“After 15 months of my Amma’s death, she entered my life. I was 11 years old. It was a Monday morning, when I first met her. She was just about my height and a little healthy. She was dressed in a beautiful purple colour Kanjeevaram saree. A big maroon bindi adorned her forehead above which there was a small horizontal line of Chandanam. She smiled and divinity radiated from her face. There was a strange stillness that I felt in her presence, a magnetic pull which I had never experienced before.
She entered our house with her right foot forward. She placed her bags in one corner of our living room and inspected the house. Within moments she freshened up and marched towards the kitchen.
“What would you prefer in breakfast?” she asked in an accent that I didn’t understand.
“She is born and brought up in Kerala, so her Tamil has a little Malayalam accent.” said Appa.
“Anything would do”, I replied
“Then I will make upma.” she said.
It was the yummiest breakfast I had had in the past 15 months. I gobbled it up in less than 10 minutes. She smiled again and this time I think I smiled back. I felt better. She came closer and caressed my hair and asked, “Did you like it?”
I nodded and left to get ready for school. As she prepared lemon rice for my tiffin the aroma of sesame oil filled up the entire house. I waved her goodbye and she smiled again. Her smile was infectious. Somewhere I had forgotten to smile in the past 15 months. She stood near the window and waved me goodbye. I noticed a tear drop kissing my cheeks. Her gesture touched my heart. That was the first time I felt nice while leaving for school.
Every evening she prepared yummy snacks and as we ate together, she shared stories of her childhood. She spoke about her mother, her eight siblings and her ancestral home. She shared her thoughts about God and the power of prayer. She would light up the oil lamp, a traditional kuthu vikalu and recite shlokas. I observed her as she closed her eyes and entered into a deep trance reciting bhajans of Lord Krishna.
One day when I returned late from college, she asked, “Why are you late?”
“Why are you so concerned about me? You’re not my mother…understand.” I banged the door in frustration.
However, the next day she spoke to me as if nothing had happened. There were days when I ignored her, I refused to eat what she cooked and felt suffocated by all the love she showered on me.
I remember the countless moments when I questioned our relationship.
I must have asked her “Why do you love me so much?” a million times and each time she had only one answer “Because only love helps to heal the wounds of a soul.”
Yes, her unconditional love helped me to erase the scars of my past and her unwavering faith in my abilities has shaped me as the person I am today. My Chithi (that’s what I call her fondly), has redefined the definition of a stepmother and continues to be my inspiration.
Who says one has to give birth to a child to be a mother?
Mother is not a person, mother is a feeling… a feeling that encompasses you, always and in all ways!”