krishna or Krishan, the name that is prominently there in my mother’s name, and in the name of the eighth guru and both his parents.
After she was burnt on her funeral pyre on the 10th Aug afternoon, the next morning my mamaji, my younger brother JP, my elder son Arjun and I collected her mortal remains from the same pyre, and dispersed them in the river Sutlej at Gurudwara Patal Puri, Kiratpur Sahib. Coincidentally, the Guru after whom my mother was named, was born at Kiratpur.
Now, why have I laboured to bring out these coincidences? Simple, the Guru after who she was named, became a guru at the age of just five years. He had the body and heart of a child. However, his mind was fully grown in that he could recite fluently from the scriptures including the Bhagvad Gita. He was so sacrificing that when he toured Delhi, he found people suffering from cholera and smallpox. Unmindful of his personal safety, he tended to the sick (Gurudwara Bangla Sahib stands at that site) personally and tirelessly, caught smallpox himself and died before the age of eight years; thereby, not just being the youngest guru of the Sikhs but also the one who had the shortest tenure.
My mother had similar attributes. She had the innocence of a child, mind of an intellectual and spiritual, and an overwhelming self-sacrificing nature. All her life was spent in caring for others. She would forgive easily and very often prayed for and wished well even her detractors and enemies. I was, for instance stunned, when those people who have encroached on our land and have dragged us into protracted and difficult court cases had a sadness in their house and my mom said, “Kaka, jaa ke puchh ke aayin je ohna nu kisi help di lodh hove” (Son, go their and enquire if they require any help).
How does it affect me now that my mother is not physically with me? I can think of a number of ways.
The first and the foremost is that the place Whispering Winds, Kandaghat belongs to her and shall always belong to her. It is not just a question of mere ownership of assets by law. For example, in many cases, the assets of the husband automatically pass it to the widow and the children on his demise; which happened with her and us on 01 May 1984 on dad’s death by accident. It is actually much more than that. Dad decided to make their house in this place whereat, to start with, there was nothing: no houses, no connectivity, no resources. Mom stayed in a tent for a number of months until the ground-floor rooms of the house were ready (it took almost an year to be constructed). She supervised the complete construction and found answers to all the problems – small and big – that came up during construction. There were no local buses during those days. She would somehow stop a long-distance bus, go up to Solan (a distance of 15 kms), get the labourers from there by bus and get on with the construction.
The other day I got the bathrooms of the house renovated for the first time after 39 years. The demolition people found it very tough to break down existing tiles etc because mom had personally ensured that the correct ratios of sand and cement and the best materials were used. At the age of 85 years (at the time of her demise), she knew exactly where and in which storehouse what was kept. Just to give an example, I got some of the doors replaced by aluminium framed glass sliding doors. Initially, when these were hard to slide, the fitter suggested that these should be greased. I was at that time making a dozen trips to the market to get this or that. I had just returned from getting something that the plumbers wanted from the hardware store and hence didn’t want to go again to get grease. Just on a hunch I asked my mom if we had some grease at home. Here is how she did loud thinking, “Kaka, jadon saada mushroom project chalda si (in 1983 to 87; for heavens sake, 30 years ago!), tanh asin motoran nu grease dinde si. Guddi (our maid-servant), dekhin gaay de uppar waale kamre wich ik kaale dabbe wich grease payi hovegi” (Son, when we ran the mushroom project (in 1983 to 87), we used to grease the motors. Guddi, please see in the room above the cows room and you will find grease in a black box). Ours is a large house with many disparate linked outhouses. My mom knew precisely where anything and everything was stored. It would be hard for anyone of us to emulate that since none of us had the kind of involvement that she had.
The second is her larger than life presence in my life. For the last thirty-three years, five years more than one-third of her life on earth, she was constantly with me. There was a somewhat reversal of roles in that in addition to being my mother, she became my baby to look after. When I was in the active service of the Indian Navy, there were months when she lived alone at Kandaghat and I spent everyday of my leave with her. However, after retirement in end Feb 2010, she was also constantly and physically with me. Everywhere we went, we went together. Her strong character, will and grit ensured that rather than being my weakness, she was indeed a strength. Whilst I executed all the works in our house in Kandaghat, she did more than her bit, physically and morally. I could turn to her for sane and cool-headed advice, especially under difficult and trying situations. My father was nearing retirement when he died of an accident. He had taken bank loan to start a mushroom project. My mother and I struggled to run the project to pay back the mounting loan. When I joined the Navy, dad had bought a housing plot for me in Ludhiana. I sold it off to partly pay back the loan. Its market price is in crores now since it is in a posh locality in Ludhiana. She put in all the physical effort to run the project. Mushroom is a fast perishable commodity and grows in flushes rather than at a constant daily supply. We faced gigantic problems of marketing mostly due to the avarice of the middle-men (the bane of all agricultural and horticultural marketing in India).
The long and short of it is that in everything I did I banked on her advice and guidance and vice-versa. That thread has broken now and I have to prepare myself to face the world alone. In my favourite song on Maa, the one whose lyrics are most appropriate to describe her (Tu kitani achhi hai, tu kitani bholi hai, pyaari pyaari hai, O maatuu kitanii achchhii hai tuu kitanii bholii hai
pyaarii-pyaarii hai o maa.N o maa.N; penned by Anand Bakshi, composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal and sung by Lata Mangeshkar), there are my favourite lines that describe my emotions towards my mom:
“Ye jo duniya hai, ye ban hai kaanton ka,
Tu phulwari hai….”
(This world that is there, is a forest of thorns,
You are a flower garden….)
Having mom besides me made me stronger to face upto challenges that life threw at us.
The third is the horde of memories that we made together. My mom had the remarkable ability to take things in her stride and I am proud to say that she has passed on some of it to me. Lyn and I were blessed with our elder son Arjun within a day of my dad’s bhog (prayer meeting) on 13th May 1984. Even in her extreme tragedy of having lost her husband in an accident, she quickly shifted to looking after Arjun and my wife Lyn (short for Marilyn).
Arjun brought great joy to her as she looked at him as if God compensated her in some measure for having prematurely taken her husband away. When Arun too was born, two and half years later, her hands were full. We really made great memories together and tried to get over the sadness of dad’s untimely demise. In the accompanying picture you see us together having a picnic in our own orchard at Whispering Winds, Kandaghat.
This is too short an article to give you all the memories that I collected with my mom in the last thirty-three years after my dad’s demise. I am giving you some select ones culminating in the two Yaad Kiya Dil Ne meets in 2016 and 2017 wherein she was the darling of our Facebook group on songs and music (Please read: ‘Yaad Kiya Dil Ne Group Meet At Whispering Winds, Kandaghat‘) I have to live with those memories now and have nothing more to add to them.
It was merely four years ago, in May 2013 that she preferred to walk the steep steps to Shiva Mandir in Chail rather than reach all the way by car:
It was a tough and long day for her at the age of 81 years since we went to Chail, Kufri and Shimla and came back late in the evening but she not only took it in her stride without complaints, she said she enjoyed it. That was the last time she had visited these places:
After I retired from the Navy in Feb 2010, she shifted with us in our house in Jal Vayu Defence Enclave, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai and we had a great time having guests at home, birthdays, Christmases, and visiting nearby places like Lonavala. Everywhere wer went, we went together including movies and restaurants.
She was at her best during Arjun and Samira’s wedding on 08 May 14. I know that this one function made her walk on clouds:
During the inauguration of Kharghar’s Gurudwara on 01 Sep 2013, she surprised everyone by walking all of nearly four kms around the Central Park for Prabhat Pheri (Morning Procession). This was possible because she loved to walk and until April this year, when we returned to Kandaghat for the summers, she would walk 1.5 Kms everyday in the mornings:
Mom also said that she would like to attend Arjun and Samira’s company’s NH7’s Bacardi Weekenders (Music Fests). In the years 2014 and 2015, she attended the fests in Bangalore and Pune respectively. Despite all the crowds and in Bangalore the weather being bad, she enjoyed the experiences, as you can make out from the following pictures:
My mother was the most spirited person I have come across; she was the life of the gathering and no one could have ever suspected her failing health that would lead to her demise so suddenly. Looking back, all of us close to her, now feel that perhaps she knew that time was running out for her. So, last year (2016) starting the month of September, she did two things: first, she went on a tour of Punjab to meet relatives including her elder sister Raj Bans Kaur in Ludhiana and younger sister Surinder Kaur in Nawanshahr. During this visit, she also went to her parents’ (Pitaji’s and Beeji’s) place in village Urapur near Nawanshahr in Punjab:
She insisted on having the larger family over for Diwali at Kandaghat last year. My sister Mona, her husband Maharaj, their two sons Ankur and Ankit with Ankur’s wife Simran and two daughters Mohiraa and Noor, my younger brother JP and his partner Chuck, my wife Lyn and son Arjun attended the get-together. This was the last Diwali at which she was physically present:
The fourth is that my mother was the connect between me and the larger family both on her side as well as on my dad’s side. I had been away to the Navy for long and hadn’t seen many of them for years. She, on the other hand, rejoiced in meeting relatives just as my dad did when he was alive. In my dad’s and mom’s memories, I intend keeping in touch with all these relatives who were so close to both of them.
From the last year onwards, we started having Annual Meets of my Facebook Music Group ‘Yaad Kiya Dil Ne’ at Kandaghat. She liked my music friends and in turn all of them were captivated by her. Here are some of the pictures of this year’s meet:
In the last years YKDN Meet, Raj Dutta put up a video about the meet with the song: Woh bhooli daastan lo phir yaad aa gayi (That forgotten tale, lo, once again I recall it). I had asked him to take it off because it sounded so ominous. However, today, when mom has suddenly left us, its lyrics echo in my mind as the most appropriate to remember mom by. These were penned by Shimla boy Rajinder Krishan (Krishan being in my mom’s name too!) and composed by Madan Mohan. Lata Mangeshkar sang it in the movie Sanjog (Coincidence):
I particularly like the lines:
बड़े रंगीन ज़माने थे, तराने ही तराने थे
मगर अब पूछता है दिल, वो दिन थे या फ़साने थे
फ़क़त इक याद है बाकी, बस इक फ़रियाद है बाकी
वो खुशियाँ लुट गयी लेकिन, दिल-ए-बरबाद है बाकी
कहाँ थी ज़िन्दगी मेरी, कहाँ पर आ गयी
वो भूली …
(There were colourful times, there were songs,
But now my heart asks, those were the days or merely fables,
Only a memory remains now, only a prayer remains now,
All those joys are over now, only deserted heart remains,
Where was my life (at one time), where it has reached now?
That forgotten tale….
The difference is that this tale would never be forgotten as long as I live.
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